How can managers easily improve employee performance?

Past Pygmalion research has been susceptible to interpersonal contrast effects, rendering it uncertain whether raising managers’ expectations toward subordinates can improve performance without reference to control Ss in the same group. Twenty-nine platoons in the Israel Defense Forces were randomly assigned to Pygmalion or control conditions to test the hypothesis that raising manager expectations boosts performance without contrast effects. Leaders of the Pygmalion platoons were informed that their subordinates on average had unusually high command potential. Platoon-level analysis of performance showed that Pygmalion platoons significantly outscored control platoons, confirming the Pygmalion hypothesis. Manager expectation effects are not dependent on interpersonal contrast effects; in addition, the Pygmalion approach appears well suited to applications involving whole groups.

Source: “Pygmalion Without Interpersonal Contrast Effects: Whole Groups Gain From Raising Manager Expectations” from Journal of Applied Psychology, Volume 75, Issue 4, August 1990, Pages 394-398

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