Patterns of engagement: the relationship between efficacy beliefs and task engagement at the individual versus collective level

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Patterns of engagement: the relationship between efficacy beliefs and task engagement at the individual versus collective level
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  Patterns of engagement: the relationship between efficacybeliefs and task engagement at the individual versuscollective level María Vera 1 , Pascale M. Le Blanc 2 , Toon W. Taris 3 , Marisa Salanova 4 1 Universidad de Burgos 2 Human Performance Management Group, Eindhoven University of Technology 3 Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, Utrecht University 4 WoNT Research Team, Universitat Jaume ICorrespondence concerning this article shouldbe addressed to María Vera, Universidad deBurgos, Department of Psychology, C.P.,Burgos 09003, Spain. E-mail: mvera@uji.esThis study has been supported by grants fromthe Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation(#PSI2008-01376/PSIC) and from theUniversitat Jaume I & Bancaixa(#P11B2008-06).doi: 10.1111/jasp.12219 Abstract This study examines the relationship between efficacy beliefs and task engagementin and over time, at both the individual and collective levels. We conducted latentgrowth curve analyses using data from 372 university students (individual level)who were assigned to one of 79 e-work groups (collective level). The participantscarried out three collaborative tasks in a laboratory setting. Results reveal, at bothlevels,that the level of task engagement of participants and groups with high initiallevelsofefficacybeliefsremainedstable,whereastheleveloftaskengagementofpar-ticipants and groups with low initial levels of efficacy beliefs decreased significantly overtime.Moreover,therelationshipslinkingtheparallelconstructswerefunction-ally equivalent across levels. Theoretical and practical implications are discussedfrom the perspective of Bandura’s social cognitive theory.Pastresearchhasshownthatefficacybeliefsandworkengage-ment are strongly related (cf. Bakker, Albrecht, & Leiter,2011; Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Demerouti, & Schaufeli, 2007;Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Demerouti, & Schaufeli, 2009b).However, to date, the temporal dynamics of this relationhave remained relatively understudied. As Bandura (1997)pointed out, efficacy beliefs provide people with a self-motivating mechanism that mobilizes effort to direct behav-iortowardgoalsandtoincreasepersistenceovertime.Thus,itwould be interesting to examine the temporal dynamics of twofrequentlystudiedconstructsinoccupationalhealthpsy-chologyandtotestif efficacybeliefsactasatriggerof engage-ment over time .  To date, most longitudinal studies on therelationship between self-efficacy and engagement haveused a time lag of several weeks to several months betweenmeasurements. Recently, some empirical work has studiedtracking variation in work engagement from one day to thenext (Sonnentag, 2003; Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Demerouti,& Schaufeli, 2009a; Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Heuven,Demerouti, & Schaufeli, 2008).Temporal matters are important in social psychology since we know that over time, employees change strategiesfor performing key tasks at work, and the communicationpatterns within work groups change (McGrath & Tschan,2004). Studies on hour-to-hour fluctuations in work engagement—orefficacy—however,arestillscarce.Thus,thepresent study fills this void by exploring the relationshipbetween efficacy beliefs and task engagement over a 4 hourperiod. Moreover, we analyze this hour-to-hour fluctuationsnot only at the individual level but also at the collective levelinaspecialtypeof groupoftenusedintoday’sorganizations:virtual group. Self-efficacy According to the assumptions of the  social cognitive theory  ( SCT  ; Bandura, 1997), efficacy beliefs, defined as “beliefs inone’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments” (Bandura,1997,p.3),providepeoplewithaself-motivatingmechanismthat mobilizes effort to target behavior toward goals and toincrease persistence over time.Efficacy beliefs determine notonlytheamountofeffortinvestedinfacingobstacles,butalsotheamountoftimeandpersistenceintryingtoachievesome-thing. On the one hand, low levels of self-efficacy are associ-ated with early withdrawal, while high levels involve effortand perseverance. On the other hand, efficacy beliefs alsoaffect how we think and feel about ourselves. People who bs_bs_banner  Journal of Applied Social Psychology   2014, 44, pp. 133–144© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.  