European researchers have developed a new tool to help companies learn how their employees manage challenging and stressful situation at the workplace. The new survey reveals the complexity of self-efficacy, the belief in one’s capabilities to achieve a goal or an outcome.
Investigators believe the expanded knowledge of an individual’s beliefs about their capabilities can mean better job placement and enhanced training, which plays a major role in career development.
Self-efficacy is important in an individual’s motivation, well-being, personal achievement and fulfillment, according to the researchers. The skill greatly influences work behavior as employees must not only accomplish tasks but also manage their negative emotions as well as interpersonal relationships.
Despite this, self-efficacy has mainly been assessed in relation to job tasks, not emotions and interpersonal aspects.
The new investigation aimed to fill the gap by developing and testing a new work self-efficacy scale to assess individuals’ perceived ability not only in managing tasks, but also negative emotions, being empathic and being assertive.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) Norwich Business School, the Department of Psychology at Sapienza University of Rome, distance learning school Uninettuno Telematic International University and the Centre for Advances in Behavioural Science at Coventry University led the study.
Results from two studies, involving a total of 2892 Italian employees, provide evidence of the added value of a more comprehensive approach to the assessment of self-efficacy at work.
Researchers also believe the new scale has practical implications for management and staff; for example in recruitment and appraisal processes, as well career development and training.
The findings, which appear in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, show that:
- the more employees perceive themselves as able to manage their tasks and effectively fulfill their goals (task self-efficacy), the better they perform and the less they are likely to misbehave at work;
- the more employees perceive themselves as able to manage their negative emotions in stressful and conflict situations (negative emotional self-efficacy), the less they report physical symptoms and the less they experience negative emotions in relation to their job;
- the more employees perceive themselves as able to understand their colleagues’ moods and states (empathic self-efficacy), the more they are likely to go the extra mile in their working lives and help their colleagues.
Co-author Dr. Roberta Fida, an expert in organizational behavior at Norwich Business School, said, “Our results also showed that the more employees perceive themselves as capable of speaking up for their rights and ideas, what we call assertive self-efficacy, the more they seem to engage in counterproductive work behavior targeting the organization as a whole. This seems to suggest that assertive self-efficacy should be considered as a risk factor.
“However, further analyses showed that reducing individuals to separate elements may obscure their complexity. Indeed, the results of this research showed the importance of considering the relationship between the different self-efficacy beliefs and how they combine with each other. This helps us to understand how individuals organize their capabilities to fulfill their goals and manage themselves in challenging and demanding situations.”
In particular, the findings showed that when employees have high assertive self-efficacy along with high task, negative emotional, and empathic self-efficacy, they actually did not show higher counterproductive work behavior.
On the contrary, they are those helping and going the extra mile as well as those showing high well-being. The opposite is instead true for those employees with high empathic self-efficacy but low task, negative emotional, and assertive self-efficacy.
Results also showed that when employees have high task self-efficacy but they do not perceive themselves as able to manage negative emotions in stressful and conflictual situations, understand others’ needs and mood, or speak up for their rights and ideas, they undoubtedly perform well in their job but they “pay the price” in terms of well-being.
Said Fida, “By using the scale, management and Human Resources may gain an all-round understanding of their employees over the course of their career, and may assess and monitor individuals’ beliefs in relation to different self-regulatory capabilities.
“For example, in the recruitment process, it may provide relevant information to understand how potential employees may adjust to the work environment. It can also be used in the appraisal system as a self-reflective tool.
“In addition, it can provide relevant information for career development, and for training and vocational counseling. It may inform the design of tailored interventions aimed at promoting employees’ self-regulatory competences in ‘less trained’ self-regulatory capabilities.”
Source: University of East Anglia