Self-Efficacy Theory and Employee Performance

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Tendekai Dzinamarira
Manager, Zimbabwe

Self-Efficacy Theory and Employee Performance


In English, "efficacy" means the ability to produce a desired or intended result.

Self-Efficacy Theory

Self-efficacy theory was originally proposed by psychologist Albert Bandura. According to Albert Bandura (1977), self-efficacy is the belief that people have in their own abilities to execute behaviors necessary to produce designated levels of performance. In other words, it is a personal judgment of "how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations". Self efficacy is linked to an employee's belief in his or her own capacity to produce specific performance attainments.

The Contribution of Self-Efficacy to Employee Performance

Self-Efficacy is taken as a cognitive self evaluation that influences all manners of human experience. For example the amount of energy an employee exerts in order to achieve a goal or a work-related task influences the likelihood of an employee's potential to achieve particular levels of performance. The theory therefore reveals the importance of believing in one's self because it is enhancing your motivation towards executing assigned tasks successfully. No matter how difficult the tasks may seem to be, an employee with high self-efficacy has a bigger likelihood to achieve certain high levels of behavioural performances as compared to the one with low self-efficacy.

Employee Stereotypes in Terms of Self-Efficacy

Following are 2 main types of employees who exert very different self efficacy performance behaviors:
  1. High Scorers
    These employees believe that they have the intelligence, drive and self control necessary for achieving certain performance successfully. High scorers are well-organized people who believe in living or working according to routines or schedules, keeping lists, making plans and coming up with informed decisions. These employees have a high employee performance and are usually result-oriented. High scorers have a high sense of duty and obligation and as a result produce high expected performances. High scorers are associated with dutifulness, self discipline and they strive for positive achievements.
  2. Low Scorers
    These employees do not feel effective. Instead they feel and believe that they are not in control of their own abilities to perform certain tasks. Low scorers according to self-efficacy theory have a low level of orderliness and they lack commitment to assigned tasks.

Typical Thought Patterns and Responses of Employees due to Self-efficacy

Self-efficacy has several effects on thought patterns and responses:
  • Low self-efficacy can lead people to BELIEVE TASKS TO BE HARDER THAN THEY ACTUALLY ARE. This often results in poor task planning, as well as increased stress.
  • People become ERRATIC AND UNPREDICTABLE when engaging in a task in which they have low self-efficacy.
  • People with high self-efficacy tend to take a wider VIEW OF A TASK in order to determine the best plan.
  • OBSTACLES often stimulate people with high self-efficacy to greater efforts, where someone with low self-efficacy will tend toward discouragement and giving up.
  • A person with high self-efficacy will ATTRIBUTE failure to external factors, where a person with low self-efficacy will blame low ability. For example, someone with high self-efficacy in regards to mathematics may attribute a poor test grade to a harder-than-usual test, illness, lack of effort, or insufficient preparation. A person with a low self-efficacy will attribute the result to poor mathematical ability. See Attribution Theory.

Assumptions of the Self-Efficacy

  • Self-efficacy beliefs vary depending on the domain of functioning and circumstances surrounding the occurance of the behaviour.
  • The more actual success an employee has in completing tasks, the more his or her confidence increases and the greater the sense of self belief in positive performance.
  • Employees are likely to engage in activities to the extent that they perceive themselves to be competent.
These assumptions therefore reveal that employees' performance can be positively or negatively affected by either high or low self-efficacy beliefs they have.

Sources of Self-Efficacy

There are 4 major sources of information used by employees when forming self efficacy judgements:
    The experience of mastery is the most important factor determining a person's self-efficacy. Success raises self-efficacy, while failure lowers it. Mastery experiences boost employee performance as they form the basis of one's self efficacy judgements.
    "If they can do it, I can do it as well". When we see someone succeeding, our own self-efficacy increases; where we see people failing, our self-efficacy decreases. This process is most effectual when we see ourselves as similar to the model. Although not as influential as direct experience, modeling is particularly useful for people who are particularly unsure of themselves.
    Social or verbal persuasion is another source of information used by employees in forming self efficacy judgements. Social persuasion generally manifests as direct encouragement or discouragement from another person. Discouragement is generally more effective at decreasing a person's self-efficacy than encouragement is at increasing it. An employee may believe that he or she can succeed in a specific task through coaching and giving evaluative feedback on performances.
    Self-efficacy theory argues that individual's physiological or emotional states influences self-efficacy judgements concerning performing a specific task. Basing on this source of information, employees' performances are influenced by their emotional and physiological conditions. In stressful situations, people commonly exhibit signs of distress: shakes, aches and pains, fatigue, fear, nausea, etc. Perceptions of these responses in oneself can markedly alter self-efficacy. For example, getting 'butterflies in the stomach' before public speaking will be interpreted by someone with low self-efficacy as a sign of inability, thus decreasing self-efficacy further, where high self-efficacy would lead to interpreting such physiological signs as normal and unrelated to ability. It is one's belief in the implications of physiological response that alters self-efficacy, rather than the physiological response itself.

Merits of Self-Efficacy. Advantages

  1. Believing in one's self boosts personal confidence and moral and as a result is helping an employee to remain calm when handling challenging tasks.
  2. Self efficacy development encourages employees to set high expectations for future performance as employees tend to increase persistence and focus on new tasks benchmarking on previous performances.
  3. Employees with high self-efficacy are capable of mastering new domains in multiple work areas.
  4. Self efficacy improves accomplishments and enhances feelings of employee well-being.

Demerits Of Self-Efficacy. Disadvantages

  1. Self efficacy assessments are difficult since the self efficacy beliefs and judgements differ from one employee to another and from one task to another.
  2. Basing oneself on previous success may be misleading when handling new, other tasks.
  3. High self-efficacy beliefs may not always guarantee positive outcomes in new tasks or work related challenges.

Self-efficacy versus Efficacy

Unlike efficacy, which is the power to produce an effect—in essence, competence—the term self-efficacy is used, by convention, to refer to the belief (accurate or not) that one has the power to produce that effect by completing a given task or activity related to that competency. Self-efficacy is the belief in one's efficacy.

Self-efficacy versus Self-esteem

Self-efficacy is the perception of one's own ability to reach a goal; self-esteem is the sense of self-worth. For example, a person who is a terrible rock climber would probably have poor self-efficacy with regard to rock climbing, but this will not affect self-esteem if the person doesn't rely on rock climbing to determine self-worth. On the other hand, one might have enormous confidence with regard to rock climbing, yet set such a high standard, and base enough of self-worth on rock-climbing skill, that self-esteem is low. Someone who has high self-efficacy in general but is poor at rock climbing might have misplaced confidence, or believe that improvement is possible.

Self-efficacy versus Confidence

According to Albert Bandura, "the construct of self-efficacy differs from the colloquial term 'confidence.' Confidence is a nonspecific term that refers to strength of belief but does not necessarily specify what the certainty is about. I can be supremely confident that I will fail at an endeavor. Perceived self-efficacy refers to belief in one's agentive capabilities, that one can produce given levels of attainment. A self-efficacy belief, therefore, includes both an affirmation of a capability level and the strength of that belief.

Self-efficacy versus Self-concept

Self-efficacy comprises beliefs of personal capability to perform specific actions. Self-concept is measured more generally and includes the evaluation of such competence and the feelings of self-worth associated with the behaviors in question. In an academic situation, a student's confidence in their ability to write an essay is self-efficacy. Self-concept, on the other hand, could be how a student's level of intelligence affects their beliefs regarding their worth as a person.

Bandura, A. (1977), "Social Learning Theory". Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Bandura, A. (1997) "Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control", W H Freeman, New York


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