Journal of Applied Social Psychology   2014, 44, pp. 133–144  consider themselves inefficacious in coping with environ-mental demands exaggerate the magnitude of their deficien-cies and potential difficulties.These negative thoughts createstress and prevent available resources from being used. Con-versely,people who perceive themselves as efficacious tendedto focus their efforts on arising demands and strive to resolvethese adequately  (Bandura, 2001).In short,people with high levels of efficacy beliefs perceiveproblems as challenges, highly commit to the activities they carryout,investmuchtimeandeffortintheiractivities,think strategically to solve difficulties,recover easily from failure ordifficulty,feeltheyareincontrolof stressors,andfeeltheyareless vulnerable to stress and depression (Bandura, 2001).Thus, efficacy beliefs play a key role in the self-regulation of motivation as they determine goal setting, effort, persever-ance, and resilience to failures. This suggests that efficacy beliefs will also affect the level of engagement, as they affecttheenergyandpersistenceinthefaceof demandsandtheful-fillment of personal needs and job identification. Engagement Work engagement is“a positive, fulfilling, work-related stateof mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, andabsorption”(Schaufeli,Salanova,González-Romà,&Bakker,2002, p. 74).  Vigor   refers to high levels of energy and mentalresilience while working, the willingness to invest effort inone’s work,and persistence in the face of difficulties. Dedica-tion  is characterized by a sense of significance, enthusiasm,inspiration, pride, and challenge. Finally,  absorption  is char-acterized by being fully concentrated and happily engrossedin one’s work,whereby time passes quickly and one has diffi-culties with detaching oneself from work.Within the engagement literature, there are severalconceptualizations of the construct. According to Bakkeret al. (2011),a differentiation between trait engagement (i.e.,anaffectivecognitivestatethatisrelativelystableacrosstime)and state engagement (recommended to be measured daily,in order to look at daily changes in work engagement, sothat we can better capture the dynamic and temporal aspectsof engagement) must be made. Moreover, Schaufeli andSalanova (2011) went one step beyond and—in addition tothese two kinds of engagement, which both focus on work,albeitfromadifferenttimeperspective—conceptualizedtask engagement,which is focused on the specific task at hand.Somepreviousstudieshavetestedtherelationshipbetweenengagement and self-efficacy. For instance, in a study among353 Spanish and Belgian students, Salanova, Bresó, andSchaufeli (2005) showed that engagement acts like an injec-tion of motivated behavior which stems from high levels of self-efficacy, that is, efficacy beliefs were significantly andpositivelyrelatedtostudents’levelsof engagement.Similarly,Llorens,Schaufeli,Bakker,andSalanova(2007)reportedthatamong groups of university students working on a computertask,highlevelsofself-efficacyledtohighlevelsofenergyandpersistenceinthefaceofdemands(e.g.,vigor)andfulfillmentof personal needs and job identification (e.g., dedication)over time.In a longitudinal study among Spanish secondary schoolteachers, Lorente, Salanova, Martínez, and Schaufeli (2008)found that self-efficacy significantly predicted work engage-ment over time. Likewise, Simbula, Guglielmi, and Schaufeli(2011) found, also among teachers, that self-efficacy hadboth a short (i.e., 4 months) and longer term (i.e., 8months) lagged effect on work engagement. Along the samelines, Xanthopoulou et al. (2007, 2009b) reported that employees with high self-efficacy were also highly engagedboth cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Their longitudinalstudy (Xanthopoulou et al., 2009b) further indicated thatself-efficacy, organization-based self-esteem, and optimismall explain a unique proportion of the variance in work engagement over time when controlling for job resources.Inhis meta-analysis, Halbesleben (2010) stressed the impor-tance of work engagement for organizations by showingthat engagement related positively to organizational out-comes such as worker commitment, performance, andhealth, and related negatively to outcomes such as turnoverintention. Moreover, compared to other job and personalresources, self-efficacy had the strongest relationships withwork engagement. Thus, apparently self-efficacy is a key antecedent of work engagement.Finally, and regarding task engagement, Spaulding (1995)found,in an academic setting,that self-efficacy had a signifi-cant effect on task engagement. As this author explained,whenindividuals’levelsofself-efficacyarehigh,theysetmorechallenging