From my Organizational Theory final. I had 250 words and used every one.
a) What are self-fulfilling prophecies? Based on class discussions, discuss two specific ways in which they relate to management.
The term “self-fulfilling prophecies” calls to mind the Oedipus, who, in trying to avoid the fate pronounced by the Oracle, makes a series of choices which actually bring it about. This, however, is not the meaning of “self-fulfilling prophecies” as we have used it in class. Rather, we have discussed an Oracle so powerful that by merely predicting something—by assuming some end result—causes it to happen. That Oracle? You and I and every other person.
The theory behind “self-fulfilling prophecies” is that we get what we look for—that if we come in to a situation expecting a certain outcome, then we are likely to act in a manner that leads to that outcome. We may not even be conscious of these subtle or subliminal alterations in our behavior, but they can profoundly affect whatever it is we are measuring. It is the “observer effect” applied to management: as with observing electrons, the process of measuring outcomes (in this case, through preconception) to some degree determines them.
The applications of “self-fulfilling prophecies” for management closely mirror those for the classroom—as a former high school teacher I can attest to the truth of the Pygmalion effect. Managers, like teachers, often fall into McGregor’s Type X/Type Y categorization, believing that their employees are either innately lazy and in need of discipline or else naturally self-motivated and in need of responsibility and trust. These preconceptions cause the manager to treat their employees accordingly, who respond accordingly, and the transformation in complete.