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The relationship between self-efficacy, locus of control and work personality. (Self-Efficacy and Locus of Control).

Over the past 10 to 15 years, research has suggested that our economy has undergone a shift from a production orientation to an emphasis on service and knowledge (Drucker, 1993) and a shift from task and volume to an emphasis on process and value (Hammer & Champy, 1993; Wirth, 1992). Specifically, researchers have found that workers are asked to make more decisions on their own, to work as members of teams, and to organize around the work process (Ryan, 1995). This shift in the economy has placed an increased importance on the worker's ability to effectively use cognitive and interpersonal skills even for low paying and entry-level positions (Wilson, 1997). The increased requirement for cognitive and interpersonal skills by employers has and will continue to impact the process of career, employment, and rehabilitation counseling. These labor market and economic trends would suggest that counselors may need to direct interventions at work adjustment to assist individuals in the career development and job placement process. Hershenson (1996a) suggests work adjustment consists of an interaction between the work environment and the three individual domains of work personality, work competencies, and work goals. These three individual domains develop sequentially. Moreover, it is hypothesized that there is a reciprocal effect among the three domains. The purpose of this research is to examine the theoretical link and the reciprocal effect between the individual domains of work personality and work competencies that develop early in life and are directly linked to task performance. A review of Hershenson's theory of work adjustment will define and clarify the relationship between these variables. Further, Rotter's (1966) theory of locus of control and Bandura's (1986) self-efficacy theory will also be reviewed, as these constructs will be used to operationalize work competency.

Literature Review

Hershenson's Theory of Work Adjustment

Hershenson theorizes that work adjustment consists of two elements, the person and the person's environment. The person consists of three subsystems that include work personality, work competencies, and appropriately crystallized work goals. Work personality develops during the preschool years and is mostly influenced by the family. It consists of one's self-concept as a worker, system of motivation for work, and work-related needs and values. Work competencies develop during the school years and are influenced by successes and failures in the school setting. Work competencies consist of work habits, physical and mental skills, and work related interpersonal skills (Szymanski & Hershenson, 1998). Work habits include promptness, neatness, and reliability, while work related interpersonal skills include responding appropriately to supervision and getting along with co-workers (Hershenson, 1996a). Appropriate crystallized work goals develop prior to leaving school and are influenced by one's peer or reference group. (Hershenson, 1996b). Work goals should be clear, realistic, and consistent with the person's work personality and work competencies (Hershenson, 1996a). Work personality, work competencies, and work goals interact with each other and result in work adjustment. Each subsystem affects the development of the two other subsystems (Szymanski & Hershenson, 1998).

Hershenson (1996a) discusses three domains of work adjustment, which include task performance, work role behavior, and work satisfaction. Task performance refers to the quality and quantity of work output. Work role behavior refers to behavior appropriate to the work setting, such as wearing appropriate clothing, taking responsibility for one's actions, and following directions. Work satisfaction refers to one's degree of gratification resulting from work (Szymanski & Hershenson, 1998). Task performance, work role behavior, and work satisfaction are related to the three subsystems of the person. Task performance is related primarily to work competencies and secondarily to work personality; work role behavior is related primarily to work personality and secondarily to the work habits component of work competencies; and work satisfaction is related primarily to work goals and secondarily to work personality (Szymanski & Hershenson, 1998). The three domains of work adjustment develop sequentially and in relation to a particular environment (Szymanski, Hershenson, Enright, & Ettinger, 1996). Theoretically, individuals must address two major environmental transitions, the transition from home to school and the transition from school to work. However, for individuals who experience an impediment in the course of their career track, there may be a third or fourth environmental transition (rehabilitation counseling or a shifting of careers). Success in the current transition will depend on the individual's experiences during previous transitions (Szymanski, et al., 1996).

After the individual enters the work setting, the three environmental systems continue to influence work adjustment. Family refers to the individual's living system, such as family of origin or internalized effects of the family of origin, mate, and children. Learning will continue to occur in both formal and informal situations and will continue to influence work adjustment. Friends and social contacts will continue to be a reference group and influence work adjustment as an expanded socialization 'system (Hershenson, 1996a). Therefore, work adjustment involves interaction among the three subsystems in the person (work personality, work competency and work goals) and the work setting. Work setting includes the organizational culture and behavioral expectations; job demands and skill requirements; and rewards and opportunities available to the worker (Hershenson, 1996a). See Hersenson (1996a) for a more detailed discussion of the theory.

