Employee Motivation, the Organizational Environment and Productivity

Self-fulfilling prophecy or pygmalion effect at work

Better Management by Perception

Corollary 7

  • Performance ratings don't just summarize the past, they help determine future performance

A manager cannot avoid communicating low expectations because the messages are often non-verbal and unintentional. As with observers communicating to Clever Hans and teachers communicating to students, managers nod their heads, prolong or shorten eye contact, express themselves in a certain tone of voice, etc.

Some managers refuse to admit they communicate negative expectations: "I never said anything negative to him. I hardly spoke to him at all." (As if that doesn't send a powerful message.)

The key is not what managers say, but the way they behave.

Corollary 8

  • The best managers have confidence in themselves and in their ability to hire, develop and motivate people; largely because of the self-confidence, they communicate high expectations to others.

A manager increases or decreases initiative by the frequent or infrequent use of praise, criticism, feed back information, etc. The manager, therefore, plays a highly significant role in the success or failure of an employee. The various ways in which teachers communicate expectations to students can be broken down into four general categories. The same categories suggest ways by which managers can influence the success of subordinates.

  • Climate
    Managers create a warmer social and emotional mood for high-expectation employees. They smile, more nod their heads approvingly and look into subordinates eyes more often. They are generally more supportive, friendly, accepting and encouraging
  • Input
    More assignments and projects are given to high-expectation employees. In addition, these assignments are more challenging and afford higher visibility.
  • Output
    Managers give high-expectation employees more opportunities to speak at meetings, to offer their opinions or to disagree with the manager?s opinions. They pay closer attention to their responses, and give them more assistance or encouragement in generating solutions to problems.
  • Feedback
    Managers give more positive reinforcement to high expectation employees. They praise them more for good work and criticize them less for making mistakes. Consequently, confidence grows.
  • Like the teacher with the student and the trainer with the trainee, the manager has a profound impact on the success or failure of the subordinate.

To quote Livingston once more, "If he is unskilled, he leaves scars on the careers of the young men (and women), cuts deeply into their self-esteem and distorts their image of themselves as human beings. But if he is skilful and has high expectations of his subordinates, their self-confidence will grow, their capabilities will develop and their productivity will be high More often than he realizes, the manager is Pygmalion."

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