How Theory X style of management arose from a fundamental attribution error

How Theory X style of management arose from a fundamental attribution error
Document type
Davison, Kristl; Smothers, Jack
Date of publication
1 January 2015
Journal of Management History. Vol. 21; Number 2
Business & management history: including the development of management thought
Business and management
Material type

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This paper suggests that the Theory X style of management arose from a fundamental attribution error, in which managers assumed that employees lack of motivation was a disposition rather than a function of unmotivating work situations. The paper reviews the nature of work during the industrial revolution from a Job Characteristics Model perspective and compares Theory X and Theory Y perspectives in terms of their emphasis on dispositional or situational influences on behavior. The authors conclude that factory work performed during the industrial revolution was likely to be deficient in terms of the five core dimensions of the Job Characteristics Model, and would have been unmotivating. Because of the fundamental attribution error, managers would have assumed that workers were unmotivated by nature, but the situation was likely the cause of their lack of motivation.

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