Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Y: toward a construct-valid measure *.
Douglas McGregor's landmark book, The Human Side of Enterprise, changed the path of management thinking and practice by questioning fundamental assumptions about human behavior in organizations. Although nearly 50 years have passed since McGregor's initial formulation of Theory X and Theory Y, the substantive validity of his theorizing on the effects of individual differences in managerial assumptions has remained virtually unexamined. In our view, the paucity of substantive research is attributable to the absence of a published measure of Theory X/Y managerial assumptions with adequate construct validity. This article describes the development and validation of such a measure. The pattern of correlations between the focal measure and conceptually identical, closely related, distally related, and unrelated measures (rs = .66, .51, .25, and -.01, respectively) provides evidence of convergent, substantive, and discriminant validity. We see the present research as conceptually contributory in that we distinguish between practices consonant with Theory Yand managerial attitudes perse. Our work is empirically contributory by providing a construct-valid measure of Theory X/Y managerial assumptions, an instrument that permits the conduct of substantive research. Finally, if McGregor's theorizing is correct--and that remains to be determined--there are significant potential practical implications for the management of human behavior in organizations.

Organizational behavior (Evaluation)
Theory X (Comparative analysis)
Theory Y (Comparative analysis)
Kopelman, Richard E.
Prottas, David J.
Davis, Anne L.
Pub Date:
Name: Journal of Managerial Issues Publisher: Pittsburg State University - Department of Economics Audience: Academic; Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Business; Human resources and labor relations Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Pittsburg State University - Department of Economics ISSN: 1045-3695
Date: Summer, 2008 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 2
Canadian Subject Form: Organizational behaviour
Named Person: McGregor, Douglas (American psychologist)
Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number:
Full Text:
Douglas McGregor's landmark book, The Human Side of Enterprise (1960), changed the path of management thinking and practice. Questioning some of the fundamental assumptions about human behavior in organizations, he outlined a new role for managers: rather than commanding and controlling subordinates, managers should assist them in reaching their full potential. At the foundation of McGregor's Theory Y are the assumptions that employees are: (1) not inherently lazy, (2) capable of self-direction and self-control, and (3) capable of providing important ideas/suggestions that will improve organizational effectiveness. Thus, with appropriate management practices, such as providing objectives and rewards and the opportunity to participate in decision making, personal and organizational goals can simultaneously be realized. In contrast to Theory Y, McGregor posited that conventional managerial assumptions (which he called Theory X) reflect essentially an opposite and negative view--viz., that employees are lazy, are incapable of self-direction and autonomous work behavior, and have little to offer in terms of organizational problem solving. Hereafter, we refer to McGregor's theorizing as Theory X/Y.

Indicative of McGregor's impact, Miner's (2003) review of 73 established organizational behavior theories found that Theory X/Y was tied for second in terms of recognition and in 33rd place with respect to importance. By the time The Human Side of Enterprise was republished in 1985, it had become a classic with the book jacket reading like a Who's Who in Management. Drucker hailed it as "ever more relevant, more timely, and more important." Townsend called it "the most powerful and useful book about people I've ever read." Kanter claimed it contained "profound and timeless truths." Waterman declared it "a classic text that is a fundamental touchstone for anyone in management and organizational development." Bennis wrote "... this book, more than any other book on management, changed an entire concept of organizational man and replaced it with a new paradigm that stressed human potentials, emphasized human growth, and elevated the human role in industrial society" (McGregor, 1985: iv).

However, as Miner noted in his comprehensive (2002) text on organizational behavior theories and research, "[t]here are very few direct tests of McGregor's formulation in the literature ... Furthermore, McGregor himself conducted no research related to his formulations, nor did he attempt to make his variables operational in any kind of measurement procedures" (2002: 261). In our view, McGregor's theorizing about the effects of individual differences in managerial assumptions has remained virtually unexamined due to the absence of prior construct validation research. Clearly, it is not possible to test McGregor's theory if the central construct--the assumptive world (or cosmology) of the focal manager--lacks a published, construct-valid measure. In light of this long overdue undertaking, the present research reports on the development and construct validation of a measure of Theory X and Theory Y assumptions/attitudes.

McGregor identified a number of management practices that he thought were consonant with Theory Y assumptions (such as participative leadership, delegation, job enlargement and performance appraisals). Consequently--and unfortunately in our view--tests of the efficacy of these management practices were often interpreted as a proxy for assessing the validity of McGregor's theorizing. Successful implementation of participative leadership, for example, is at best only tangentially related to McGregor's theorizing. Moreover, McGregor recognized that implementation of these practices with a Theory X mindset will be limitedly successful, with employees seeing such techniques as disingenuous manipulations (Heil et al., 2000; McGregor, 1966, 1967).

At the heart of McGregor's argument is the notion that managers' assumptions/attitudes represent, potentially, self-fulfilling prophecies. The manager who believes that people are inherently lazy and untrustworthy will treat employees in a manner that reflects these attitudes. Employees, sensing that there is little in the job to spur their involvement, will exhibit little interest and motivation. Consequently, and ironically, the manager with low expectations will lament that "you can't get good help nowadays," oblivious as to the actual nature of cause and effect. Closing the serf-reinforcing cycle, the manager feels vindicated; that is, his/ her low expectations were warranted. Conversely, the manager who believes that employees are generally trustworthy and desirous of growth will facilitate their achievement. McGregor's explanation was that the manager had created conditions that enabled "the individual to achieve his [her] own goals (including those of self-actualization) best by directing his [her] efforts toward organizational goals" (1967: 78). Subsequently, numerous, more intricate, psychological and social-psychological mechanisms have been invoked to explain this phenomenon (e.g., Bandura and Locke, 2003; Eden, 1990; Heil et al., 2000; McNatt and Judge, 2004).

