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Pygmalion effect and three core principles of self-determination and organizations’ citizen behavior

Explain Pygmalion effect in terms developing constituents’ sense of self-determination. Discuss the three core principles of self-determination and organizations’ citizen behavior in the organizational context. How should self-loafing be addressed?

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angel profile image
Angel Paudel

The Pygmalion effect is a type of self-fulfilling prophecy where a leader’s expectation from his/her subordinates will result in either actions or inactions. This will have an impact on the performance of the employee. When the leader lowers the requirement or expectations from his/her subordinates, the team will reduce the workflow at the similar scale, they start to slack and result in poor performance (Bromley, 2014). It also reduces the determination of the employees. But on the other hand, if the leader raises the expectations from his/her subordinates, the team who trusts their leader will make things happen anyhow through their action while also influencing their self-determination and work performance (Loftus, 1995). That will also increase self-efficacy of the employee resulting in them having higher level of motivation resulting in them working harder to achieve the results and meet expectations.

Let’s take an example of a leader in sales manager working in a financial institution. The leader is provided the freedom to have ten people for his sales team by the company which the leader did so by hand-picking all the ten people who he believed to be highly qualified, have good product knowledge and have natural salesmanship capability. The leader makes them aware of them being the best sales team while also providing positive feedback and encouragement to each one of them. That all actions from the leader makes the team believe that they’re the best and made them work harder than any other team to meet the goals set and to even exceed it. The expectations that the leader had on the team and the actions taken en route made the team believe that they can do it and did as well.

Self-determination is one of the most crucial theory of motivation which expresses both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in an organization. According to the self-determination theory, there are three core principles of self-determination and organization’s citizen behavior in the organizational context, namely – competency, relatedness and autonomy (Kouzes & Posner, 2012).

  • Competency mostly deals with the motivation that comes within an individual for the idea of a person to have an influence in the important outcomes within the workplace. Self-development, developing others are some of the competency that an individual can have within oneself and thus can demonstrate the same skill in the workplace. Having the competency required for the job makes an individual have self-belief and the ability to accomplish what’s expected.
  • Relatedness relates to more of the social side in the workplace. The desire or the ability to link with different units, groups or team within the organization can be considered to be relatedness in the workplace.
  • Autonomy defines the freedom of making choice while enhancing the self-determination and using one’s own will. An example of this can be when a person gets involved in organization of an event for bio-diversity day on top of his/her normal routine. That’s not what the person is supposed to do but chooses to do for oneself.

Self-loafing points to the concept of people slacking or putting less effort on a certain task if they’re working as a part of a group instead of working alone. The whole objective of a team is to get people with different skillsets together to accomplish certain task but there’s also a tendency where some of the member of the group don’t contribute as they should to accomplish the group goal (Szymanski & Harkins, 1987). But if they were working alone, they could have done a lot more than what they contributed to the group. Self-loafing can be addressed by following few techniques:

  • Maintain a small size group with no more than eight members in the group with around four being the ideal. Group with larger than eight member will run a greater risk of having a social loafing but with just four to eight member in the team, everyone has to contribute to get the task accomplished and calls them for action.
  • Have a contract in place for the team from the start by listing the expectations and what individual role will be. The team can work between themselves to choose the role/responsibility they are comfortable with. This enhances motivation while also adding ownership among each member of the team towards team’s goal.
  • Maintain harmonious relationship with all the member of the team. If all the member knows each other properly, they’re more likely to be respectful and take an initiative to share the responsibility among themselves in the group.
  • Set goals which are measurable and also clear. With challenging objectives, the team may want to give their best to achieve the goals and as they’re well measureable and clear, it makes all the member in the team productive and motivated to achieve the goals.


Bromley, M. (2014). The Pygmalion Effect. Seced , 2014 (33), 9-9.

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2012). The Leadership Challange : How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organization. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Loftus, P. (1995). The Pygmalion effect. Industrial And Commercial Training , 27 (4), 17-20.

