Last week I was at the annual conference for the New England Association for Healthcare Philanthropy. It was a great conference, and I did alot of tweeting. You can see all my NEAHP tweets here.

A great session I went to was on managing development staff by Betsy Rigby, Director of Development with Partners HealthCare. Two things she said have particularly stuck with me:

  1. Theory X and Theory Y, and
  2. How assumptions affect our managing

This week, we’ll look at the X and Y theories.

Theory X and Theory Y
In the 1960’s, MIT researchers came up with two theories of management, ingloriously named, Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X managers don’t trust employees. They think people need firm controls, coercion, and threats to get them to be productive. In contrast, Theory Y managers believe employees really want to like to work and would love to have their work be meaningful.

If a Theory X manager walks into an employee’s office and sees Facebook on the computer screen, she would immediately assume the worst and start making policies against computer usage. The manager would probably monitor that employee’s computer usage and might even block certain sites.

A Theory Y manager, on the other hand, would assume the employee was rewarding himself after accomplishing a project. Or experimenting with how to use new tools to continue building relationships with donors. Since she knows her employees really want to help the organization succeed, she’d keep an eye on their results but not dictate the path to achieving those results.

Who would you rather work for?

Betsy asked us to think back on the managers we’ve had on our careers. Can you identify a Theory X manager? How about a Theory Y one? Who did you do your best work for?

If you’re like me, I’ve done my best work for Theory Y managers.

Whether we manage staff or volunteers, what can you do this week to more firmly plant your assumptions in the Theory Y camp?

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