McGregor (1957, 1967) noted that some businesses were adopting practices that could be expected to yield superior results, such as decentralization and delegation, job enlargement, participative/consultative management, and performance appraisal. However, he also observed that these programs often were unsuccessful due to the way they were implemented. When those executing the programs did so with Theory X attitudes or within organizations with Theory X climates, the programs would be likely to fail--perhaps another self-fulfilling prophecy.

Eden (1990) reported on numerous field experiments demonstrating that when managers were led to have high expectations of some subordinates (based on fictitious information), the subordinates outperformed their peers. Attempting to apply this finding to leadership training--but without using deception--Eden et al. found weak results in seven field experiments, results they characterized as "a disheartening basis for practical application" (2000: 195). Indeed, Eden et al. went on to say that leadership training, in general, may be unrealistic; some managers "have it naturally and some do not, and those that do not cannot be trained, coaxed, or coached to have it" (2000: 204; emphasis added). However, neither the early nor the latter studies by Eden and his colleagues speak to McGregor's theorizing; in all of Eden et al.'s research, expectations were artificially manufactured. In contrast, McGregor's theory relates to organic differences in managers' assumptive worlds (or cosmologies). To wit: perhaps the Theory Y managers "have it."

To our knowledge, only one field investigation (Fiman, 1973) has been conducted that speaks directly to the posited effects of Theory Y managerial attitudes. In Fiman's study of female clerical employees and their supervisors in one corporation, a perceived Theory Y managerial orientation was positively related to job satisfaction but unrelated to job performance. Fiman's X/Y attitude items were never published and the only construct validity information Fiman (1973) reported was split-half reliability coefficients.

Although McGregor's Theory X/Y may be characterized as representing a dispositional mindset suggestive of a one-best-way to manage, McGregor recognized that a Theory Y managerial style will not be appropriate in all situations (Heil et al., 2000; McGregor, 1967). In any event, before McGregor's theory and numerous theoretically-related propositions can be researched (see the Discussion section), it is necessary to develop a construct-valid measure of the central concept. Accordingly, we see the present endeavor as a critical first step in assessing the substantive validity of McGregor's theorizing.



We distributed surveys to undergraduate and graduate students in business at two east coast colleges from 2002 to 2006. Participation was voluntary and anonymous. The final sample consisted of 512 participants with a mean age of 28 years (using midpoints of categories and age 55 for 50+) and was 56% female. Nearly 80 percent of respondents were currently or recently employed, with 68% working in the private sector. The largest categories of employment were financial services (24%), health care (20%) and miscellaneous professional services (16%). Respondents tended to work for either very large organizations with over 1,000 employees (44%) or small organizations with fewer than 100 (32%), with 24% working for organizations of intermediate size. Their mean annual salary was $55,800.


The survey consisted initially (N = 159) of four principal sections: 17 items measuring Theory X and Theory Y attitudes (drawn from two sources described below); 19 items measuring Theory X and Theory Y behaviors (drawn from two prior works); five items measuring faith in people; and five items measuring fast food opinions. A fifth section consisting of three items relating to leisure time activities was added to the later version of the survey (N = 353). With regard to our theorized nomological network, we reasoned that Theory X/ Y attitudes and assumptions would be closely related to Theory X/Y behaviors and that Theory X/Y attitudes and behaviors would be positively but distally related to generalized faith in people. However, we could see no reason why opinions about fast food meals and leisure-time activity preferences would be related to Theory X/Y attitudes or behaviors.

Theory X/Y Attitudes and Assumptions were assessed by 17 items (see Appendix) drawn from two sources. We incorporated ten items from a scale entitled "McGregor's Theory X-Y Test" (Swenson, n.d.) and seven items were selected from the "Theory Y/Theory X Leadership Assumption Test" (Scanlon Leadership Network, n.d.). The latter source consisted initially of ten items, but three were dropped because they mirrored items in the first scale. All 17 items were scored on a five-point Likert scale with end-points ranging from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree." Scanlon's Leadership Assumption Test is a product of the Scanlon Leadership Network and the measure appeared on their website ( McGregor's Theory Y aligns with Scanlon's belief that organizations can be more effective if information is shared between managers and employees, and the latter are involved in problem solving. It might be noted that in both of McGregor's books (1960/1985, 1966) an entire chapter was devoted to the Scanlon Plan. There is no available evidence supporting the reliability and validity of the scores on either the Scanlon or the Swenson measures. Cronbach alpha for these 17 items (hereafter, the "17-item X/Y attitude scale") was .78. It should be noted that the authors only became aware of Fiman's (1973) research after the present investigation was well underway. Likewise, we have recently discovered a few more scales published in organizational behavior textbooks, some combining attitudes and behaviors; none with psychometric data or construct validity evidence. Two non-public-domain instruments exist, one only available commercially (Teleometrics International, 1995). A list of all known X/Y scales, including properties and construct validity evidence is provided in Table 1.

Theory X/Y Behaviors were assessed by 19 items drawn from two sources. We incorporated 15 statements adapted from Costley and Todd's (1987) list of managerial actions that result from Theory X and Theory Y beliefs and we also used the four-item measure developed by Miles (1964). Costley and Todd (1987) listed seven actions that result from Theory X beliefs and six actions that result from Theory Y beliefs. We modified these items slightly to improve clarity. A sample item is" "The amount of responsibility given to employees should be limited and controlled." Miles' (1964) scale was originally developed to measure managers' attitudes about participative leadership policies. Miles' items were slightly modified (e.g., changing "subordinates" to "employees"). Response options used the above described five-point Likert scale. Cronbach alpha for these 19 items (hereafter, the "19-item X/Y behavior scale") was .71.

