Western Libraries

Biography - Douglas McGregor (1906-1964)

Douglas McGregor

Update - 2006: A useful new edition of McGregor's classic has been published. See: The Human Side of Enterprise: Annotated Edition , by Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld (BUS HF 5549.M33956 2006).

In this special annotated edition of the worldwide management classic, Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Senior Research Scientist in MIT's Sloan School of Management and Engineering Systems Division, shows us how today's leaders have successfully incorporated McGregor's methods into modern management styles and practices. The added quotes and commentary bring the content right into today's debates and business models.
“Today, there is indeed growing evidence to suggest that we are in the early or middle stages of a second industrial divide, which has been variously characterized as involving an information revolution, increased interconnection across global markets, the rise of flexible specialization in production and service operations, and a transformation toward knowledge-driven work in all sectors of the economy. McGregor understood, anticipated, and helped point the way toward what may well emerge as a future model of work, organizations and society that is rooted in core assumptions driving participative, interdependent, authentic, inventive and productive relationships. However, the alternative, an economic “race to the bottom” based on increasingly individualistic, control-oriented and competitive assumptions, is also a very real possibility. As we venture forth, McGregor's insights about the 'human side of enterprise' continue to be a beacon. We must continue to ask, as he did: 'What are your assumptions (implicit as well as explicit) about the most effective way to manage people?'” --From the Introduction by Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld


McGregor was a social psychologist who became the President of Antioch College. Later in his career he was a professor of management at MIT and his name is linked most often with Theory Y. The purpose of this brief bibliography is to lead you quickly to information by and about Douglas McGregor and the theory with which he is most often associated. A good place to start is with: Douglas McGregor Revisited: Managing the Human Side of Enterprise, by Heil, Bennis and Stephens. For reviews of this book see the following: "Douglas McGregor, Revisited," Kennedy, Carol. Director, Vol. 54, Iss. 3, Oct 2000, p. 139. "Douglas McGregor, Revisited: Managing the Human Side of the Enterprise," Kelly, Eileen. The Academy of Management Executive, Vol. 14, Iss. 3, Aug 2000, p. 143."Douglas McGregor, Revisited: Managing the Human Side of the Enterprise," Miller, Lynn. HRMagazine, Vol. 45, Iss. 12, Dec 2000, p. 176."Douglas McGregor Revisited," Brillinger, Ray. Canadian HR Reporter, Vol. 14, Iss. 19, Nov 5, 2001, p. 26. A brief sketch is provided by Charles Hampden-Turner in The Handbook of Management Thinking, ed. by Malcolm Warner, pp.410-413. See also, "Abraham Maslow and Douglas McGregor: From Human Relations to the Frontiers of System Dynamics," in Andrea Gabor's The Capitalist Philosophers... As well, Daniel Wren's Management Innovators... contains McGregor material beginning at page 204.
Theory X and Theory Y are often illustrated in management texts. For your convenience, the theories as originally outlined by McGregor are provided below. For a synopsis of the theories see "Theory X-Theory Y" in Theories and Models in Applied Behavior Science, Vol 1., p.273.
In addition to an outline of Theory X and Theory Y presented below, you will find a list of McGregor's writings and an indication of whether they are available in the Western Libraries (most are). As well, there is a brief list of older articles about McGregor and Theory X and Theory Y.

Theory X

1) The average human being has an inherent dislike of work and will avoid it if he can.
This assumption has deep roots. The punishment of Adam and Eve for eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was to be banished from Eden into a world where they had to work for a living. The stress that management places on productivity, on the concept of "a fair day's work," on the evils of featherbedding and restriction of output, on rewards for performance-while it has a logic in terms of the objectives of enterprise-reflects an underlying belief that management must counteract an inherent human tendency to avoid work. The evidence for the correctness of this assumption would seem to most managers to be incontrovertible.

2) Because of this human characteristic of dislike of work, most people must be coerced, controlled, directed, threatened with punishment to get them to put forth adequate effort toward the achievement of organizational objectives.
The dislike of work is so strong that even the promise of rewards is not generally enough to overcome it. People will accept the rewards and demand continually higher ones, but these alone will not produce the necessary effort. Only the threat of punishment will do the trick.
The current wave of criticism of "human relations," the derogatory comments about "permissiveness" and "democracy" in industry, the trends in some companies toward recentralization after the postwar wave of decentralization-all these are assertions of of the underlying assumption that people will only work under external coercion and control. The recession of 1957-1958 ended a decade of experimentation with the "soft" managerial approach, and this assumption (which never really was abandoned) is being openly espoused once more.

3) The average human being prefers to be directed, wishes to avoid responsibility, has relatively little ambition, wants security above all.
This assumption of the "mediocrity of the masses" is rarely expressed so bluntly. In fact, a good deal of lip service is given to the ideal of the worth of the average human being. Our political and social values demand such public expressions. Nevertheless, a great many managers will give private support to this assumption, and it is easy to see it reflected in policy and practice. Paternalism has become a nasty word, but it is by no means a defunct managerial philosophy.

