Pygmalion in Management

Pygmalion in Management

Pygmalion in management

The Pygmalion effect is based on the fact that people often live up to the high expectations of other individuals whether their managers, teachers or relatives. Others expectations often lead people to transcend their own abilities and talents and cause self-fulfilling prophecies.

J Sterling Livingston, in this article, explores the various facets of this effect in management by looking at the results of different experiments related to it. In one of the examples of the Metropolitian Life Insurance Co., an experiment was carried out in which employees were divided to groups on the basis of previous performance and assigned managers of commensurate ability. As expected, the people of the superior performance group lived up to their expectations and performed admirably; on the other hand, the productivity of the lower performance group declined. However, the anomaly was the average performance group which performed beyond expectations the reason being the manager in charge of the group having a more positive image of her than the perception held by her superiors and the subsequent rub off this image and self-expectation of greater performance onto the entire group. The Pygmalion effect can also be observed in medical science in the form of placebo effect when a non-existent drug administered to patients by physicians who reinforce the efficacy of the same in their recovery often leads to miraculous results.

Communication is however a critical factor leading to the success or failure of the Pygmalion effect. It is often easier to communicate negative feelings than positive feelings to others. Being cold and indifferent conveys a negative impression on others and leads to the failure of the Pygmalion effect if there is an attempt to replicate it in the workplace because it does not communicate people’s high expectations to others.

Another important factor is a manager’s ability to set realistic goals for his groups. Motivation can...

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