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26 February 2016

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The way in which managers approach the performance of their jobs and the behaviour they display towards subordinate staff is likely to be conditioned by predispositions about people, and human nature and work.

Drawing on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model (which is discussed in Chapter 12), McGregor put forward two suppositions about human nature and behaviour at work. He argues that the style of management adopted is a function of the manager’s attitudes towards people and assumptions about human nature and behaviour. The two suppositions are called Theory X and Theory Y, and are based on polar assumptions about people and work.

Theory X
about human

Theory X represents the carrot-and-stick assumptions on which traditional organisations are based, and was widely accepted and practised before the development of the human relations approach. Its assumptions are that:

the average person is lazy and has an inherent dislike of work; most people must be coerced, controlled, directed and threatened with punishment if the organisation is to achieve its objectives;
the average person avoids responsibility, prefers to be directed, lacks ambition and values security most of all;
and motivation occurs only at the physiological and security levels.

The central principle of Theory X is direction and control through a centralised system of organisation and the exercise of authority. McGregor questions whether the Theory X approach to human nature is correct, and the relevance today of management practices which are based upon it. Assumptions based on a Theory X approach, and the traditional use of rewards and sanctions exercised by the nature of the manager’s position and authority, are likely to result in an exploitative or authoritarian style of management.

Theory Y
about human

At the other extreme to Theory X is Theory Y which represents the assumptions consistent with current research knowledge. The central principle of Theory Y is the integration of individual and organisational goals. Its assumptions are:

for most people work is as natural as play or rest;
people will exercise self-direction and self-control in the service of objectives to which they are committed;
commitment to objectives is a function of rewards associated with their achievement; given the right conditions, the average worker can learn to accept and to seek responsibility;
the capacity for creativity in solving organisational problems is distributed widely in the population;
the intellectual potential of the average person is only partially utilised; and motivation occurs at the affiliation, esteem and self-actualisation levels as well as the physiological and security levels.

McGregor implies that a Theory Y approach is the best way to elicit co-operation from members of an organisation. It is the task of management to create the conditions in which individuals may satisfy their motivational needs, and in which they achieve their own goals through meeting the goals of the organisation. McGregor develops an analysis of the implications of accepting Theory Y in regard to performance appraisal, administration of salaries and promotions, participation, staff–line relationships, leadership, management development and the managerial team.


Managerial strategies
Although Theory X and Theory Y are based on polar extremes and are an oversimplification, they do represent identifiable philosophies which influence managerial behaviour and strategies. For example, as Lord Sieff comments: Now and again it is necessary to criticize people, but rather than tick them off, provided you can leave them in no doubt as to what the issue is, I am sure it pays to avoid being censorious but try instead to appeal to the innate capacity for self-criticism. Whatever you do, avoid making a mountain out of a molehill.

Most people have the potential to be self-motivating. They can best achieve their personal goals through self-direction of their efforts towards meeting the goals of the organisation. Broadening educational standards and changing social values mean that people today have wider expectations of the quality of working life, including opportunities for consultation and participation in decisions which affect them. Managers should develop practices based more on an accurate understanding of human behaviour and motivation. The Theory Y approach, however, is not a ‘soft’ option. In practice it is often difficult to achieve successfully. It can be frustrating and time-consuming, and mistakes will occur.

Since 1952 I’ve been stumbling around buildings and running primitive Theory Y departments, divisions, and finally one whole Theory Y company: Avis. In 1962, after thirteen years, Avis had never made a profit (except one year when they jiggled their depreciation rates). Three years later the company had grown internationally (not by acquisitions) from $30 million in sales to $75 million in sales, and had made successive annual profits of $1 million, $3 million, and $5 million. If I had anything to do with this, I ascribe it all to my application of Theory Y. And a faltering, stumbling, groping, mistake-ridden application it was.

Robert Townsend6

Demands of
the situation

The two views of Theory X and Theory Y tend to represent extremes of the natural inclination of managers towards a particular style of behaviour. In practice, however, the actual style of management behaviour adopted will be influenced by the demands of the situation.

Where the job offers a high degree of intrinsic satisfaction or involves a variety of tasks, an element of problem-solving and the exercise of initiative, or where output is difficult to measure in quantitative terms, an informal, participative approach would seem to be more effective. It is more likely to lead to a higher level of staff morale. In many cases this would apply to work of a scientific, technical or professional nature. Where commitment to the goals of the organisation is almost a prerequisite of membership, such as in certain voluntary or charity organisations, for example, then a Theory Y approach would clearly seem to be most appropriate.