task-related goals for themselves, they feel betterwhile working toward those goals, and they persist longer intheir efforts to meet those goals. In the same line, Locke,Frederick,Lee,andBobko(1984)foundthatonlyindividualswith high level of perceived self-efficacy for a specific task accepted and committed themselves to self-set performancegoals for that task.The present study specifically explores the longitudinalrelationship of efficacy beliefs with task engagement within avery short time frame (i.e.,4 hours).The aim is to determinetheeffectofspecificefficacybeliefsregardingtheperformanceof creative tasks on task engagement, rather than on generalwork engagement, in a longitudinal 4 hour process. Further-more,weexpectfluctuationsintaskengagementateachofthethree measurement times, since participants performed dif-ferent types of tasks and both self-efficacy and engagementweremeasuredvis-à-viseachofthesespecifictasksratherthanin general. Thus, the first objective of the present study is toinvestigatewhetherinitiallevelsof efficacybeliefsrelateto(a)initial levels of task engagement and (b) the development of taskengagementovertime.Wehypothesizethat: 134  Efficacy beliefs and task engagement © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.  Journal of Applied Social Psychology   2014, 44, pp. 133–144  Hypothesis 1a.  High initial levels of self-efficacy arepositively related to initial levels of task engagement. Hypothesis 2a.  High initial levels of self-efficacy arerelated to an increase in task engagement over time. One step beyond: the collective level One of the hallmarks of the changing nature of work isthe increasing shift to teams as the organizing unit(DeShon, Kozlowski, Schmidt, Milner, & Wiechmann,2004). Although organizations are made up of individualemployees, currently they often collaborate in the context of a work team, some of which are virtual. As the srcins of group-level constructs lie in individual cognitions andbehaviors, they will emerge as group members workingtogether in an interactive task context (cf. DeShon et al.,2004). Group members develop shared perceptions of key regulatory constructs that refer to the collective level, andthese constructs are linked by theoretical processes that aresimilar to the processes operating at the individual level.Thus, in order to understand the links between efficacy beliefs and engagement, we must consider these relations atboth the individual and collective levels.Moreover, the necessity to overcome space and time con-straints that burden face-to-face meetings has created new opportunities and challenges for organizations to build andmanagevirtualteams.Inthisline,onemajorchangeobservedin today’s organizations is the implementation of informa-tion and communication technologies,which has triggered anew way of working, electronic work groups or e-groups(Salanova, Llorens, Cifre, Martínez, & Schaufeli, 2003),and their use is expanding exponentially (Kirkman, Rosen,Gibson, Tesluk, & McPherson, 2002). Therefore, our secondandthirdhypothesesaretestedamongindividualsworkingine-groups.As regards efficacy beliefs (i.e., self-efficacy and perceivedcollective efficacy),the  SCT   extended the concept of individ-ual causality of agency to collective agency through a feelingof shared efficacy (Bandura, 1997). Perceived collective effi-cacyisdefinedasgroupmembers’sharedbeliefsintheirjointcapacities to organize and execute the courses of actionrequired to produce certain levels of attainment (Bandura,1997). Bandura (1999) stressed that perceived collective effi-cacyisnotsimplythesumof theefficacybeliefsof individualmembers.Rather,it is an emergent group-level property.It is important to point out that, although research hasdemonstrated that individual efficacy beliefs and collectiveefficacy beliefs can be related (Fernandez-Ballesteros, Diez-Nicolas, Caprara, Barbaranelli, & Bandura, 2002; Parker,1994), an individual’s beliefs in each of the forms of efficacy maydiffer.Thismeansthatwhereasanindividualmightcon-sider him/herself to be efficacious with regard to a specifictask, he/she might consider the (work) group as a whole notto be so.Salanova, Agut, and Peiró (2005) showed work engage-ment to be a motivational construct that is also shared by employees in the workplace. According to these authors,people working in the same group have more opportunitiestointeractwitheachotherand,therefore,havemorepossibil-itiestobecomeinvolvedinbothnegativeandpositivepsycho-logical contagion processes (Bakker, Van Emmerik, &Euwema, 2006). Moreover, Pugh and Dietz (2008) provided several reasons for conceptualizing and studying employeeengagement at the group and organizational levels. Forexample, they argue that if some of the possible antecedentsand consequences of the engagement construct are at theteam level of analysis, it is appropriate to conceptualize thisconstruct at the corresponding level of analysis. Focusing one-groups,Salanova et al. (2003) used and validated collectivemeasuresof bothconstructs:efficacybeliefsandengagement.Taking into account that a growing body of research sug-gests that collective efficacy does for teams what self-efficacy does for individuals (Tasa, Taggar, & Seijts, 2007), weexpected the same processes to operate on the collective levelamong e-groups,as on the individual level.We expect that: Hypothesis 1b.  