Tuesday, July 13, 2004

X's & Y's
Douglas McGregor, a social psychologist, developed his X Y Theory in the 1960s. Basically he argues that there are two types of managers: X's, who tend to see their subordinates as inherently lazy with no ambition; and Y's who see them as naturally self-directed and committed. The theory suggests that Y's get better results than X's. X's tend to be domineering, dehumanizing managers, while Y's can bring out the best in their employees.

There has been a lot of criticism directed at the theory over the years for many predictable reasons. Primarly it is a recognition that the world is a heck of a lot more complicated than any dualist-type theory can hope to explain. But I don't think it is totally without value. I think a lot of people tend to approach the world with one of two general mindsets - basically that we'll either get what we need from the world, or the world is going to screw us. My father-in-law who is a psychiatrist/psychoanalyst says infant research bears this out. The research suggests that how we view the world is formed, to a great extent, when we are infants. But I digress.

I've always considered myself pretty much a Theory Y person. I think that people are generally good and when they're not, we need to consider external factors along with their character. Now, on June 21, I became a supervisor - at least for a couple of months. I now have three people reporting to me. I'm finding myself slowly morphing into a Theory X'er.

Part of it may be the people working for me are just testing my limits and trying to find out how I work. Or maybe not. But, man, they're driving me nuts! We're in the middle of the busiest part of our year and I'm getting all sorts of crazy requests for time off. They're not all unreasonable, but the reality is any time they're away from the office makes more work for the rest of us.

Here's a smattering:

  • "I need to take a long lunch every day to go home and feed my puppy." (why didn't you wait a week to get your puppy? Why can't your damn husband feed the puppy?)

  • "I need Monday the xxth off for bereavement leave." (This is for a relative they hardly knew. Further, the memorial service is on Saturday, there's no travelling involved, and it isn't for three weeks. Conveniently, they've planned for their grief three weeks in advance to create a three-day weekend.)

  • "I'm sick and can't come to work today. Cough, cough." (The cough sounds like the smoker's cough I hear everyday. Give up the damn cigarettes and maybe you can come to work.)

I know I shouldn't mock my employeees. I don't know how important their puppy is to them, and maybe they process their grief differently than I do, and I'm certainly in no position to evaluate their health. But with these people it is always something. I guess I just have this funny idea that when you have a job, you should actually SHOW UP FOR WORK every once in a while. The kicker is that now we're seriously behind because no one (except me) actually worked last week. UGH!

Anyone interested in supervising some employees?

Our recently departed pastor always said, "Look for the Christ in everyone you meet." I'm not doing a very good job.

More on the XY Theory:



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