Use of a Theory
X approach

However, even if a manager has a basic belief in Theory Y assumptions there may be occasions when it is necessary, or more appropriate, to adopt a Theory X approach. When the nature of the job itself offers little intrinsic reward or limited opportunities to satisfy higher-level needs, a more dictatorial style of management might work best. Some jobs are designed narrowly, with highly predictable tasks, and output measured precisely. This is the case, for example, with many complex production processes in manufacturing firms. With these types of jobs a Theory X approach may be needed if an adequate level of performance is to be maintained.


The cynic might describe efforts to turn Theory Y into practice as doing with difficulty what comes naturally to the Japanese. There, excellent managers apply principles of behaviour which translate perfectly into western language – and which have long been echoed in the progressive areas of the west. Yet you still encounter the old ostrich attitudes that caused western companies so much damage in the past: for instance, the argument that to emulate Japan is impossible because of its peculiar culture. But the famous national enthusiasm for good business and effective management isn’t simply a product of Japan’s culture. After all, sloppy western habits, like investing too little in productive capacity, new products, training, quality and marketing are hardly cultural – not unless bad business economics are built into the western mentality.

Robert Heller 12

One means of describing and evaluating different styles of management is the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid® (see Figure 7.1). First published as the Managerial Grid in 1964, restated in 1978 and 198513 and republished in 1991
as the Leadership Grid,14 the Grid provides a basis for comparison of managerial styles in terms of two principal dimensions:

concern for production;
concern for people.

Concern for production is the amount of emphasis which the manager places on accomplishing the tasks in hand, achieving a high level of production and getting results or profits. This is represented along the horizontal axis of the Grid. Concern for people is the amount of emphasis which the manager gives to subordinates and colleagues as individuals and to their needs and expectations. This is represented along the vertical axis of the Grid.

Five basic combinations
‘Concern for’ is not how much concern, but indicates the character and strength of assumptions which underlie the manager’s own basic attitudes and style of management. The significant point is ‘how’ the manager expresses concern about production or about people. The four corners and the centre of the Grid provide five basic combinations of degree of concern for production coupled with degree of concern for people (see Figure 7.1(a)).

the impoverished manager (1,1 rating), low concern for production and low concern for people; the authority–compliance manager (9,1 rating), high concern for production and low concern for people;

the country club manager (1,9 rating), low concern for production and high concern for people; the middle-of-the-road manager (5,5 rating), moderate
concern for production and moderate concern for people; and

the team manager (9,9 rating), high concern for production and high concern for people.

Managers with a 1,1 rating tend to be remote from their subordinates and believe in the minimum movement from their present position. They do as little as they can with production or with people. Too much attention to production will cause difficulties with staff and too much attention to the needs of staff will cause problems with production.

Team management

Thoughtful attention to the
needs of people for satisfying
relationships leads to a
comfortable, friendly organisation
atmosphere and
work tempo.

Concern for people

Work accomplishment is
from committed people;
interdependence through a
‘common stake’ in organisation
purpose leads to relationships
of trust and respect.

Middle-of-the-road management

Adequate organisation performance is
possible through balancing the necessity
to get work out while maintaining morale
of people at a satisfactory level.
Impoverished management
Exertion of minimum effort
to get required work done
is appropriate to sustain
organisation membership.

Efficiency in operations results
from arranging conditions of
work in such a way that
human elements interfere
to a minimum degree.

In Opportunistic management, people adapt
and shift to any Grid style needed to gain the maximum
advantage. Performance occurs according to a
system of selfish gain. Effort is given only for an
advantage or personal gain.

9+9: Paternalism/maternalism
Reward and approval are bestowed
to people in return for loyalty and
obedience; failure to comply leads
to punishment

Figure 7.1  The Leadership Grid
(Source: Blake, R. R. and McCanse, A. A. (1991) Leadership Dilemmas – Grid Solutions, Gulf Publishing Co., Houston (1991), Grid Figure, p. 29, Paternalism Figure, p. 30, Opportunism Figure, p. 31. Reproduced by permission of Grid International, Inc.)


Managers with a 9,1 rating are autocratic. They tend to rely on a centralised system and the use of authority. Staff are regarded as a means of production and motivation is based on competition between people in order to get work done. If staff challenge an instruction or standard procedure they are likely to be viewed as unco-operative. The 1,9 rating managers believe that a contented staff will undertake what is required of them and achieve a reasonable level of output. Production is secondary to the avoidance of conflict and maintenance of harmony among the staff. Managers will seek to find compromises between staff and solutions acceptable to everyone. Although innovation may be encouraged, they tend to reject good ideas if likely to cause difficulties among the staff.

