Theory H Utilization: Thinking correctly about Trump’s “workplace development” week

Since this has been “workplace development” week for the Donald Trump White House it would be proper for me to contribute a few cents to the value of this discussion.  As our economy functions from ever-increasing unemployment numbers—which is a wonderful thing—many people out there in the position to hire workers get stressed out in how to acquire new talent.  Just a few months ago when discussing supply chain challenges downstream from me, I suggested that by opening up a second and third shift that they could dramatically increase their productive output.  So the question came back to me–how would we go about doing that?  I looked at them for a moment mystified that they really didn’t comprehend how to do something so simple—and the more I speak to people all across America, they are really lost as to how to acquire new talent and how to get proper productive output out of all 24 hours of a day. It just happens that this is another one of my specialties and given this week’s White House emphasis, I’ll share a few things to help those most in need given the urgency created by such a booming economy such as what we now have—thanks to President Trump.

I get each week dozens and dozens of offers from job recruiters who offer to help solve a company’s recruiting needs—because honestly this is one of those things that most companies are terrible at.  It’s hard to know what kind of people to hire and how to build teams out of those people once you’ve hired them.  As I’ve stated before, some of the past occupational fields that I’ve been inclined to besides archaeology—which is a study of human cultures, so it’s related to these modern enterprises, was psychiatry.  I’ve always been interested in what makes human beings tick, so when it comes to interviewing and recruiting the right people for the right job-it’s always been something that comes naturally for me.  Then team building with those individuals brings another level of challenge because people often resent being placed together in ways that are not authentic to their experiences—so given all those dynamics, most employers just throw up their hands and hope that other people can be hired to handle those problems for them—the way an attorney might handle all the legal issues.  However, I would say that recruiting is the most important thing a company does aside from figuring out what their product is and how to deliver it to the marketplace.

There are a lot of these “Theory X” people out there who have been taught for two generations that the best way to work with people is with this kind of authoritarian relationship where essentially workforces are communist camps full of Marxists and whatever the “superior” says is what the mass collective must do for the health of the company.  I have sat stunned in many meetings where people who call themselves conservatives politically have this archaic relationship with their workers who actually believe that people should give up their individual rights for the good of the company they work for—and that this is somehow productive for the end use intentions of the organization.  Not at all.  Theory X motivations get a rebellious work force that will tell you one thing to your face, but they’ll do everything they can to drag ass something without constant cattle prodding and discipline to evoke productive results.  People who are obsessed with Theory X are terrible at managing multi-shift production needs.

Theory X

Theory X is based on pessimistic assumptions of the average worker. This management style supposes that the average employee has little to no ambition, shies away from work or responsibilities, and is individual-goal oriented. Generally, Theory X style managers believe their employees are less intelligent than the managers are, lazier than the managers are, or work solely for a sustainable income. Due to these assumptions, Theory X concludes the average workforce is more efficient under “hands-on” approach to management.[1] The ‘Theory X’ manager believes that all actions should be traced and the responsible individual given a direct reward or a reprimand according to the action’s outcomes. This managerial style is more effective when used in a workforce that is not intrinsically motivated to perform. It is usually exercised in professions where promotion is infrequent, unlikely or even impossible and where workers perform repetitive tasks.[2]

According to Douglas McGregor, there are two opposing approaches to implementing Theory X: the “hard” approach and the “soft” approach. The hard approach depends on close supervision, intimidation, and imminent punishment. This approach can potentially yield a hostile, minimally cooperative work force that could harbor resentment towards management. The soft approach is the literal opposite, characterized by leniency and less strictly regulated rules in hopes for high workplace morale and therefore cooperative employees. Implementing a system that is too soft could result in an entitled, low-output workforce. McGregor believes both ends of the spectrum are too extreme for efficient real world application.[3] Instead, McGregor feels that somewhere between the two approaches would be the most effective implementation of Theory X.

Overall, Theory X generally proves to be most effective in terms of consistency of work. Although managers and supervisors are in almost complete control of the work, this produces a more systematic and uniform product or work flow. Theory X can also benefit a work place that is more suited towards an assembly line or manual labor type of occupation.[4] Utilizing theory X in these types of work conditions allow the employee to specialize in a particular area allowing the company to mass produce more quantity and higher quality work, which in turns brings more profit.

