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Occupational self-efficacy, organizational commitment, and work engagement.

In social cognitive theory individuals are viewed as self-organizing, proactive, self-reflective, and self-regulative (Bandura, 1999), and their perception of reality and their behavior are affected by the degree to which they perceive that they have control and influence over their lives (Federici & Skaalvik, 2011). Bandura (1977) defined self-efficacy as individuals' belief in their ability to produce certain outcomes through their behavior and actions. Applying this definition to an occupational context, Rigotti, Schyns, and Mohr (2008) explained that occupational self-efficacy refers to "the competence that a person feels concerning the ability to successfully fulfill the tasks involved in his or her job" (p. 239). Previous researchers have shown that as workers in various occupations with high (vs. low) self-efficacy exert more effort and persistence, and set more challenging goals, high self-efficacy is associated with a positive motivational state toward work, such as work engagement (Chaudhary, Rangnekar, & Barua, 2012; Guarnaccia, Scrima, Civilleri, & Salerno, 2018).

Schaufeli, Salanova, Gonzalez-Roma, and Bakker (2002) conceptualized work engagement as a motivational construct defined as "a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption" (p. 74). As individuals with high occupational self-efficacy are intrinsically motivated to pursue their goals, and believe that they are capable of meeting job demands, this triggers a high level of engagement in their work (Luthans & Youssef, 2007). Previous researchers (e.g., Hirschi, 2002) have reported a strong relationship between self-efficacy and work engagement, such that individuals with high (vs. low) self-efficacy are more likely to engage in their occupation. It is suggested in personal resource theory that personal resources, such as self-efficacy, are the most important determinants of work engagement (Bakker, Schaufeli, Leiter, & Taris, 2008; Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Demerouti, & Schaufeli, 2009).

To address the lack of a theoretical framework to clarify the psychological mechanism of how and why positive occupational self-efficacy is associated with high work engagement, in this study we focused on organizational commitment, a concept with roots in commitment theory that is used to describe how an individual comes to adopt a course of action or connect to an entity (Meyer & Herscovitch, 2001). Meyer and Allen (1997) defined organizational commitment as "a psychological state that characterizes the employee's relationship with the organization and has implications for the decision to continue membership in the organization" (p. 11). Organizational commitment is indicative of the employee's attitude toward the organization: The stronger the commitment, the more willing the employee will be to remain with the organization, work harder, and perform above and beyond work expectations. As many researchers have demonstrated the positive relationship between organizational commitment and work engagement (e.g., Zhang, Ling, Zhang, & Xie, 2015), we proposed that individuals with extremely low organizational commitment would expend little energy at work, resulting in low work engagement.

Self-efficacy can affect individuals' thinking, feeling, and actions; it influences the length of time and the amount of energy and effort that they invest in a task (Bandura, 1999). In general, individuals with high self-efficacy tend to exhibit greater self-esteem and confidence in their abilities, continue to make an effort to achieve goals when they encounter setbacks, are less likely to be affected by the adverse effects of stress, and remain committed to their work (Lane, Lane, & Kyprianou, 2004; Schwarzer & Hallum, 2008). Peng and Mao (2015) reported that higher self-efficacy is associated with the attainment of positive outcomes through persistence. This generates higher intrinsic work satisfaction and greater work commitment (Srivastava, 2013). Researchers have confirmed that self-efficacy is associated with organizational commitment, and that it predicts organizational commitment in employees (e.g. Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, & Topolnytsky, 2002). Employees demonstrate strong commitment to their organization if they believe that they can be skillful in their tasks (Park & Jung, 2015).

Previous researchers have provided evidence of the relationships between occupational self-efficacy and work engagement, occupational self-efficacy and organizational commitment, and organizational commitment and work engagement. However, as these trilateral relationships require further investigation, we addressed this gap in the literature by developing a partial mediation model and testing the mediating role of organizational commitment in the relationship between occupational self-efficacy and work engagement.


Participants and Procedure

Participants comprised part-time Master of Business Administration students at three universities in China. The survey was administered to them by faculty members at each university, generating 328 valid responses (143 men = 43.60% and 185 women = 56.40%). Their mean age was 33.5 years (SD = 4.26), and mean tenure in the organization was 7.4 years (SD = 5.73). Their anonymity was guaranteed.


