Core Self-Evaluations

Posted on April 15, 2016 by Ascanio Pignatelli | 0 comments

The Link Between Core Self-Evaluations, Job Satisfaction and Performance  

According to several studies emerging from a branch of industrial-organizational psychology known as Core Self-Evaluations (CSE) theory, the fundamental judgments we make about our worthiness, competence, and capabilities are directly responsible for our job satisfaction and job performance.



Core self-evaluations is the personality trait responsible for our temperament, overall wellbeing, judgment about our circumstances (e.g. how satisfied we are with our job) and a key driver of our behavior (e.g. how well we perform our job). Those with high core self-evaluations are generally positive and confident in their abilities, satisfied with their jobs and perform them extremely well. Conversely, those with low core self-evaluations lack confidence, view things negatively and aren’t as satisfied with their jobs and perform them poorly. Fortunately, core self-evaluations can be easily assessed, and in supportive environments, substantially increased. There are four personality traits that comprise core self-evaluations, and are as follows:


1. Locus of Control

Which of your employees attributes their success to their own doing, and which to forces outside their control? Internals believe they control their futures and are thus more satisfied with their work, and perform it better. Externals are more deterministic, or believe in fate and destiny. Their locus of control is external so enjoying their work and performing it well is significantly harder. Employees with an internal locus of control are happier, more empowered, and more productive. To reveal where their locus of control you can ask:

  • How often do you feel you aren’t in control of your work?
  • What determine’s what happens in your life?
  • What’s controlling the success in your career?

If the answers reveal an external locus of control then you’ll want to shift power back to your employee with some simple but very effective questioning:

  • Where did that belief come from?
  • How does that belief (that you are not causing your success) support you?
  • How would it help if you knew that you were in complete control of your success?


2. Neuroticism

Do any of your employees get anxious, angry or depressed easily? Those with a tendency to easily experience unpleasant emotions have high neuroticism and will react far more negatively to stress. Emotionally, they are less stable and far more prone to anxiety, depression and despair. Their levels of emotional intelligence (EQ) are lower, and as a result their ability to connect to others, understand and influence them is severely impaired. 


Emotional intelligence is a key contributor to performance, especially for more socially oriented tasks like managing teams or motivating others. For those in leadership positions like managers and executives, the need for emotional stability is even more paramount, as they are the face of the organization and set the tone for employee morale. Fortunately, emotional intelligence is not fixed and can be elevated with some cognitive behavioral coaching. You can start by asking:

  • What can you do to not get so stressed out next time you have a __________ (e.g. presentation/sales call)?
  • What would be a more appropriate way to react to an upset __________ (e.g. client/colleague)?


3. Self-efficacy

Do your team members have strong beliefs in their ability to accomplish challenging tasks and goals? If so they have high self-efficacy; the personality trait responsible for how likely they are to succeed with current goals and tasks or take on a challenging assignment or "write it off" as impossible (How likely we are to adhere to a diet or workout program is dictated by our self-efficacy.)


Employees with high self-efficacy are more determined and persistent when dealing with adversity, and more likely to welcome new challenges as opportunities for growth. The greater a person’s belief in their own power to influence an outcome the more likely they are to succeed with a new challenge. The following four step process can help you develop your personnel’s self efficacy:

  1. Build confidence- Challenge any belief they might have that is limiting their performance. For example, if an employee thinks they aren’t experienced enough to manage a project you can remind them of their unique strengths and capabilities. 
  2. Promote modeling- Have inexperienced employees watch other colleagues with similar skills perform more advanced tasks. Seeing others with similar abilities succeed at a task will help them develop positive, “can-do” beliefs.  
  3. Evaluate to motivate- Rewards, recognition and positive feedback are key to helping your employees feel more competent, motivated and open to growth. Negative feedback can devastate those with low self-esteem, as they almost always take it personally. Adopt the 70/30 “sandwich” method when giving an employee feedback on their performance:
  • Start by acknowledging their contributions to date - 35%.
  • Then explain areas and, more importantly, ways their performance can be improved - 30%.
  • Conclude with some positive reinforcement that leaves them feeling respected, supported and valued - 35%.
  1. Optimize the environment- Take a page from any olympic athlete who knows that investing valuable time and energy into their physical and physiological wellbeing is essential for optimal performance. Create a vibrant, energetic, stress-free workplace that encourages your staff to get the food, exercise, rest and water their bodies need so they too can perform at their best.


4. Self-esteem

Self-esteem is the approval we have of ourselves and the extent to which we see ourselves as capable, significant, successful, and worthy. It is one of the most essential of the CSE domains because it is the overall value we place on ourselves as human beings. The productivity of workers with low self esteem is often very low due to their indecisiveness and fear of making mistakes, and striving for perfection which often is not achieved and leads to frustration. Generally they are highly irritable and pessimistic, and can drain the positive, enthusiastic energy of their more self-assured colleagues. Predictably, those with low self-esteem are more likely to be unsatisfied with their jobs, performing them considerably worse than those with higher self-esteem. To boost the self-esteem of your employees:

  1. Recognize and celebrate their successes and accomplishments as much as possible.  
  2. Express your gratitude and appreciation to them for the contribution and difference they keep making.
  3. Be a model of extreme kindness and compassion to others, especially those with lower self-esteem. 



Employees with high CSE levels are not only more satisfied with their jobs and perform them better, they are also more confident, motivated and enthusiastic about their work. Furthermore, they are less stressed, have less conflict, cope more effectively with setbacks and are better at capitalizing on opportunities. Assessing for locus of control, neuroticism, self-efficacy and self-esteem will give you valuable insight into how to better engage, empower and motivate your greatest resource. Although still in its infancy, the discipline of raising employee core-self evaluation levels to generate increased productivity has many HR departments extremely encouraged. Download your copy of the Core Self-Evaluation developed by Judge, Erez, Bono, & Thoreson here.



Judge, Timothy A. (2009) Core Self-Evaluations and Work Success Current Directions in Psychological Science


Khokhar, C.P., Tulika Kush (2009) Emotional Intelligence and Work Performance among Executives Europe’s Journal of Psychology


Oyler, Jennifer D. (2007) Core Self-Evaluations and Job Satisfaction: The Role of Organizational and Community Embeddedness Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University




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