Faith in People was assessed by five items (two forced choice items and three agree-disagree statements) from Rosenberg (1957). Positive responses indicate an absence of faith in people; we reverse coded responses, with scores ranging from 1 (low faith) to 6 (high faith). Validity evidence might be adduced from the occupational choices of the 4,585 nationwide college students who completed the instrument years ago (cf. Robinson and Shaver, 1973). Students with a high faith-in-people score selected people-oriented occupations such as social work, human resource management, and teaching. Both men and women with low scores tended to select occupations such as sales, finance, and advertising. Cronbach alpha in the present study was .55.

Fast Food Opinion Scale consisted of five items developed by the authors to measure opinions about fast food meals. A sample item is: "On the whole, I would say that a meal consisting of a McDonald's hamburger, fries and soda is an ideal meal." Response options used the same five-point Likert scale. Cronbach alpha for this study was .76.

Leisure-Time Activity items were also developed by the authors to serve as unrelated measures. A sample item is: "Roughly how many hours per week do you spend watching television?" Response alternatives were 0-4 hours, 5-10 hours, and more than 10 hours, with corresponding scores of 1 to 3, respectively. The other two leisure items related to number of movies attended annually and hours per week spent reading for pleasure. Because each of the leisure time items entailed the expenditure of time, we found moderate levels of intercorrelations: rs of .27, .30, and .34.


It has long been recognized that an assessment of the construct validity of a measure should precede substantive research (e.g., Schwab, 1980). Accordingly, we conducted a number of empirical analyses to develop a construct-valid measure of Theory X/Y attitudes. Table 2 presents descriptive statistics, reliabilities, and intercorrelations among the variables utilized in these analyses.

Factor Analysis and Creation of an Abbreviated Scale

We performed CFA using structural equation modeling with LISREL (Version 8.53; Joreskog and Sorbom, 2002). We specified a model using three "parcels" for each of the X/Y attitude and X/Y behavior scales and two "parcels" for each of the fast food opinion and trust in people scales. More specifically, the X/Y attitude and X/Y behavior scale parcels were comprised of 6, 6, and 5 items and 6, 6, and 7 items, respectively, constituting all items of the two scales. The two parcels related to each of the fast food and trust in people scales consisted of three and two items. The CFA model's fit statistics ([chi square] = 42.10, df = 29, p = .055, [chi square]/df = 1.45; GFI = .98; AGFI = .97; CFI, .99; NFI = .98; RMSEA = .03) showed that the measurement model had very good fit. The ratio of [chi square]/df was below the recommended value of 3 and the fit statistics values were at or above the recommended thresholds of 0.9 for NFI, above 0.8 for AGFI, and the RMSEA value was below the recommended value of 0.10 (Hair et al., 1998). All X/Y attitude items loaded significantly on their assigned latent constructs, although one of the parcels for X/Y behaviors had a coefficient of .64, below the recommended threshold of .70, and the two parcels for fast food loaded at .68 and .41. This model had a better fit than alternative models where the three X/Y attitude and three X/Y behavior "parcels" were loaded onto a single latent variable ([chi square] = 274.73, df = 32, p = .00, [chi square]/df = 8.59; GFI = .90; AGFI = .83; CFI, .90; NFI = .89; RMSEA = .12) and where all ten parcels were loaded onto a single latent variable ([chi square] = 597.51, df = 35, p = .00, [chi square]/df = 17.08; GFI = .81; AGFI = .70; CFI, .69; NFI = .68; RMSEA = .18).

Given the high degree of conceptual overlap among the 17 Theory X/ Y attitude items, we sought to determine if a shorter scale might be developed. We conducted a principal axis exploratory factor analysis (EFA) with Varimax rotation using methodology similar to that employed by Kelly and Lee (2002) and Sato (2003). (Principal axis factoring is the preferred exploratory-descriptive method of factor extraction when analyzing common variance. Orthogonal (i.e., varimax) rotation yields factors that are maximally independent.) There are varying opinions concerning the sample size required to perform factor analysis, but it is generally accepted that 10 respondents per item is sufficient (Tinsley and Tinsley, 1987), and our sample provided more than 20 cases per item. We first conducted EFA on the 17 items, suppressing coefficient values (factor loadings) that were less than .50. This analysis yielded four factors with eigenvalues > 1.0. The first factor, with an eigenvalue of 4.4, accounted for 26.1% of the variance. The second factor had an eigenvalue of 1.30 and accounted for 7.6% of variance, and the remaining two factors together accounted for 14.0%. Five items loaded above .50 on three factors. We then conducted a second iteration of EFA, again suppressing coefficients less than .50. Four items were retained, loading on a single factor. The items and loadings are shown in Table 3. Replicating this analysis with an oblique (Oblimin) rather than a varimax rotation resulted in the same four items loading on a single factor.

We used these four items to form a shortened measure of managers' underlying assumptions about their employees. We next examined internal consistency reliability estimates for all the measures in the present research, and reviewed evidence pertinent to the convergent, substantive, and discriminant validity of response scores using the new four-item Theory X/Y measure.


Table 2 presents internal consistency reliability estimates (Cronbach [alpha]) on the diagonal. Alpha reliabilities ranged from .55 to .78. The 17-item X/Y attitude scale, the Fast Food Opinion Scale, the new four-item X/ Y scale, the 19-item X/Y behavior scale, and the 13-item X/Y attitude scale (the 17 X/Y attitudinal items excluding those in the new four-item X/Y scale) had the highest reliability estimates (coefficient [alpha] = .78, .76, .72, .71, and .67, respectively). Four scales showed internal consistency estimates that exceeded Nunnally's (1978) .70 benchmark. The (five-item) Faith in People scale had relatively low internal consistency reliability ([alpha] = .55), but adjusting for scale length (per the Spearman-Brown prophecy formula), alpha would have been .74.

