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Pick Your Theory: X, Y, Or T

November 26, 2013 3 comments

If you’re a student (or self-proclaimed/credentialed “expert“) of institutional behavior, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard of Doug MacGregor‘s famous Theory X and Theory Y worldviews regarding social attitudes within organizations. And, if you’re a manager who is not into political suicide, you at least publicly espouse allegiance to the more ethically pleasing Theory Y view.

XYYX

Well, in “The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting it Wrong“, philosopher-turned-business-consultant-returned-philosopher Matt Stewart concocts an interesting, but perhaps more pragmatic, Theory T:

Theory T (for tragic): Some degree of conflict is inherent in all forms of social organization. Sometimes the self is at odds with the community, sometimes the community is at odds with itself, and sometimes, as Thomas Hobbes pointed out, it’s a war of all against all. – Matt Stewart

Perhaps shockingly, but not totally out of the realm of possibility, Matt concludes:

It (Theory Y) is an attempt to trick our ethical intuitions— that is, to make workers believe that they are being well treated when in fact they are being exploited.

In this unsettling but thought-tickling view, Mr. Stewart asserts that the aim of both the bad-X and good-Y theories is to ultimately exploit the workery, but only Theory X is transparently upfront about it.

X and Y

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