Intensive Study Says Self-Confidence in Ability Key to Better Career

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2009-10-09

A decades long study by psychologist Tim Judge has shown that those who believe they are in more control of their own career paths and are confident in their abilities outperform by many times those who see themselves as victims.

The news on this study is tough medicine for many who have lost their jobs in this economy through no fault of their own, but it highlights some of the more psychological factors at play in the workplace--recession or not.

It also puts in context how those who are high 'core self evaluators' (as dubbed by Judge) will bounce back from something out of their hands more easily than others because of how they view themselves. Not only are workers who fit the confidence mold more likely to enjoy their work, they also perform at high levels in most conditions and make more money. In fact, the worse the condition, the better they perform.

Here are some of the findings as described by BusinessWeek's Nick Tasler:

In one study, Judge and his team tracked the progress of more than 12,000 people from their teenage years to middle age. He found that core self-evaluations predicted who did and didn't capitalize on the advantages life dealt them. With only a bleak view of their capacity to handle life's challenges and opportunities, even the brightest kids born to executives and engineers failed to reach as high an annual income as their less fortunate classmates.

By contrast, the supremely confident sons and daughters of roofers and plumbers who had only mediocre SAT scores and below average grades earned a 30%-60% higher income than the smart kids with dreary views of their abilities. And those kids with all the advantages of intelligence and pedigree plus a firm belief in their competence earned three times as much money as their otherwise equally blessed peers.

The findings show that even when things get very tough, the workers with true confidence in abilities takes over and these type of employees perform at their highest levels, while those who think they can perform highly, but actually are 'narcissistic', fail.

Tasler goes on to say the following about narcissists:

"Here is an important difference between having a high self-evaluation and being a narcissist. Does the employee pitch in when teammates need help, or bad-mouth co-workers they view as threats? Are they receptive or defensive when you give them feedback?

Here is an abstract on Judge's research.

Rocket Fuel