It may seem like common sense that when a teacher expects students to excel at a certain level, the students do. Grading can be subjective, after all. It is more surprising that studies of teachers have found that students’ scores on objective IQ tests correlated with teacher expectations.

Specifically,  if teachers are told that a randomly-selected student is expected to realize a large gain in IQ, that is exactly what happens. Why? Teachers begin to treat them differently. These “expectations affect teachers’ moment-to-moment interactions with the children they teach in a thousand almost invisible ways. Teachers give the students that they expect to succeed more time to answer questions, more specific feedback, and more approval: They consistently touch, nod and smile at those kids more.”

Transferring this phenomenon to a work setting, research by Jean-Francois Manzoni and Jean-Louis Barsoux indicates that the boss is often inadvertently complicit in the failure of an employee. This dynamic begins with an early mistake, lukewarm recommendation or personality clash and is set in motion as the boss questions the employee’s competence. Under increased scrutiny by the boss, the employee loses confidence. He freezes or over-reacts. The syndrome is then in full swing, and it is no surprise when the employee fails.

Think about the people you supervise, and ask yourself these questions:

What do you expect your people to accomplish?

How does that impact your behavior and thus, their achievement?

How should you change your thinking and behavior to remove the impact of unwarranted low expectations?

Need help managing your expectations and your people’s performance? Contact Humanergy.

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