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Managers Beware The Self-Fulfilling Prophesy

I'm Russell Stratton, Leadership Champion and president with Bluegem Learning.

I work with organizations of all shapes and sizes, helping develop managers to build engagement and improve individual and team performance.

October is "Respect At Work Month" for us at Bluegem

One of the first considerations when we begin tackling the issue of respect in the workplace is this idea of "the self fulfilling prophecy".

In my last video I discussed how stereotyping causes us to attribute positive and negative traits to particular groups and how that belief can translate into behavior at the workplace.

Let's look at an example of this:

If as a manager you have a belief about an individual that they are going to be a good employee, they've got positive traits, they're talented, they're going to deliver great work, then your attitude towards them and your behavior is likely to be positive.

You're going to be upbeat, you are going to be welcoming and you're going to assign them good rewarding work.

This behavior from you influences the individual. The expectations have been set that they're going to do well and therefore they tend to perform at a higher level. They fulfill the expectation of quality work because they were provided a positive environment.

Positive Manager Expectation = Positive Employee Productivity

But just as people can and do live up to our expectations, let's not forget that people can also live down.

If I take the flip side of this, and I don't believe in the individual and anticipate poor performance from the individual, then actually this person's not going to be any good.

Now I've attributed negative traits to them. I believe they're going to shirk their work, they're going to make mistakes, and then what we find is that our behavior is less trusting.

We micro manage, we tend to be more critical. And as a result, the individual feeds off of this and tends to make more mistakes. Things don't go well and guess what? They fulfilled our expectations.

Now some people will say, "Yeah, well people will try and buck the expectations. They'll be able to demonstrate that they can do even more." This is an ineffective motivational technique.

For most people, if you expect a lot from them and you give them the support to do it, they will deliver. If you don't expect a lot from them and you don't provide them with the support, guess what they don't deliver.

So to recap, our belief about somebody seeps through in terms of our attitude and how we then behave towards them. And that behavior ultimately influences the results that they give us.

So next time we're going to talk a little bit about the prejudice discriminator model and how that works, but if you want some more information beforehand, why not?

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