In the 1960’s researchers set out to study what most of us know as the self-fulfilling prophecy. The results of this study, and many since then, is called the Pygmalion Effect and it states, in the most simple terms, that because you expect someone to excel, they will excel in your company. The assumed reverse of this is the Golem Effect. The Golem Effect has never been actively tested because of ethics and morality issues. However, it is assumed to be true because of nature’s tendency towards opposites balancing each other out.

What does this have to do with anything in your company? The surprising answer is, probably everything, and it might be time to shake up teams and management to use the results of these effects to benefit your company, instead of throttling your potential.

A huge part of what makes the Pygmalion or Golem Effects work is the fact that those in charge don’t know they are causing it to happen. Human beings, like most animals, have innumerable sub-conscious signals they send to the people around them. It’s what makes you feel like someone doesn’t think you can do your job, even though they have always been very professional towards you in every way, you just FEEL it. That feeling eventually causes the majority of people to stop trying and leads to lower and lower morale and even worse productivity.

The Pygmalion Effect in Your Company

There are several methods to use the Pygmalion Effect to your benefit, and your comfort level is often the deciding factor of which you should use. The two most prevalent in testing currently have so far offered the best results, though the second is fairly new and still being refined for the most efficient use.

The first is the easiest, but often makes many people uncomfortable, as it literally requires the telling of a few lies. The very first studies on the Pygmalion Effect involved testing the subjects, and then lying to the supervisor (or teacher as the case may be) about who’s test said they would be superior in a year’s time.

The lie created a completely sub-conscious effort on behalf of the supervisor to see the subject excel. They smiled more when the subject talked, leaned forward and really listened, and offered meaningful responses more often when interacting with the “superior” subjects as opposed to the rest of the group.

More recent efforts to remove the dishonesty have shown that giving those same supervisors review forms to fill about their team/group. Then video taping supervisors as they interact with the group, and finally showing them how they react to others based on how they feel about them can sometimes achieve the same results. Once the supervisor understands and believes in the Pygmalion and Golem Effects. It takes a little longer and sometimes repeated efforts, but it also introduces a new level of both honesty and intimacy. To the team this may create greater and more efficient teamwork in all efforts.

As the consummate lecturer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Treat them greatly and they will show themselves great”. Creating an environment that expects greatness from everyone can literally create the greatness you want your company to achieve.

About Tantam Health

Tantam Health specializes in onsite clinics, worksite clinics and nearsite clinics. Their innovative programs, advanced reporting capabilities, and unique structure of their team allows them to deliver customized solutions that exceed their client’s expectations. The company takes a team-based approach to their worksite healthcare delivery model, adhering to patient-centered medical home (PCMH) guidelines set forth by the NCQA. Learn more at

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