The Pygmalion Effect in the Workplace

The Pygmalion Effect in the Workplace

The Pygmalion effect at work, a psychological phenomenon where high expectations lead to greater performance.

Perhaps you were in a situation when someone asked you to do something you thought was beyond your abilities. But in the end, you accomplished what initially seemed an impossible task.

Expect much from others and there’s a great chance they’ll deliver much if not greater. This is what happened to you.

It’s not an isolated case. In many elementary schools, children grouped with brilliant students tend to achieve more. Also, leaders who hold employees to higher standards result in better performance. However, when expectations are lower, results are mediocre at best. Yes, how people are viewed and treated has a bearing on their behavior.   

This is the Pygmalion effect at work, a psychological phenomenon where high expectations lead to greater performance.

So, you might think that all you have to do is expect more from others for them to achieve more. It’s not that simple. The Pygmalion Effect is just one factor. 

But, before holding colleagues and loved ones to higher expectations, keep the following in mind.

>> Be Realistic

Are your expectations attainable? Goals aren’t only measurable. These should be reachable too.

Asking a sales force to double production by yearend may sound possible to some businesses, but not for others. When you hold people to your expectations, be sure they can achieve desired results.

Accountants can’t create a marketing plan unless they have the skill and experience. Besides, that’s not the primary function of a CPA. The key is to understand what each person is capable of doing. So, take time to know them before you set expectations.

>> Remain positive

If, on the first try, people don’t reach goals, don’t lower your expectations. An employee not succeeding the first time doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of ability.

Leaders often communicate what they think of others’ abilities without saying it. They convey their confidence, or lack of it, through nonverbal cues. So, be honest in your continuous belief in employees and their potential. Never fake it. 

Also, remind them that failure is a learning process. It is one necessary step that gets people closer to success.

>> Don’t underestimate self-fulfilling prophecies

The Pygmalion effect





Negative self-talk leads to self-doubt. Many underachievers need a little push in the right direction. Take time to encourage and motivate with high expectations. When employees realize others have faith in them, their mindset changes and performance improves.

Yes, you can! When said with conviction, these three words can change people’s lives. Remain consistent and soon, employees will meet or exceed your expectations.

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