Theory Y

“Theory Y is almost in complete contrast to that of Theory X”. Theory Y managers make assumptions that people in the work force are internally motivated, enjoy their labor in the company, and work to better themselves without a direct “reward” in return.[5] Theory Y employees are considered to be one of the most valuable assets to the company, and truly drive the internal workings of the corporation.[6] Also, Theory Y states that these particular employees thrive on challenges that they may face, and relish on bettering their personal performance.[2] Workers additionally tend to take full responsibility for their work and do not require the need of constant supervision in order to create a quality and higher standard product.[4]

Because of the drastic change compared to the “Theory X” way of directing, “Theory Y” managers gravitate towards relating to the worker on a more personal level, as opposed to a more conductive and teaching based relationship.[5] As a result, Theory Y followers may have a better relationship with their higher-ups, as well as potentially having a healthier atmosphere in the work place. Managers in this theory tend to use a democratic type of leadership because workers will be working in a way that does not need supervision the most.[4]

In comparison to “Theory X”, “Theory Y” adds more of a democratic and free feel in the work force allowing the employee to design, construct, and publish their works in a timely manner in co-ordinance to their work load and projects. A study was done to analyze different management styles over professors at a Turkish University. This study found that the highly supervised Theory X management affected the research performance of the academics negatively. In general, the study suggests that the professional setting and research based work that professors perform are best-managed with Theory Y styles.[5]

While “Theory Y” may seem optimal, it does have some drawbacks. While there is a more personal and individualistic feel, this does leave room for error in terms of consistency and uniformity.[3] The workplace lacks unvarying rules and practices, and this can result in an inconsistent product which could potentially be detrimental to the quality standards and strict guidelines of a given company.[1]

I’m not particularly in love with Theory Y either, because of the last paragraph of the explanation above, but it is far superior in the modern marketplace—especially in this climate where unemployment is low and workers have a lot of options to work with.  So new inventions are needed and that’s what I spend most of my time working on professionally, such as what we might call a Theory H, for “Hoffman.”  Employees take on a job for many reasons, primarily so that they can make a living—they exchange their time for money—which they naturally resent at an instinctual level.  But, an opportunity to do a job that has structure and purpose bring with it a currency that often isn’t acknowledged in economic measuring patterns.  So I would suggest that while hiring, hire the best people by determining in the interview if they are working just for a paycheck, or if that is just one aspect of their desire for a job.  If there are other elements to their job seeking desires, such as “getting out of the house to have their own thing,” or they are hungry to build a life for themselves as a young person, if you can see a light on behind their eyes there is usually something you can work with if you are willing to coach them along.  I wouldn’t say that a democratic process is the optimal one because as everyone who reads me knows, the collective is not superior to the individual, but you can’t have a bunch of individuals running around doing whatever they want either.  So you have to get individuals to bring their magic to the table without killing their ambition with too many collective considerations.  As a manager you have to pick and choose what you’re points of emphasis will be, unlike the Theory X person who acts like a communist dictator and tries to make a job into a work camp in Siberia.  Once you’ve defined your critical path points the individuals you’ve hired will go to great measures to help you get where you want to go—because all people like to be a part of something successful.  So let them share in that success and most of your employment needs will be solved.  It’s not always about money with most people, often it’s about having the opportunity to feel pride in the work they do and not have that pride robbed from them by a Theory X tyrant.

It is one of the great privileges in life to be able to offer a job to someone.  They get a chance to do well for their families and you get contributors to a vision that is the engine to productivity in the nation’s GDP.  Each employee should be treated as an asset with life potential with whatever company they happen to work for. Team building comes naturally out of setting the proper objectives for a workforce so that they can be a part of a winning opportunity.  Once they see that they will often do great things to achieve a victory and be a part of a winning team.  It is not enough to ask them to be a part of a team and to sacrifice their individuality to the group enterprise.  They must want to win for their own selfish desires.  When they do that the team does win, so when recruiting, hire people hungry to win at life.  Then, and only then can productive exploits on second, third and weekend shifts be properly explored with all the new opportunities coming forth from this new Trump White House—the hiring process is only scary to the Theory X people.  They need to retrain themselves to think properly in this modern economy.  The recruiters out there exist essentially to help all the out-of-date Theory X types—but that’s not necessary if you understand who you are bringing in and give them the opportunity to be successful.  If give that chance—most people will thrive if they still have that glimmer in their eye left over from childhood that still has hope that they can be a part of something that’s great so they can sleep well at night knowing that they aren’t just on a job—but are a part of something really magnificent.  It doesn’t matter if the product is just making straws for Burger King or if you are making spaceships for commercial flight—greatness is in doing extraordinary things with everyday events and once you establish that, everything else takes care of itself.

Rich Hoffman

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