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What You Think About Yourself Matters

The Importance of Self-Efficacy for Public Employees’ Job Satisfaction

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Rashmi Chordiya
August 19, 2016

In an era of severe budgetary constraints, enhancing employee job satisfaction has become one of the fundamental issues in public human resource management. Research has found that job satisfaction is associated with important outcomes such as employee productivity, work motivation, job performance, reducing turnover and absenteeism. Donald Klingner and Charles Levine have argued that job satisfaction is an important organizational objective in itself, and a societal value. Given its significance, job satisfaction has been studied extensively with 45 years of published research.

Examining various organizational and individual factors affecting job satisfaction has attracted wide research interest. Scholars have drawn attention to the effects of organizational characteristics that are unique to public sector, on employee job satisfaction. Research has also focused on the impact of intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors on job satisfaction. Additionally, a growing body of research in social psychology, particularly the work of Timothy Judge as published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, has shown that, individual attitudes based on subconscious or implicit assumptions about oneself, have a direct influence on individual’s job satisfaction.

The work of Timothy Judge and colleagues has shown that individuals’ implicit or sub-conscious assumptions about themselves influences their attitudes toward the external world. For instance, individuals’ who consider themselves to be fundamentally incompetent will react differently to increased job responsibilities, as against those who perceive themselves to be competent. Such individual dispositions are expected to have a direct impact on job satisfaction.

To advance the understanding of the effect of individual dispositions on public employees’ job satisfaction, a study was conducted in eight countries in Asia-Pacific region, with a sample of 3,931 public managers. This study utilized the concept of core evaluations, developed by Timothy Judge and colleagues, to explain the psychological processes underlying the dispositional sources of job satisfaction.

Judge and colleagues, described core evaluations as the fundamental and subconscious assumptions made by individuals about themselves, others and the reality. They developed the construct of core self-evaluations which represented four major appraisals that individual’s make of themselves: self-esteem, locus of control, neuroticism and generalized self-efficacy. They theorized that the construct of core self-evaluation will have a direct and indirect impact on individual’s job satisfaction. The indirect effect is represented through the moderating effect of core self-evaluations on the relationship between perceived work characteristics and job satisfaction.

Based on their work on the core self-evaluations theory, this study argues that self-efficacy, which is one of the major dimensions of core self-evaluations, will have a direct and indirect effect on job satisfaction of public employees. The indirect effect is represented by the mediating effect of self-efficacy on the relationship between perceived organizational characteristics and job satisfaction. The organizational characteristics are represented by perceptions about transformational leadership of senior managers, perceptions about performance based reforms and perceptions about performance based rewards.

Direct effects of Self-Efficacy on Job Satisfaction

In 1977, Albert Bandura defined self-efficacy as “the strength of people’s convictions in their own effectiveness.” The work of Richard Ryan and Edward Deci suggests that, fulfillment of individual’s need for competence or self-efficacy (which is considered to be one of the fundamental psychological needs) can enhance individual’s intrinsic motivation and yield related outcomes such as job satisfaction. This study therefore proposed and found that, self-efficacy had a statistically significant direct positive relationship with public employees’ job satisfaction.

Indirect effects of Self-efficacy on Job Satisfaction

Albert Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy postulates four key sources of self-efficacy: previous performance accomplishments, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion and affective reactions. In an organizational context, performance oriented reforms and performance based rewards are likely to enhance individual’s self-efficacy by rewarding effective performances and providing feedback (information) on individual’s performance accomplishments. Albert Bandura and Dale Schunk argued that organizational mechanisms produce a sense of personal causation in performance achievements resulting in higher self-efficacy. This in turn enhances job satisfaction. This study found that self-efficacy had a statistically significant mediating effect on the relationship between public employees’ job satisfaction and performance based reforms as well as performance based rewards.

As mentioned above, Albert Bandura postulated verbal persuasion to be another source of self-efficacy aimed at convincing the individual of his or her performance capabilities. The credibility and expertise of the source determines the success of persuasion. It is therefore argued that transformation-oriented leadership behaviors of senior managers, as characterized in Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectation, can have a motivational and inspirational effects on followers, can have a positive effect on self-efficacy of public employees and will consequently produce higher job satisfaction. This study found that self- efficacy had a statistically significant mediating effect on the relationship between public employees’ job satisfaction and transformational-oriented leadership behaviors of senior managers.


The findings of this study highlight the importance of self-efficacy in enhancing job satisfaction, both directly and indirectly. The indirect effect of self-efficacy is represented through its mediating effect on relationship between public employees’ job satisfaction and organizational factors such as performance based reforms, transformation-oriented leadership and performance contingent extrinsic rewards. This finding is important as job satisfaction has direct implications for absenteeism, organizational commitment and turnover. Public managers aiming at increasing employee job satisfaction, therefore need to strengthen individual’s fundamental belief about their own competence or self-efficacy.

Author: Rashmi Chordiya is an ASPA 2016 Founders’ Fellow.

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