Pygmalion in management

by J Sterling Livingston, J. Sterling Livingston
Harvard Business Review ()


Most parents are aware that teachers' expectations about individual children become self-fulfilling prophecies: If a teacher believes a child is slow, the child will come to believe that, too, and will indeed learn slowly. The lucky child who strikes a teacher as bright also picks up on that expectation and will rise to fulfill it. This finding has been confirmed so many times, and in such varied settings, that it's no longer even debated. Self-fulfilling prophecies, it turns out, are just as prevalent in offices as they are in elementary school classrooms. If a manager is convinced that the people in her group are first-rate, they'll reliably outperform a group whose manager believes the reverse--even if the innate talent of the two groups is similar. J. Sterling Livingston named this 1969 article after the mythical sculptor who carves a statue of a woman that is brought to life. His title also pays homage to George Bernard Shaw, whose play 'Pygmalion' explores the notion that the way one person treats another can, for better or worse, be transforming. In his article, Livingston notes that creating positive expectations is remarkably difficult, and he offers guidelines for managers: Focus special attention on an employee's first year because that's when expectations are set, make sure new hires get matched with outstanding supervisors, and set high expectations for yourself. [ABSTRACT FROM PUBLISHER] Harvard Business Review Notice of Use Restrictions, May 2009 Harvard Business Review and Harvard Business Publishing Newsletter content on EBSCOhost is licensed for the private individual use of authorized EBSCOhost users. It is not intended for use as assigned course material in academic institutions nor as corporate learning or training materials in businesses. Academic licensees may not use this content in electronic reserves, electronic course packs, persistent linking from syllabi or by any other means of incorporating the content into course resources. Business licensees may not host this content on learning management systems or use persistent linking or other means to incorporate the content into learning management systems. Harvard Business Publishing will be pleased to grant permission to make this content available through such means. For rates and permission, contact (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)

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