We selected measurement scales for occupational self-efficacy, organizational commitment, and work engagement from relevant literature, and used a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree to measure all items. The scales were translated into Chinese by a qualified translator, after which seven experts evaluated the equivalence and clarity of the translation. We conducted a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) with AMOS 22.0 to examine the measures' reliability, convergent validity, and discriminant validity.

Occupational self-efficacy. We assessed occupational self-efficacy with Rigotti et al.'s (2008) six-item Occupational Self-Efficacy Scale. A sample item is "I can remain calm when facing difficulties in my job because I can rely on my abilities." Cronbach's alpha coefficient for the scale was .87.

The CFA results showed satisfactory fit indices at each wave: chi square ([chi square])/degrees of freedom (df) ratio = 2.27, standardized root mean square residual (SRMR) = .064, root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) = .077, goodness-of-fit index (GFI) = .90, comparative fit index (CFI) = .95.

Organizational commitment. We measured organizational commitment using Allen and Meyer's (1990) 18-item Organizational Commitment Scale, developed from their 24-item scale and comprising three subscales: affective, continuance, and normative commitment. Sample items are "I would be very happy to spend the rest of my career with this organization" (affective), "It would be very hard for me to leave my organization right now, even if I wanted to" (continuance), and "I would feel guilty if I left my organization now" (normative). Cronbach's alpha coefficients for the whole scale and for the three subscales were .85, .80, .77, and .83, respectively.

We conducted a first-order CFA followed by a second-order CFA. The first-order CFA results for the one-factor model provided a poor fit to the data: [chi square]/df = 37.69, SRMR = .207, RMSEA = .284, GFI = .65, CFI = .81. In contrast, the first-order CFA results for the three-factor model provided a satisfactory fit to the data: [chi square]/df = 2.35, SRMR = .062, RMSEA = .068, GFI = .90, CFI = .97. The three factors measured with 18 items were validated for the second-order model of organizational commitment, with the fit indices suggesting a good fit to the data: [chi square]/df = 2.41, SRMR = .051, RMSEA = .044, GFI = .89, CFI = .98. In subsequent analyses, we combined items into parcels (Bandalos, 2002).

Work engagement. We measured work engagement using Schaufeli, Bakker, and Salanova's (2006) nine-item short version (UWES-9) of Schaufeli and Bakker's (2003) 17-item Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES). A sample item is "I am enthusiastic about my job." Cronbach's alpha coefficient for the scale was .88. CFA results indicated that the scale fit was satisfactory at each wave: [chi square]/df = 2.87, SRMR = .056, RMSEA = .073, GFI = .93, CFI = .97.

Composite reliability values ranged from .72 to .85, exceeding the threshold value of .60. Average variance extracted values ranged from .53 to .75, exceeding the recommended value of .50, and the square root of the average variance extracted for each construct was greater than the correlations between constructs. All factor loadings of items exceeded the required acceptable level of .70. These results indicate that the measures had adequate reliability, convergent validity, and discriminant validity.


Structural Model

The overall fit measures (see Table 1) showed that the fit of the hypothesized mediation model was reasonable. Occupational self-efficacy had a significant positive effect on work engagement ([beta] = .31, p < .01), organizational commitment had a significant positive effect on work engagement ([beta] = .37, p < .01), and occupational self-efficacy had a significant positive effect on organizational commitment ([beta] = .40, p < .01).

Mediating Effect of Organizational Commitment

To examine the mediating effect of organizational commitment in the relationship between occupational self-efficacy and work engagement, we estimated a series of nested models, including a full mediation model and a nonmediation model (see Figure 1). The full mediation model involved a direct path from occupational self-efficacy to organizational commitment, and from organizational commitment to work engagement. The nonmediation model involved a direct path from occupational self-efficacy to work engagement, and from occupational self-efficacy to organizational commitment. We used [chi square] difference tests to examine the difference between the models.

As can be seen in Table 1, the nonmediation model provided a poor fit to the data and the [chi square] difference test between the nonmediation and partial mediation models was significant. The full mediation model fit the data well with only the GFI not quite meeting the criterion of .90, and the difference test between the full mediation and partial mediation models was also significant. Moreover, the path coefficient between occupational self-efficacy and work engagement in the partial mediation model was smaller than that in the nonmediation model. The magnitude of the indirect effect was also significant, .40 x .37 = .15 (95% confidence interval [0.05, 0.27]), which accounted for .15 / (.15 + .31) = 32.61% of all the effects. These results reveal that organizational commitment partially mediated the association between occupational self-efficacy and work engagement.


