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Overview/Introduction

Self-efficacy theory refers to “beliefs about the likelihood of successfully completing a task or goal” (Pennsylvania State University, 2011). This theory accesses “people’s beliefs in their capabilities to mobilize the motivation, cognitive resources, and courses of action needed to exercise control over events in their lives” (Wood & Bandura, 1989, p. 364). Self-efficacy theory can be applied in the workplace to increase performance by raising the self-efficacy of employees (Pennsylvania State University, 2011). “Praise and positive, constructive feedback (verbal persuasion) could go a long way in expressing confidence that the employee can attain work goals (Locke and Latham, 2002). In order to increase employee performance managers should assign tasks based on the employees’ skill set/knowledge, further they should ensure that employees have the proper training and resources needed to complete their assigned task.

Application of self-efficacy theory in the workplace is evidenced in a case study conducted by Sanjib Chowdhury and Thomas Lanis at East Central University. This case study examined the relationship between employees’ self-efficacy of team membership and their satisfaction in regards to this membership and individual performance.  The study demonstrated dependencies on the teams’ performance. The subjects of the case study were junior and senior students enrolled in a business course that required team projects that were similar in nature to workplace projects.

Details of Self-Efficacy and Social Cognitive Case Study

Teams are increasingly becoming integral parts of contemporary organizations (Cornwall & Perlman, 1990; Chowdhury & Lanis, 1999).  The use of teams has increased among businesses, yet the impact team performance has on self-efficacy, satisfaction, and individual performance is not clear.  The following case study by Chowdhury and Lanis (1999) provides an explanation of the relationship between employees’ self-efficacy of working in a team, their satisfaction with teams and individual performance.

After researching current literature, two hypotheses were made:

H1: In high performing teams individual satisfaction will be positively related to individual performance.

H2: In a low performing team individual satisfaction with the team environment mediates the relationship between self-efficacy and individual performance.

Junior and senior students who were taking business classes were required to work in teams to complete projects.  Twenty-three teams were formed, with the members on each team ranging from four to six.  The four variables measured in this study were self-efficacy, satisfaction, individual performance, and team performance. Data about self-efficacy was collected at the beginning of the study, based on Bandura's (1986) suggestion, before students were assigned to teams. To measure self-efficacy, students were asked questions about their confidence level of being successful when working in a team setting. Data on individual’s satisfaction with different aspects of his/her team was collected using a Likert type scale after all team members completed their responsibilities. Data on individual performance was collected by using a Likert type scale. Team members evaluated each other's performance on different aspects of the team. Data on team performance was also collected by using a Likert type scale. The instructor completed this after the teams had finished their projects within their assigned course. The course was the control variable and was used to manage team performance assessment bias.

Hypothesis 1 (H1) is supported by the findings of this study.  In high performance teams, a positive relationship between individual satisfaction and individual performance was the only relationship found.  It was determined that performance and satisfaction were not influenced by self-efficacy in the high performing teams.   

Hypothesis 2 (H2) was also supported by the results of this study.  In the low performing teams, self-efficacy was significantly related to one's satisfaction of the team environment and this satisfaction was significantly related to individual performance.  In these low performing teams, self-efficacy was related to individual performance when considered as a single independent variable, and self-efficacy was not related to individual performance in the presence of individual satisfaction in the self-efficacy model (Chowdhury & Lanis, 1999). 

Theory Concepts

To determine the relationship between employees’ self-efficacy of working in a team and their level of satisfaction, the case study considers various concepts of Self-Efficacy Theory within Social Cognitive Theory.  Given that prior self-efficacy and satisfaction with individual performance has been established in organizational literature, the study proposes that prior self-efficacy working in a team would have a mediating effect through satisfaction with team environment on individual performance (Chowdhury & Lanis, 1999).  

TRIADIC RECIPROCAL DETERMINISM

The Social Cognitive Theory and the concept of triadic reciprocal determinism in specific regard to environmental influences are relevant here.  Since the Social Cognitive Theory describes the mutual influence of behavior, personal characteristics, and the environment on one another to determine behavior, various aspects associated with the team environment should have an effect on individual satisfaction.  An individual’s satisfaction with his/her performance is shown to have a positive relationship in organizational research.  Thus, an argument is viable that an individual satisfied within a team environment will perform better (Chowdhury & Lanis, 1999). 

