• Workplace

    Has the work at home concept impacted theory X and theory y?

    Fri Jan 15 2021
    . 5 min read

    Theory X and Theory Y refer to differing management styles – Theory X is more of an authoritarian style (you don’t necessarily think your employees are happy to be doing their jobs and may not be performing at their highest level, and they may need more micromanagement). Theory Y is a more participatory style, where you believe your employees are happy and are performing at their highest level. You trust them to get their work done and don’t feel the need to micromanage.

    But how are these management styles affected by a large portion of the workforce shifting to remote workplaces? How can you effectively manage a workforce that you don’t physically have in front of you?

    Since the spring of 2020, much of the world’s workforce has had to learn how to effectively balance working from home instead of having the psychological sense of “being” at work. Managers may initially have been tempted to opt for a more Theory X approach to ensure work was being completed. 

    “However, adopting a Theory X management style in the current environment presents huge risks. Employees may feel their employer does not trust them or is micro-managing them. They may simply think the monitoring is unfair, reducing motivation and, ultimately, productivity.”

    It may be that the best thing managers can do is consciously aim for a more Theory Y approach – to trust their employees to get their work done on their own schedule (which probably won’t be a strictly 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday schedule), get out of their employees’ way (no micromanagement), and opt for periodic monitoring and check-ins to ensure the work is being completed in a timely manner.

    We have all learned in the last 10 months that flexibility is one of the most valuable traits we can offer in a workplace – both as a manager and as an employee. If you’re a manager, try to determine which theory you fall more in line with, and with that in mind, consider whether your employees might do better with the other theory. If you are currently more Theory X, could your employees benefit from a more team-driven approach instead of micromanagement? It’s worth considering, especially if you know your workforce will remain remote for the forseeable future.