The Untold Secret To Mastering the PYGMALION EFFECT and avoiding the GOLEM EFFECT

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been engrossed in a project that has come to a steady end with its testing phase. The basis of this project has been a perfect example of how the Pygmalion effect took place in a workplace environment. The Pygmalion effect is the positive influence either a (teacher, parent or manager) portrays, which allows the output behaviour of a student, child or employee to exceed expectations.

The Pygmalion effect is best understood as a reminder to be mindful of the potential influence of our expectations.

In 1961 in an experiment undertaken by Alfred Oberlander illustrated the effect of managerial expectations on productivity. In this experiment, he had grouped three sets of variable.

Variable one: consisted of all the superior workers, agents and managers.

Variable two: consisted of all average works, agents and managers

variable three: consisted of least able workers and managers.

In the experiment, Oberlander wanted to stimulate exceeding high performance of the superior group. Due to the selection process of (best) people, the gelling of like minded individuals created an aura of sound ability and the manner to go beyond normal capacity to solve problems effectively.

What is Pygmalion effect?

Let’s shed some light on this with an example.

Manager and Employee

Imagine being allocated to a project at work. The manager expresses high expectations for the project and shares the overall outcome that comes with the project.

The high expectations set by the manager provides an incentive for the employee to hone their performance. This enables the employee – to contribute additional hours on the project, going beyond to continue to work after hours, keeping tabs and double-checking the quality of the work. Setting high expectations plays a critical role in the employee’s behaviour and the overall delivery of the project. A manager’s high expectation led to improved performance and therefore improved outcome. The phenomenon known as the Pygmalion effect has taken place when positive expectations impact behaviour and performance.

What is Golem Effect?

The phenomenon known as the Golem Effect states low expectations leads to a decrease in performance or productivity.

The first instances of the Golem Effect were highlighted in the area of teaching. In 1982, researchers found evidence of the Golem effect in low-expectancy students of high-bias teachers subjecting negative treatment and performing less well than their class peers.

The Golem Effect isn’t subjective to one type of industry. Being in a position of work where I’m able to witness (manager/employee) relationships. The Golem effect can easily be portrayed whether it’s done intentionally or non-intentionally.

For instance, if a manager develops varying expectations of his team – he/she starts to assume that a particular employee is not as qualified, or is lacking skills. There is a certain degree of change in the way they would manage that employee.

The manager could potentially start: micromanaging, assign routine based work and would hesitate to provide the employee with responsibilities of high magnitude.

In the varying situation of how the Golem Effect can take place – a teacher, manager or a coach should take precedence on overcoming the concerning effect. This can be achieved via:

  • Practising the Pygmalion effect – building high expectations of the team and manifesting a trusting relationship.
  • Being self-aware of what’s taking place – understanding that having expectations of people whether they are low or high can truly influence how an individual behaves. Self-awareness allows one to consciously make the effort to find positive attributes about a person, which can be used as a means to set an attitude towards achieving positive expectations.


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I am a writer and a graduate engineer working in Leicester, UK.

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