Convergent, Substantive, and Discriminant Validity

Correlations among the two measures of Theory X/Theory Y attitudes--viz., the new four-item X/Y scale and the remaining 13 X/Y attitude items--and the other key variables comprising the theorized nomological network are summarized in Table 4. The four-item X/Y scale was seen as conceptually identical to the 13-item X/Y scale, as closely related to the 19-item X/Y behavior scale, as distally related to the more generic Faith in People scale, and unrelated to the Fast Food Opinion scale and the three leisure pursuit items.

A strong relationship was found between the new four-item measure and the 13-item X/Y attitude scale (r = .66), and this association exceeded the correlation between the new four-item measure and the closely related construct of Theory X/Y behaviors (r = .51). Notably, the four-item X/Y attitude measure was more highly related to the 19-item X/Y behavior scale than was the 13-item X/Y attitude scale (r = .38). Both the four-item and the 13-item X/Y measures were moderately related to the distally related construct of Faith in People (rs = .25 and .22, respectively). As anticipated, mean correlations between the four- and 13-item X/Y attitude measures with the four conceptually unrelated measures (fast food attitude, movies attended, hours spent watching television, and hours spend reading for pleasure) were quite low at r = -.01 and r = -.01, respectively. Further, neither the four-nor 13-item X/Y attitude measure was sizably related to the four biographic variables measured: age, sex, salary, and tenure. Examining correlations using absolute numbers (because the coding of sex was arbitrary), rs ranged from .04 to .16 with the four-item scale and from .09 to .13 with the 13-item pool. Overall, therefore, the pattern of associations is supportive of the theorized nomological network.

We systematically controlled for the potential confounding effects of biographic variables by performing a hierarchical regression. Entering age, sex, salary, and tenure in Step 1, we regressed in Step 2 the four-item X/ Y measure on the six dependent variables comprising the nomological network (Model 1). We also performed this analysis by regressing the 13-item X/Y measure in Step 2 on the same dependent variables (Model 2). As shown in Table 5, the Beta coefficient for the four-item X/Y scale when regressed on the 13-item X/Y scales was .65 (almost identical to the simple bivariate correlation of .66). Similarly, Beta coefficients for associations between the four- and 13-item X/Y measures and the other six variables in the nomological net differed from correlations on average by about .03. Further, the significance of Step 2 (with the four-item measure as the independent variable) paralleled the theorized network of relationships: F = 60.25 (same construct), F = 25.04 (closely related construct), F = 8.19 (distally-related construct), and for the four unrelated constructs, Franged from .94 to 2.65.

We also performed a post hoc analysis to see if X/Y attitude scales were related to industry, along the lines of the prior research on occupation and scores on the Faith in People scale. We compared 216 participants working in more caring industries (healthcare, travel, non-profit, public utility, and government) to 233 who worked in financial services, retail, and miscellaneous professional services (which included accountants, consultants, and attorneys). We found no significant difference in X/Y attitudes (for 17-item X/Y attitude scale (t(447) = .30, p = .77, d = .03); however, we did replicate the earlier finding that the former had greater faith in people (t(446) = 2.84, p < .01, d = .27).

Further, we sought to examine the generalizability of our results by performing our EFA analyses separately for respondents with less than three years of tenure on their current job and those with three or more years of job tenure. Using a cut-point of three years is meaningful because the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (US Department of Labor, 2006) reports that the median tenure of wage and salary workers in the private sector in 2006 was 3.6 years. The EFA results for the two subgroups yielded very similar four-item scales, and they would have been identical except one item loaded at .49 after the first iteration and was dropped from the second EFA analysis, with the minimum loading for retention being .50.

The present evidence suggests that the new four-item measure of Theory X/Y assumptions/attitudes is psychometrically sound and reasonably construct valid. The scale taps most of the central concepts pertinent to Theory X/Y--viz., whether employees are lazy, are trustworthy, are capable of self-control and self-motivation, and have ambition. Accordingly, it would seem appropriate to use this measure in the conduct of substantive research regarding relationships between individual differences in X/Y assumptions/attitudes and variables related to human behavior in organizations.


Summarizing results, we have described the development of a new four-item Theory X/Y attitude measure and presented construct validity evidence. The measure is content valid, has adequate reliability, and behaves as postulated with respect to a theorized nomological network.

However, there are a number of limitations and areas for future research that need to be addressed. First, the present validation evidence was provided primarily by employees who also happened to be students. Although we found very similar results upon splitting our sample based on years of work experience, it would be desirable to examine data drawn directly from a field setting. Second, part of the construct validation process should include the examination of substantive results. We would have increased confidence in the validity of our measure if we had collected data showing that work groups led by Theory Y managers had higher levels of employee creativity, and perhaps even superior levels of work-unit performance. Third, we view the new four-item Theory X/Y attitude measure as a start, and not the "final word" in terms of instrument development. Our pool of 17 items was comprised of far more Theory X (13) than Theory Y statements (four). This may have contributed to the four-item Theory X/Y scale being comprised solely of Theory X statements. Accordingly, future research, drawing on an expanded and more evenly balanced set of Theory X/Y statements, might yield a different, possibly multidimensional measure. This would empirically address one reviewer's suggestion that the four-item scale might be alternatively labeled a Theory X scale. Future research should also attempt to tease out genetic versus personal attitudes (i.e., towards "employees in general" versus "me as an employee"). Perhaps the present research may spur the undertaking of additional construct validation research.