Szymanski, K., & Harkins, S. (1987). Social loafing and self-evaluation with a social standard. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology , 53 (5), 891-897.

shantamilan profile image

Pygmalion effect is a concept that talks about how expectation is directly correlated with the performance. It talks about how higher the expectation of the leader will influence higher performance of the follower and vice versa. The story behind this theory comes from the Greek mythology where a prince from Cyprus named Pygmalion carves a beautiful sculpture of his concept of a perfect woman, names it Galatea and falls in love. Aphrodite the goddess of love helps him by bringing life to the sculpture showing how positive expectations bring positive output. As mentioned in the Canadian Banker, “It is an interesting psychological phenomenon that people tend to fulfil the expectations that other people have of them. This phenomenon is known as the Pygmalion effect or the self-fulfilling prophecy. The pygmalion effect. (1992)”

This effect can be seen in our own university where the passing grade has been set for a GPA of 3.33 or B+. This high expectation is targeted to yield higher performance from the students. If the expectation was low then the students would slack off and not perform up to their highest standard. The expectation even though high is also reachable and so creates a sense of self determination in them to reach that threshold. This is a typical Pygmalion effect in practice.

“Nevertheless, the standards we set for our students can have significant effects on their progress. Research supports the idea that high expectations for students can result in better performance. This phenomenon has been explored extensively and is frequently called a "Pygmalion Effect." Crappell, C., N.C.T.M. (2014)”

Self-determination is also related with motivation that is intrinsic in nature. Self-determination is what drives a person to act and motivates him/her to set goals and work to reach them.

“In short, people who are self-determined are self-initiated, self-directed, and make things happen in their lives. Self-determination is about the competence of young people in engaging in volitional behaviour, and their autonomy in making choices and decisions, which are nurtured in supportive social environments. Hui, Eadaoin K P, PhD, FHKPS,C.Psychol (B.P.S.), & Tsang, Sandra K M, PhD, FHKPS, CPsych, RSW,R.C.P.(. (2012)” Thus self-determination is related more with the person’s psychology and its triggers that result in him/her being more proactive.

“There are three groups of methods that describe self-determination structure in the Russian psychological school of thought: 1) those based on the relation concept, 2) those based on motivation and 3) structural-dynamic. The last type is the most studied. Vorobieva, A. E., & Akbarova, A. A. (2015)”

Basically self-determination has been categorized in 3 headings which are

  • Autonomy: An individual needs a sense of freedom while working. A freedom to choose the course of action and exercise authority to get to a certain result is known as. Self-determined people want to influence their life by their own action. People who are self-determined perform better in autonomy.
  • Competency: Self-determined people are competent in nature meaning that they are professional and they know what they are doing. They understand the implication of their action and decisions and thus take them accordingly to determine the outcome in a pre-specified manner. If they lack competency they try and master what they do.
  • Relatedness: Self-determined people are more social and interact better with people. They are more empathetic in nature. They work better when they can relate more to the goal of the organization.

Organization Citizen Behaviour (OCB) and social loafing are behaviours that are both found in organization. OCB are self-initiated motivation from a person to work more to support the goal of the organization. Social loafing is the opposite of OCB. Social loafing is behaviour where an individual performs less effort to achieve a certain task when they work in a group.

“Both OCB and social loafing are important areas of interest in the understanding of work groups, as these behaviors can significantly impact the performance of organizations. Whereas OCB has generally been accepted as beneficial to organizations, social loafing is a behavior that organizations want to eliminate. (Tan & Tan, 2008)”

Social loafing can be reduced with the help of the following.

