Basic approaches that have evolved over time to improve productivity

Human Relations Contributors

Chris Argyris


Even though management based on the assumptions of Theory X is perhaps no longer widely appropriate in the opinion of McGregor and others, it is still widely practiced.

Consequently, a large majority of the people in the workplaces today are treated as immature human beings in their working environments.

In attempting to analyze this situation, Chris Argyris, of Harvard University, compared bureaucratic / pyramidal values (the organizational counterpart to Theory X assumptions about people) that still dominate far too organizations with a more humanistic / democratic value system (the organizational counterpart to Theory Y assumptions about people) as outlined in the table below.

Bureaucratic/ Pyramidal Value System

According to Argyris, following bureaucratic or pyramidal values leads to poor, shallow, and mistrustful relationships.

Because these relationships do not permit the natural and free expression of feelings, they are phony or non-authentic and result in decreased interpersonal competence. "Without interpersonal competence or a 'psychologically safe' environment, the organization is a breeding ground for mistrust, intergroup conflict, rigidity, and so on, which in turn lead to a decrease in organizational success in problem solving."

Humanistic / Democratic Value System

If, on the other hand, humanistic or democratic values are adhered to in an organization, Argyris claims that trusting, authentic relationships will develop among people and will result in increased interpersonal competence, intergroup cooperation, flexibility, and the like and should result in increases in organizational effectiveness.

In this kind of environment people are treated as human beings, both organizational members and the organization itself are given an opportunity to develop to the fullest potential, and there is an attempt to make work exciting and challenging.

Implicit in "living" these values is "treating each human being as a person with a complex set of needs, all of which are important in her/ his work and in her/ his life... and providing opportunities for people in organizations to influence the way in which they relate to work, the organization, and the environment."

Bureaucratic / Pyramidal
Humanistic / Democratic

  • Important human relationships-the crucial ones-are those related to achieving the organization's objectives, i.e., getting the job done.
  • The important human relationships are not only those related to achieving the organization's objectives but those related to maintaining the organization's internal system and adapting to the environment as well.

  • Effectiveness in human relationship increases as behavior becomes more rational, logical, and clearly communicated; but effectiveness decreases as behavior becomes more emotional.
  • Human relationships increase in effectiveness as all the relevant behavior (rational and interpersonal) becomes conscious, discussible, and controllable.

  • Human relationships are most effectively motivated by carefully defined direction, authority, and control, as well as appropriate rewards and penalties that emphasize rational behavior and achievement of the objective.
  • In addition to direction, controls, and rewards and penalties, human relationships are most effectively influenced through authentic relationships, internal commitment, psychological success, and the process of confirmation.

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