Does hospitality suffer from the golem effect?

Is this psychological phenomenon taking place in our sector?

The golem effect is when low expectations are placed upon individuals which in turn leads to poorer performances.

The effect is mostly seen in education but this is where experiments have taken place. When a teacher has a particularly ‘bright’ or ‘dull’ student they change their behaviour to favour the ‘bright’ student (more praise and attention).

There are strong underlying principles to the theoretical counterpart, the pygmalion effect – higher expectations and positive affirmations lead to an increase in performance. The golem effect is the negative corollary of this, where low expectations lead to a decrease in performance and understandably impact on culture.

So do we see this in hospitality?


“I always knew you were going to fail.”

We arguably do see the golem effect in the hospitality sector. Employees who think they will perform badly may self-fulfill their prophecy and not succeed at their tasks. There are managers who cannot lead and individuals who just follow because they are not taught how to think differently. Those who are not inspired cannot move up the ranks and the cycle continues.

As the workplace changes it is argued that it is now near impossible to influence all of those working in an organisation and without this positive effect the risk is that people will then leave the business or indeed the industry.

The fear for the sector should be that this effect can actually influence the entirety of the business impacting on the bottom line and not just managers and employees. It do raise a number of questions:

  • Do we need to show more trust in teams?
  • Free up leaders and give them positive support to grow?
  • Should business leaders ensure they inspire all of those working around them and listen and act upon suggestions and concerns?

Would these efforts counter the effect or is there simply not enough hours in the day?

Others will argue the golem effect isn’t visible in their business, that they don’t see the problem. This may be true and there could be exceptions. However for the majority there is likely to be some managers looking at their teams and not expecting much from them or just giving them simple, repetitive tasks. Is there any point to this strategy?

For those who can see this happening, what can they do?

For a start it’s probably wise we stop complaining about the lack of talent if this is the world they enter. The industry must take real action to stop this process. Classrooms and textbooks won’t work, employees and teams need interactive and engaging sessions which allow them to unleash their potential. There are options out there for those who seek them. 

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