The 5,5 rating is the middle-of-the-road management with the approach of ‘live and let live’ and a tendency to avoid the real issues. This style of management is the ‘dampened pendulum’ with managers swinging between concern for production and concern for people. Under pressure, this style of management tends to become task management (9,1). Where this strains relations and causes resentment from staff, however, pressure is eased and managers adopt a compromise approach. If there is a swing too much the other way (towards 1,9) managers are likely to take a tighter and more hardened approach.

Managers with a 9,9 rating believe in the integrating of the task needs and concern for people. They believe in creating a situation whereby people can satisfy their own needs by commitment to the objectives of the organisation. Managers will discuss problems with the staff, seek their ideas and give them freedom of action. Difficulties in working relationships will be handled by confronting staff directly and attempting to work out solutions with them.

These five styles of management represent the extremes of the Grid. With a nine-point scale on each axis there is a total of 81 different ‘mixtures’ of concern for production and concern for people. Most people would come up with a score somewhere in an intermediary position on the Grid.

Two additional
grid styles

1991 edition of the Grid also covers two additional styles: opportunism and 9+9 paternalism/maternalism, which take account of the reaction of subordinates.

In opportunistic management, organisational performance occurs according to a system of exchanges, whereby effort is given only for an equivalent measure of the same. People adapt to the situation to gain maximum advantage of it. (See Figure 7.1(b).)

In 9+9 paternalistic/maternalistic management, reward and approval are granted to people in return for loyalty and obedience; and punishment is threatened for failure to comply (see Figure 7.1(c)).

A summary of the seven basic combinations of the Grid is given in Table 7.1.

The Managerial Grid provides a framework in which managers can identify, study and review their patterns of behaviour. Instead of viewing management styles as a dichotomy of ‘either/or’, Blake and Mouton claim that the Managerial Grid illustrates that the manager can gain the benefits of maximising, simultaneously, methods which are both production-oriented and people-oriented. The 9,9 position, although an ideal, is worth working for.

Based on their experience of using the original Grid, Blake and Mouton give three reasons why it is important to consider which style of management is used to achieve production through people.


The 7-S

In order to get people to accept solutions, the manager needs continually to co-ordinate and balance in order to compromise conflicting values. The leader creates excitement in work and develops choices that give substance to images that excite people.

In their relationships with other people, managers maintain a low level of emotional involvement. Leaders have empathy with other people and give attention to what events and actions mean. Managers see themselves more as conservators and regulators of the existing order of affairs with which they identify, and from which they gain rewards. Leaders work in, but do not belong to, the organisation. Their sense of identity does not depend upon membership or work roles and they search out opportunities for change.

The differences between leadership and management have been applied by Watson to the 7-S organisational framework of: strategy, structure, systems, style, staff, skills and superordinate (or shared) goals. Watson suggests that whereas managers tend towards reliance on:


leaders have an inherent inclination for utilisation of the ‘soft’ Ss of :

skills, and
shared goals.

Watson also suggests, although cautiously, that 7-S management could be seen as the province of leaders. Managers will not ordinarily be capable of achieving sufficient mastery of all seven factors to attain a consistently high level of organisational performance.

Distinction between management and leadership
Based on experience of management approaches in both commerce and the military, Hollingsworth questions how many managers consider themselves first and foremost as leaders, relegating ‘manager’ to their job title. He argues that commercial managers need to learn from the armed forces if they wish to be viewed as leaders. Having accepted that there are some links between management and leadership, Hollingsworth lists six ‘fundamental differences’.

A manager administers – a leader innovates.
A manager maintains – a leader develops.
A manager focuses on systems and structure – a leader focuses on people. A manager relies on control – a leader inspires trust.
A manager keeps an eye on the bottom line – a leader has an eye on the horizon. A manager does things right – a leader does the right thing.

Not everyone would agree with this list. Robinson, for example, suggests that if the word ‘manager’ is replaced by ‘administrator’ then the lists works. However, whatever your view the list makes for a helpful basis for critical discussion on the nature of management and leadership.25 In Chapter 6 we discussed management as getting work done through the efforts of other people. To be an effective manager it is necessary to exercise the role of leadership. A common view is that the job of the manager requires the ability of leadership


The first approach assumes that leaders are born and not made. Leadership consists of certain inherited characteristics, or personality traits, which distinguish leaders from their followers: the so-called Great Person theory of leadership. The qualities approach focuses attention on the man or woman in the job and not on the job itself. It suggests that attention is given to the selection of leaders rather than to training for leadership. For example, Drucker (writing originally in 1955) makes the point that: Leadership is of utmost importance. Indeed there is no substitute for it. But leadership cannot be created or promoted. It cannot be taught or learned.

