Thursday, January 15, 2009

Employees CAN Change

The Find: Managers who believe in their employees’ capacity to change and grow are more likely to provide them support and to spot changes in performance than those who believe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

The Source
: “Managers’ Implicit Assumptions About Personnel” in Current Directions in Psychological Science by Peter Heslin and Don VandeWalle and cited in the BPS Research Digest blog.

When two professors sat down to review the scientific literature on the relationship between managers’ assumptions and employees’ performance, they found something simple but powerful: managers who believe people can’t change neither see improvements or declines in employees’ performance nor took steps to help their employees develop their skills. On the flip side, managers with a healthy belief in individuals’ ability to grow and improve provided more coaching and mentoring and reacted more quickly to changes in employee performance.

One study, for example, involved showing managers negative information about an employee’s performance before showing them the same employee performing well in a negotiation exercise. Those managers who were skeptical of people’s ability to change their ways were more likely to fail to see the employee’s excellent performance for what it was. In the real world this would obviously mean squandered talent and one angry employee.

There’s nothing earth shattering in the conclusions, but they have real world applications according to the authors. Heslin and Vande Walle conclude that “cues for managers to adopt a growth mindset [a belief that people can change] could be built into performance evaluation systems. These cues might include written, verbal and video-based reminders to managers… that all employee skills tend to be developed over time with practice and helpful feedback.”

The Question: True or false: most employees can grow and develop with management support?


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