Self-efficacy becomes relevant when the teams’ performance is considered.  Team members with high self-efficacy working in a team indicate high confidence for a successful performance in a team environment.  Subsequently, members with low self-efficacy indicate low confidence levels for success in a team environment (Chowdhury & Lanis, 1999).  The concepts of self-efficacy strength and how self-efficacy is related to other constructs like self-confidence are used in this analysis.  Self-efficacy strength is concerned with an individual’s confidence that he or she can perform at different performance levels (Pennsylvania State University, 2011). Self-esteem refers to a general level of self-confidence, while self-efficacy is a belief in ability to perform a specific task (Pennsylvania State University, 2011). These two ideas, though different, are connected since triadic reciprocal determinism explains that all influences on our motivation also influence each other (Pennsylvania State University, 2011). This idea shows further evidence of the Social Cognitive Theory in the case study.

There is more influence of triadic reciprocal determinism when Gist & Mitchell’s (1992) self-efficacy model is applied.  According to this model, high self-efficacy for working in a team environment denotes there is past success in team environments (Gist and Mitchell, 1992).  The case study indicates that high self-efficacy individuals will be satisfied and perform well in a high performing team, and additionally low self-efficacy individuals will increase self-efficacy due to success with the experience.  Members of high performing teams will also be affected by additional internal and external factors that in turn can improve satisfaction and individual performance.  An unsuccessful experience has the ability to decrease satisfaction in the members, and those with low self-efficacy could potentially end up with lower self-efficacy and lower satisfaction (Chowdhury & Lanis, 1999).  Additionally, there could be negative internal and external influences at work. 

JUDGMENTS ON SELF-EFFICACY

PERFORMANCE OUTCOMES are evident within the high performing group because their outcomes have been positive.  The past positive experiences give the high performing group competency to perform the next related task.  In contrast, since the outcomes in the low performing group have been negative, these negative experiences yield low self-efficacy. However, data shows that individual self-efficacy on a low performing team does impact a member's performance when the member's satisfaction in the team environment is improved.

VICARIOUS EXPERIENCES are not seen within the high or low performing teams.  High performing team member’s self-efficacy did not play a role in their individual performance; rather they were influenced by verbal persuasion. The low-performing team member’s self-efficacy was improved and impacted a member’s performance when they were satisfied with the team environment and influenced by physiological feedback.

VERBAL PERSUASION is seen within the high performing team.  This team was influenced not by their individual self-efficacy but rather by internal and external rewards. The external rewards could involve positive praise from the instructor or other team members.  This increased one’s satisfaction and this had a direct relationship with the individual’s performance.

PHYSIOLOGICAL FEEDBACK is seen within the low performing team.  This team was influenced by their individual self-efficacy of working in a team and this directly impacted their individual performance when the satisfaction of the team environment was increased. The feelings felt by an individual from being a team member are what influenced their self-efficacy.

Analysis

The Chowdhury and Lanis (1999) study provide that individual performance and satisfaction are of key importance to working in team environments. The study's research states, “It is evident in literature that individual self-efficacy of performing a task is positively related to individual performance,” (Chowdhury & Lanis, 1999).  The more individuals to successfully complete a task or goal the more positive it is for the team environment overall.  

Members in a team with high self-efficacy represent those members who are highly confident that they can perform successfully in a team environment, whereas, member with low self-efficacy represents those who have low confidence (Chowdhury & Lanis, 1999). This relates to self-efficacy because one individual can raise the motivation and change the behavior of other individuals in a team environment to work toward successfully completing a goal or task. The study notes, “In a low performing team however, one's self-efficacy of working in a team does influence one's performance and satisfaction," (Chowdhury & Lanis, 1999).

“Both Social Learning Theory and Self-efficacy Theory are smaller theories that fit into the larger more inclusive Social Cognitive Theory, which is sometimes referred to as a meta-theory”(Pennsylvania State University, 2011).  “The main idea of Social Cognitive Theory is that human thoughts, emotions, and behavior are not determined by a single reason. Instead, human thoughts, emotions, and behavior are caused by the combination of many influences which in addition to influencing people also influence each other” (Pennsylvania State University, 2011). In the case by Chowdhury and Lanis (1999) it relates to individual and team performance in different situations related to one’s self-efficacy and performance as individuals and teams.  It shows how social learning and self-efficacy make up the motivation and behaviors that individuals may develop and utilize. These different factors then give ideas on how each individual will work in teams as well as perform on his/her own.