Bandura's Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy refers to one's beliefs about his or her ability to perform a specific behavior (Bandura, 1986, 1997a, 1997b, 1998). Bandura (1986) believed that self-efficacy was not a theory itself, but a portion of social cognitive theory. It is a construct based on cognitive and behavioral concepts that Bandura (1977b) describes as an individual's perception of his or her skills and abilities and whether the skills/abilities produce effective and competent actions. Self-efficacy influences perceptions of actions and coping behaviors and the choice of environments and situations in which the individual will attempt to access. Bandura (1998) states that there is a reciprocal relationship between cognitive process and behavior change in self-efficacy theory. Bandura's conceptualization of self-efficacy encompasses two components, efficacy expectations and outcome expectations. Efficacy expectations refer to one's conviction that he or she can successfully produce the behaviors that will lead to a desired outcome, while outcome expectations refer to one's belief that a particular course of action will produce a certain outcome (Bandura, 1977a). Efficacy expectations have an effect on one's choice of settings, behaviors, and persistence (Bandura, 1997b). Those with low efficacy expectations will likely avoid situations in which they feel unable to cope. Instead, they will seek out situations in which they feel that they will be able to handle. Persistence in producing behaviors is also affected by efficacy expectations. Individuals who have high levels of efficacy expectations will be more likely to persist with behaviors when they become difficult and will therefore be more likely to execute the behavior successfully which in turn increases their efficacy expectations even more (Bandura, 1998). On the other hand, individuals with low levels of efficacy expectations will be more likely to cease production of behaviors once the behaviors become difficult, which will in turn reinforce their already low efficacy expectations (Strauser, 1995; Strauser, Waldrop, Hamsley & Jenkins, 1998; & Strauser, Waldrop & Jenkins, 1998). The concept of self-efficacy is situation-specific meaning that one will have a range of both high and low self-efficacy expectations at one time depending on specific situation, task, or behavior (Sadri & Robertson, 1993).

Self-efficacy was first introduced into the career and vocational development literature through the construct's relationship to perceived career options (Betz & Hackett, 1981). Its use was further expanded as social cognitive theory was related to career and academic interest, and career choice and performance (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994). Self-efficacy theory has since been applied to a variety of career and vocational related behaviors including job search intentions (Eden & Aviram, 1993; Van Ryn & Vinokur, 1992), career choice (Betz & Hackett, 1981), task performance and persistence (Jacobs, Prentice-Dunn, & Rogers, 1984), interview readiness and performance (Stumpf, Austin, & Hartman, 1984), and employment outcomes for individuals with psychiatric disorders (Regenold, Sherman, & Fenzel, 1999). In addition, meta-analysis and comprehensive reviews (Hackett, 1995; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994) have lent strong support to the role of self-efficacy as a predictor of academic performance and career decision-making intentions and behaviors.

Rotter's Theory of Locus of Control

Rotter's (1966) locus of control theory has its roots in social learning theory. Social learning theory (Rotter, 1954) purports that reinforcements act to strengthen the expectancy that a particular behavior or event will be followed by that same reinforcement in the future. Conversely, once a relationship is established between a behavior and reinforcement, the absence of the reinforcement will reduce or extinguish the expectancy. Expectancies are generalized from specific situations to situations that are perceived as similar or related. These generalized attitudes, beliefs, and expectancies can affect a variety of behavioral choices in many different life situations (Rotter, 1966).

Locus of control (Rotter, 1966) refers to one's belief in his or her abilities to control life events. The term locus of control is often used interchangeably with self-efficacy. However, the terms are not equivalent. While self-efficacy focuses on the perception of ability to act competently and effectively, locus of control focuses on the perception of control (Bandura, 1977a). An individual with an internal locus of control believes that outcomes are related to his or her behavior or personal investment, while an individual with an external locus of control believes that outcomes are not related to his or her behavior but to external forces beyond his or her control. Individuals with an external locus of control may perceive life events to be controlled by luck, chance, fate, or powerful others. Stated differently, individuals with an internal locus of control are more likely to change their behavior following reinforcement than are individuals with an external locus of control (Marks, 1998).