Yet, as we noted earlier, the paucity of substantive research on the effects of Theory Y managerial assumptions/ attitudes may be attributed to the absence of a construct valid measure that is freely available to researchers. How can McGregor's theory be tested if the focal construct has essentially gone unmeasured? Furthermore, interventions consistent with Theory Y attitudes, such as participative leadership, should not be viewed as proxies for measuring managerial attitudes. Yet the key issue that seemingly has eluded most management scholars, even to this day, is that Theory Y pertains to an individual difference variable reflecting assumptions about people at work--it is not a specific set of recommended management practices. For example, in his book review of Douglas McGregor, Revisited, Jacobs called the authors--Heil, Bennis, and Stephens--to task for balking "at involving workers to the degree contemplated in the Scanlon plans," rather instead endorsing "the diluted tonic of open book management as an acceptable substitute" (2004: 295).

There are many fascinating substantive questions that can be researched now that the more fundamental task of construct validation has been initially addressed. We list a few below.

Coaching and Development. McGregor (1966) asserted that managerial attitudes reflect deep-seated (and possibly unconscious) beliefs; similarly, Locke (2003) observed that the Pygmalion effect does not operate consciously and that leaders deny that they treat different people differently. Perhaps this partially accounts for the difficulty Eden et al. (2000) encountered in using one- to three-day workshops to "train" managers to adopt successfully the Pygmalion Leadership Style. Along these lines, Heil et al. wrote: "Douglas McGregor's most important legacy was neither Theory X nor Theory Y. It was his insistence that managers question their core assumptions about human nature...." (2000: 20). Thus, our measure of Theory X/Y attitudes might serve as a self-administered diagnostic tool that enables managers to achieve greater self-awareness of their attitudes and assumptions about managing people at work.

There has also been general agreement among both academics and practitioners that a new social/psychological contract has been emerging--one that emphasizes new employer and employee responsibilities. Employers are now expected to provide training, education, and skill development opportunities, involve employees in decision making, and foster challenging and stimulating work opportunities; and employees are now responsible for developing their own careers, taking initiative, and participating in organizational decision making (Boswell et al., 2001). From this perspective, the new employment relationship assumes a Theory Y view with respect to what employees are willing and able to contribute to the organization, with corresponding employer responsibilities.

Boundary Conditions. Are there boundary conditions that moderate the efficacy of Theory Y managerial attitudes? Does organizational climate serve as one such boundary condition; for example, will a manager with Theory Y inclinations be less successful in a command-and-control type of environment? Are Sutton and Woodman (1989) correct in their conjecture that a Theory Y managerial style will be more effective where the work entails challenge and uncertainty? Will employee expectations about how they should be managed moderate the effectiveness of Theory Y assumptions/attitudes?

Relatedly, there appears to be an increasing tendency for modern firms to adopt organic structures with participative involvement-oriented cultures, empowered self-managed teams, and managers serving as "coaches" or "facilitators." This is in contrast to traditional mechanistic structures with control-oriented cultures emphasizing managerial command and control (Stevens and Ash, 2001). Implicitly, the decision to empower workers and to assign corresponding managerial behaviors assumes a Theory Y mindset, whereas the traditional manner of organizing work could be seen as more Theory X.

It is possible that it may be an oversimplification to categorize a manager as having either a Theory X or Theory Y mindset. According to leader-member exchange theory (Dansereau et al., 1975), managers have different types of relationships with subordinates who are in-group members versus those who are out-group members. Furthermore, Campbell and Swift (2006) found evidence that managers differ in whether they make internal or external attributions for good and bad performance, depending on whether the subordinate is an in-group member or not. It is possible that managers have a Theory Y mindset with respect to in-group members and a Theory X mindset with respect to out-group members and engage in correspondingly different managerial behaviors.

Consequences. Most fundamentally, McGregor's theorizing about the effects of managerial assumptions has not been rigorously examined. Using field data, the hypothesis that work units led by managers with a Theory Y orientation will be generally more effective could be tested--of course, with performance data at the work-unit level. Other theoretical issues might also be researched--e.g., how enduring are the effects of a Theory Y orientation? Along these lines, Liden, Wayne and Stilwell (1993) found that initial managerial expectations influenced leader-member exchanges, but the effects on performance dissipated after six months.

There is no shortage of books on leadership. Taylor (2004) reported that Amazon listed 59,366 book titles under the heading "leadership." Yet a survey of 40,000 workers from 350 organizations found thousands of examples of poor leadership (Taylor, 2004). Sample comments included: "They [supervisors] treat us like criminals or as if we're on parole--treating us like we mean nothing and they have no problem getting rid of us." "This is a very negative, control place...." "I have a manager that doesn't listen and simply wants to be the boss." Perhaps if more managers operated according to Theory Y assumptions, Dilbert's day-to-day experiences with the "pointy-haired boss" would be of less interest. But before we can test McGregor's Theory Y we must be able to measure the focal construct.


