How the Pygmalion Effect Can Increase Employee Engagement and Performance

The Pygmalion Effect is a psychological theory which refers to the phenomenon where increased expectation leads to increased performance. The effect works conversely as well. Negative expectations or labels become self-fulfilling.
Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson conducted an interesting study on the Pygmalion Effect. They showed that if a teacher was given a random set of students but was led to believe that his or her students were “gifted” students, the students would perform at superior levels. At the same time, if a teacher was told that his or her students were struggling students, the students would ultimately perform below par.
When a leader recognizes that their expectations influence performance levels, they will carefully consider the goals they set for their team, the need for trust and confidence in their employees, the role of faithful and positive cheerleaders, and the power of high expectations. Leaders must dwell on strengths and generate high expectations for improvement and achievement. As leaders exercise the principles of the Pygmalion Effect, encouraging their employees with lofty goals and positive reinforcement, individuals will naturally respond by climbing faster and stronger, lifting their knees higher and swinging flexed arms more vigorously. Organizations will increase employee engagement and performance metrics because ultimately, people fulfill the expectations placed upon them.
How have you seen the Pygmalion Effect play out in your organization? What do you do to communicate your expectations with your employees? Are you personally affected by others’ expectations for your performance?

Recommended Posts