High initial levels of collective efficacy beliefsarepositivelyrelatedtoinitiallevelsof collectiveengagement among e-groups. Hypothesis 2b.  High initial levels of collective efficacy beliefs are related to an increase in collective engage-ment over time among e-groups.Moreover, the composition processes describe the conver-gence of similar lower level characteristics to yield a higherlevel property that is essentially the same as its constituentelements, and which is the basis for homologous multilevelmodels. These models specify that constructs and the pro-cesses linking them can be generalized across levels. Forexample, the relation between efficacy beliefs and task engagementshouldholdatboththeindividualandcollectivelevels (cf. Kozlowski & Klein, 2000). As we assume that therelations between efficacy beliefs and task engagement at theindividual and collective levels are based on similar theoreti-cal processes,we expect: Hypothesis 3.  The theoretical processes linking efficacy beliefs and task engagement are functionally equiva-lent at the individual and collective levels. Method Participants and procedure A three-wave study was conducted in a laboratory settingamong 372 Spanish participants enrolled in university  Vera et al.  135 © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.  Journal of Applied Social Psychology   2014, 44, pp. 133–144  studies(83%female).Studyparticipationwasvoluntary.Par-ticipants were randomly assigned to one of 79 e-groups (i.e.,electronic work groups) of four or five members each. Thee-groups carried out three tasks in a laboratory setting withan intranet connection and five work stations on which theMoodle online collaboration software system (Dougiamas,2007) was installed.The Moodle system allowed participantsto communicate online synchronously with the othermembers of their work groups and provided a forum wherethey could upload and download all the materials they required to perform the three tasks. e-Group members wereseated in separate offices. During the tasks, they could only communicate with each other by means of a computer: Any direct or personal contact was avoided. All participantsreceived the same information about the study. Before thefirst session,the first author trained the participants in usingMoodle.All participants were informed that their e-groupsbelonged to the sociocultural task force of their university.The main objective of this service was to develop andpromote a project about sociocultural activities.The group’smission was threefold. First, the group had to develop theofficial program for the so-called cultural events week at theuniversity(Task1).Second,theyhadtodevelopthetimetablefor this particular week (Task 2). Finally, they had to designthepostersthatwouldbeusedtopromotetheculturaleventsweek (Task 3).Thus, the e-groups carried out three creative andinnovative tasks. Moreover, according to Quinn’s (2005)classification—making a distinction between intellectual,physical, and social tasks—participants performed mostly intellectual tasks. More specifically, in Task 1, participantsfirst worked individually, developing their own ideas aboutfive possible activities to be performed in the cultural week,that is, they had to think on their own about five activities.They would then work as an e-group by pooling all the activ-ities and choosing the ten activities considered the mostappropriate for the cultural week.So,they had to agree aboutwhich ten activities were the better ones. In this task, they were informed that originality and feasibility would bevalued.InTask2,participantshadtoschedulethesetenactiv-ities on a weekly timetable that ran from Tuesday to Friday,taking into account what day and what time would be mostfavorable for the proposed activities. Finally, in Task 3, thee-group had to design the poster for the cultural week. Thisposter would be used to promote the cultural week, andwould be posted at the university and in certain areas of thecity. In this task, the srcinality of the poster