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Why not try theory Y?

Why Not Try Theory Y?

IN A SURVEY OF SECURITY MANAGERS in the Atlanta Chapter of ASIS, over half the respondents stated that lack of quality was the most significant problem facing the guard service industry. The word quality may be interpreted differently by each person, but the context in this survey was clear: The service level of guard agencies often falls short of needs and expectations.

The implementation of quality concepts into a company is a vast undertaking. In most established organizations, it requires great commitment, effort, and time. To understand just how great a commitment, consider author Douglas McGregor's views of human nature. Theory X assumes people are fundamentally lazy and irresponsible and need constant supervision. Theory Y assumes people are basically hardworking and responsible and need only to be supported and encouraged. An organization whose management operates on the basis of one theory should expect workers to respond by operating the same way.

Whether we like it or not, many businesses in the past have operated with a Theory X orientation, with autocratic owners treating virtually all subordinates according to that theory's tenets. The shift toward Theory Y is just beginning--and the change has occurred out of necessity rather than out of what was right for employee relations. As the demand for knowledgeable and skilled employees and the cost of developing productive employees has increased, the extension of democratic treatment of personnel has become vital.

While American business has been changing the way it deals with employees, it still uses Theory X on vendor companies. A company vigorously pursuing a quality environment should not treat one group of employees (those working directly for the company) one way and another group of vendor employees (those whose total efforts are directed at the company) another way simply because they are vendors.

A company chooses to have its security services provided by its own employees (proprietary) or by vendor employees (contract). Regardless of the source, the duties are basically the same. In most American companies, even those that have progressive management philosophies, the proprietary guards get the Theory Y treatment while the contract personnel get Theory X. If Theory Y is a better way to achieve quality performance with in-house employees, why is it not better for vendor employees too? And if it is better, why has the concept not been applied on a broader scale?

The answers to these two questions are obviously linked. Apparently, many managers doubt the superiority of Theory Y over Theory X. These managers have resisted change with their own employees and may use vendors to escape the less familiar Theory Y. However, just as changing times have caught up with Theory X applications to in-house employees, they also seem to have caught up with contract employees. Contract jobs, especially security, have become more complex and important.

A company that conveys to its employees the idea that they are expendable, and in fact believes they are expendable, is operating under the Theory X philosophy. No quality company would go to its work force to say it plans periodically to shop the labor market to see if it is still receiving value for wages paid. And yet, consider those employees supplied by a contract agency--the company is doing just that by seeking competitive bids every year or two. This example of Theory X practice hurts the quality effort of contract personnel just as it hurts proprietary personnel.

A total quality approach by a company reflects its recognition of the importance of outside vendors in achieving their quality objectives. The objective is to establish long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with those vendors supplying the goods and services needed to run the business.

Theory X and Theory Y treatment of employees shows up in all aspects of the employer/employee relationship, but it is particularly vivid in compensation. A Theory X manager designs compensation programs believing the objective is to get as much from employees for a little as possible, a tactic that usually results in a Theory X response from workers--to get as much as possible for as little as possible.

Theory Y, meanwhile, sees the employer/employee relationship as one of mutual benefit. For a reasonable expense, the employer gets someone who will contribute to the success of his or her venture. For a reasonable income, the employee gets an opportunity to contribute to a venture he or she becomes a part of. Managers must see it takes a certain wage and benefits package to have a quality guard service--regardless of whether these duties are performed by proprietary employees or contract employees. If the agency does not find the user/vendor relationship beneficial, the potential for adverse results is the same as when an employee finds the employer/employee relationship unsatisfactory.

The vendor who is unhappy is as much a part of the problem as the employee who is performing poorly on the job. In many cases, the employee performs poorly because of elements beyond his or her control. The vendor is no different. Just as a company and an employee can solve problems by working together, so can the company and the vendor.

The guard service industry is changing for the better. Is it changing fast enough? Exposes harping on symptoms without ever touching on the causes are ineffective. Legislation is one way of trying to improve the quality of guard service, but the greatest potential for positive change is the expanded application of quality concepts. The users of contract services must play a pivotal role in the change process. Just as the automobile assembly-line worker could not implement a successful quality improvement process, the contract guard agency cannot bring about change unless the employer changes the tone of the relationship. Changing vendor attitudes is no different than changing employee attitudes.

Quality and Theory Y management are inextricably linked. Managers have to change their techniques, and workers have to change how they work. Most people, especially those in the same working environment for a long time, are resistant to change. Some important concepts to consider when implementing a quality program follow:

* Quality comes from the top of an organization and from a dedication to allocate the necessary resources.

* Quality does not cost money; it saves money. It is less expensive to do things right the first time than to set up a system that discovers failures and corrects them after the fact.

* Quality is not a project with a starting and ending point but rather is a process that must be constantly worked and reworked to meet changing needs.

* Quality is something everyone has a part in. If a job does not affect the quality of performance in some manner, that job should not exist.

* Quality programs have a necessary cornerstone: training. To do something well, an employee must know the definition of good performance, have the knowledge and skills to perform properly, and understand the importance of doing the task properly.

Quality concepts are starting to improve the guard industry. As more vendors are touched by quality service users, they will find no other alternative than to spread the principles of quality through their own organizations.

Contract guard service companies hear a lot of talk about quality guard services, but there is still very little demand for such services. They supply will rise only after the demand increases. The demand comes when the customers of contract guard services put their minds and money into it.

Theory X, the archenemy of quality, has had its day. Theory Y, the cornerstone of quality, is the future. The rapid expansion of Theory Y in all business relationships, along with the other basic quality concepts, represents a real opportunity to produce quality security services.

Kenneth B. Slutzky is vice president of operations for Allied Security Inc. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:management theory
Author:Slutzky, Kenneth B.
Publication:Security Management
Article Type:column
Date:Apr 1, 1989
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