Theory X says people don’t want to work. Theory Y says they do.

Douglas McGregor published “The Human Side of Enterprise” in 1960 examining theories on behavior of individuals at work, and formulated two models which he calls Theory X and Theory Y.
These theories see the individual as a worker in a workplace and not primarily as a citizen.

He takes work as something you get paid to do as his starting point.
Starting from that viewpoint you are likely to miss a whole bunch of insights. Like how work is set up in the first place in a way that violates our nature.

Theory X and Theory Y assumptions are based on social science research which has been carried out, and demonstrate the potential which is present in man and which organizations should recognize in order to become more effective.

Read more here about McGregors work.


  • McGregor, D. (1960). Theory X and theory Y. Organization theory,
  • McGregor, D. (1960). The human side of enterprise. New York.

2 thoughts on “Theory X says people don’t want to work. Theory Y says they do.

  1. Not really. Theory X and Theory Y (which hang together) illustrate a maturation process: the more insecure we are, the more we cling to an X working environment. It’s actually a great piece of research – try it!


  2. Thanks Marilyn! I had the idea that McGregor based his ideas on research but that his book is more a synthesis of other research. Anyway, thanks for your comments, I have been meaning to update the information about the other theories for a while now.


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