The Pygmalion effect is a special case of the self-fulfilling prophecy in which raising a manager’s expectations for worker performance in fact boosts performance. The Pygmalion effect first appeared in educational psychology when psychologists experimentally raised elementary schoolteachers’ expectations for a randomly selected subsample of pupils, producing significantly greater achievement gains among those pupils than among control pupils. Subsequent research has replicated this phenomenon among adult supervisors and subordinates in military, business, industrial, and service organizations and among all four cross-gender combinations—that is, both men and women lead male and female subordinates to greater success when they expect more of them. Interpersonal expectancy is inherent in most leader–follower interactions, and the Pygmalion effect undoubtedly characterizes many—if not most—manager–worker relationships.

Several theories have been proposed to explain ...

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