A placebo is what seems to be a real therapeutic treatment but isn’t. The “Placebo effect” is the fact that some patients health improves after taking what they believe is an effective drug, but which is in fact a placebo. It is premised or rather entirely works on the relationship of mind and body. If a person expects a pill to do something, then it is possible that the body’s own chemistry can produce effects similar to the actual medication. This proves that the mind can do wonders provided it is fed with the right positive inputs. So does this concept of “placebo effect” have any relevance in the organizational context? Or can people in organizations act as harmless placebos to enliven others?

In the year 1958, Henry A Landsberger , while analyzing the earlier experiments from 1924-32 conducted at the Hawthorne Works (a Western electric factory outside Chicago) came across an interesting phenomenon which he coined as the “Hawthorne Effect” (also referred as the observer effect). He found out that individuals modify an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed. The study revealed that the productivity of the employees increased as a result of the motivational effect spurred by the interest being shown in them by other people. In short when people with whom they were working showed concern /interest in them and instilled a notion of “being wanted and taken care”, then they became more adaptable and efficient. The study also revealed that incentives and monetary benefits heaped on the employees had only a limited effect on their productivity, whereas a favorable environment for working coupled with people who care about their welfare and goodwill propitiated positive responses and sustained enthusiasm in the workforce.

It is an irony that most of us think money to be the top motivator whereas people want to feel that they are making a contribution at work, and for most individuals, this is a function of having the respect of peers, colleagues and superiors who always acknowledges them when they do a good job. Appreciating a good behavior or a work done efficiently reinforces it makes it most likely to be repeated. When we appreciate someone we are letting them know about the organizational values and the direction in which they need to attune themselves to work towards organizational goals. By rewarding employees with appreciation we are clarifying the kind of behavior and outcome that we value most and also subtly making them understand our expectations and objective.

There are many facets of effective human relationship management which one can practice at the workplace. The real role of HR is to drag people from the mechanical humdrum to a temple of learning and personal development. We, as responsible employees of organizations can make that difference, can be a catalyst to a synergic team and can usher in the much needed trust and conviction in our work places.

Kindness acts as good as a pill and the people who exude such wonderful behavioral traits often act as effective “placebos” in their work arena. They create a ripple effect, transforming the work environment into wonderful little heavens, something elusive in a typical organizational framework. Extending a helping hand can bridge the knowledge gap in someone. Being compassionate and empathetic can re-conceptualize the way we look at human relations and pave way for building meaningful relationships in future. It all depends on what little we can do as individuals to brighten up the milieu in which we find ourselves in.

How do we behave on a bright sunshine day? Does it affect our mood in any way? How about a cloudy day? Does it infect us with palls of gloom? Does it enervate our zeal and push us into desolation? If changes in our external environment can affect us, so can the people whom we work with. Can we all be like that bright sunshine, infusing energy into whomever we come across and enliven their lives? Do we have it in us to affect people around us in a positive way? Can we make an iota difference to the lives of people who we cross? If we can then we can be just be like that “Placebo” which the doctor ordered to treat any kind of illness!

Originally published at www.saching.com


  • Kishore Thampi

    Writer, dreamer, blogger, satirist, existentialist

    Kishore is a Certified Life Coach, a communication enthusiast and a soft skill trainer who hits your inner core with simple stories and anecdotes. He is a banker by profession and a writer by volition. Visit http://www.saching.com/Authors/0/kishore-thampi-343.html to know more about his work.