Managerial Styles: Are You an X or Y Manager?

A good manager knows how to motivate their team. However, not every manager has the same style. This can vary by industry, as well as being dependant on the age and skill level of your employees or your personal attitudes to work.

Two developed theories of managerial style are the X and Y theories developed by social psychologist Douglas McGregor in his book The Human Side of Enterprise. Since its publication in the 1960s, managers have been using this as a guide for their own style development.

Here, with some sights from Dominic Fitch, Head of Creative Change at Impact International, we explore the differences between X and Y managers, and how to know which managerial style is best for you and your team.


What is an X Manager?

For X managers, employees are not self-motivated and so need an authoritative manager to ensure tasks are completed. With over 36% of employees claiming to dislike their job, keeping a firm grip on task management is important, as X managers believe workers won’t take pride in their work and will avoid completing tasks.

The X managerial theory involves monitoring worker achievements and deadlines. The results-based focus is particularly beneficial in industries that have tight schedules, such as manufacturing and other time-managed occupations. You will have a strict grasp of routine and schedules, dictating tasks and expecting results. This is very much a hands-on approach to managing employees.


What is a Y Manager?

Y managers believe in employee engagement and the high work ethics of their colleagues. Employees are believed to take pride in their work and are self-motivated to achieve more. They also have a strong grasp of what is required in their role, and often in others, allowing them to problem solve and avoid crises without the need of a manager. Employees take ownership and accountability for their work, using initiative and decision-making. According to Indeed, employees who have more personal responsibility in the workplace tend to have more loyalty towards their company, as well as a stronger sense of job security.

Therefore, a Y manager is more likely to adopt a participative management style. This allows the employee a sense of achievement when completing tasks. Unlike the X management style, which uses statistics and measured performance as a threatening technique, task completion under a Y manager acts as a form of reward and incentive to increase self-drive and development.



Choosing Your Style

If you prefer being proactive within the workplace, favouring a hands-on approach over a relaxed atmosphere, then the X manager theory is for you.

Certain industries will benefit from certain management styles. For example, if your company operates under a multi-level management style, then you might find that the X manager approach is better suited to your environment. As your manager, and perhaps their managers above them, demand specific results, you will expect the same from your employees. However, if your company is a collaborative one in which teams communicate effectively, allowing all levels of employees to actively participate, you may benefit from the Y management theory.

However, it can also depend on your workforce. A young or low-skill level team will benefit from the presence of an X manager from time to time. Due to the training needed to bring their skill levels up, you will be expected to micromanage and handle crisis moments with more direct attention. An established workforce within a company, on the other hand, will not require this level of attention, so you can adopt a more relaxed approach.

Ultimately, it depends on your own preferences. Some managers prefer to have an oversight of production, so they can guarantee that deadlines are met. Others might prefer a more creative, collaborative approach in which employees take the lead on initiatives. You may even find that a balance between the two styles is useful as the company progresses.

Managerial styles vary depending on many factors from industry size and demand to the office environment. However, how you view employee engagement is crucial in all sectors when establishing yourself as a manager. Believing in the attitudes of your workers can dictate the course of action you need to be an effective manager and produce the results necessary to keep the business progressing. Remember, managerial styles can be flexible. You may adopt one style and change it over time.


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