Locus of control has been implicated in a wide variety of career and vocational behaviors. Spector (1988) developed the Work Locus of Control Scale as a measure of generalized control in work settings. More recently, researchers have suggested that the work locus of control may act as a strong mediating variable in job stress and strain (Spector & O'Connell, 1994). Locus of control has also been related to attitude toward work and client participation in vocational rehabilitation for individuals with industrial injuries (Duvdevany & Rimmerman, 1996).

Purpose of this Research

Hershenson suggests work adjustment consists of an interaction among the three domains of the individual (work personality, work competencies, and work goals) and their work environment. An individual develops the three domains sequentially with each domain having a reciprocal effect on the other two domains. Therefore, the process of work adjustment can be viewed as a dynamic process in which each of the domains can only develop to a level that is supported by the preceding domain (Szymanski & Hershenson, 1998). In addition, the three domains of the individual directly impact the three components of work adjustment, task performance, work role behavior, and work satisfaction. Specifically, Hershenson hypothesized that an individual's task performance is directly affected and supported by the individual's work personality and work competencies. It is the relationship between an individual's work personality and work competencies that is the specific focus of this research. Specifically, the reciprocal effect between work personality and work competency would appear to be critical in that the family is the primary source of work personality development and that the formal education process is the primary source of work competency development. We believe that through counseling, the process of recreating an educational environment, which enhances work competencies, is more readily accomplished than recreating the family and trying to build work personality. If there is a reciprocating effect, work competencies could then be the point of intervention, with the knowledge that there is a reciprocal impact on work personality. In this research, we operationalized work competency as locus of control and job readiness self-efficacy because they appear to be linked to effective task performance that is theoretically related to work personality and work competency. Therefore, individuals with well-developed work personality are hypothesized to report higher levels of job readiness self-efficacy and more internalized work locus of control.

This research study focused on three questions. First, do higher levels of work personality predict higher levels of job readiness self-efficacy and more internalized work locus of control? It is expected that a more internalized locus of control and higher job readiness self- efficacy will be significantly predicted by higher levels of work personality. Second, do higher numbers of times being fired or asked to leave a job and length of employment relate to lower levels of work personality, job readiness self-efficacy, and a more externalized locus of control? It is expected that significant correlations will exist between the three instruments and the number of jobs and times fired. Finally, do individuals differ in their reported levels of work personality, job readiness self-efficacy, and work locus of control according to level of reported education, gender, ethnicity and whether or not an individual's parents/guardians worked while the individual was growing up? It is expected that numerous significant differences in the three measures will exist based on various demographic variables.

Method

Participants

Participants in this research consisted of 104 individuals who were receiving job placement services from a community-based job placement program funded by a state division of rehabilitation in a major urban area in the Southern U.S. All program enrollees, during the time of data collection, were given the opportunity to participate and 97% participated. The age range was 18 to 64 years, with a mean of 34.5 and gender diversity of the group included 58 females and 46 males. The group included 63 African Americans, 35 Caucasians, and 3 Native Americans (3 individuals did not indicate ethnic background). Educational level of participants was mixed with 10 having less than an 8th grade education, 17 having completed some high school, 49 with a GED or high school diploma, and 28 with educational training beyond high school. Most participants were single (91) and 12 reported being married (one participant did not indicate this information). All participants had a DSM-IV diagnosis which qualified them for state funded rehabilitation services. The diagnoses included mental retardation, mental illness, and substance dependence.

Instruments

Demographic form. Participants completed a demographic form. The form included: age, gender, ethnicity, highest educational level, living arrangements, marital status, number of jobs held, and number of times asked to leave a job.

