Pump Yourself Up: Self-Efficacy and Performance
Over the years of learning about psychology in the workplace there were two constructs that I had a hard time differentiating from one another: self-efficacy, and self-confidence. Self-efficacy is an individual’s belief that he or she can or cannot accomplish a specific task or goal (Bandura, 1977). Self-Confidence, on the other hand, is an individual’s overall self-evaluation regarding the entirety of the knowledge, skills, and abilities he or she has in a variety of different situations (Stajkovic & Luthans, 1979). We frequently hear about the countless benefits of self-confidence, but few of us are aware of the unique importance of self-efficacy. Individuals who have high self-efficacy at work show a 28% improvement in performance in comparison to those who don’t (Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998). In addition, Stajkovic and Luthans (1998) found that work performance and self-efficacy are highly correlated (r =.38).
Now that we know the difference between self-efficacy and self-confidence and why self-efficacy is important in the workplace, let’s begin digging a little deeper into self-efficacy. According to Bandura (1977), there are four factors that affect self-efficacy: performance accomplishment, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and emotional arousal. Performance accomplishment refers to having done something in the past that is either identical to or very similar to something you are about to do, and believing you can do it again because you were successful the last time. Vicarious experience happens when you see a buddy do something and then realize, “Oh, I could do that too!” At this point your self-efficacy increases, along with your likelihood of succeeding at that particular task in the future. Any chance your friends and family encourage you when you are trying to do something? They may say, for instance, “You can definitely meet your sales goal of one million dollars today!” Boom, this is verbal persuasion helping to increase your self-efficacy. Lastly, imagine that you’re about to walk on stage to speak in front of 250,000 people and you get ‘butterflies.’ This is an example of emotional arousal.
We have covered a bit about the factors affecting self-efficacy, but you may still be wondering what exactly you can do to increase your own.
Ouweneel, Le Blanc, and Schaufeli (2013) created a web-based, positive intervention to help people do just that. They emphasize that in order for an intervention to be successful, the participant must choose to be partake in it rather than being forced, and participants should complete the intervention in its entirety. Furthermore, successful interventions must be proven to be valid prior to being put into action. (Fortunately, the following intervention has already been validated).
The specific intervention that Ouweneel, Le Blanc, and Schaufeli (2013) implemented required the completion of three assignments over time that would increase both self-efficacy and positive emotions. Here are the three assignments:
Happiness Assignment. Individuals were asked to write down when they went out of their way to do something nice for someone and then write down what they did and the outcome of the behavior.
Goal Setting Assignment. Individuals were asked to set specific goals from personalized feedback they had received. The individual’s progress was monitored and rewarded when milestones were completed.
Resource Building Assignment. This assignment was made to help individuals cope with future stressors at work. The intervention taught the individuals how to ask for help and social support when the individual felt it was needed.
Now that you know the importance of self-efficacy and are familiar with a research-backed intervention to enhance it, go out and increase your likelihood of success in the workplace by increasing your self-efficacy. Do you have other recommendations on how individuals can increase their self-efficacy? If so, please share them in the comments below and make the world a happier, more productive place.
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191-215.
Ouweneel, E., Le Blanc, P. M., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2013). Do-it-yourself: An online positive psychology intervention to promote positive emotions, self-efficacy, and engagement at work. The Career Development International, 18, 173-195
Stajkovic, A. D., & Luthans, F. (1998). Self-efficacy and work-related performance: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 240-261.
Stajkovic, A. D., & Luthans, F. (1979). Social cognitive theory and self-efficacy: Implications for motivation theory and practice. In R. M. Steers, L. W. Porter, & G. A. Bigley (Eds.), Motivation and Work Behavior (pp. 126-140). Boston: MA. McGraw-Hill.