Items Measuring Theory X/Y Attitudes and Assumptions

1. Most people will try to do as little work as possible.

2. For most people, work is as natural as play or recreation.

3. Most employees must be closely supervised to get them to perform up to expectations.

4. Most employees actually prefer to be told exactly what to do rather than having to figure it out for themselves.

5. Most employees do not care much about the organization's goals.

6. Most employees would prefer increased responsibility to increased job security.

7. Most people will not use their own initiative or do things that they have not been specifically assigned to do.

8. Employees generally do not have much to contribute when asked to participate in making decisions or solving problems.

9. It is just basic human nature--people just naturally dislike work.

10. Most employees will not exercise self-control and self-motivation--managers must do this for them.

11. Most employees have little ambition.

12. Most people do want responsibility.

13. Most employees prefer to have someone else set their goals and objectives.

14. Most people work to eat and pay their bills rather than because they need to solve problems and be creative.

15. Most employees prefer supervising themselves rather than close supervision.

16. Most people are lazy and don't want to work.

17. Most employees can't be trusted.


Bandura, A. and E. A. Locke. 2003. "Negative Self-efficacy and Goal Effects Revisited." Journal of Applied Psychology 88: 87-99.

Baron, R. A. and P. B. Paulus. 1991. Understanding Human Relations: A Pratical Guide to People at Work. New York, NY: Allyn and Bacon.

Boswell, W. R., L. M. Moynihan, M. V. Roehling and M. A. Cavanaugh. 2001. "Responsibilities in the 'New Employment Relationship': An Empirical Test of an Assumed Phenomenon." Journal of Managerial Issues 13: 307-327.

Campbell, C. R. and C. O. Swift. 2006. "Attributional Comparisons Across Biases and Leader-Member Exchange Status." Journal of Managerial Issues 18: 393-408.

Chapman, A. 2005. "X-Y Theory Questionnaire." In Organizational Behavior in Health Care. Ed. N. Borkowski. Boston, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Costley, D. L. and R. Todd. 1987. Human Relations in Organizations (3rd ed.). St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company.

Dansereau, F., G. Graen and W. Haga. 1975. "A Vertical Dyad Linkage Approach to Leadership within Formal Organizations." Organizational Behavior and Human Performance 13: 46-78.

Eden, D. 1990. Pygmalion in Management. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

--, D. Geller, A. Gewirtz, I. I. Gordon-Terner, M. Liberman, Y. Pass, I. Salomon-Segev and M. Shalit. 2000. "Implanting Pygmalion Leadership Style through Workshop Training: Seven Field Experiments." Leadership Quarterly 11: 171-210.

Fiman, B. G. 1973. "An Investigation of the Relationships among Supervisory Attitudes, Behaviors, and Outputs: An Examination of McGregor's Theory Y." Personnel Psychology 26: 95-105.

Gordon, J. R. 1999. Organizational Behavior: A Diagnostic Approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Greenberg, J. 1999. Managing Behavior in Organizations (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Hair, J. F., R. E. Anderson, R. L. Tatham and W. C. Black. 1998. Multivariate Data Analysis. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Heil, G., W. Bennis and D. C. Stephens. 2000. Douglas McGregor, Revisited: Managing the Human Side of the Enterprise. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons.

Jacobs, D. 2004. "Book Review Essay: Douglas McGregor--The Human Side of Enterprise in Peril." Academy of Management Review 29: 293-311.

Joreskog, K. G. and D. Sorbom. 2002. LISREL 8.53. Chicago, IL: Scientific Software International, Inc.

Kelly, K. R. and W. Lee. 2002. "Mapping the Domain of Career Decision Problems." Journal of Vocational Behavior 61: 302-326.

Liden, R. C., S. J. Wayne and D. Stilwell. 1993. "A Longitudinal Study on the Early Development of Leader-Member Exchanges." Journal of Applied Psychology 78: 662-674.

Locke, E. A. 2003. "Good Definitions: The Epistemological Foundation of Scientific Progress." In Organizational Behavior: The State of the Science (2nd ed.). Ed. J. Greenberg. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

McGregor, D. M. 1967. The Professional Manager. Eds. W. G. Bennis and C. McGregor. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

--. 1966. Leadership and Motivation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

--. 1960/1985. The Human Side of Enterprise. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

--. 1957. "The Human Side of Enterprise." The Management Review 46: 22-28.

McNatt, D. B. and T. A.Judge. 2004. "Boundary Conditions of the Galatea Effect: A Field Experiment and Constructive Replication." Academy of Management Journal 47: 550-565.

Miles, R. E. 1964. "Conflicting Elements in Managerial Ideologies." Industrial Relations 4: 77-91.

Miner, J. B. 2003. "The Rated Importance, Scientific Validity, and Practical Usefulness of Organizational Behavior Theories: A Quantitative Review." Academy of Management Learning and Education 2: 250-268.

--. 2002. Organizational Behavior: Foundations, Theories, and Analyses. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Nunnally, J. C. 1978. Psychometric Theory (2nd Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Osland, J. S., D. A. Kolb and I. M. Rubin. 2001. Organizational Behavior: An Experiential Approach (7th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Robinson, J. P. and P. R. Shaver. 1973. Measures of Social Psychological Attitudes (Rev. ed.). Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.

Rosenberg, M. 1957. Occupations and Values. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.

Sato, T. 2003. "Sociotropy and Autonomy: The Nature of Vulnerability." The Journal of Psychology 137: 447-466.

Scanlon Leadership Network. n.d. Test Your Leadership Assumptions. Retrieved January 3, 2003, from aboutus/ScanlonLeadership/leaderasstest.html

Schwab, D. P. 1980. "Construct Validity in Organizational Behavior." Research in Organizational Behavior (Vol. 2, 3: 43). Eds. L. L. Cummings and B. M. Staw. Greenwich, CT: JAI.

Stevens, C. and R. Ash. 2001. "Selecting Employees for Fit: Personality and Preferred Managerial Style." Journal of Managerial Issues 13: 500-517.

Sutton, C. D. and R. W. Woodman. 1989. "Pygmalion Goes to Work: The Effects of Supervisor Expectations in a Retail Setting." Journal of Applied Psychology 74: 943-950.