Theory Y

1)The expenditure of physical and mental effort in work is as natural as play or rest. The average human being does not inherently dislike work. Depending upon controllable conditions, work may be a source of satisfaction (and will be voluntarily performed) or a source of punishment (and will be avoided if possible).

2) External control and the threat of punishment are not the only means for bringing about effort toward organizational objectives. Man will exercise self-direction and self-control in the service of objectives to which he is committed.

3) Commitment to objectives is a function of the rewards associated with their achievement. The most significant of such rewards, e.g., the satisfaction of ego and self-actualization needs, can be direct products of effort directed toward organizational objectives.

4) The average human being learns, under proper conditions, not only to accept but to seek responsibility. Avoidance of responsibility, lack of ambition, and emphasis on security are generally consequences of experience, not inherent human characteristics.

5) The capacity to exercise a relatively high degree of imagination, ingenuity, and creativity in the solution of organizational problems is widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population.

6) Under the conditions of modern industrial life, the intellectual potentialities of the average human being are only partially utilized.

Source: The Human Side of Enterprise, pp.33-49

Works BY Douglas McGregor


[This list of works by McGregor was taken from the bibliography found on pp.277-280 of Leadership and Motivation: Essays of Douglas McGregor] They are presented in chronological order.

The Sensitivity of the Eye to the Saturation of Colors. Ph.D. thesis. Harvard University (Psychology), Cambridge, Mass. 1935.

Abstract in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1936, 19, No. 5.

"Scientific Measurement and Psychology". Psychological Review, 1935, 42, 246-266.

"Should There be Academic Prerequisites for Graduate Work in Psychology"? Psychological Bulletin, 1937, 34, 501-509.

"The Major Determinants of the Prediction of Social Events". Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1938, 33, 179-204.

"A Study of Public Opinion Among a Group of Industrial Workers". Psychological Bulletin, 1938, 35, 650-651.

"The Attitudes of Workers Toward Layoff Policy". Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 1939, 34, 179-199.

"Motives as a Tool of Market Research". Harvard Business Review 1940, 37, 433-434.

"The Genesis of Attitudes toward Management" (with Conrad Arensberg). Psychological Bulletin. 1940, 37, 433-434.

"Industrial Relations and National Defense: A Challenge to Management" (with Irving Knickerbocker). Personnel, 1941, 18, No. 1, 49-63.

"Determination of Morale in an Industrial Company" (with Conrad M. Arensberg). Applied Anthropology, 1942, 1, No. 2, 12-34.

"Union Management Cooperation: A Psychological Analysis" (with Irving Knickerbocker). Personnel 1942, 19, No. 3, 520-539.

"Conditions of Effective Leadership in the Industrial Organization". Journal of Consulting Psychology, 1944, 8, 55-63; Advanced Management, 1944, 9, No. 4, 14-153; and in S.D. Hoskett (Ed.), Human Factors in Management. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1951, pp. 23-35.

"The Foreman's Responsibilities in the Industrial Organization". Personnel 1946, 22, No. 5, 296-304.

The Nature and Use of Authority. In University of Michigan, Bureau of Industrial Relations Addresses on Industrial Relations, 1946, pp. 85-87. (not available in the Western Libraries)

"Re-evaluating of Training for Management Skills". In Training for Management Skills. New York: American Management Association, Personnel Series, No. 104, 1946. (not available in the Western Libraries).

Foreword, "The Consultant Role and Organizational Leadership: Improving Human Relations in Industry" Journal of Social Issues, 1948, 4, No. 3, 2-4.

"The Staff Function in Human Relations", Journal of Social Issues, 1948, 4, No. 3, 5-22.

"The Supervisor's Job" (18 Pages, mimeo). Address before management Forum of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Wilmington, Delaware, April 16, 1948.(not available in the Western Libraries)

"The Dewey and Almy Chemical Company: A Case Study (with Joseph N. Scanlon)". Case Studies in Causes of Industrial Peace under Collective Bargaining, No. 3. Washington, D.C.: National Planning Association, 1948, 88 pp.

"Toward a Theory of Organized Human Effort in Industry". In Psychology of Labor-Management Relations, Proceedings of the Meeting. Champaign, Ill.: Industrial Relations Research Association, 1949, pp. 111-122.

"Changing Patterns in Human Relations". In National Industrial Conference Board, Conference Board Management Record, 1950, 12, No. 9, 322, 323; and in M. deV. Richards and W.A. Nielander (Eds.), Readings in Management. Cincinnati, Ohio: South-Western Publishing Company, 1963.

"How Can We Go Forward? Panel discussion on The Untapped Potential in Labor Management Relations",. In Mobilizing America's Strength for World Security. Report of 19th Annual New York Herald-Tribune Forum, October 23-25, 1950. New York: Herald Tribune, Inc., 1950, pp. 65-68. (not available in the Western Libraries)

"Line Management's Responsibility for Human Relations". In Building Up the Supervisor's Job. New York: American Management Association, Manufacturing Series No. 213, 1953, pp. 27-35.