design wasvalued.Theyhadtodecideontheformatandtheinformationof the poster announcing the sociocultural week. All threetasks were done in 4 hours, at the same time of the day, withshortbreaksin-betweenthetasks.Asthenatureof breakshasbeenshowntohaveeffectsonbehaviorsandemotions(Fritz,Lam,&Spreitzer,2011),itcouldbepossiblethatthenatureof breakscouldhaveaneffectonengagement.Thus,itisimpor-tant to note that during both breaks, the study participantshad to stay in a room where one of the researchers was alsopresent. So, we can assume that there are no contextualaspectsaffectingonlysomeoftheparticipantsandnotothers.Therefore, the nature and duration of the breaks were keptconstant (and controlled) for all groups.According to Loehrand Schwartz’s (2003) categorization, students mainly usedphysical strategies during these breaks in order to fulfill basicphysiologicalneedssuchasdrinkingwater,goingtothebath-room,or smoking.Although all three tasks performed in this study requiredcreativity,they were three separate tasks with different objec-tives and different rules for evaluation. The study variableswere measured on three occasions,namely immediately aftercompletion of each task. Students were asked to think aboutthe specific task they had just finished when completing thequestionnaires about efficacy beliefs and task engagement.Finally, note that this cultural week actually takes place each year at the participants’ university and that students oftenparticipate in its organization. So, the study tasks wereentirely plausible for them. Instruments Self-efficacy   was measured with five self-constructed items.AccordingtoBandura(2006),theuseof generalandnonspe-cific self-efficacy scales makes little sense, and he argued thatitisfutiletomeasureself-efficacywithageneralscalebecauseitems based on the general efficacy approach are largely irrel-evant for the domain under study. Therefore, followingBandura’s guidelines for constructing self-efficacy scales, weconstructed a domain-specific scale for our study. First, wefocused on behavioral factors, that is, the activity domainover which people can exercise some control, to specifically measure self-efficacy to perform creative and innovativetasks.Sinceineachsessionparticipantsperformedadifferentcreative task, we created a specific scale that was still generalenoughtobeusedinallthreesessions.Fiveitemswereformu-lated, all starting with “I am confident that I can . . . ,”followed by (1)  organize and plan several activities together with my work group ; (2)  distribute the time properly  ; (3)  thinkand propose creative ideas ; (4)  find srcinal solutions to prob-lems ;and (5)  propose viable and realistic solutions . Perceived collective efficacy   to perform creative and innova-tive tasks was measured with the same five self-constructeditems that were created for measuring specific creative andinnovative self-efficacy, but in this case the reference was thegroup and the items began with the stem: “My groupcan. . . . ”FollowingBandura’srecommendation,theitemsof both scales were scored using an 11-point Likert format (0  = not at all confident  , 10  =  totally confident  ). Previous studies 136  Efficacy beliefs and task engagement © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.  Journal of Applied Social Psychology   2014, 44, pp. 133–144  (Bandura, 2006) have demonstrated that this procedureresults in reliable and valid scales to measure self-efficacy. Taskengagement  wasmeasuredwithavalidatedadaptation(Salanovaet al.,2003)of theUtrechtWorkEngagementScale(Salanova, Schaufeli, Llorens, Peiró, & Grau, 2000; Schaufeli,Salanova, González-Romà, & Bakker, 2002) where the itemswere reworded to refer to (specific) task engagement insteadof (general) work engagement.Vigor was measured by sevenitems(e.g., Duringthetask,Ifeltfullofenergy  ),dedicationwasmeasured by five items (e.g.,  I was involved in the task ), andabsorption was measured with seven items (e.g.,  Time flew when I was working on the task ).  Collective engagement   wasmeasuredinasimilarwayastaskengagement,butreferredtothegroup’slevelofengagement.Vigorwasmeasuredbysevenitems (e.g.,  The group has been strong and vigorous during thetask ), dedication was measured by five items (e.g.,  The groupwas enthusiastic about the group task ), and absorption wasmeasuredwithsevenitems(e.g., Thegroupfounditdifficulttodisconnect from the task ).All scales were scored using 7-pointLikert scales (0  =  never  , 6  =  always ). For both the individualand the collective measures, the scores for the 19 items wereaveraged for each time point, yielding single scores forengagement. Data analyses This is a multilevel study as individual observations werenested within