Work Locus of Control Scale (WLCS). The participants completed the Work Locus of Control Scale (WLCS; Spector, 1988). The instrument consisted of 16 Likert scale items with response categories ranging from 0 (disagree very much) to 5 (agree very much). Some sample items include "Getting the job you want is mostly a matter of luck," and "People who perform their jobs well generally get rewarded for it" (Spector, 1988, p. 340). Spector reported reliability coefficient alphas ranging from .75 to .85 for the instrument. Validity has been demonstrated with the WLCS and organizational variables as well as other locus of control measures (Hoff-Macan, Trusty & Trimble, 1996; Spector, 1988).

Job Readiness Self-Efficacy Scale (JRSE). The Job Readiness Self-Efficacy Scale (JRSE) was developed for this study and the items addressed an individual's perceived confidence to engage in job readiness activities. The instrument consists of 20 items with Likert scales from 1 (not confident at all) to 5 (very confident). Examples of items include: "I am confident in my ability to get along with my supervisor" and "I am confident in my ability to keep a neat and clean appearance during the job search." A panel of experts insured that the items were consistent with job readiness self-efficacy theory and were related to job readiness. The reliability coefficient alpha for the scale is .88 for the 104 participants.

Work Personality Profile-Self-Report (WPP-SR). The Work Personality Profile-Self- Report (WPP-SR; Bolton, 1992) is designed to measure the individual's skill and ability to deal successfully with the work environment (Bolton & Roessler, 1986). The Likert-scale instrument has 58 items which form 11 subscales and 5 factor analytic scales (task orientation, social skills, work motivation, work conformance, and personal presentation). Items are scored from 1 (a problem area) to 4 (a definite strength; Bolton, 1992). Sample items include, "Learn new assignments quickly" and "Need virtually no direct supervision" (Bolton, 1992, p. 1). The WPP-SR has strong validity for measuring behaviors associated with an individual's ability and skill to successfully deal with the work environment (Bolton, 1992).

Procedures

State Division of Rehabilitation Services counselors referred participants to a community-based job readiness program where they received-training in job readiness and job placement activities. The program which is state funded is administered by individuals with specialized training in teaching job readiness areas. Each participant was given informed consent and voluntarily participated. Participation rate was 97%. No compensation was given for participation and individuals were free to withdraw at any time with no penalty. The demographic form was completed first and served as a measure of literacy. Clients who were observed to have had difficulty with the demographic form (i.e. nonverbal indicators of frustration) or reported reading problems were given the option of having the instruments read to them. The clients were each given the instruments in the same order.

Statistical analysis

Each of the research questions was analyzed following data collection. A multiple regression examined whether work personality predicted job readiness self-efficacy and work locus of control. A Pearson product-moment correlation focused on correlations between number of jobs held, number of times fired, length of unemployment, work personality, job readiness self-efficacy, and work locus of control. The final statistical analysis consisted of t-tests examining the differences in education, gender, and ethnicity in relation to work personality, job readiness self-efficacy, and work locus of control.

Results

The first research question was analyzed using a multiple regression. The five factor scales of the WPP-SR were significantly intercorrelated suggesting multicollinearity problems. Due to this intercorrelation, the five factor scales were combined into an overall score as suggested by Berry and Feldman (1985). A step-wise multiple regression indicated the WPP-SR was a significant predictor of both the WLCS F(1,103) = 17.58, p < .001) and the JRSE F(1, 103) = 15.04, p < .001). Based on the significant findings and areas of interest, the four WPP- SR subscales which were of theoretical interest and were directly tied to research questions (acceptance of work role, ability to profit from instruction and correction, work persistence, and work tolerance) were examined. A Bonferroni adjustment was made based on doing two regressions and resulted in an alpha of .025. Table 1 contains the step-wise multiple regression results with the four subscales as independent variables and WLCS as the dependent variable. Overall, the WLCS indicated that work personality was a significant predictor of locus of control. When the beta weights were examined to determine the unique contribution of the subscales, the work persistence subscale of the WPP-SR was a significant predictor of the WLCS. Table 2 contains the step-wise multiple regression results with the four subscales as independent variables and the JRSE as the dependent variable. Overall, work personality was a significant predictor of job readiness self-efficacy. Of the four WPP-SR subscales, results indicated that an ability to profit from instruction or correction was a significant predictor of job readiness self-efficacy.

