Self-Efficacy is to do with people’s beliefs in their capabilities to mobilize the motivation, cognitive resources, and course of action needed to exercise control over the task at hand to produce given attainments (Bandura, 1997).

Self-efficacy is a critical ingredient in employee empowerment Opens in new window, because it pertains to people’s confidence in their ability to perform effectively in their empowered roles (Heslin, 1999: 52). It is in this context, Conger and Kanungo (1988: 474) define empowerment as:

a process of enhancing feelings of “self-efficacy” among organizational members through the identification of conditions that foster powerlessness and through their removal by both formal organizational practices and informal techniques of providing efficacy information (Conger and Kanungo, 1988: 474).

Drawing on Conger and Kanungo’s (1988) study, it is clear that managerial strategies have a direct influence on individual’s self-efficacy beliefs. Hence, the argument that organizational strategies that strengthen self-efficacy beliefs will make individuals feel more powerful, and in contrast, any strategies that weaken self-efficacy beliefs will result in an increase in the individual’s feelings of powerlessness, thus leading to feelings of oppression (Freire, 1972).

According to Bandura (1977: 34), self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their capability to be competent in performing tasks, reaching a goal or overcoming obstacles in life:

Personal efficacy is valued not because of reverence for individualism but because a strong sense of personal efficacy is vital for successful adaptation and change regardless of whether it is achieved individually or by group members working together (Bandura, 1977: 34).

Borrowing from Bandura (1977), Greenberg and Baron (2000: 107) offer a definition of self-efficacy as:

“an individual’s beliefs concerning his or her ability to perform specific tasks successfully”.

Several authors conclude that self-efficacy has a strong influence on any individual’s task performance and has motivational benefits. As self-efficacy enhances people’s competence, it has a positive effect on their psychological well-being and motivation; it boosts the individual’s belief in their capacity to perform tasks.

In this sense, employee empowerment Opens in new window is advocated as a useful tool to motivate employees to take decisions on their own without constant referral to their managers, which in turn enhances their self-efficacy beliefs (Greenberg & Baron, 2000).

There is strong agreement in the literature that by creating conditions to increase motivation, organizations can enable employees to accomplish their tasks in a confident manner, and build a strong sense of self-efficacy (Conger and Kanungo, 1988). Some of these psychological benefits of empowerment are also noted in other disciplines and not just in management:

For example, Denham Lincoln et al. (2002: 285) observe the wide usage of the term “empowerment” across a large number of non-management disciplines, such as feminism, minority groups, education, community care and politics, to enable oppressed people to increase their self-efficacy:

From this review of the use of the term “empowerment” across several disciplines, it would seem that the underlying interpretation of the word is one of mobilizing the oppressed by helping them believe in themselves, increasing their self-efficacy (Lincoln et al., 2002: 285).

Thus, in an empowered organization, self-efficacy can potentially have a strong impact on an individual’s task performance (Baron & Greenberg, 1990). It is worthwhile noting the components of self-efficacy; Greenberg and Baron (2000: 107) explain that self-efficacy consists of three basic components:

  1. Magnitude: The level at which an individual believes s/he can perform.
  2. Strength: The person’s confidence that s/he can perform at that level.
  3. Generality: The extent to which self-efficacy in one situation or for one task extends to other situations and other tasks.

Conger and Kanungo (1988: 478) describe factors that can lower an individual’s self-efficacy, for example,

  • when jobs do not provide challenge and meaning;
  • when there is role ambiguity;
  • role conflict and work overload.

Clearly, for individuals to feel empowered, leaders need to give consideration to the positive aspects of self-efficacy and understand that the lack to this can lead to negative results, such as under-performance and mistakes made by employees, which is not desirable in organizations.

The danger is that when employees have low self-efficacy, they tend to blame other people in the organization when things go wrong. In line with this argument, Johnson (1994: 18) states:

Empowerment refers to a process whereby an individual’s belief in his or her self-efficacy is enhanced (Johnson, 1994: 18)

Studies have also shown that self-efficacy influences not only the amount of work but also the quality of effort a person will apply to complete tasks (Barling & Beatlie, 1983).

Similarly, self-esteem also plays an important role within a person’s internal perception of “the sense of feeling worthwhile” (Dubrin, 1994: 80); this leads to the argument that:

Individuals with high self-esteem tend to view themselves positively, and vice versa, individuals with low self-esteem view themselves negatively.

These contrasting views obviously have an impact on a person’s task outcomes.

Tasks become intrinsically motivating when employees derive positively valued experiences directly from a completed task (Conger and Kanungo, 1988).

So, it is understandable that managerial strategies which strengthen employees’ self-efficacy beliefs will make them feel powerful while strategies that weaken employees’ self-efficacy beliefs will result in feelings of powerlessness.

The argument here is that by creating conditions that will increase motivation, organizations can empower employees in accomplishing their tasks and build a strong sense of self-efficacy.

    The research data for this literature have been adapted from the manual:
  1. The Psychology of Employee Empowerment: Concepts, Critical Themes and a ... By Rozana Ahmad Huq