Does the Pygmalion Effect sound like a pixie seated atop a tree? It does, right? But, no. This cognitive learning theory is related to cognitive development and achievement.

Do you think you can foretell which individual in a team will be more adept at acquiring skills? What effects might this have on those whose professional growth has been prophesied? Let us find out.

To comprehend how our expectations affect others’ productivity and how you can employ them in successful leadership and collaboration, we will discuss various theoretical approaches that define the phenomenon surrounding these topics — the Pygmalion Effect.

Before digging in further, let’s take an example.

Imagine a mentor and two different mentees. The coach has learned a little bit about both of them before they first meet:

The Pygmalion Effect
  • The first trainee is intelligent, successful, and eager to complete any task they set before them.
  • The second student struggles with every problem they encounter, and their output is typically subpar and low-quality.

Based on this knowledge, the instructor has already decided that the former mentee will be more competent and a better trainee than the latter learner.

In your view:

  • What impact will this forecast have on the bond between the trainer and the trainees?
  • What impact will this forecast have on both trainees’ intellectual growth?
  • How may this forecast affect the mentor’s actions?

These probing questions bring us to the Pygmalion Effect.

What Is Meant by the Pygmalion Effect?

The Pygmalion Effect is a theory where one individual’s expectations about another’s conduct may end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy, as per Rosenthal and Jacobson (1966). Rosenthal and Jacobson reached this conclusion following a study at an elementary level.

In the research, it was proposed to the educators that some of the children (randomly picked) were probably showing evidence of an uptick in cognitive growth and advancement.

Participants in this test were unaware of the research or the designation of higher intellectual capacity.

Rosenthal and Jacobson discovered evidence at the end of this project that prompted them to assume that instructors’ expectations improved the intellectual development of those learners who had been, at random, classified as “exceptional” pupils at the commencement of the experiment.

Additionally, based on the findings, an initial four-factor hypothesis of how the communication of these expectations impacted teachers, supervisors, or employers) Those persuaded to expect greater efficiency from a few of their students (customers, interns, or staff members) led to the following observations.

Such supervisors tend to view these “special individuals” differently than how they treat the other less-special people. This outcome happens in four ways, as shown below:

What Are the 4 Factors of Pygmalion Effect?

cognitive learning theory
  • Climate: For certain “special” children, teachers seem to foster a friendlier socio-emotional environment. Nonverbal cues seem to be used to convey this warmth partially.
  • Feedback: Teachers seem to diversify their input to their “exceptional” pupils more, both verbally and non-verbally, regarding how well these learners have been achieving.
  • Input: Teachers tend to impart more knowledge and challenging stuff to their “exceptional” students.
  • Output: Teachers seem to offer their ‘special’ children more chances to answer. These options are presented vocally and non-verbally (for instance, allowing a student additional time to respond to an instructor’s inquiries).

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How Does the Pygmalion Effect Work at Workplaces?

There is proof that the Pygmalion Effect is not limited to classrooms. It also applies to our workplaces. A team will perform better than a comparable team whose manager feels their group is composed exclusively of great achievers.

Members of the team strive to uphold their reputation as high achievers once they are acknowledged as such. They act and operate as they think an exceptional performer would.

1. Business Administration

The Pygmalion Effect pertains to employee progress regarding the management and leadership’s expectations within the framework of the company’s operations.

For instance, when a boss sets excellent standards, the employee’s performance often rises to live up to those criteria. The Pygmalion Effect is a tool managers can use to affect employee performance and, by extension, organizational performance.

2. Strategic Planning

Pygmalion Effect

This phenomenon in strategy formulation ties managers’ and leaders’ perceptions to a workforce’s ability to carry out plans. Consequently, strategists can use the Pygmalion effect to have a favorable impact on employees and accomplish strategic company goals.

3. HR Administration

The Pygmalion effect defines how individuals, teams, or even complete corporations operate. Without a doubt, the psychological impact of managers and leaders on people, groups, teams, subdivisions, divisions, and enterprises leads to the expectation-performance link.

The Pygmalion effect should be taken into consideration by top management when creating job specifications, standards, and objectives. Utilizing the potential benefits of this phenomenon on the working populace should be the goal to enhance the company’s efficiency.

How Can Leaders Leverage the Pygmalion Effect?

pygmalion effect meaning

As a leader, one organizational goal for you is to pay attention to developing competencies.

Understanding the Pygmalion Effect will assist you in enhancing your abilities, maximizing opportunities, and becoming a true facilitator of others’ progress.

To ensure that your conduct and interactions are geared to produce the best results for everyone, you may start by being attentive to your talents and beliefs.

Additionally, it would help if you deliberately altered how you characterize people, beginning with refraining from using comparisons or superlatives — which can encourage you to demand the best or worst outcomes from particular individuals.

As a leader, you must ensure that you positively impact people sharing your vision and purpose with you. And like with almost everything else, you must begin with yourself.

Let’s go over some specific advice for maximizing your transformation and other people’s impact to benefit from the Pygmalion Effect.