The second research question was examined using a Pearson product-moment correlation. Table 3 contains correlations between the number of jobs held, number of days since last worked, number of times fired or asked to leave a job, the WPPSR, WLS, and JRSE. A significant correlation existed between the number of jobs held and number of times fired or asked to leave a job (r=-.24, p < .01). The number of jobs held was also correlated with work personality (r= .20, p .05). The WPP-SR was significantly correlated with both the JRSE (r=.32, p < .001) and the WLCS (r=-.35, p<.001). Lastly, the JRSE was significantly correlated with the WLCS (r=-.37, p<.001).

The third research question focused on differences between groups. Due to the number of t-tests, a Bonferroni adjustment was calculated and alpha was subsequently set at .003. Six t-tests examined gender, ethnicity, educational attainment, marital status, whether individuals received public assistance, and whether their parents/guardians worked while they were growing up with the WPP-SR, JRSE, and WLCS. Of these t-tests, two were significant. Significant differences were found between those who had at least a high school education with those who did not on work persistence (t = 3.47, p < .001). Those participants with a high school education reported higher levels of work persistence. Participants whose parents worked while they were growing up differed significantly from those whose parents did not work on the WLCS (t = 3.32, p < .002). Individuals whose parents worked while growing up reported a more internalized work locus of control.

Discussion and Counseling Implications

For the first research question our findings indicated that higher levels of work personality did predict more internalized locus of control and higher levels of job-readiness self-efficacy. The beta weights indicated that the work persistence subscale had a unique and significant amount of contribution suggesting individuals with more persistence had more internalized locus of control. Persistence was defined as individuals who were more likely to display the following behaviors: ability to stay on task without prompting, work steadily along the entire work period and work at routine jobs without resistance (BoRon & Roessler, 1986). This finding lends support to Hershenson's theory that a more developed work personality and a higher level of work competence are related to higher levels of task performance as measured by job readiness self-efficacy and locus of control. These findings lend some initial support that counseling interventions directed at increasing work persistence may be beneficial in assisting clients in developing a more internalized work locus of control, which, in turn may impact the individual's ability to engage in the work adjustment activities of task performance while simultaneously strengthening the domain of work personality. Work personality was also a significant predictor of job readiness self-efficacy. Self-efficacy in the area of job readiness is critical in that a person who believes he or she will be successful in job search behaviors is more likely to actually obtain employment. While the work persistence scale was related to locus of control, job readiness self-efficacy was related to another aspect of work personality which was the person's ability to benefit from instruction and correction. This ability to benefit from instruction included an individual's ability to make recommended changes and improve work behavior after correction (Bolton & Roessler, 1986). Thus, interventions directed toward job readiness self-efficacy and locus of control are not redundant and both are necessary.

The second research area focused on relationships between demographic variables and work personality, job readiness self-efficacy, and work locus of control. Not surprisingly, there was a significant correlation between the number of jobs a person held and how many times he or she had been fired or asked to leave. The number of jobs a person held was also correlated with the WPP-SR score. It could be hypothesized that individuals with more developed work personality have participated in the labor force longer, maintained employment, and potentially have had multiple employers which is consistent with current labor market trends. Thus, they have more experience (behavioral conditioning) in performing and demonstrating successful employment related behaviors. We plan to further operationalize these variables and investigate this relationship in future research. Subsequent research should address unique subscale contributions of the WPP-SR and the relationship between the individual's rationale for leaving employment and work personality.

Finally, we examined work personality, job readiness self-efficacy, and locus of control in relation to demographic variables. Individuals who had a minimum of a high school education had significantly higher levels of work persistence than those with less than high school education. We expected this finding because participating in the formal educational process involves persistence. The finding also lends theoretical support to the fact that school-related activities develop work competence as Hershenson suggests. Further, Hershenson suggests task performance and work role behavior are related to work personality and work competence. Thus, individuals who stay in school longer should have more work persistence that will build their task performance and work role behavior in turn enhancing their job success. Those who persist in school have good work habits and the ability to interact with peers and supervisors. The results also suggest a significant relationship between the parent's work histories and the child's perception of work as an adult. Specifically, participants who reported that their parents worked while growing up perceived themselves as having more control in their work activity. The results tie into Bandura's construct of observational learning and further implicates that parents' role in the vocational development of their children.

