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What is Pygmalion Effect and how is it affecting you at work everyday?

The Pygmalion effect, also known as the self-fulfilling prophecy, is a phenomenon that has been observed in various contexts, including education, sports and the workplace. This effect refers to the idea that the expectations we have of ourselves or others can influence our performance and outcomes. In the workplace, the Pygmalion effect can significantly affect employee performance, motivation and job satisfaction.

History of the Pygmalion

Psychologist Robert Rosenthal and educator Lenore Jacobson coined the term "Pygmalion Effect" in 1968. In their now-famous study, Rosenthal and Jacobson examined the effects of teacher expectations on student performance. They found that when teachers made them believe that certain students were "retarded" or had the potential for high achievement, those students performed better than others, even though the students were randomly selected. The study found that expectations set by teachers influenced student performance and outcomes, highlighting the power of the Pygmalion effect.

Real Life Examples:

The Pygmalion effect can manifest itself in the workplace in different ways. For example, a manager who has high expectations for an employee may give them more opportunities to shine, such as giving them challenging projects or giving them more responsibility. This can increase an employee's confidence and motivation to perform well, leading to better results. Conversely, if a manager has low expectations of an employee, he may not give them the same opportunities for growth and development, which can reduce motivation and performance.

Another real-life example of the Pygmalion effect is the concept of "stereotype threat." This suggests that when people are aware of negative stereotypes about their group, they may feel pressured to conform to these stereotypes and perform poorly. For example, when women are told that they are not as good at math as men, they may feel depressed and perform worse when in fact they are just as good as men. This effect can significantly affect diversity and inclusion efforts in the workplace, as it can perpetuate negative stereotypes and limit opportunities for certain groups of people.

Recommendations for employees and managers

To harness the power of the Pygmalion effect in the workplace, both employees and managers can set positive expectations and foster a culture of growth and development. Here are some suggestions.

For employees:

1. Set yourself high expectations. Believe in your abilities and strive for excellence, even if others doubt you.

2. Look for opportunities for growth and development. Take on challenging projects, attend training sessions and ask others for feedback to improve your skills.

3. Surround yourself with positive things. Find mentors and colleagues who believe in you and can support your growth and development.

For Managers:

1. Set high expectations for your employees. Be clear about what you expect from them and provide opportunities for them to succeed.

2. Recognize and reward good performance. Positive feedback and incentives can increase employee motivation and reinforce positive behavior. Avoid negative stereotypes and prejudices. 3. Be aware of your own biases and strive to create an inclusive and supportive work environment for all employees.


The Pygmalion effect is a powerful phenomenon that can significantly affect an employee's performance and results in the workplace. By setting positive expectations and fostering a culture of growth and development, both employees and managers can harness the power of the Pygmalion effect to achieve their goals and succeed in their careers.

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