Importance of the Topic Self-esteem reflects an individual’s overall appraisal of his or her own worth, which has a large influence on an individual’s behavior. Accurate prediction on job performance is critical to people in managerial positions, such as managers. Based on the theory of behavioral plasticity and self-monitoring, it is indicated that subordinates’ organization-based self-esteem, which reflects an employee’s self-perceived value as an organization member, moderates two important subordinate outcomes, namely task performance and innovative behavior (Rank, Nelson, Allen &Xu,2009).
Therefore, the question whether self-esteem is an useful indicator of an individual’s job performance is worth further discussion and research. In order to examine the relationship, self-esteem and job performance will be discussed systematically in this article and a hypothesis is made as below: Two Variables Hypothesis Hypothesis: Self-esteem is positively related to job performance (High self-esteem results to high job performance) Definition of Variables Tharenou defined self-esteem as “the evaluation which an individual make and customarily maintains with regard to the self.
It expresses an attitude of approval or disapproval, and indicates the extent to which the individual believes the self to be capable, significant, successful and worthy” (Tharenou, 1979). In general, self-esteem can be categorized as implicit self-esteem and explicit self-esteem (Grumm, Nestler & Collani, 2009). Implicit self-esteem is positively related to the magnitude of the evaluative conditioning effect, while explicit self-esteem shows no significant relationship with the evaluative conditioning effect (Zhang & Chan, 2009).
Additionally, self-esteem can also be recognized as high self-esteem and low self-esteem (Mruk, 1999).
People with high self-esteem react positively active to unexpected challenges while people with low self-esteem under-evaluate their abilities and under-perform in activities. Self-efficacy is easily mistaken for self-esteem, and there are some similarities and differences between these two concepts. According to Natalie Branden, self-esteem relates to a person’s sense of self-worth, which is defined as “the disposition to experience oneself as being ompetent to cope with the basic challenges of life” (Branden, 1994). In contrast, self-efficacy is known as people’s beliefs about their ability to achieve a goal or perform necessary behaviors under prospective situations (Whyte, Saks & Hook, 1986-1998). The similarities between self-esteem and self-efficacy are that they are both self-originated, and act as the essential driving force for one to achieve his or her goals. In addition, they both help to motivate an individual to stay positive. However, both can be detrimental and counter-productive.
The difference among the two concepts is that self-esteem is a feeling of self-worth, whereas self-efficacy is the belief in one’s capacity to handle tasks. In other words, they differ in the sense that self-esteem is more subjective, whereas self-efficacy is more objective. (Banndura, 1994) Job performance is the other variable in the hypothesis. Job performance is depicted by the quantity and quality expectation of employees, and which in turn form the basis for performance reviews (BusinessDictionary. com). It can be categorized as an individual’s obligatory behavior and contextual behavior.
More specifically, obligatory behaviors are behaviors required by a job while contextual behaviors are voluntary behaviors beyond the requirement of the job (Borman & Motowidlo, 1993). Job performance is occasionally mistaken for job outcomes. Performance is presented as a bundle of behavior (Campbell, 1990), while outcomes can be numerical, which measures effectualness of the performance or behavior. The similarities between performance and outcome are that both of them are subsequent to some antecedents and they are recognized as an end or beginning. Moreover, they both are used as benchmarks for bonus or incentives.
Evidence on Hypothesis As mentioned earlier, the proposed hypothesis is that self-esteem is positively related to job performance. Certain amounts of empirical studies have been done to prove the validity on the proposed relationship. In study conducted by Elite Hutman, the goal is to test the hypothesis of positive correlation between self-esteem and job performance within the context of the principles of psychometric meta-analysis. The database used in the analysis consisted of published articles from electronic sources such as INFO, Business Index and Academic Index.
The meta-analysis included 49 studies, with the dependent variable being job performance, which encompassed aspects of the subjective and objective attributes of job performance. The explanatory variables were measures of self-esteem, one of which was organizational based self-esteem, which was narrowly defined, and appeared to have a strong correlation with job performance. Specifically, this variable had a correlation coefficient of 0. 37 with job performance, indicating a relatively strong relationship. Another variable, namely task specific self-esteem, had a correlation coefficient of 0. 3 with job performance, which indicated a very strong relationship. The results support the hypothesis that self-esteem and job performance are positively correlated in most situations. However, the study cautioned that lab studies produced inflated correlations, and that the true mean lay in the actual field, in an uncontrolled setting. The paper further made suggestions that each organization should tailor the intervention plans to the specific job, which would maximize self-esteem and consequently enhance the level of job performance.
