The Pygmalion Effect can be described as the phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to an increase in performance.
Much has been written about the Pygmalion Effect. The concept is controversial. However, like most controversial concepts, there are elements of validity that can be applied successfully in the workplace and particularly in Revenue Cycle Management. Consideration of this idea requires understanding that it is not as simple as arriving to work with high expectations and leaving that night with record performance improvement as a result of your expectations. On the contrary, it is a leader’s behavior expressed to followers over time that can affect the behaviors of followers. The more an employee is engaged in learning activities, the higher the expectation from the leader. In turn, the employee participates in more learning behavior and leaders then tend to gain the level of trust, respect and confidence that leads to process innovation and performance improvement.
By way of illustration, consider this passage from George Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion:
“You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up (the dressing and the proper way of speaking, and so on), the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves but how she’s treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins because he always treats me as a flower girl and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you because you always treat me as a lady and always will.”
Some managers always treat their subordinates in a way that leads to superior performance. But most managers, like Professor Higgins, unintentionally treat their subordinates in a way that leads to lower performance than they are capable of achieving. The way managers treat their subordinates is subtly influenced by what they expect of them. If managers’ expectations are high, productivity is likely to be excellent. If their expectations are low, productivity is likely to be poor. It is as though there were a law that caused subordinates’ performance to rise or fall to meet managers’ expectations.
Here’s the reveal about how expectations impact people in the workplace:
- What managers expect of subordinates and the way they treat them largely determine their performance and career progress.
- A unique characteristic of superior managers is the ability to create high performance expectations that subordinates fulfill.
- Less effective managers fail to develop similar expectations, and as a consequence, the productivity of their subordinates suffers.
- Subordinates, more often than not, appear to do what they believe they are expected to do.
If you are interested in this concept and would like to discuss it further, I would welcome your call. Nearterm provides healthcare Revenue Cycle consulting and thought leadership to a national base of clients, peers and colleagues.