Limitations

The discussion of the results of this study is limited by the following considerations. First, the sample was made up of individuals who reported having a disability and were seeking services from vocational rehabilitation. Therefore, the sample is representative of a very specific type of population that will limit the generalizibility of the study's results. Additionally, the sample size was limited due to the number of people seeking services during a time frame in which no changes to service delivery occurred. A second limitation is that due to the non-experimental nature of the study the authors were unable to control for the types or amount of services that individuals received during the vocational rehabilitation process. Therefore, the relationships established in this study may be deceiving because of a treatment effect that may exist in some of the individuals. Finally, due to the non-experimental nature of this study the authors are unable to establish any type of causal conclusions concerning the relationship between work personality, self-efficacy, and locus of control.

Conclusions

Overall, this study attempted to examine the theoretical relationship between work personality and work competencies in Hershenson's theory of work adjustment. The results of the study indicate that a reciprocal relationship appears to exist between these two domains and that interventions directed at developing work competencies may have some effect on work personality. The study also found that individuals with more education reported higher levels of work persistence and individuals whose parents worked while growing up reported a more internalized work locus of control. From the results of this study, it would appear to be important that future research to examine the specific impact that work personality counseling interventions have on work locus of control and job readiness self-efficacy).
Table 1

R, R Square and Beta for the Step-wise Regression Equation Using
Select subscales of the WPP as Independent Variables and WLCS as the
Dependent Variable

Dependent R R Square Predictor Beta t

 WLCS .34 *** .12 Subscale 3 -.34 -4.14 ***

***Variables not in the Equation***

 Subscale 1 -.03 -.39
 Subscale 2 -.15 -1.25
 Subscale 4 -.20 -1.90

Note *** = p<.001

Subscale 1 = Acceptance of Work Role

Subscale 2 = Ability to profit from instruction or correction

Subscale 3 = Work persistence

Subscale 4 = Work tolerance
Table 2

R, R Square and Beta for the Step-wise Regression Equation Using
Select subscales of the WPP as the Independent Variable and JRSE as
the Dependent Variable

Dependent R R Square Predictor Beta t

JRSE .35 *** .12 Subscale 2 .35 4.22 ***

***Variables not in the Equation***

 Subscale 1 .00 .028
 Subscale 3 .00 .014
 Subscale 4 .08 .63

Note *** = p<.001

Subscale 1 = Acceptance of Work Role

Subscale 2 = Ability to profit from instruction or correction

Subscale 3 = Work persistence

Subscale 4 = Work tolerance
Table 3

Pearson-product moment correlations for the number of jobs held, number
of days since last worked, number of times fired or have been asked to
leave a job, Work Personality Profile score, Work Locus of Control, and
Job Readiness Self-Efficacy

 1 2 3 WP JRSE WLC

1 1.0
2 -.08 1.0
3 .24 ** -.12 1.0
WP .20 * .07 .07 1.0
JRSE .08 .03 .05 .32 *** 1.00
WLC -.26 .03 .05 -.35 *** -.37 *** 1.0

Note: * = p<.05, ** = p <.01, *** = p<.001

1 = Number of jobs held

2 = Number of days since last worked

3 = Number of times fired or asked to leave a job

WP = Work Personality Profile Scale

JRSE = Job Readiness Self-Efficacy Scale

WLC = Work Locus of Control Scale
Table 4

Effect of education on work persistence and work tolerance

Work Persistence

 Mean t p

 Less than High School 3.12 -3.47 .001
 High School or Greater 3.54

Work Tolerance
 Less than High School 3.18 -2.17 .03
 High School or Greater 3.45

Work Locus of Control Scale
 Parents Not Working 42.00 3.32 .002
 Parents Working 26.21


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David R. Strauser, Ph.D., CRC, Center of Rehabilitation and Employment Research, University of Memphis, 123 Patterson Hall, Memphis, TN 38152-6010. E-mail: dstrausr@memphis.edu
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Author:Keim, Jeanmarie
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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