  • Task Interdependence: Task interdependence creates an environment where a lack of performance of one individual is evident to the failure of the group. The individuals see how interdependence works in a group setting and seeing others function motivates him/her to work reducing social loafing. “Because group members must work together, fellow group members easily notice the work behavior of other members, which reduces the tendency for each individual to engage in social loafing. (Tan & Tan, 2008)”
  • Group Cohesiveness: This talks about how a constituent fells the need to be a member of a group and is motivated by the acceptance of the group. The constituents work harder to support the groups in its endeavour.
  • Felt responsibility: A sense of responsibility brought out in group setting motivates the constituents to support their team members. This reduces social loafing.

These are some ways how social loafing can be addressed.


Tan, H., & Tan, M. (2008). Organizational Citizenship Behavior and Social Loafing: The Role of Personality, Motives, and Contextual Factors. The Journal of Psychology , 89-92.

The pygmalion effect. (1992). Canadian Banker, 99(5), 34-38. Retrieved from search.proquest.com/docview/221449...

Crappell, C., N.C.T.M. (2014). Practicing the art of stubborness. The American Music Teacher, 63(5), 10-11. Retrieved from search.proquest.com/docview/151649...

Hui, Eadaoin K P, PhD, FHKPS,C.Psychol (B.P.S.), & Tsang, Sandra K M, PhD, FHKPS, CPsych, RSW,R.C.P.(. (2012). Self-determination as a psychological and positive youth development construct. Journal of Alternative Medicine Research, 4(4), 401-410. Retrieved from search.proquest.com/docview/173293...

Vorobieva, A. E., & Akbarova, A. A. (2015). The analysis and perspectives of studying basic and special types of self-determination according to A.L. zhuravlev’s and A.B. kupreichenko’s concept. Psychology in Russia, 8(4), 46-59. doi:dx.doi.org/10.11621/pir.2015.0404

susham profile image

Pygmalion effect is the proposition that a virtuous cycle of positive expectations would influence the performance by affecting the surroundings (Morrison). However, negative expectations lead to negative outcomes and this is known as the golem effect. Pygmalion theory suggests that expectations of a person can cause other person to behave and achieve results that confirm with the expectations. According to Livingston, a manager’s expectation are the key to a subordinates performance and development (Livingston, 1988). Leaders when, have higher expectations in the abilities and performance of their constituents, will result in them actually performing better. As I can recall from the days of my fellowship, whenever I had high expectations with my students, and reinforced them with positive feedbacks stating how I believed they could complete assignments within a limited amount of time, or attain proper score in exams, few of them actually completed more than what was given to them.

Self- Determination Theory (SDT) is an approach to human motivation and personality that uses traditional empirical methods to highlight the humans’ evolved inner motivation for personality development and self-regulation (Ryan, Kuhl, & Deci, 1997). This theory investigates on inherent growth tendencies and innate psychological needs which becomes the basis for self-motivation fostering positive processes for social development and personal well-being. There are the three core principles of self-determination in the organizational contexts. They are explained as follows.


People desire to control and master the environment and outcome. We are always curious on the result that will be generated via our actions. This curiosity makes us alert on the actions we undertake. In an organization, a competent person utilizes resources efficiently, meets the organizational goals and behaves professionally.


People also desire to interact and connect with others. Humans are social animals. They care for others and wish to be taken care of. People interact with others, involve in different activities with them and through this, they seek for belongingness. A leader who is able to keep the group intact has better productivity in the organization than in such organizations where leader merely gives orders and focuses only on works to be completed than fostering relationships among the employees.


Autonomy concerns with the need to be casual agents and act in harmony with our integrated self. It is not being completely independent but having a sense of freedom while doing something. It is somewhat related to aligning the vision of self with those of organizations’. When people can take actions because of their own interests and values, they are more self-determined and can produce better results. If somebody is doing something out of pressure then it results in poor performance.


Self-loafing is the phenomenon of a person taking less pressure on self when working in groups than when working alone. When working in groups, individuals often try to pass the burden on others than doing it by self. Recently, I was supposed to receive meeting minutes from a group I was working with. But it took a long time as they were not clear about whose responsibility it was to prepare the minutes. I received it only after following up continuously. To address this we undertook the following actions.

