Chapter 3 Reading – Can Personality be Changed?

September 9, 2009

For me, this article highlights two challenges for managers. If you have employees who have a malleable theory, then you need to ensure you give them appropriate feedback to encourage them to maintain that theory and not start to drift towards a fixed theory. While the article notes that a malleable theory can be learned, the fact that praise of intelligence versus effort causes people to move towards a fixed theory indicates that a fixed theory can be learned as well. When dealing with employees who have a malleable theory, you need to make sure you nurture and support that approach, since the end result is likely to be a more successful and productive employee.

If, on the other hand, you have an employee or employees with a fixed theory approach, you need to understand how to work with them so that they can learn a malleable theory.  By teaching them this new theory, you can show them that they can overcome the challenges they face and perform at the level that they desire and that you expect of them.

This article or something like it should be required reading for all managers. I think most people have a natural tendency to label those who do not meet our expectations as unable to do so, and, with that in mind, I believe it is important that those responsible for managing others understand that there really is a self fulfilling prophecy effect. If you make it clear to your subordinates that you do not think they are capable of performing, they will ultimately continue to live down to your preset expectations. It is unfortunate that, in many cases, those of us tasked with helping other employees learn, improve, and grow as employees are actually creating and reinforcing the barriers that prevent them from achieving at the level we expect them to perform at.


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