Tips and Techniques to Manage Difficult People

How to Make Your Life Easier as a Manager

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Are any of your staff lazy?

I’m sure they’re not. But what do you think about the people who work for you, and how does that influence how you manage and motivate them?

Something to think about

In 1960, Douglas McGregor, an American social scientist, published his book, The Human Side of Enterprise. In it he examined theories on the behaviour of individuals at work and he formulated two models; theory x and theory y. He advanced the idea that managers had a major part in motivating staff and he divided them into the two categories.

Theory x managers (authoritarian management style) believe that:

  • Their staff are lazy, dislike work and will avoid it if they can
  • Their staff prefer to be directed and dislike responsibility
  • They need explicit instructions and need to be threatened if they don’t do what they’re supposed to do
  • They are relatively unambitious and want security above all else

Theory y managers (participative management style) believe that:

  • Their staff really want to do their best at work
  • Their work is as natural as play or rest
  • Staff will direct themselves if committed to the objective of the organisation
  • Staff usually accept and often seek out responsibility under the proper conditions
  • In modern industry, the intellectual potential of the average person is only partly utilised

It’s all about results

McGregor maintained that many managers tend towards theory x and get poor results. Enlightened managers use theory y which allows people to grow, which in turn produces better performance and results.

It may not work everywhere

He suggested that theory y may be difficult to put into practise in large production, shop floor operations. It would be more appropriate in the managing of managers and professionals.

However, the bottom line to his theories is that; staff will contribute more to the organisation if they’re treated as responsible and valued employees.

It’s the way to go

 Theory y, as you might gather, has replaced theory x as the dominant management philosophy in many organisations.

In my career, I’ve worked for both types of managers and I know which type got the best out of me.

It still goes on

 In the organisations I work with now, I see both theory x and theory y managers. I can think of one very large organisation in the UK who primarily have a culture of x management and wild horses wouldn’t drag their name from my lips.

They mainly employ service engineers and attempt to control them by a whole range of policies, procedures and productivity management tools. When they attend my seminars, the engineers complain about their managers and the managers complain about the engineers. I still have a lot of work to do there!

How not to motivate your sales team

One company I’ve worked with issued an instruction to their sales force about a particular task they had to complete as part of their daily work. The instruction was delivered by a letter from the Sales Director. It stated that this task had to be carried out, he didn’t believe it was happening and anyone caught not doing it would receive a first written warning. Each sales person had to sign and return a copy of this letter.

This is theory x management and it comes from a Sales Director who doesn’t believe his sales people are carrying out the task so he threatens them with dismissal.

This organisation has regional managers who could have easily monitored the sales force performance on this task. The letter from the Sales Director is a further contribution to an already de-motivated sales force.

And if you want results

I’ve witnessed theory x and theory y management styles and I’ll tell you; theory x is a much harder route to go. As a manager, you make life so much harder for yourself, you end up micromanaging and you still don’t get the results.

So if you think you might be theory x, don’t be a masochist; don’t make life hard for yourself.

Be a theory y, and you’ll have happy, motivated and engaged staff.

And make your life easier!

If you want to know more, then check out this book:


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Posted in: Leadership, Management

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