The Pygmalion effect and the Golem effect in human resource management

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Can management expectations affect employee performance? Of course it can, this is known as the Pygmalion effect and the Golem effect. What are both effects? How does it relate to human resource management?

What is the Golem effect?

The Golem effect is when direct supervisors predict that an employee is not suitable for their position, causing the same effect they predict

The name of this effect comes from a mythological clay creature that was supposedly created to protect the Jews of Prague. Unfortunately, the Golem deteriorated over time until it broke down completely and had to be destroyed. The name of this effect was introduced in 1982 by Babad, Inbar and Rosenthal, who stated that the Golem effect “represents the concerns of sociologists and educators who focus on the negative effects of self-fulfilling prophecies.”

Many managers contribute to the Golem effect in their subordinates. Believing that their subordinates have no skills, competencies, or ability to succeed in the company.

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This behavior in superiors very often leads to changes in human resource management. In such a situation, it is worthwhile for those in management to:

  • set clear goals and deadlines with their subordinates,
  • assign very routine tasks,
  • constantly monitor the quality of work of subordinates.

Very often managers do not realize that they are communicating to their subordinates that trust in them is limited. When this happens, employees most often become less motivated and less likely to achieve their goals – fulfilling a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When those in management see inferior job performance in their subordinate, they very often double down on the apodictic style in management – which sustains the whole effect.

The Golem Effect has a number of negative consequences, these include:

  • lack of trust in superiors,
  • lack of self-confidence in employees,
  • risk of burnout,
  • good ideas being ignored,
  • lower productivity of employees,
  • lack of incentive to solve problems.

What is the Pygmalion effect?

The Pygmalion effect is the opposite of the Golem effect; increased expectations from subordinates translate into improved employee performance.

The effect is named after the Greek sculptor Pygmalion, who carved a statue of the beautiful Galette, with whom he fell in love and went to great lengths to ask the goddess Aphrodite to grant his prayers. When his requests were answered and the statue came to life, the sculptor married Galette.

As a result, managers give their subordinates more trust and responsibility for their decisions. This results in closer cooperation between management and employees.

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(Photo by Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels)

The Pygmalion effect has many positive effects in employees, these include:

  • increased productivity,
  • improved motivation,
  • greater self-confidence,
  • more ideas.

What psychological mechanisms are responsible for both effects?

The consequences of the two effects in employees are well known, but the mechanisms responsible are causing a scientific firestorm because there is no clear answer as to what psychological mechanisms cause the two effects.

Many researchers are leaning toward Victor Vroom’s expectations theory, which posits that people are inclined to meet expectations aligned with their performance – a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Main article image: photo by cottonbro / Pexels

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