With respect to organizational based self-esteem, the study suggested organizations to adopt Schwalbe’s (1985) suggestion to incorporate the concept of autonomy in the workplace to enhance self-esteem. This is supported by the before mentioned high correlation between organizational self-esteem and job performance (Hutman, 1999). On the other hand, the counter hypothesis should be “Self-esteem is negatively moderating or not related to job performance”. There are also few empirical studies have been done to prove the counter correlation between the two variables.
In the study conducted by Baumeister and Heatherton, 35 undergraduate students were divided into two groups based on their self-esteem levels. Specifically, they were divided into high self-esteem group (HSE) and low self-esteem group (LSE). During the test, they were asked to play a video game by setting goals and trying to achieve those goals. Monetary incentive would be given as a reward based on their performance level. Half of the participants were put into an ego-threat condition and they then made unrealistic goals.
Results indicated that HSE group won significantly less money than LSE group under the ego-threat condition. In addition, more than 87. 5% of the HSE people failed to attain their goal under ego-threat condition, whereas only 12. 5% from the LSE failed. This is due the poor self-management of HSE people under ego-threat condition (Baumeister & Heatherton, 1993). Both of the studies focused on a direct relationship between self-esteem and performance. However, due to the different assumptions and methods used to examine the relationship, inconsistency of the research results occurred.
Relevance of Variables There are two features of high self-esteem that benefits performance, one is enhanced initiative and the other is pleasant feelings (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger & Vohs, 2003). People who exhibit enhanced initiative though may not necessarily be good leaders, those who exhibit low self-esteem are shown to be less likely to become good leaders. In addition, it was found that people with high self-esteem were more likely to take initiatives, which further supports the leadership argument. It is found that high performing leadership helps to 1. etter align employees with the company’s goal, 2. build and strengthen the team, 3. allocate tasks effectively and efficiently, 4. develop potential employees and foster growth, and 5. motivate. These five elements all lead to better job performance. Therefore, high self-esteem enables people to take initiatives and improve leadership, which ultimately leads to overall improves job performance (www. exploreHR. org). People who are happy in work settings are generally having more positive experiences than negative ones in connection with the work place and their job.
It is shown that people who are happy in work environment tend to have a clear direction, finds that direction motivating, focus on priorities, more likely to engage in their work, have more positive experiences than negative experiences at work, are optimistic looking into the future, and are able to achieve agreed upon results (“Putting Performance and Happiness Together in the Workplace”, Charles D. Kerns). Accordingly, people who are happy tend to increase their productivity, which ultimately leads to improved job performance.
On the contrary, many researchers have supported the idea that self-esteem is negatively related or not related to job performance. First of all, “correlation does not imply causation” (Irish Times, 2005) Even if the correlation between the two variables is proven to be strong, it does not necessary imply the cause-effect relationship as the proposed hypothesis. Otherwise stated, the cause-effect relationship could be reversed as “high job performance leads to higher self-esteem”. Additionally, people with igher self-esteem seem to be more prejudiced (Irish Times, 2005). For example, a person who is more prejudiced may have negative opinions towards their boss easily, which may in turn result in unsatisfactory job performance. Cause of Inconsistency As discussed earlier, different empirical sources have showed different results, which are mainly due to two reasons. Firstly, both of Hutman’ and Baumeister’s studies focus on a direct relationship between self-esteem and performance. However, the manipulated condition and research method under each study is different.
Hutman conducts the study based on the context of the principles of psychometric meta-analysis, and four moderators are defined so as to test the positive correlation. On the other hand, Baumeister conducts the study under the ego-threat condition, which reinforces and limits performance of the participants. Therefore, due to the different assumptions and methods they use to examine the relationship, inconsistency of the research results occurs. Secondly, as mentioned above, the conditions and methods are different among different researches.