Reducing the group size.

We couldn’t reduce the size of the group as a whole. However, we sub divided the group into smaller groups with each group having their own set of actions that they are responsible for. This allowed me to make them more accountable and pinpoint what the roles of each group were.

Respective role to each member

Even after dividing the group into sub groups, it was necessary to present each member with some individual tasks and roles they would be responsible for. This would prevent the individuals from further self-loathing. For instance, in the subgroup which was responsible for communication and documentation, one person was responsible for managing social media, while the other was responsible for preparation of minutes and calling the meetings.

Group cohesiveness

We also conducted various activities and ice breakers to further increase the cohesiveness among the members. This has increased the efficiency of the group and reduced the friction between different members if there were any.

Livingston, J. S. (1988). Pygmalion Effect. Pygmalion in Management , 1-5.

Morrison, S. (n.d.). wp-contents: Talentmanagement360. Retrieved from Talent management website: talentmanagement360.com/

Ryan, R., Kuhl, J., & Deci, E. (1997). Development and Psychopathology. Nature and autonomy: Organizational view of social and neurobiological aspects of self regulation in behavior and development. , 701-728.

ujjwalpoudel profile image

A successful leader is a person, who models the way to its subordinates. The leaders should influence the employees to find a solution to every problem. If leaders always spoon feed the subordinates then I don’t think they will be able to be responsible and accountable towards their work. To accomplish an objective, they should rouse and support to their part for viable execution (Kouzes & Posner, 2006).

Time when I felt Powerful

My involvement is at Jobs Dynamics, a recruitment company for recruiting, outsourcing, training and consulting for any business house. Here I worked as a recruitment head. The recruitment for any company is not such an easy task or say job to fulfill. There is time that we have put on full effort to fulfill the requirement but we are unable to do so. At the moment, my managing director sir support me and my team saying we should keep on trying rest let it go. The word is such a powerful that we keep on trying and we made hired the position.

In the same way, when we used to do the same task on repetition it is obvious that we feel bored. At the moment also he used to arrange refreshment program. He used to arrange put luck program where he used to serve food on his own cook. Every staffs 'birthday celebration is also arranged to office. Recently, he called for meeting and introduce holiday for last Friday of the month. These all the decision really motivates staff to work on with full of energy.

What I want to share from my experienced is for every company the leader should understand the environment and should act his leadership accordingly. The leader should always keep holding hands of their followers. If he/she lacks that situation handling then I do not think he/she can act their role play.

Time when I felt Powerless

A few years back, I used to work for Advertisement Company called MARS Pvt. Ltd. where I hold the position of client servicing executive. I used to have frequent client visit where they would share me their rough ideas about their campaign. I used to note down their concept and back to office I would share their requirements with my creative team. My managing director sir also used to be there for us and put his ideas too. It was a day I visited my client and share the details with my team, but designer did not complete it. Then on my own, I created multiple logo design options and I firstly share to my director. He at that moment scold me in rough that is designing your task. Then I could not speak at all in front of him. After few weeks, I did mistake on proposal to the clients. He then called me and scold on that mistake. And, I also heard from my team mate that he was saying that he had paid for us and he had right to scold too. On the next day I went to him and handover my resign letter.

This was my worst experienced that the company can also run in such a way where there is no value for their staffs (followers). The leader should always motivate his team member rather scold and demotivate their feelings. The problems and mistakes are usual that might occur. It is true that repetition should not be tolerate, but leader should deal the situation in a good manner.


Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2006). The leadership challenge (Vol. 3). John Wiley & Sons.

dipadhungana profile image

The Pygmalion effect explains that there is positive correlation between leader expectation and follower experience. The behavior expressed by leader affects the performance of the followers. Higher expectation from the leader will lead to increase in performance and lower expectation leads to decrease in performance. The Pygmalion effect states that when we expect certain behavior from others, we are likely to act in ways that make the expected behavior more likely to occur (Wikipedia, n.d.).