teams (the collective level). For the analysesconcerning the associations among collective efficacy andcollective engagement, individual-level data were used toestablish the team-level construct. Following Chan’s (1998)typology of composition models, we used the referent-shift consensus model. So, we conceptually defined andoperationalized the constructs at the lower level (i.e., self-efficacy and task engagement) and then we shifted the refer-ent (i.e., changed “I” for “we”). Moreover, both constructswere aggregated to higher level constructs based on within-group consensus. In order to verify if the group members inour sample agreed to a great extent on the variables understudy (i.e., to verify the consensus among them), we com-puted several within-group consensus indicators: the  r  wg(J) index of within-group agreement (James, Demaree, & Wolf,1984) and the intra-class correlation coefficient ICC(1)(Bliese, 2000). The  r  wg(J)  values for our measure of collectiveefficacy beliefs were high at Time 1 with an average value of .82.Withregardtocollectivetaskengagement,the r  wg(J) valueswere also high at all three times, with an average value of .87forTime1,.85forTime2,and.82forTime3,indicatingsub-stantial agreement among team members at all three occa-sions. The ICC(1) of collective efficacy beliefs at Time 1 was.09, F  (78,293)  =  1.46,  p  <  .05,whereas the ICC(1) for collec-tive task engagement was .25,  F  (78, 293)  =  2.53,  p  <  .001, atTime 1; .25,  F  (78, 293)  =  2.54,  p  <  .001, at Time 2; and .20, F  (78, 293)  =  3.11,  p  <  .001, at Time 3.As group membershipexplained a significant part of the variance in the responsesonthecollective-levelmeasures(Bliese,2000),aggregationof the respective individual responses to the collective level waswarranted.Preliminary repeated measures analysis of covariance withindividual-levelself-efficacyasacovariate,thethreemeasuresof individual-level engagement as a within-participantsfactor, and team membership as a random factor did notreveal significant main or interaction effects involving teammembership. Thus, the multilevel structure for this part of the data could be ignored, meaning that single-levelapproaches were appropriate for analyzing the data. To testthe study hypotheses, we used an extension of McArdle’s(1998) level and shape (LS) model (which is also oftenreferred to as growth curve modeling or latent change analy-sis) to test whether the development of task engagement overtimevariedintermsoftheinitiallevelsofefficacybeliefs.Thisapproach focuses on the development of task engagementduring the study and relates this development to the levelof efficacy beliefs as measured when it started. Regardingtask engagement, the LS model distinguishes between alevel factor (representing the individual-level scores on task engagement at the beginning of the study) and a shape factor(representing the rate of change in task engagement duringthe study). The means of these factors are interpreted as theindividual-level true scores at the start of the study (for thelevel factor) and the rate of change during the study (forthe shape factor: e.g., a negative value for this factor wouldindicate a decline in task engagement during the study period;Raykov & Marcoulides, 2006).Furthermore,the levelandshapefactorswereallowedtocorrelatetoaccountforthefact that the rate of change in task engagement could be con-tingent upon initial status. Finally, both the level and shapefactors were related to efficacy beliefs, as measured at thebeginning of the study. These effects correspond with ourhypothesesthathighlevelsof efficacybeliefswouldpositively relate to initial levels of task engagement (Hypotheses 1a and1b) and to an increase in engagement during the study inter-val (Hypotheses 2a and 2b). These hypotheses were tested atboththeindividual( n  =  372)andthecollective( n  =  79)level,that is,separate analyses were conducted for each level.Finally,we performed an additional two-group analysis toexamine whether the corresponding individual-level andcollective-level structural effects could be constrained to beequal.If thiswerethecase,itwouldsuggestthattheprocessesconnecting efficacy beliefs and engagement at the individualversus the collective level would be basically the same at bothlevels (Hypothesis 3).All the models were estimated using the LISREL 8.30program(Jöreskog&Sörbom,1999).Modelfitwasevaluatedby inspecting the chi-square test, the nonnormed fit index (NNFI), the root mean square residual (RMSEA), and the Vera et al.  137 © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.  Journal of Applied Social Psychology   2014, 44, pp. 133–144
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