Swenson, D. n.d. McGregor's Theory X-Y Test. Retrieved January 3, 2003, from

Taylor, C. R. 2004. "Retention Leadership." T + D 58: 40-45.

Teleometrics International, Inc. 1995. Managerial Philosophy Scale. Waco, TX.

Tinsley, E. A. and D. J. Tinsley. 1987. "Uses of Factor Analysis in Counseling Psychology Research." Journal of Counseling Psychology 34: 414-424.

U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. 2006. Employee Tenure Summary. USDL 06-1563. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor.

Richard E. Kopelman

Professor of Management

Baruch College

David J. Prottas

Assistant Professor of Management

Adelphi University

Anne L. Davis


Tooele Army Depot

* We gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments of our colleagues, Abe Korman, Alien Kraut, Hannah Rothstein, and Donald Vredenburgh as well as an anonymous reviewer. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 112th Meeting of the American Psychological Association (2004) and the 22nd Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2007).
Table 1
Listing of Extant Theory X/Y Attitude and Behavior Scales

                                                  Items     Public
    Source                           Type       Published   Domain

 1. Swenson (n. d.)                Attitude        Yes       Yes

 2. Scanlon Institute (n. d.)      Attitude        Yes       Yes

 3. Costley and Todd (1987)        Behavior        Yes       Yes

 4. Miles (1964)                   Behavior        Yes       Yes

 5. Fiman (1973)                 Attitude and      No        Yes

 6. Chapman (in Borkowski,         Attitude        Yes        No

 7. Greenberg (1999)               Behavior        Yes       Yes

 8. Osland, Kolb and Rubin         Behavior        Yes       Yes

 9. Baron and Paulus (1991)        Attitude        Yes       Yes

10. Gordon (1999)                Attitude and      Yes       Yes

11. Teleometrics International                                No
    (1995)                         Attitude        Yes

    Source                       Description

 1. Swenson (n. d.)              10 items, 5-point rating

 2. Scanlon Institute (n. d.)    10 items 4-point ratingscale

 3. Costley and Todd (1987)      10 items, no scaleprovided

 4. Miles (1964)                 Four items, 5-point rating

 5. Fiman (1973)                 29 attitudinal items and
                                 12 behavioral items,
                                 undefined rating scales

 6. Chapman (in Borkowski,       15 items, 5-point rating
    2005)                        scale

 7. Greenberg (1999)             8 pairs of forced choice

 8. Osland, Kolb and Rubin       10 pairs of forced choice
    (2001)                       statements

 9. Baron and Paulus (1991)      7 pairs of forced choice

10. Gordon (1999)                12 pairs of forced choice

11. Teleometrics International   36 items, 7-point rating
    (1995)                       scale

    Source                       Validity Evidence

 1. Swenson (n. d.)              None published

 2. Scanlon Institute (n. d.)    None published

 3. Costley and Todd (1987)      None published
                                 Correlations and

 4. Miles (1964)                 comparisons of group

 5. Fiman (1973)                 Split-half reliabilities

 6. Chapman (in Borkowski,       None published

 7. Greenberg (1999)             None published

 8. Osland, Kolb and Rubin       None published

 9. Baron and Paulus (1991)      None published

10. Gordon (1999)                None published

11. Teleometrics International   Self-published reliabilities
    (1995)                       and correlations.

Table 2
Descriptive Statistics, Reliability Coefficients, and Correlations

    Variable          M          SD         1          2          3

 1. Age            28.30       6.61         --
 2. Sex             1.44        .50      -.03          --
 3. ($000)         55.79      28.27       .45 ***    .14 **       --
 4. Tenure          3.10       2.62       .48 ***    .06        .28 ***
 5. Fast Food       4.43        .61       .02       -.06        .04
 6. Leisure TV      1.56        .83      -.12 *      .09       -.02
 7. Movies          1.89        .81      -.20 ***    .02       -.06
 8. Reading         1.24        .79       .01        .01       -.07
    Faith in
 9. People           .44        .29       .23 ***    .03        .14 **
    X/Y Att. 17-
10. item            3.30        .47       .12 **    -.13 **     .12 *
    X/Y Art. 13-
11. item            3.15        .45       .11 *     -.13 **     .09
    X/Y Att. 4-
12. item            3.80        .68       .12 **    -.11 *      .16 **
    X/Y Beh.
13. 19-item         3.47        .36       .12 **    -.08        .10

    Variable          4          5          6          7          8

 1. Age
 2. Sex
 3. ($000)
 4. Tenure            --
 5. Fast Food      -.01       (.76)
 6. Leisure TV      .00       -.13 *        --
 7. Movies          .02        .07        .30 *        --
 8. Reading         .07       -.05        .27 **     .34 ***      --
    Faith in
 9. People          .l7 ***   -.07       -.14 *     -.11 *     -.00
    X/Y Att. 17-
10. item            .10 *      .07       -.07       -.02        .06
    X/Y Art. 13-
11. item            .11 *      .06       -.08       -.00        .06
    X/Y Att. 4-
12. item            .04        .08       -.04       -.04        .06
    X/Y Beh.
13. 19-item         .08        .16 **     .06       -.04        .07

    Variable          9          10         11         12         13

 1. Age
 2. Sex
 3. ($000)
 4. Tenure
 5. Fast Food
 6. Leisure TV
 7. Movies
 8. Reading
    Faith in
 9. People         (.55)
    X/Y Att. 17-
10. item            .24 ***   (.78)
    X/Y Art. 13-
11. item            .22 ***    .97 ***   (.67)
    X/Y Att. 4-
12. item            .25 ***    .83 ***    .66 ***   (.72)
    X/Y Beh.
13. 19-item         .24 ***    .46 ***    .38 ***    .51 ***      (.71)

Note. N = 506 to 511 except for salary (N = 400), tenure (N = 492),
and the leisure items (N = 352). Age was expressed as a range
(20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, [greater than or equal
to] 50) with midpoints of range (and 55 for [greater than or equal
to] 50) used for analyses. Categorical variable: Sex (1 = female; 2
= male). Att. = Attitudes; Beh. = Behaviors. X/Y Attitude 13-item
scale is comprised of the items in X/Y Attitude 17-item scale,
excluding the X/Y Attitude four- item scale. Cronbach alphas for
each scale appear on diagonals in parentheses. * p < .05,
two-tailed; ** p < .O1, two-tailed; *** p < .001, two-tailed.

