Self-efficacy and Job Performance

Is self-efficacy – the belief in one’s ability to succeed – the result of past performance or a cause of future performance? Research thus far has shown that both perspectives are true: that past performance is a driver of self-efficacy (Kozlowski, Gully, Brown, Salas, Smith, & Nason, 2001) and that self-efficacy is a driver of future performance (Sitzmann & Ely, 2011).

Upending large parts of the literature on this topic and resolving this issue of whether self-efficacy is the result of past performance or a cause of future performance, Traci Sitzmann of the University of Colorado at Denver & Gillian Yeo of the University of Western Australia found that self-efficacy is more the result of past performance and less a cause of future performance. In other words, a win in the workplace yesterday will make you feel good about yourself and may lead to a boost in job satisfaction, but it doesn’t increase your chances of succeeding tomorrow. Future job performance and self-efficacy are not as closely linked as was previously though.

For their study, Sitzmann and Yeo reviewed the current literature, a process known as a meta-analysis, and synthesized the results of 38 studies of over 5,000 participants, most of which were college students. The indicators of performance differed among the studies, ranging from job performance tasks like stock prediction scores and air traffic control decision points to golf putting and exams in a statistics class. Overall, the analysis was surprising, because earlier work has tended to conclude that self-efficacy, in itself, led to improved job performance.