Self-efficacy is defined as a person's beliefs in their abilities and how those beliefs can influence the events in their lives (Bandura, 1994). The confidence one has in his or her skills is derived from how he perceives himself and how he measures his abilities from various sources of information. Self-efficacy can be measured on two scales: self-efficacy magnitude and self-efficacy strength (Bandura, 1996). Self-efficacy magnitude can be defined as a person's belief in the ease or difficulty of completing a certain task. Self-efficacy strength can be defined as how much confidence a person has in completing the task put before them.
Self-efficacy theory is present in all work environments. How an employee feels about the outcome of a previous task, and how well they believe they did on a project and so on, contribute to their confidence to perform the next task. No matter what the confidence level is of an employee before or after a task is performed, a negative or positive verbal response from their team leader or manager can change or alter their beliefs. Due to the nature of a competitive work force, measuring one’s self against another is an extremely common occurrence. Everyone tends to look at what they have accomplished in order to compare abilities and measure the distance between them and those in the same, or higher, position.
The case study that follows demonstrates how the self-efficacy theory can be used to help instill confidence and empower individuals.
Jane Doe is an individual who receives services for Intellectual Disabilities. She lives in a group home and attends a day program. Jane’s behaviors have been severe lately, putting a strain on the providers. There are also several Dual Diagnosis interventions that she is undergoing, which are being used in both her home and day program settings. The dual diagnosis team looks at all the supports Jane receives such as medication, extra staffing behavioral interventions, and medical interventions (like treatment for pain).
The agency that provides Jane with at home, as well as medical care, is currently experiencing a greater amount of success supporting her. Although there have been injuries to the staff within the home, they appear to be more confident about their capacity to serve Jane, as well as in their ability to use the interventions. The day program, however, appears to have no confidence in either their ability to apply the interventions or with the interventions themselves. This has left them open to more injuries from maladaptive behaviors. Generally, in both agencies, staff members only possess a high school education and receive pay in the amount of about nine dollars an hour. Unfortunately, turnover is relatively high in Human Services, although it seems even more frequent within the day program. Both programs are run by Program Specialists with a Bachelor’s degree and specialized training.
Both programs have vital positions that help make them successful. An additional position provided by both the county and state is the Supports Coordinator. One of the roles of Supports Coordination (SC) is to make sure that the individuals’ support is positive and effective; making sure that the interventions used for Jane’s behaviors were implemented positively and correctly exemplifies the Self-Efficacy theory.
According to Bandura, “people's perceptions of their efficacy influence the types of anticipatory scenarios they construct and reiterate. Those who have a high sense of efficacy visualize success scenarios that provide positive guides for performance. Those who judge themselves as inefficacious are more inclined to visualize failure scenarios that undermine performance by dwelling on how things will go wrong. Cognitive simulations in which individuals visualize themselves executing activities skillfully enhance subsequent performance (Bandura, 1986; Corbin, 1972; Feltz & Landers, 1983; Kazdin, 1978; Markus, Cross, & Wurf, in press). Perceived self-efficacy and cognitive simulation affect each other bidirectionally. A high sense of efficacy fosters cognitive constructions of effective actions, and cognitive reiteration of efficacious courses of action strengthens self-perceptions of efficacy" (Bandura & Adams, 1977; Kazdin, 1979).
When the Supports Coordinator used the Self-efficacy theory to evaluate how the day program was working with Jane, the following aspects were shown:
Self-Efficacy Magnitude: Both programs believe they can provide the appropriate level of care for Jane. However, the day program finds the difficulty level to be higher, causing them greater concern with regard to how successful they will be in implementing the interventions.
Self-Efficacy Strength: This is an area where the day provider needs help. They do not seem to strongly believe that they can support Jane in a one-on-one environment. In order to resolve this concern, the SC held a meeting with the day provider to find out what help they needed in order to be able to provide the one-on-one support, including extra training.
Performance Outcomes: The day program has had a few bad experiences using the interventions that are in place, namely that some of the staff have been previously injured. However, this could be caused by not using the intervention correctly. It is evident that this would affect the day program staff’s feelings of self-efficacy.
In order to address the issues concerning performance outcomes, the SC and Clinical Psychologist begin a Functional Behavioral Assessment to find out why Jane is acting the way she is and whether or not the current interventions are best practice.
Verbal Persuasion: The SC notes that the day program specialist consistently states that certain interventions can not be done in front of staff. Staff picked up on this, reinforcing their lack of self-efficacy.
To combat the effects of negative verbal persuasion, the SC intervenes by holding a team meeting to hear all of the day program supervisor’s concerns. She gives them an opportunity in private to let her know their concerns without embarrassment, while also making it clear that it is inappropriate to be negative in front of and towards staff. This is a delicate manner as an SC does not have any real power over the program specialist and is there in more of an advisory capacity. Working with the team and seeing the interventions working in other venues helped increase the day program specialist’s confidence and reduced negative verbal persuasion.
Vicarious Experiences: The staff at the day program are seeing negative experiences with Jane and are afraid to work with her.
In order to resolve this situation, the SC, with the help of the Clinical Psychologist, is able to model positive interventions and shares positive experiences with Jane. This allows employees to gain positive vicarious experiences and boost their self-efficacy.
The day staff were brought together and asked to create a list of goals that they would accomplish by the end of the month. Doing this created a sense of community and helped build morale, which made the staff feel as though their thoughts and ideas were being acknowledged. Morale is being built because while they work together, they can set and see their own goals, allowing these goals to indeed be attainable, and they are also able to have something to work towards, which increases their self-efficacy. Building self-efficacy is an important process, not only for the staff, but also for the upper management. It allows everyone to come together and work on both setting and achieving a collective set of goals. Attaining these goals only continues to build esteem, and increase motivation.
Self-efficacy is something inherent within all people and it drives us to participate and excel in whatever activities we may choose, including school, work, or personal development. A little confidence in our abilities can go a long way, and any hinderance in self-efficacy can have widespread and sometimes damaging effects. As demonstrated by the case study, a lack of self-efficacy hindered an entire team’s ability to perform its job duties. By examining performance outcomes, verbal persuasion, and vicarious experiences, self-efficacy was able to be restored and job performance improved.
It seems that based on the relatively subconscious awareness of self-efficacy, it is not fully explored especially within a workplace setting where skills are constantly being tested by various responsibilities and strong feelings of self-efficacy are essential. The Jane Doe case study is a clear example of the importance of the implementation of the key components comprising self-efficacy theory. Self-efficacy strength and magnitude were both severely hindered among the day program staff members. There were also problems with performance outcomes (one of the most important determinants of employee self-efficacy (PSU WC, L7, 9)) and verbal persuasion (in the form of negativity from supervisors that discouraged staff members), which further reduced the staff member’s feelings of self-efficacy. Through the review of the interventions and their effectiveness, as well as providing training, support, advice regarding the removal of negative actions towards staff, and positive experiences with regard to Jane’s care, self-efficacy was enhanced and job performance improved for day program staff members.
Motivation and success are complex concepts, but if self-efficacy judgments—performance outcomes (past personal experiences), physiological feedback (physical sensations during performance), verbal persuasion (encouragement or discouragement), and vicarious experiences (seeing other people’s performance and abilities) (PSU WC, L7, 7) are heeded, individuals can enjoy positive job performance and boosted confidence.
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Center for Positive Practices. “Self-Efficacy”. Positivepractices.com. retrieved 23 February 2013 from: <http://www.positivepractices.com/Efficacy/SelfEfficacy.html>
Penn State University World Campus, 2012. Psych 484 Work Attitudes and Motivation, Lesson 7.