An immediate supervisor plays an important role in the employee’s work life, delegating tasks and responsibilities, setting expectations, evaluating performance, and providing (or failing to provide) feed- back, rewards, and discipline. Even with the shift toward greater use of teams, including more self-directed work teams, supervisors continue to play a critical role in the success of most organizations.21 Although the influences supervisors have on subordinates are numerous and sometimes complex, two factors deserve comment: self-fulfilling prophecy and leadership.
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Research on self-fulfilling prophecy, or the Pygmalion effect, shows how the expectations a supervisor establishes can influence a subordinate’s behavior. First demonstrated in classroom settings, self-fulfilling prophecy states that expecta- tions of performance can become reality because people strive to behave consis- tently with their perceptions of reality.If supervisors (or trainers) expect good performance, their behavior may aid and encourage their subordinates (or trai- nees) to raise their own self-expectations, increase their efforts, and ultimately perform well. The opposite can happen if supervisors or trainers expect poor performance.