There have been many research studies into the common traits of leadership. However, attempts at identifying common personality, or physical and mental, characteristics of different ‘good’ or ‘successful’ leaders have met with little success.Investigations have identified lists of traits which tend to be overlapping, contradictory or with little correlation for most features.

It is noticeable that ‘individuality’ or ‘originality’ usually features in the list of traits. This itself suggests that there is little in common between specific personality traits of different leaders. It is perhaps possible therefore to identify general characteristics of leadership ability, such as self-confidence, initiative, intelligence and belief in one’s actions, but research into this area has revealed little more than this. In a series of interviews with headhunters, and senior figures in industry and the city, Management Today came up with a list of Britain’s most powerful women in business. A conclusion from the list is that the ‘top 50 women do not fit any pattern. They wield the kind of power and influence that defies stereotypes.’

Limitations of
the traits

There are two further limitations with this approach.

First, there is bound to be some subjective judgement in determining who is regarded as a ‘good’ or ‘successful’ leader.
Second, the lists of possible traits tend to be very long and there is not always agreement on the most important.

Even if it were possible to identify an agreed list of more specific qualities, this would provide little explanation of the nature of leadership. It would do little to help in the development and training of future leaders. Although there is still some interest in the qualities, or traits, approach, attention has been directed more to other approaches to leadership.

The qualities or traits approach gives rise to the questions: whether leaders are born or made; and whether leadership is an art or a science. The important point, however, is that these are not mutually exclusive alternatives. Even if there are certain inborn qualities which make for a good leader, these natural talents need encouragement and development. Even if leadership is something of an art, it still requires the application of special skills and techniques.

This approach to leadership focuses attention not on the personality of the leader, nor on the man or woman in the job, per se, but on the functions of leadership. Leadership is always present in any group engaged in a task. The functional approach views leadership in terms of how the leader’s behaviour affects, and is affected by, the group of followers. This approach concentrates on the nature of the group, the followers or subordinates. It
focuses on the content of leadership.


Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model
Once a lower need has been satisfied, it no longer acts as a strong motivator. The needs of the next higher level in the hierarchy demand satisfaction and become the motivating influence. Only unsatisfied needs motivate a person. Thus Maslow asserts that ‘a satisfied need is no longer a motivator’.

Not necessarily
a fixed order

Although Maslow suggests that most people have these basic needs in about the order indicated, he also makes it clear that the hierarchy is not necessarily a fixed order. There will be a number of exceptions to the order indicated. For some people there will be a reversal of the hierarchy, for example:

Self-esteem may seem to be more important than love to some people. This is the most common reversal of the hierarchy. It is often based on the belief that the person most loved is strong, confident or inspires respect. People seeking love try to put on a show of aggressive, confident behaviour. They are not really seeking selfesteem as an end in itself but for the sake of love needs. For some innately creative people the drive for creativity and self-actualisation may arise despite lack of satisfaction of more basic needs.

Higher-level needs may be lost in some people who will continue to be satisfied at lower levels only: for example, a person who has experienced chronic unemployment. Some people who have been deprived of love in early childhood may experience the permanent loss of love needs.

A need which has continued to be satisfied over a long period of time may be undervalued. For example, people who have never suffered from chronic hunger may tend to underestimate its effects, and regard food as rather an unimportant thing. Where people are dominated by a higher-level need this may assume greater importance than more basic needs.

People with high ideals or values may become martyrs and give up everything else for the sake of their beliefs.

Maslow claims that the hierarchy is relatively universal among different cultures, but he recognises that there are differences in an individual’s motivational content in a particular culture.


Degrees of satisfaction

Maslow points out that a false impression may be given that a need must be satisfied fully before a subsequent need arises. He suggests that a more realistic description is in terms of decreasing percentages of satisfaction along levels of the hierarchy. For example, arbitrary figures for the average person may be: satisfied 85 per cent in physiological needs; 70 per cent in safety needs; 50 per cent in love needs; 40 per cent in esteem needs; and 10 per cent in self-actualisation needs. There is a gradual emergence of a higher-level need as lower-level needs become more satisfied. The relative importance of these needs changes during the psychological development of the individual. Maslow subsequently modified his views by noting that satisfaction of self-actualisation needs by growth-motivated individuals can actually enhance these needs rather than reduce them. Furthermore, he accepted that some higher-level needs may still emerge after long deprivation of lowerlevel needs, rather than only after their satisfaction.

