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Self-efficacy: Inherent or can be learnt?

| Updated: September 04, 2021 11:59:52

Self-efficacy: Inherent or can be learnt?

"In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life," former David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University Albert Bandura said.
Self-efficacy affects every area of human endeavour. By determining the beliefs a person holds regarding their power to affect situations, self-efficacy influences both the power a person actually has to face challenges competently and the choices a person is most likely to make. Self-efficacy is entwined with the belief system a person possesses and, hence, the question comes-- is it inherent or can it be learnt?
According to Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is "the belief in one's capabilities to organise and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations." So it can be referred to as the inner belief in people's own abilities to succeed in diverse circumstances. Bandura described these beliefs as determinants of how people think, behave, and feel.
Since Bandura published his seminal 1977 paper- 'Self-efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change,' the subject has become one of the most studied topics in psychology. As Bandura and other researchers have demonstrated, self-efficacy can have an impact on everything from psychological states to behaviour to motivation. Self-efficacy also determines what goals we choose to pursue, how we go about accomplishing those goals, and how we reflect upon our own performance.
A strong sense of self-efficacy promotes human accomplishment and personal well-being. A person with high self-efficacy views challenges as things that are supposed to be mastered rather than threats to avoid. These people are able to recover from failure faster and are more likely to attribute failure to a lack of effort. They approach threatening situations with the belief that they can control them.
So what exactly does high self-efficacy look like? We can think of some examples from our own lives including areas where we feel a great deal of efficacy. People may possess a general sense of self-efficacy or in a specific domain where they believe they can do well such as school, work, friendships, parenting, sports, hobbies, and other areas.
For a quick, informal assessment of own self-efficacy levels, one can consider asking these questions to oneself-- confidence of handling problems if work hard, ability to achieve goals or managing unexpected events, ability to bounce back or come up with a solution quickly, the patience of continuing to try something even when it is not working, ability to stay calm and perform well under pressure, tendency to focus on progress rather than getting overwhelmed by the remaining works, the belief that hard work will eventually pay off, etc.
If the answer is 'yes' to many or most of these questions, then chances are good that the person has a fairly strong sense of self-efficacy.
Overall, self-efficacy is positively and strongly related to work-related performance. The strength of the relationship, though, is moderated by both task complexity and environmental context. For more complex tasks, the relationships between self-efficacy and work performance is weaker than for easier work-related tasks. In actual work environments, which are characterised by performance constraints, ambiguous demands, deficient performance feedback, and other complicating factors, the relationship appears weaker than in controlled laboratory settings.
The importance of self-efficacy at the workplace is that it provides a guideline on how managers should provide accurate descriptions of tasks. They should also provide the necessary supporting elements, including training employees in developing their self-efficacy in addition to task-related skills. It has been suggested that managers should factor into self-efficacy when trying to decide candidates for developmental or training programs. It has been found that those who are high in self-efficacy learn more which leads to higher job performance.
The social cognitive theory explains that employees use five basic capabilities to self-influence themselves in order to initiate, regulate and sustain their behaviour- symbolising, forethought, observational, self-regulatory and self-reflective. Practising these can help one develop self-efficacy resulting in strong self-confidence.

Momi Monjil Ara is a graduate of Computer Science and Engineering from Dhaka University. Currently, she is working as the chief technology officer at REVE Systems and pursuing her Executive MBA at North South University

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