Personal Constructs, Performance Schemata, and "Folk Theories" of Subordinate Effectiveness

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This research employs personal construct theory (Kelly, 1955)to explore the content of categories or schemata that may be used in making work performance judgments. Twenty-five experienced U.S. Army officers, focusing on the job of noncommissioned officer (NCO; first-line supervisor), generated independently a total of 189 personal work constructs that they believe differentiate between effective and ineffective NCOs. The officer subjects numerically defined each of their own 6–10 constructs by rating the similarity between each of these constructs and each of 49 reference performance, ability, and personal characteristics concepts. Correlations were computed between the subject-provided similarity ratings for the constructs, and the 189 × 189 matrix was factor analyzed. Six interpretable content factors were identified (e.g., Technical Proficiency, Organization), with 123 of the 189 constructs from 23 of the 25 subjects loading substantially on these factors. Findings here suggest that a core set of concepts is widely employed by these officers as personal work constructs, but that different officers emphasize different combinations of this core set. The personal constructs elicited from officer subjects are likened to performance schemata and “folk theories” of job performance.

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Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, v. 40, issue 3, p. 307-322