Previous research into the effect of efficacy on job stress has typically suggested that workers with high efficacy (confidence in their abilities) exhibit a high level of control and a reduction of stress within their work. However, most research has focused on individuals from Western Nations. Research has ignored the possible difference of efficacy between Western and Eastern individuals. The purpose of the present study by Schaucroeck, Lam, and Xie in 2000 was to examine the role of cultural differences in how individuals use efficacy to respond to increased job demands. Their hypotheses for the study stated that; “Job self-efficacy, job control, and job demands interact in predicting health symptoms in an individualistic culture, with no three-way interaction between these variables in a collectivist culture (Hypothesis 1)”; “Perceived job demands, job control, and collective efficacy (group efficacy) interact in predicting health symptoms in a collectivistic culture with no three-way interaction between these variables predicting health symptoms in an individualistic culture (Hypothesis 2)”; “The predicted interaction between perceived job demands, job control, and job self-efficacy (see Hypothesis 1) is significantly related to psychological symptoms among more Idiocentric persons and not among more allocentric persons, both across and within cultural contexts (Hypothesis 3) ” and “The predicted interaction between perceived job demands, job control, and collective efficacy (see Hypothesis 2) is significantly related to psychological symptoms among more allocentric persons and not among more idiocentric persons, both across and within cultural contexts (Hypothesis 4).”
The study sample included workers of a multinational bank in the United States and Hong Kong, representing individualistic and collectivistic cultures respectively. Ages were found to be from 20 to 36 years old with a mean age of 24.8. Participants were also 89% female, with 96% being high school graduates and 8% with an undergraduate degree. Questionnaires were sent to candidates within both firms including; a letter of introduction, a letter of endorsement from the senior manager, a confirmation of confidentiality and a pre-addressed, stamped envelop so the participants could respond. This was sent to 275 Hong Kong participants in which 75% returned and 281 American participants in which 81% returned. Following previous research idiocentrism and allocentrism were used to measure individual cultural values as it has been noticed that people maintain self-efficacy in ways that are “intertwined with their relationships and standing with the social groups to which they belong (Traindis, McMusker and, Hui, 1990). Perceived job demands within the sample where measured by a job complexity instrument which consisted of a 17 item scale including demands such as complexity, conflict and work pace (Caplan, Cobb, French, Harrison & Pinneau’s, 1975). The Personal Efficacy Beliefs Scale (Riggs, Warka, Badasa, Betancourt and Hooker, 1994) was used to measure self-efficacy within the sample and two separate 8-item scales (Triandis and Gelfand, 1997), were used to measure idiocentrism and allocentrism. Absenteeism was also monitored as it can be related to poor coping and elevated job stress. Participants were ruled out if absent for longer than 1 week as a long-term absence may reflect other problems not related to job stress.
The results of the study showed that the Hong Kong means were significantly higher than the American means of collective efficacy and allocentrism. The participants from the United States also scored higher on self-efficacy, along with idiocentrism. The results of the three-way interaction between individual self-efficacy, job demands, and job control were significant for anxiety ( depression (, and turnover intention in the American sample. Supporting Hypothesis 1 as job self-efficacy, job control and job demands interacted in predicting health symptoms in an individualistic culture. When self-efficacy was high in participants with a high level of control, stress levels and, ill-health problems were reduced. Participants however with low self-efficacy and a low level of control exhibited more stress and more health problems. No three-way interaction was found for collectivistic participants. The same findings were found to support Hypothesis 2. The three-way interaction between collective efficacy, job demands and, job control was significant for anxiety ( depression ( and turnover intention (within the Hong Kong sample. Furthermore, there was no three-way interaction between collective efficacy and the American participants. Hypothesis 3 was supported as the mean response of idiocentrism among the participants from America was significantly higher than those from Hong Kong and the three-way interaction containing self-efficacy was more significant in the American sample. When testing Hypothesis 4, support was found as there was a significant interaction between those with collective efficacy and allocentrism, with the interaction plots showing the same results as the Hong Kong sample overall for anxiety, depression and turnover intention.
The results of the study ultimately show that both participants with low self-efficacy and low collective efficacy have higher scores of anxiety, depression and turnover intentions, no matter if the participant is individualist or collectivist which would support our research hypothesis. Efficacy beliefs do affect stress across cultures. Although the results may not differ across cultures, the results do offer us direct and important insights into how efficacy differs between cultures. Individualistic participants rely more on self-efficacy, being placed as more idiocentric and collectivistic participants rely on more allocentric ideals. The results clearly represent how participants fall into their assumed norms culturally which has important practical implications for companies. Perhaps the results tell us that cultural context is increasingly important when approaching efficacy and job demands. People in a collectivist culture would perhaps deal better if control was given to a group rather than an individual person. Idiocentric individuals could, therefore, benefit with small adaptions in their own personal control to effectively reduce stress. There are also a number of strengths to the current study. Firstly, how the study was adapted to Eastern participants. Including tests on demographics along with age, gender and education allowed a better and more detailed analysis of the sample as a majority of confounding variables were removed, enabling the results to be a more accurate measure of efficacy and stress. Allowing experts to also adapt the study to Chinese was also a strength as it removed confusion and allowed all participants to clearly understand the procedure of the study, not taking for granted that all participants are competent in English. Another strength was the model adaption. By integrating individual differences into the study allowed the results to truly reflect both cultures and the three-way interaction which was a step up from previous research that ignored this. Moving on from the strengths there were, however, limitations to the study. The first is the effort in sending back responses. Perhaps a more efficient way would be to do the study online in order to get a higher response rate and a quicker and more efficient sample. This would also save time analyzing the results of the study and preparing envelopes. Another limitation is that the majority of participants were female. Perhaps a male sample would have different rates of efficacy and may use other methods to reduce stress when working with heavy demands. Perhaps this is a question for future research. Another problem is the education of participants. Perhaps more educated people have learned how to cope with work demands and therefore do not need high efficacy to reduce stress. This could be important when conducting further research as you could look if it affects results. While doing this, perhaps different occupations could be observed to see if the trends in results are similar.