Self Efficacy Theory

Self efficacy (also know as “social cognitive theory”. Or “social learning theory”) refers to an individuals’ belief that he or she is capable of performing a task. The higher your self efficacy, the more confidence you have in your ability to succeed in a task. So, in diffcult situations, we find that people with low self efficacy are more likely to lessen their effort or give up altogether while those with high self efficacy will try harder to master the challenge. In addition, individuals high in self efficacy seem to respond to negative feedback with increased effort and motivation, while those low in self efficacy are likely to lessen their effort when given negative feedback. How can managers help their employees achieve high levels of self efficacy? Managers can help to a large extent by bringing together goal-setting theory and self efficacy theory.

Goal setting theory and self efficacy theory don’t compete with one another; rather they complement each other. As the exhibit shows, when a manager sets difficult goals for employees may lead employees to have a higher level of self efficacy and also leads them to set higher goals for their own performance. Research has shown that setting difficult goals for people communicates confidence. For example imagine that your boss sets a high goal for you, and you learn it is higher than the goals she has set for you coworkers. How would you interpret this? As long as you don’t feel you’re being picked on, you probably would think, ‘Well I guess my boss thinks I’m capable of performing better than others’. This sets into motion a psychological process where you’re more confident in yourself (higher self efficacy), and you set higher personal goals, causing you to perform better both in the workplace and outside it.

The researcher who developed self efficacy theory, Albert Bandura, argues that there are fours ways self efficacy can be increased.

1. enactive mastery
2. vicarious modeling
3. verbal persuasion
4. arousal

The most important source of increasing self efficacy is what he calls enactive mastery. Enactive mastery is gaining relevant experience with the task or job. If an individual has been able to do a job successfully in the past, then he or she will be more confident to be able to do it in the future.

The second source is vicarious modeling or becoming more confident because you see someone else doing the task. For example, it X loses weight then it increases Y’s confidence that he can also lose weight too. Vicarious modeling is most effective when you see yourself similar to the person you are observing. It doesn’t increase confidence in being able to play a difficult golf shot watching Tiger Woods do it but, if the same person watches a golfer with a handicap similar to his, it is more persuasive.

The third source is verbal persuasion, which is becoming more confident because someone convinces you that you have the skills necessary to be successful. Motivational speakers use this tactic a lot.

Finally, arousal increases self efficacy. Arousal leads to an energized state, which drives a person to complete the task. The person gets ‘psyched up’ and performs better. But when arousal is not relevant, then arousal hurts performance. In other words, if the task is something that requires a steadier, lower key perspective (say, carefully editing a manuscript) arousal may in fact hurt performance.

What are the OB implications of self efficacy theory? Well, it’s a matter of applying sources of self efficacy to the work setting. Training programs often make use of enactive mastery by having people practice and build their skills. In fact, one of the reasons training works is because it increases self efficacy.

Comments are closed.