McGregor's Theory X/Y (1957; 1960/1985; 1966; 1967), one of the most famous theories of motivation and leadership, has had a profound effect on managerial thinking over the past fifty years. Yet the effect of X/Y attitudes on job performance has never been empirically demonstrated. The present research investigates whether X/Y attitudes and X/Y behaviors-examined as two distinct constructs-are related to job performance. Further, the present research uses a multilevel, multi-source design to examine via hierarchical linear modeling the performance effects of McGregor's (1957; 1960/1985; 1966; 1967) theorizing about managerial assumptions (and behaviors) at both individual and workgroup levels. As predicted, managerial X/Y behaviors fully mediated the relationship between managerial X/Y attitudes and job performance at both the individual and group level. Whereas the three prior X/Y performance-related studies found non-significant relationships between X/Y attitudes and performance (correlations of r = -0.01, r = -0.07, and r = -0.08), the present research found support for the model of X/Y attitudes, X/Y behaviors, and performance with group level coefficients as high as (y = 0.54). Limitations, practical implications, and suggestions for future research are provided.
Lawter, L., Kopelman, R. E., & Prottas, D. J. (2015). McGregor's theory X/Y and job performance: A multilevel, multi-source analysis. Journal of Managerial Issues, 27(1-4), 84-101.