We examined the role of organizational commitment as a mediator in the relationship between occupational self-efficacy and work engagement, with Chinese part-time Master of Business Administration students as participants. Our results showed that organizational commitment was positively linked with occupational self-efficacy and work engagement, and that organizational commitment partially mediated the effect of occupational self-efficacy on work engagement. These results are in line with the theoretical suggestion that self-efficacy enhances employees' work-related attitudes, such as job satisfaction (Judge & Bono, 2001), thereby increasing their commitment to the organization (McDonald & Siegall, 1992), and leading them to be more engaged in their work (van Gelderen & Bik, 2016). Our results are also in line with those of Buric and Macuka (2018), who demonstrated a positive relationship between self-efficacy and employee work engagement. In addition, we have provided evidence for the motivational effect of personal resources in determining employee work engagement. Finally, our results replicate Meyer et al.'s (2002) findings that there is a positive relationship between self-efficacy and organizational commitment.

Organizational commitment, in addition to mediating the impact of occupational self-efficacy on work engagement, had a substantial direct effect on work engagement. This result is in line with Del Libano, Llorens, Salanova, and Schaufeli's (2012) proposal that work engagement is a proximal outcome of self-efficacy, namely, employees with strong, versus weak, efficacy beliefs in their task performance exhibit greater effort, persistence, and help-seeking tendencies, and are more thoughtful and reflective in their work. This result also supports the theoretical assumption that self-efficacy is an important factor in predicting employee engagement (Dagher, Chapa, & Junaid, 2015). In addition, our results suggest that occupational self-efficacy is likely to affect employee work engagement through other mechanisms, such as organizational trust. According to commitment--trust theory (Morgan & Hunt, 1994), trust and commitment are critical factors in the fostering of successful relationships: As trust increases, commitment also increases. Wu, Wang, Liu, Hu, and Hwang (2012) also pointed out that self-efficacy is correlated with trust. Thus, we believe that employees with higher occupational self-efficacy tend to have higher levels of trust in their organization and, therefore, show more favorable work-related behavior.

Our results also have practical implications for organizations. The improvement of employee work engagement requires a self-efficacy belief that promotes organizational commitment and, in turn, increases the level of work engagement. Organizations should thus consider developing a training program with a focus on developing employees' self-efficacy belief in work settings to enhance their commitment to their organization, and to contribute to the development of work engagement.

There are some limitations in this study. First, the cross-sectional design precludes interpretation of the causal relationships. Longitudinal studies are needed for a more decisive identification of the cause--effect relationships. Second, although we focused on the mediating effect of organizational commitment, other variables may mediate the relationship between occupational self-efficacy and work engagement. Future researchers should look at other psychological variables, such as organizational trust and organizational identification, which also represent psychological attachment to an organization. Third, as we collected data from a single source, this may have resulted in common source bias. Future researchers can use Harman's single factor test (Podsakoff & Todor, 1985) to assess this bias.


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Erli Liu (1), Jiatao Huang (2)

(1) School of Management, Guangxi University for Nationalities, People's Republic of China

(2) School of Management, Guangdong University of Technology, People's Republic of China

How to cite: Liu, E., & Huang, J. (2019). Occupational self-efficacy, organizational commitment, and work engagement. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 47(8), e8046

CORRESPONDENCE Erli Liu, School of Management, Guangxi University for Nationalities, 188 East University Road, Nanning, Guangxi 530006, People's Republic of China. Email:
Table 1. Summary of Fit Indices

Model                    [DELTA][chi square]([DELTA]df)  SRMR  RMSEA

Partial mediation model                                  .043  .077
Nonmediation model               11.25 (1) (**)          .065  .084
Full mediation model              5.73 (1) (*)           .067  .080

Model                    GFI  CFI

Partial mediation model  .91  .98
Nonmediation model       .85  .90
Full mediation model     .89  .95

Note. [chi square] = chi square, df = degrees of freedom, SRMR =
standardized root mean square residual, RMSEA = root mean square error
of approximation, GFI = goodness-of-fit index, CFI = comparative fit
(*) p < .05, (**) p < .01.
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Author:Liu, Erli; Huang, Jiatao
Publication:Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Aug 1, 2019
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