The Pygmalion effect
If we were lucky, many of us in their careers had a superior who had a positive impact on our career. Thinking back, we probably remember useful feedback, training, or continuous support. What we do not, however, is the role that his expectations of us in relation to our work and our self-confidence have played.
The scientific experiment of American psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Leonore Jacobson in 1965 at a primary school is a famous example of this effect and shows how strongly our behavior is aligned with the expectations of others.
An exciting experiment
Teachers were given the information that 20 percent of their students had an enormous development potential after an IQ test. In fact, the students were selected quite arbitrarily. In a later re-measurement of the intelligence rate, these children had a significantly higher IQ than their classmates, who apparently had no increased power potential.
But why? The teachers had treated them differently: they were more concerned about these students, were more patient and gave more positive feedback. The teachers' expectations of the students - apparently more gifted - had come true.
In Company one meets the Pygmalion effect in the same way. Because just like the students in the experiment, the employees also adapt their behavior and their work performance to the expectations of their superiors. Team leaders or managers have a certain perception of the employees' abilities and communicate these constantly - both verbally and nonverbally.
Even if they are not aware of this, subtle signals such as tone of voice, eye contact, and body language can convey expectations. And subconsciously we are all trained to interpret these signals to understand what is expected of us and to adapt our behavior.
When managers believe in their employees, they encourage more
Thus, when managers believe in the potential of their team members, they behave accordingly, thereby promoting self-confidence and the efficiency of their employees.
At the same time, however, the opposite is the case. If an employee fails in a task, he is quickly assumed to be incompetent. In the future, less and less is expected of him and his self-confidence decreases as well as his performance - a vicious circle. With a negative self-fulfilling expectation one speaks then of the "golem effect".
5 Tips to use the pygmalion effect
Consider these five options and use the Pygmalion effect in your company:
- Go unprejudiced into cooperation: Regardless of what you know about the past performance of your employees, it is important to start the collaboration without prejudice. So give everyone the opportunity to develop positively. Maintain a corporate culture in which excellence is promoted and, in a certain way, expected.
- Set high - but realistic - goals: Too low targets are not motivating, as are unrealistically high targets. Instead, you should set goals for your employees that lie outside their comfort zone but can be achieved with high probability.
- Offer your support: Once you have set challenging goals for your employees, it is important to offer support. Demonstrate commitment by identifying the role you can play in attaining your goals. If an employee fails to perform a task, support him by exploring the cause together. The way we react to weaknesses or mistakes is crucial. In Shutterstock, for example, we cultivate a culture in which mistakes are definitely desired to grow.
- Speak positively about your team: When talking to other employees about your team members, highlight their positive qualities and point out the strengths and potential of your team. The way we talk about others can positively influence the opinions and expectations of others.
- Give positive feedback: Given the fact that praise has a strong impact on our work and costs us nothing, it is surprising how rarely we praise our employees. When an employee does a good job, you should make sure that he is aware of it - to repeat this in the future and to improve further. For Shutterstock, for example, we have monthly feedback discussions with the employees, whether they reach their goals or if they need support.
So expect only the best of your team and offer them your full support - you will be rewarded with self-confident, satisfied employees and improved performance!
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