The Pygmalion effect is a self-fulfilling prophecy that works in a circular mechanism and the cycle explains:

  • Other people’s beliefs about us influence their actions towards us.
  • Their action towards us influence and reinforce our beliefs about ourselves.
  • Our beliefs about ourselves influence our actions towards others.
  • Our action towards others impact other people’s beliefs towards us.

In short, it deals with the phenomenon that higher expectations result in better performance (The World Counts, n.d.).

People are influenced by the expectations built upon them. In an organization, managers, superiors or bosses play an important role in influencing the output of their employees. By motivating, encouraging and expecting better from team members, they can improve productivity. For example: If an employee is very talented and capable, the managers need to let him know that the organization has high expectations from him and reinforce him continuously to perform better. The little encouragement can make him feel valued, comforted, trusted and safe. As aresult, he will develop positive behavior and will perform as expected or even better.

Self-determination is the characteristic of a person that leads them to make choices and decisions based on their own preferences and interests, to monitor and regulate their own actions and to be goal-oriented and self-directing (National Gateway to Self-Determination, n.d.). If the leader shows trust and confidence upon the followers, they tenad to have higher self-determination. By supporting the natural or intrinsic tendencies of people, leaders can help them behave in effective and healthy ways.

As per Kouzes and Posner, the core principles of self determination and organization,s citizen behavior in the organizational context are:

  • Competence: Competence refers to the belief in self to perform well in certain activities in the organization. It is one of the important factors for intrinsic motivation as well as self-determination. Promoting competency can foster growth of the employees and push them to give their best.

  • Relatedness: As human, we want to feel connected and cared. The sense of belongingness one feels being a part of the team can promote self-determination. The interactions with others help people develop new knowledge, ideas and understandings that will make them feel more confident and knowledgeable resulting in increased self-determination.

Autonomy: Giving certain degree of freedom to the employees will make them feel good about their position in the organization. It will further demand high dedication from the employees. Adding responsibility by giving autonomy helps individuals to take care of matters with their own judgments and skills that promotes self-determination.

Self-loafing is the tendency of individuals to put forth less report when they are part of a team. The people who perform exceptionally well working individually may give very little input while working in a team which is referred to as self-loafing. For example: A team is formed in an organization to write new employee manual. But some employees who had greater effort in tasks they have performed individually did not put much effort and gave very few suggestions in the process. Self-loafing may result due to unequal distribution of workload, lack of proper evaluation system and unequal rewards (Transport Lab, n.d.).

The ways or addressing self-loafing are:

  • Creating small groups with team members from diverse background so that the contribution of every team member is noticeable. This helps to confront easily to the one who is not performing well. For example: while giving a presentation in small groups, the team member who is less willing and participative can be easily identified so there is less chance of self-loafing.
  • Assigning distinct roles and responsibilities to every members in the team so that they are forced to completed their part of work to get the group work done. This will make them obliged to give their best to the team.

Creating groups of people with similar interests and objectives so that they feel more connected to the group and perform better. Once they feel connected to the group, they will automatically give their best not to let down the other members.

  • Creating effective evaluation system to judge the individual performance of each members within the group and review the work in continuous basis.
  • Associating rewards with the individual input one gives in the completion of the team work.

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2012). The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco: A Wiley Brand.

National Gateway to Self-Determination. (n.d.). Wha is self-determination? Retrieved from ngsd.org/everyone/what/self-determ...

The World Counts. (n.d.). Life Potentials . Retrieved from Pygmalion Effevt Examples: theworldcounts.com/life/potentials...

Transport Lab. (n.d.). How to Manage Social Loafing . Retrieved from community.transportlab.org/spaces/...

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Pygmalion Effect . Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmalion-ef...