Consequently, research results may not be applied to a wider group than those who took part in those studies. In other words, there may not be consistent results under different methods or researchers. In order to resolve the inconsistency, future research should be conducted under different targeted group or different methods by different researchers. Validity of Evidence In terms of definition, according to Hutman, performance is defined as job performance, which is “the effectiveness and value of work behavior and its outcomes”(Hutman, 1999).
However, performance is measured in terms of goal achievements, which are not directly related to the actual job performance. Consequently, the definition in Hutman’s study is more suitable for the proposed hypothesis. Baumeister’s experiment was conducted in 1993, which was 6 years prior to the first one and is 17 years past from the present time. Hutman’s study is more reliable since the information used is more recent, which may not be available 6 years ago. In Hutman’s study, 49 studies are tested while only 35 people participated in B’s experiment. Regarding the sample size, Baumeister’s experiment is not as reliable as
Hutman’s, since large sample size can reduce unsystematic errors of the experiment and unnecessary volatility of information from test subjects. To sum up, although both studies are creditable, Hutman’s study is of higher degree of validity for the proposed hypothesis which is mentioned at the beginning of this paper. Practical Implications Although different researchers share different opinions about the relation between self-esteem and job performance, managers can still delicately make use of self-esteem in order to improve subordinates’ job performance.
As shown by the result of Hutman’s study, self-esteem is positively related to job performance. As a result, managers should enhance subordinates’ self-esteem in order to improve performance. For instance, after a subordinate finishes an assignment, the manager should comment on his or her excellent performance by recognizing the high degree of difficulty of the assignment. If done properly, the subordinate will be motivated to excel next time. However, according to the ego-threat condition introduced by Baumeister, unrealistic goals will decrease the subordinate’s performance.
Research Implications In order to better examine the reason why self-esteem is related to performance, a new study should be considered by researchers. A new variable, job satisfaction, may be considered in the study to explain the relationship between the two variables. Job satisfaction is proven to influence job performance positively. People with higher job satisfaction are more dedicated to the organization, which leads to better job performance (Zhang & Zheng, 2009). However, it is unknown whether self-esteem and job satisfaction is related.
Is self-esteem an effective indicator of an individual’s job satisfaction, which then in turn affects the individual’s job performance? Does job satisfaction act as a moderator between self-esteem and job performance? Researchers are able to further examine and determine the relation between self-esteem and job performance by taking job satisfaction into account. Proposed Study In order to examine the relationship between self-esteem and job satisfaction, a sample of 500 people (250 in HSE, 250 in LSE) should be chosen from the same industry but different regions.
The reason given is that participants who are in the same industry will be later assigned with industrial tasks. The intention of this experiment is to evaluate how job satisfaction is affected by people with HSE (high self-esteem) and LSE (low self-esteem). According to their self-esteem level, participants will be equally divided into groups of 50s (50 in HSE, 50 in LSE). Meanwhile, five levels of tasks are designed to influence an individual’s level of job satisfaction. Each group is assigned to one of the five tasks, and the tasks are to be done individually.
In order to determine each participant’s job satisfaction level, surveys will be conducted after each task is done. After analyzing the level of job satisfaction between HSE and LSE groups under each task level, correlation between self-esteem and job satisfaction are then formulated. Conclusion After the discussion shown above, the relationship between self-esteem and job performance remains ambiguous. Further studies should be conducted and examined regarding the relationship, so that managers will be able to predict subordinates’ performance according to an individual’s self-esteem level.
Abstract This article focuses on the relationship between self-esteem, the evaluation which an individual make and customarily maintains with regard to the self, and job performance, quantity and quality expectations of employees. The hypothesis is that self-esteem is positively related to job performance, which is supported by the study conducted by E. On the other hand, the counter-hypothesis is that self-esteem is not related or negatively related to job performance.
The counter-hypothesis is also supported by another study, in which poor performance of the HSE people is shown under an ego-threat condition. In future research, additional variables, such as job satisfaction, should be considered to further examine the relationship. In practical implications, managers are able to delicately make use of self-esteem in order to improve subordinates’ job performance. In conclusion, this article contains limitations. Some evidence was shown approximately 10 years ago, which challenged its validity. Moreover, due to the different assumptions and methods being used, inconsistency of the research results follows.