The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

January 31, 2016

Great Expectations: The Pygmalion Effect Redux

Fifty years ago, a discovery rocked the world of education — that teachers’ expectations of their students enormously impacted their academic achievement. But that research languished for decades because of a deal-breaking caveat… Now, that caveat is history. What it means for the workplace might surprise you …


4 Responses to Great Expectations: The Pygmalion Effect Redux

Penny Miller says: February 2, 2016 at 8:35 am

I use the Pygmalian study in my leadership courses. I enjoyed your discussion about finding something good about a person instead of focusing on what annoys you. I have found I can work better with someone if I can find just one thing about them that I can respect and/admire. It has helped me develop much better working relationships. After all, we don’t always have a lot of choice about who we work with. The only thing I haven’t been able to overcome is a lack of integrity. I just will not go there. But other shortcomings can be overcome. I hope others can do that with me as well, as I have my own shortcomings.

Steve Motenko says: February 2, 2016 at 11:55 am

Glad you enjoyed our discussion, Penny, and great to hear that you’re using this research to enhance how you relate to your coworkers. We get it about lack of integrity … although we always want to understand how the other person frames their actions when WE find them lacking in integrity. What is THEIR motivation? How might it different from what we assume it to be?

Can’t help but believe that if everyone adopted this stance — finding something to respect/admire in the other — the world would be a much better place …

Steven Seiller says: February 2, 2016 at 9:07 pm

Great show and great topic! You mentioned an article in Discover Magazine. Can you share the citation please?

Throughout the discussion I couldn’t help but wonder about the corollary to this theory: how does one’s negative expectations about someone contribute to their failure? Is that failure the fault of the negative expectations or the inability of the person to perform?

What happens when someone consistently fails to improve despite the positive expectations? When does the reality of non-improvement make high expectations inappropriate and misleading in guidance?


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