The Chowdhury and Lanis (1999) study reveals the great need of higher self-efficacy in low performing teams and constant self-efficacy in high performing teams.  If certain individual issues, emotions, and behaviors are not addressed, motivation will not strengthen, and individuals cannot become more effective in team environments. The issues of low performing teams and individuals can be solved by swapping these individuals into others teams that are high performing. Other individuals are able to boost motivation and behaviors by showing and working with other teams’ members that have higher motivation and have behaviors that lead to higher performance, which then can lead to higher individual and team satisfaction.

It is important to find ways to boost motivation and behaviors, especially as managers, to create better outcomes on individual self-efficacy.  Self-efficacy in the workforce pertains to how positive employees are about their ability to complete a project or specific task assigned to them successfully.  As managers look to motivate their team of employees, it is important to have a clear picture of who amongst their employees has high self-efficacy and who possesses low self-efficacy.  Those employees, who are viewed to have low levels of self-efficacy towards working on a team, will benefit from being paired with employees who have higher levels of self-efficacy.  Although the employees who have lower levels of self-efficacy may be better equipped or knowledgeable in a certain topic, they may be less willing to contribute in a team environment if they don't recognize their own abilities.  This is why it is imperative for management to recognize those with lower levels of self-efficacy.  Once the low and high self-efficacy members are identified, management can then employ verbal persuasion and encourage employees, reinforcing their abilities.  They can then pair them with an employee who has higher self-efficacy in order to boost production. 

Chowdhury and Lanis (1999) also found that in order to make higher performance teams they have to address certain individual issues.  The motivation and attitudes of employees can be altered by recognizing the individual needs of the employees.  In order to positively tackle individual self-efficacy it is necessary to take away one’s negative persuasion, and keep the positive persuasion of individuals in place.  Performance outcomes pertain to the personal experiences one has had in the past. Chowdhury and Lanis (1999) mention that these personal experiences play a role in higher performing team’s outcomes. Therefore, if companies are able to reproduce similar work teams related to previous experience they would keep in place higher motivated and performing teams, which produce positive goal achievement and successful self-efficacy.

The statistical data relates to the four models they used. These calculations demonstrate where performance and self-efficacy and satisfaction measure when looking at teams in an individual perspective.  Having smaller pieces of data managers can then look to take advantage of physiological feedback.  Knowing there is a physical response an employee receives from both positive and negative feedback, management can try to influence behavior and motivation and foster positive physiological feedback, thus improving self-efficacy.

The conclusions from Chowdhury and Lanis (1999) state that in a high performing team, one's self-efficacy of working in a team does not influence one's performance or satisfaction, however the opposite is true in a in a low performing team.  This means that in a low performing team one's self-efficacy of working in a team does influence one's performance and satisfaction. Chowdhury and Lanis (1999) suggest that those in the low performing team receive training to improve team work and/or transferring those with low self-efficacy from the low performing team into higher performing teams and vice versa.  This in turn may improve self-efficacy in the future.  Finally, this study implicates the managerial practicality that “before assigning members to teams, managers need to know the individual self-efficacy of each member” (Chowdhury & Lanis, 1999).

Resources

Chowdhury, S., & Lanis, T. (1999) Importance of self-efficacy of working in team environment in determining individual satisfaction and performance: Does it depend on the team performance? [PDF Document] Retrieved from Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship: http://sbaer.uca.edu/index.php/research-archive/1999toc/   http://www.sbaer.uca.edu/Research/asbe/1999/08.pdf

Cornwall J.R., & Perlman, B. (1990)  Organizational Entrepreneurship.  Homewood, IL: Irwin.

Gist, M. E. & Mitchell, T. R. (1992). Self-efficacy: A theoretical analysis of its determinants and malleability. Academy of Management Review, 17(2), 183-211.

Pennsylvania State University, (2011) Lesson 7: Self-Efficacy Theory: Do I think that I can succeed in my work?  Pennsylvania State University.  Retrieved online at:  https://cms.psu.edu/section/content/default.asp?WCI=pgDisplay&WCU=CRSCNT&ENTRY_ID=BE290EF7909F494F8ECC7591F0DADD6E

Wood, R. E., & Bandura, A. (1989). Social cognitive theory of organizational management. Academy of Management Review, 14(3), 361-384.

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