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Once & For All: Stopping Sexual Harassment at Work

Pygmalion Effect Training Activity

It is a scientific fact that people perform, to a large degree, according to the expectations others have for them*. If deep down, a manager believes his or her subordinates are incompetent and irresponsible, the chances are good that the employees will act that way.  Conversely, if a manager treats employees as competent and responsible, the employees will generally live up to those expectations.

This exercise will give trainees an opportunity to explore various scenarios that might occur within a work environment.  Each scenario involves a manager and one or more employees.  Have the group divide into groups of two or three.  Each group should read some or all of the scenarios and explore the following issues relative to each one.

1)   Is the manager communicating high or low expectations to the employee by his/her behavior?
2)   How do you think the employee(s) will react to the manager’s behavior?  Choose several adjectives
that you believe describe this reaction (e.g., angry, motivated).
3)   If low expectations are being communicated by the manager in the scenario, answer this question:
If you were the manager in this scenario and wanted your employee(s) to respond in a positive
manner, what would you have done differently?
4)   If high expectations are being communicated by the manager in the scenario, discuss what
benefits might result. For the sake of contrast, pretend the manager in the scenario held low
expectations for the employee(s); what might that low-expectation manager have done in these
scenarios and what would the result be?

Scenario 1)
Jim is the production floor manager at Acme Cabinets.  He supervises over 100 assemblers who work on the company’s day shift assembling audio-visual cabinets.  He has noted a recent decline in productivity and an increase in error rate.  In order to improve performance, Jim has posted a chart in the lunchroom.  This chart contains the names of all the employees as well as their daily performance (by number of cabinets assembled) and their error rate (by number of mistakes).

Scenario 2)
Lynn is the director of a nonprofit organization that works with local children and teachers to build their arts education programs.  She has recently hired several individuals who previously worked as classroom teacher aides.  Her intent was to have them do clerical tasks for her professional staff.  However, one of the aides has shown an exceptional talent for painting and sculpture. Lynn has asked this aide to design a program that would introduce pre-school children to art and, in order to help train the aide, has enrolled her in a child development class at a local college.

Scenario 3)
Gina is the newly appointed Manager of Marketing Communications for a large corporation.  She is responsible for the activities of seven employees, all of whom have been with the company for several years and are experienced, creative and competent at their jobs.  In an effort to appear strong and managerial, Gina has “laid down the law” in her new department.  She has asked everyone to account for their time by project and to submit a weekly report of their activities.  In addition, she has installed a sign in/out board to keep track of employee breaks and lunch hours.

Scenario 4)
Jill recently returned to her job as Executive Assistant after two months of maternity leave.  Her boss, Susan, is thrilled to have Jill back because the temp assigned to cover for Jill left a lot to be desired.  However, in the past week, Susan has noticed that Jill is very tired and is spending a lot of time on personal calls.  While Jill’s work is getting done, and the quality hasn’t suffered, Susan voices her concerns.  Jill confesses that her babysitter isn’t working out and that the baby is keeping her up at night.  Susan explains that while she is sympathetic, it is important that Jill reduce the number of personal calls she is making and be more alert on the job.  She also asks Jill to take on the added responsibility of a special research project because “no one else in the company is capable of finishing it on time”.

*The “Pygmalion Effect” is a scientifically documented phenomenon explored in numerous studies, books and articles. For more information, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmalion_Effect

Need help in this area? The Pygmalion Effect, one of CRM’s bestselling programs, provides an outstanding overview of self-fulfilling prophecies and teaches strategies for bringing out the best in people by communicating high expectations.

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