Avoiding Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
Your MSP business would do well to remember the power a name or attitude can have. Whether over a client, an employee, a vendor, or even someone personally close to you, how you think of them will affect how they think of themselves.
This is best illustrated through a fictional and a real-world example. For the fictional example, consider the Spanish soap opera, La Viuda Negra. In this story, the nemesis of a character nicknamed the “Queen of Cocaine” is called “El Diablo,” or “The Devil.” Now El Diablo didn’t start out evil. Trying to protect his mother, he accidentally killed his father. The town where he was brought up didn’t know the full details of the skirmish that resulted in this patricide, so the grapevine sentenced him to the nickname El Diablo, and eventually, this young man began himself to identify with the term. He wasn’t a bad guy to begin with, but as people started calling him one, he began to believe and even act this way. It got to the point that he himself became a cocaine drug lord able to rival the Queen of Cocaine.
In a real-world example sourced from the book Freakanomics, two gentlemen had interesting lives that, to some degree, had to do with what names were given to them. Winner and Loser were the names of these men. Winner became a lifetime criminal, Loser dropped the back syllable of his name and went by Lou, eventually becoming a successful policeman with the NYPD. In this scenario, the self-fulfilling prophecy worked backwards and for an obvious reason: Winner thought he didn’t have to win at anything as it was already in his name, so he decided that he would simply do what he wanted when he wanted. Loser didn’t want to be overcome by his moniker, and so, like the boy named Sue sung about by Johnny Cash, he also became the opposite of his name.
Does this mean you should treat employees or customers in a negative way hoping they’ll clean up their act? No! What is being pointed out here is that in both real-world and fictional examples, what you name someone, and how you think of them, directly affects the way they think of themselves. How an individual conducts himself in the presence of someone else will have a lot to do with his own mental state.
Treat employees or customers at your MSP business with acrimony; don’t be surprised if some of that is reflected on you. You’re designing a self-fulfilling prophecy. Call someone bad long enough and their badness will cease to be a result of your perception, and begin to be an aspect of their actual conduct. Call an employee lazy often enough, they’ll likely become lazy. Then you’ve got to keep them on your payroll until you decide to fire them, at which point they start collecting unemployment benefits.
Your angle should be to take the opposite approach. Granted, you don’t want to be disingenuous about it, but you don’t want to over-necessarily harsh, either. Encourage employees in an appropriate manner designed in a sort of four-dimensional way to get their mind on the right track.
Sometimes this can mean helping employees to see where they’ve got issues. For example, if you have a secretary who constantly mixes up the bills, you might give her a fake one derived from a default, let her mix it up, then indicate where the problem was and as she stresses out, communicate this was only designed to show her that you weren’t trying to criticize her, you were trying to help. That’s an extreme and specific example— probably a little further than most would rather go— but it’s a way to start thinking about the issues.
- Avoid negative self-fulfilling prophecies
- Facilitate positive self-fulfilling prophecies
- Think outside the box to initiate self-motivated employees
- Apply the same strategies (as appropriate) to clientele
If you conduct your MSP business in a respectful way which values individuals, you’ll have better employees and better clients. It’s like the old saying goes: you’re more likely to catch flies with honey.