Evaluation of Maslow’s theory
Based on Maslow’s theory, once lower-level needs have been satisfied (say at the physiological and safety levels) giving more of the same does not provide motivation. Individuals advance up the hierarchy as each lower-level need becomes satisfied. Therefore, to provide motivation for a change in behaviour, the manager must direct attention to the next higher level of needs (in this case, love or social needs) that seek satisfaction.

Applications to
the work

However, there are a number of problems in relating Maslow’s theory to the work situation. These include the following:

A useful basis for evaluation

People do not necessarily satisfy their needs, especially higher-level needs, just through the work situation. They satisfy them through other areas of their life as well. Therefore the manager would need to have a complete understanding of people’s private and social life, not just their behaviour at work. There is doubt about the time which elapses between the satisfaction of a lower-level need and the emergence of a higher-level need.

Individual differences mean that people place different values on the same need. For example, some people prefer what they might see as the comparative safety of working in a bureaucratic organisation to a more highly paid and higher status position, but with less job security, in a different organisation.

Some rewards or outcomes at work satisfy more than one need. Higher salary or promotion, for example, can be applied to all levels of the hierarchy. Even for people within the same level of the hierarchy, the motivating factors will not be the same. There are many different ways in which people may seek satisfaction of, for example, their esteem needs. Maslow viewed satisfaction as the main motivational outcome of behaviour. But job satisfaction does not necessarily lead to improved work performance.

Although Maslow did not originally intend that the need hierarchy should necessarily be applied to the work situation, it still remains popular as a theory of motivation at work. Despite criticisms and doubts about its limitations, the theory has had a significant impact on management approaches to motivation and the design of organisations to meet individual needs. It is a convenient framework for viewing the different needs and expectations that people have, where they are in the hierarchy, and the different motivators that might be applied to people at different levels. The work of Maslow has drawn attention to a number of different motivators and stimulated study and research. The need hierarchy model provides a useful base for the evaluation of motivation at work. For example, Steers and Porter suggest a list of general rewards and organisational factors used to satisfy different needs (see Table 12.1).29


Applying Maslow’s need hierarchy
Needs levels

General rewards

Organisational factors

1 Physiological

Food, water, sex, sleep

a. Pay
b. Pleasant working conditions
c. Cafeteria

2. Safety

Safety, security,
stability, protection

a. Safe working conditions
b. Company benefits
c. Job security

3. Social

Love, affection,

a. Cohesive work group
b. Friendly supervision
c. Professional associations

4. Esteem

Self-esteem, self-respect,
prestige, status

a. Social recognition
b. Job title
c. High status job
d. Feedback from the job itself

5. Self-actualisation

Growth, advancement,

a. Challenging job
b. Opportunities for creativity
c. Achievement in work
d. Advancement in the organisation

Saunders contends that despite the time that has elapsed, Maslow’s theory remains watertight. When prehistoric man first took shelter in a cave and lit a fire, he was satisfying his lowest – physiological and safety needs. When a Buddhist achieves a state of nirvana, she is satisfying the fifth and highest – self-actualisation …The cave these days might be a three-bedroom semi with garden and off-street parking, but the fact remains that once we’ve got enough to feed, clothe and house our families money is a low-level motivator for most people. The dash for cash is soon replaced by the desire for recognition, status and ultimately (although Maslow reckoned that a lot of us never get this far) the need to express yourself through your work.

Pyramid of

Revisiting and developing Maslow’s hierarchy, Stum looked at the dynamic between an individual and the organisation, and proposes a new employee/employer social contract that enables organisations to improve employee commitment and retention. The five levels of workforce needs hierarchy are shown in a ‘Performance Pyramid’.

Safety/security – the need to feel physically and psychologically safe in the work environment for commitment to be possible;
Rewards – the need for extrinsic rewards in compensation and benefits; Affiliation – the intrinsic need for a sense of belonging to the work team or organisation;
Growth – addressing the need for positive individual and organisational change to drive commitment;
Work/life harmony – the drive to achieve a sense of fulfilment in balancing work and life responsibilities.

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"MANAGERS’ ATTITUDES TOWARDS PEOPLE" StudyScroll, 26-Feb-2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 30-Sep-2023]

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