Table 3
Factor Analysis of Theory X and Theory Y Attitude Items

#  Description of Items                                 Loading

1. Most employees can't be trusted.                       .72
2. Most employees will not exercise self-control and      .61
   self-motivation--managers must do this for them.
3. Most people are lazy and don't want to work.           .60
4. Most employees have little ambition.                   .57

   Eigenvalue                                            2.16
   Percent of explained variance                        54.10

Note. These four items resulted from two consecutive principal axis
factor analyses with suppression of coefficients less than .50.

Table 4
Correlations among Closely and Distally Related Constructs

                                              Four-item     13-item
                                                 X/Y          X/Y
Variables                                     Attitudes    Attitudes

Same Construct (a)                             .66 ***        --
Closely Related Construct (Behaviors) (b)      .51 ***      .38 ***
Distally Related Construct (Faith) (c)         .25 ***      .22 ***
Unrelated Constructs (d)                      -.01         -.01

Note. (a) Four-item X/Y correlated with 13-item X/Y-13; (b) four-item
X/Y-4 and 13-item X/Y correlated with X/Y Behaviors;
(c) correlated with Faith in People; (d) mean of correlations with
the fast food opinion scale and the three leisure time pursuit
items (r-to-z transformations).

*** p < .001, two-tailed.

Table 5
Hierarchical Regression of Four-item and 13-item Theory X/Y Attitude
Scales on Closely and Distally-related Constructs

                                    Dependent Variables--Constructs

Two Models with
Four-item and 13-item                Same       Closely     Distally
X/Y Attitude Scales as the           X/Y          X/Y         Faith
Independent Variables              Attitude     Behavior       in
in the Second Steps                13-item      19-item      People

Model 1
Theory X/Y Attitude 4-item
[beta](second step)                  .65 ***      .47 ***     .22 ***
[DELTA][R.sup.2] (second step)       .40          .21         .05
[DELTA]F (second step)            271.47 ***   106.37 **    19.61***
Total [R.sup.2] (first step)         .04          .04         .05
Total [R.sup.2] (second step)        .44          .25         .10
Total F (second step)              60.25 ***    25.04 ***    8.19 ***

Model 2
Theory X/Y Attitude 13-item
[beta] (second step)                  --          .37 ***     .27 ***
[DELTA][R.sup.2](second step)         --          .13         .07
[DELTA]F (second step)                --        59.18 ***   26.62 ***
Total [R.sup.2] (first step)          --          .04         .05
Total [R.sup.2] (second step)         --          .17         .12
Total F (second step)                 --        15.24 ***   10.29 *

                                  Dependent Variables--Constructs

Two Models with                      Four Unrelated Constructs
Four-item and 13-item
X/Y Attitude Scales as the                Fast
Independent Variables                     Food        Leisure-
in the Second Steps                     Opinion          TV

Model 1
Theory X/Y Attitude 4-item
[beta](second step)                     .07          -.03
[DELTA][R.sup.2] (second step)          .01           .00
[DELTA]F (second step)                 1.93           .16
Total [R.sup.2] (first step)            .00           .03
Total [R.sup.2] (second step)           .01           .03
Total F (second step)                   .94          1.37

Model 2
Theory X/Y Attitude 13-item
[beta] (second step)                    .04          -.09
[DELTA][R.sup.2](second step)           .00           .01
[DELTA]F (second step)                  .46          2.17
Total [R.sup.2] (first step)            .01           .02
Total [R.sup.2] (second step)           .01           .03
Total F (second step)                   .65          1.78

                                  Dependent Variables--Constructs

Two Models with                   Four Unrelated Constructs
Four-item and 13-item
X/Y Attitude Scales as the
Independent Variables                   Leisure-      Leisure-
in the Second Steps                      Movies        Readin

Model 1
Theory X/Y Attitude 4-item
[beta](second step)                     .01           .06
[DELTA][R.sup.2] (second step)          .00           .00
[DELTA]F (second step)                  .01           .88
Total [R.sup.2] (first step)            .05           .03
Total [R.sup.2] (second step)           .05           .03
Total F (second step)                  2.65 *        1.25

Model 2
Theory X/Y Attitude 13-item
[beta] (second step)                    .07           .05
[DELTA][R.sup.2](second step)           .01           .00
[DELTA]F (second step)                 1.35           .71
Total [R.sup.2] (first step)            .04           .03
Total [R.sup.2] (second step)           .05           .03
Total F (second step)                  2.93 *        1.84

Note. In each case, age, gender, salary, and tenure were added in
Step 1. /is of age, gender, salary, and tenure are not shown for
space reasons. The four-item Theory X/Y attitudes and the 13-item
Theory X/Y attitude scales were added in the second step in separate

* p < .05, two-tailed; ** p < .01, two-tailed; *** p < .001,
Gale Copyright:
Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.