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The Pygmalion and Golem Effect in Industrial Psychology: Unveiling the Power of Expectations

In the realm of industrial psychology, two intriguing psychological phenomena—the Pygmalion Effect and the Golem Effect—hold a mirror to the profound influence that expectations have on employee performance and behaviour. These phenomena illustrate the interconnectedness of workplace beliefs, attitudes, and outcomes. In this blog post, we'll explore how the Pygmalion Effect and the Golem Effect shape organizational dynamics, impact employee motivation and offer insights into fostering a positive work environment.



Pygmalion Effect: When Belief Breeds Achievement

The Pygmalion Effect, named after the mythological sculptor Pygmalion, who brought a statue to life through his belief, refers to the phenomenon where higher expectations lead to increased performance. When supervisors or managers hold positive expectations about an employee's abilities, these expectations are subtly communicated through nonverbal cues, feedback, and opportunities. This positive reinforcement results in employees striving to meet or exceed these elevated expectations.


Golem Effect: The Dangers of Negative Expectations

On the flip side, the Golem Effect underscores the negative power of low expectations. When supervisors or managers expect poor performance from their employees, this can lead to reduced motivation, self-confidence, and overall engagement. Employees internalize these low expectations, inadvertently conforming to the negative beliefs imposed upon them, ultimately leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy.


What are the implications of these effects on Industrial Psychology?

Performance Management and Feedback: Understanding the Pygmalion Effect can shape how managers provide feedback. Positive reinforcement and belief in an employee's capabilities can inspire higher performance and a sense of empowerment.


1. Leadership Development: The Golem Effect highlights the importance of leaders being mindful of their expectations and the potential impact of negative beliefs. Developing leaders who uplift and support their teams can help mitigate the negative effects of low expectations.


2. Employee Development: Recognizing the power of expectations, organizations can invest in employee development programs that foster self-efficacy and a growth mindset. Employees who believe in their potential are more likely to take initiative and embrace challenges.


3. Team Dynamics: Team dynamics are influenced by the collective expectations within the group. Harnessing the Pygmalion Effect can contribute to a culture of high standards, collaboration, and innovation while avoiding the pitfalls of the Golem Effect.


4. Recruitment and Selection: Organizations can leverage the Pygmalion Effect by selecting candidates based on their potential and growth trajectory rather than solely focusing on past achievements. This approach can lead to a more dynamic and motivated workforce.


5. Employee Engagement: Positive expectations contribute to increased employee engagement. Managers who recognize and appreciate the potential in their team members can foster an environment of trust, commitment, and shared success.


Now, how can awareness of these effects help an organization?

The Pygmalion and Golem Effects serve as powerful reminders of the reciprocal relationship between expectations and outcomes in the workplace. Organizations can benefit from understanding these phenomena as they shed light on beliefs' pivotal role in shaping employee behaviour, performance, and organizational culture. By harnessing the Pygmalion Effect and mitigating the Golem Effect, organizations can create an environment that fosters growth, empowers individuals, and cultivates a thriving workforce that exceeds expectations.

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