"The Changing Role of Management". The Technology Review, 1955, 57, No. 6, 287-290; and in H.C. Thole and C.C. Gibbons (Eds.)., Business Action in a Changing World. Chicago: Public Administration Service, 1956, pp. 9-16.

"The Human Side of Enterprise". In Adventure in Thought and Action, Proceedings of the Fifth Anniversary Convocation of the M.I.T. School of Industrial Management, June 1957, pp. 23-30; also (in condensed form) in The Management Review, 1957, 46, No. 11, 22-28.

"An Uneasy Look at Performance Appraisal". Harvard Business Review, 1957, 35, No. 3, 89-94.
(see also the Training-and-Development-Journal. 1987 Jun; Vol 41(6): 66-69)

"The Significance of Scanlon's Contribution". Chapter 2 in Frederick G. Lesiur (Ed.), The Scanlon Plan: A Frontier in Labor-Management Cooperation. New York: The Technology Press and John Wiley & Sons, 1958, pp. 7-15 (fifth printing by The M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1964).

"The Scanlon Plan through a Psychologist's Eyes". Chapter 8 in Frederick G. Lesieur (Ed.), The Scanlon Plan: A Frontier in Labor Management Cooperation. New York: The Technology Press and John Wiley & Sons, 1958, pp. 89-99 (fifth printing by The M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1964).

"Management Development: The Hope and the Reality". In Proceedings of the American Petroleum Institute, Section III, Division of Refining, Addresses and Reports. New York, May 28, 1959, pp. 272-277.(not available in the Western Libraries)

The Human Side of Enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1960.

"The Role of Staff in Modern Industry". Chapter 1 of Part III in George P. Shultz and Thomas L. Whisler (Eds.), Management Organization and the Computer, Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press, 1960.

"New Concepts of Management" The Technology Review, 1961, 63, No. 4, 25-27; and in The Executive, 1961, 4, No. 12, 32-44.

"Can You Measure Executive Performance?" International Management, 1964, 19, No. 6, 59-61. (this issue not available in the Western Libraries).

Another source for essays by McGregor is: Leadership and Motivation. The following essays are included along with a sketch of McGregor's career by Warren Bennis:
I. Managerial Philosophy
1) The Human Side of Enterprise
2) New Concepts of Management
3) A Philosophy of Management
II. Leadership
4) Conditions of Effective Leadership in the Industrial Organization
5) On Leadership
6) An Analysis of Leadership
III. Union-Management Relations
7) Union-Management Cooperation: A Psychological Analysis
8) The Significance of Scanlon's Contribution
9) The Scanlon Plan Through a Psychologist's Eyes
IV. Growth and Development of Individuals and Groups
10) The Staff Function in Human Relations
11) Management Development: The Hope and the Reality
12) An Uneasy Look at Performance Appraisal
V. The Manager and the Human Sciences
13) The Manager, Human Nature, and Human Sciences
14) Why Not Exploit Behavioral Science?

During the Summer of 1964, McGregor worked on a manuscript that was published after his death in October. The Professional Manager also has a preface by Bennis and an introduction by Edgar Schein.

Selected Articles ABOUT McGregor


"Chairman Mac in Perspective," Bennis, Warren G. Harvard Business Review, Vol. 50, No. 4, Sept./Oct. 1972, p.140.
"The Man Who Created Theory 'Y'," Chambers, Peter. International Management, Vol. 28, Iss. 6, Jun 1973, 1981, p.29.
"Theory X and Theory Y Revisited," Carbone, Tobias. Managerial Planning, Vol. 29, Iss. 6, May/Jun 1981, p. 24.
"The Emergence and Early History of Organization Development: With Reference to Influences on and Interaction Among Some of the Key Actors," French, Wendell L. Group & Organizational Studies, Vol. 7, Iss. 3, Sep 1982, p. 261.
"An Alternate Approach to Performance Appraisals," Smith, Percival. The Canadian Manager, Vol. 6, Iss. 5, Nov/Dec 1981, p. 14.
"The Applicability of McGregor's Theories in South East Asia," Hofstede, Geert. The Journal of Management Development, Vol. 6, Iss. 3, 1987, p. 9.
"The Way We Were," Anonymous. Management Today, Jun 1998, p. 111.
"The Imperative of Organizational Harmony: A Critique of Contemporary Human Relations Theory," Overvold, Gary E. Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 6, Iss. 7, Oct 1987, p. 559.
"Understanding Human Behaviour," Pate, Larry E. Management Decision, Vol. 25, Iss. 6, 1987, p. 58.
"Limited Potential: Human Relations Then and Now," Agnew, Neil; Brown, John. Business Horizons, Vol. 29, Iss. 6, Nov/Dec 1986, p. 34.
"Motivation Theories: An Integrated Operational Model," Wilkinson, Harry S.A.M. Advanced Management Journal, Vol. 51, Iss. 4, Autumn 1986, p. 24.

This bibliography is selective, not exhaustive. For assistance in finding other material contact the Business Library staff.