What is the relevance of psychology to management?

In 1960 a psychologist named Douglas McGregor came up with ideas about managerial behavior. These ideas had a profound effect on management thinking and practice. McGregor defined assumptions that he felt underpinned the practices and stances of managers in relation to employees. Two sets of propositions were dubbed Theory X and Y. Theory X assumptions were that people disliked work and would rather be enjoying leisure time, people must be controlled to do work and achieve their objectives and people prefer to be supervised.

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Theory Y’s assumptions on the other hand are people view work as being as natural as play and rest, people will exercise self-direction and self-control towards achieving objectives they are committed to and people learn to accept and seek responsibility. A manager should always try to use theory Y as it gives staff licence to interpret and implement organizational objectives themselves. The manager remains at the center facilitating the initiation and control processes.

Essential to the Theory Y culture is a monitoring, feedback and control system. Theory X on the other hand will involve telling employees what to do when to do it and how to do it whilst supervising staff in most of their activities to make sure their doing correctly and are not wasting time. So a manager who uses theory X role is to coerce and control employees while a manager who uses theory Y their role would be to develop the potential in employees and help them to release that potential towards common goals.

Such beliefs, McGregor said, give rise to very different styles of management – as may seem obvious today. Theory Y may seem very idealistic but McGregor did argue for a situational approach in the application of Theory Y. He argued that one should that take account of the nature of the people, the organisation, the leader him or herself and the social or political environment. One also has to say that there are very many managers alive and kicking today who appear to have a very profound belief in Theory X to the detriment of many companies and their customers.

However there are flaws in all of these psychologists’ findings. Herzbergs for example has a different interpretation to different people. This means that not all people will agree with this and therefore it cannot be said to be accurate. This can also be said for Maslow as it contains vague concepts, which cant really, be tested and it is also primarily descriptive. Gilbreths findings on the other hand work very well in theory but in practice it would be very expensive to do in terms of time and also money.

The flaw with McGregor’s theory X and theory Y is that managers are highly unlikely to treat the whole workforce in the same way as different people have different goals and different people look at work in different ways. This means that it is highly unlikely that a manager will treat the whole workforce like theory X or Y but would be more likely to treat them as individuals if they were an accomplished manager. I think that it is fair to say that management uses psychology in all sorts of ways when treating the workforce.

So therefore we can presume that psychology has quite a high relevance to management. Of course most managers would probably only look at these psychologists opinions in their research and not use them as a guideline how to manage people as not all people are the same and everyone is an individual. There are many types of psychology that management can use and this essay has covered a few of them but on the whole management may use little bits of different psychologists work but on the whole managers like to be individual and choose their own methods on how to control the people that are working for them.

If they were to use Theory X and Theory Y for example they will probably find that there may be lots of unhappy workers no matter what theory they used. Some people like to be supervised and others like to be praised if they do tasks successful so if they went for one theory it will make some people pleased and give others dissatisfaction.