Consider the Pygmalion Effect initially, then assess how important your position would be in the cognitive growth of employees and proceed appropriately.

Why Does This Matter?

Realizing that your expectations guide your actions and that your actions influence others’ cognitive growth:

Be in charge of your standards; set aside time to break them down and revisit them.

  • Understand your conduct since everything you do—your words, actions, and body language—can influence how others perform.
  • When describing employees, resist using superlative or comparative terms.
  • Create your individual phrases to describe distinctive individuals who are eager to learn, dedicated to the cause and the goal you uphold, and prepared to put in their maximum effort.
  • Dedicate yourself to developing your talents, particularly those that will help you become more assertive and communicate better.
  • Boost your expectancies and prophesies development by working on your set of beliefs. How the world is intended to function is the basis for how you “tag” and judge individuals.
  • Finally, collaborate with groups to spread the word about “The Pygmalion Effect.”

How to Use the Pygmalion Effect in Team Activities?

pygmalion effect psychology

Now that you know this theory, let’s talk about how you can apply the Pygmalion Effect to your teams. We will discuss how your expectations for others’ intellectual growth can affect your conduct and the cognitive skills of people around you.

  • Create a team environment that values each team member’s unique information processing, learning preferences, personal ambitions, and motivational styles. What about classifying everyone as an apprentice Jedi? Perhaps you could select your tag as an Identifier for your team.
  • Promote the “concept” of the four factors discussed previously for communicating the impacts of expectation
  • Create a framework for analyzing knowledge that produces all the best input variables (more accurate information).
  • Produce, allow others to try things out, and provide room for failure.
  • To encourage everyone’s cognitive growth, be sure to contribute to an ideal collaborative atmosphere.
  • Look for quality in everyone and treat them with kindness and respect.

People are social beings that communicate and interact with one another, and these interactions can impact how we behave. Additionally, some researchers claim these encounters impact our efficiency, identity, and self-esteem.

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How Does the Pygmalion Effect Employee Behavior?

When employed appropriately, the Pygmalion effect could affect an individual’s attitude and performance.

If a leader thinks a worker is a high performer, they are inclined to consider and treat them accordingly, as shown by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

Since leaders believe the person can take on such jobs, they might provide them with more excellent opportunities and responsibilities. They might even be more supportive and give the person greater feedback.

When employees are aware of their leader’s standards, they are more likely to act in a manner that satisfies or exceeds those preconceptions. As a result, the employee meets the manager’s standards, which perpetuates the manager’s perception of the individual as a good performer — thereby renewing the cycle.

Are There Any Negative Aspects of the Pygmalion Effect?

Pygmalion Effect Disadvantages

The Pygmalion Effect can favorably influence some behaviors of employees, but it also can unintentionally affect other coworkers. For instance, teammates may be neglected by managers who provide special attention to a few employees. Because of this, these leaders can impede the other workers’ ability to progress and succeed.

Additionally, some workers consider the managers’ behavior biased and unjust. As a result, other employees become discouraged in their jobs, which accidentally results in subpar performance. Therefore, as a consequence, the leader’s perception of these workers as being less productive and motivated than their favored high achievers is reinforced.

In fact, Alfred Oberlander’s research revealed that lower achievers’ performance actually dipped during the test. Furthermore, this group saw increased attrition. This finding shows that implementing such approaches carries risks.

What Is the Golem Effect?

When leaders try to convey the minimum, they share the most. Consider how much more there is to express in silence than describing in words while you’re speaking.

The Golem Effect, the antithesis of the Pygmalion Effect, will occur if your leader has lowered standards for your teammates or applicants. Poor performance results from the workers’ attempts to live up to the supervisor’s low standards.

Metropolitan Rockaway did precisely that when they combined teams of agents with a low output. Because even their management understood that this particular set of agents was “the unsuccessful one,” their production fell even lower. These expectations were communicated to the agents even through nonverbal cues.

In other words, workers (or applicants) will live up to expectations and produce outcomes consistent with those set by their supervisor, manager, or employer.

Conclusion: Have Faith In Your People

People ultimately act in line with their perceptions of expectations. So have faith in your employees and hold them to a high standard. You can improve their performance even further by:

  • Establishing a secure environment for their development
  • Encouraging them to create ambitious yet reasonable goals
  • Giving them more opportunities to learn via an LMS for corporate training
  • Helping them develop by providing constructive criticism

Because if you implement these suggestions, you might achieve heightened employee retention and engagement levels. Additionally, you can use the Pygmalion Effect to attract top talents to the workforce and keep talented employees.

Millennials prefer to work in settings where they receive challenges to improve, develop, and thrive. So with a bit of practice and patience, your company may become that destination. Allowing your staff flexible work schedules is an excellent approach to start a conversation and express your belief in them.

Teams should be aware of this information since it may impact how individuals build their abilities due to the expectations of others (The Pygmalion Effect).

So, before you start utilizing The Pygmalion Effect on your teams, we encourage you to consider the advice offered previously thoroughly.

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