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Behaviour of Tesco Workers: A Social Cognitive Theory Perspective

  • 08 Pages
  • Published On: 20-11-2023

Problem Statement: Problem Statement: Examining personal, environmental and behavioural factors that influence the behaviour of Tesco workers, in context of Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory model.

The Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) of personality seeks to explain human behaviour in the context of the social surrounding human beings occupy. It looks at the relationship of the individual with their environment as dynamic, influencing and changing each other. This dynamic reciprocity of the elements of environment, behaviour and personal factors is referred to as Reciprocal Determinism . The objective of this assignment will be to asses and study these factors on the behaviour of Tesco employees.

Tesco is a large retail hypermarket chain of stores, which has over 3400 stores in UK and approximately employ over 300,000 employees in UK alone.

In August 2019, Tesco announced that 4,500 employees were going to be laid off, as consumers are no longer shopping as heavily as they should from their Metro stores.This comes at the time when the management noticed that people are relying more on large chain markets more than these weekly markets for the purpose of their monthly shopping, hence the stores they had set up were not turning up as big a profit as they hoped. To reduce a significant amount of cost from their operations, the management took this step. (The Guardian, August 5 2019). This led to a significant increase in the worker’s daily burden and undoubtedly caused some angst, considering that fact that a few months before this announcement, a report found that Tesco employees were frequently troubled by misbehaving and clueless customers.

Bandura implied that individuals are not powerless agents, they think and act in accordance to their feelings. At the same time, they are influenced by environmental factors which are beyond their control.

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Boateng et al (2016) describes the three key elements influencing human behaviour. The personal beliefs of the individual is the first aspect, it is a sum total of all skills, personality and beliefs of the individual. Although it is heavily influenced by factors such as environments and the behaviour of a person forms a part of their personality, Bandura has described it as a separate entity as individual motivations which govern our everyday decisions. Boateng et al (2016), in the context of people’s perception towards internet banking, finds compatibility with life-style to be a key component in individual decision making. The technological changes that come with a switch to internet banking has to strike a chord with the individual’s comfort with these technological innovations, else they won’t be able to adapt to it. According to a report by the Daily Mail (9 March 2018), conversation with a customer is an essential part of their job profile. For a worker who is comfortable with small talk, this task may not be arduous, but for a worker who is generally quiet and an introvert, making small talk while ringing up customers or helping them around the store is not something they look forward to. The experience of the worker depends heavily on the personal affiliations of the worker. Social norms form an important part of the individual motivations. In the review page of the job site Indeed, workers can leave reviews about their workplace for potential employees. A recurring patten in several reviews is the assurance that co-workers form a collective which shields workers from managerial outbursts and difficult customers. Often, workers go to break rooms when work becomes overwhelming. Adam Corner, writing for The Guardian (16 December 2011) outlines the importance of social norms. He elucidates that if individuals are shown what others behave like, it may have an impact on how they start behaving from there on. For example, he describes Opower’s strategy of customers receiving an account of how much energy they are using compared to their neighbour, along with their energy bill. The legitimacy that comparative knowledge provides gives way for people to adopt strategies which help them cope. For example, the break that retail workers take in break rooms is an intrinsic part of the work environment, but the motivation emerges when one sees another worker doing the same. Another example of this would be making sustainable choices by individuals. Just like Opower’s strategy to relate people to their comparative energy consumption, the East West Market in Vancouver unearthed a scheme to encourage people to bring their own bags to the market and not ask for plastic bags. The plastic bags they’d hand out would have embarrassing writing, which they customer would feel shy carrying around. The objective of this is to begin a process of stopping the supply of plastic bags by tapping into the personal motivation of people to not be embarrassed.

The second aspect is the behaviour of the individual. Bratton (2016) describes several aspects of a person’s behaviour makes up their personality. Self-efficacy forms an important part of formulation of one’s behaviour, as one would attempt only those things which they think they have a chance in. Accounts of worker’s in Tesco, describing how customers behave inside the store, makes sense when one considers this. The customers who have the habit of picking things off the shelf and partially eating items and putting them back indulge in this kind of behaviour simply because they think they can. However, Jackson et al (2007) looks at self-efficacy a little differently. They measures self efficacy in terms of the internal workings of an organization, from the perspective of the workers and the impact on their performance. Through reviewing their literature, they discover that most theories agree that self-efficacy is better measured when the complexity of the work is less. That wouldn’t be in the case of the retail workers in Tesco, as most workers do not have highly specialised work which requires niche knowledge. But the most significant discovery they made in terms of self-efficacy was that in environments of feedback, self-efficacy thrived the most. Although this study was done from the perspective of workers, one could apply the knowledge to customer behaviour as well.

Boateng et al (2016), identify trust as another component which alters individual behaviour. Because the customer trusts that the workers will clean up whatever mess they make in the aisles while shopping, they are not hesitant to leave the job to them. The belief that they are “paying their salaries” sustains this behaviour and makes them do this. Bandura describes this kind of behaviour as not existing in isolation, rather dynamically moving and creating a continuous process which sustains the other elements in the three elements of reciprocal determinism. For example, because previous consumers have been inconsiderate about how workers will clean the mess they’ve made, the workers do not have a very favourable view of the customers. Because of that, they may not be very pleasant or willing to help when new customers come in, these new customers may feel the workers are rude and hence, won’t feel bade when they inconvenience them by making a mess themselves. The previous behaviour of the customers influenced the staff’s personality and that further influenced the new customers.

Boateng et al (2016) classify the infrastructure as being an essential part of the environment. Good infrastructure consists of smooth operations and provides for a smooth and seamless experience by the consumer. Additionally, he also classifies trust as being a key infrastructural component which inspires confidence in the person or the institution. The decision of Tesco to move heavier operations from its metro stores and, in the process, terminating thousands of employees was based on their outlook of their environment. Tesco projected that dipping sales is because enough people are not doing heavy shopping in their metro stores, so operations were leaned down to avoid losses (The Courier, 2019). This affected not only the workers who were terminated, but also the workers who remained. They had to take on more workload which left little free time for the workers. This effected their behaviour with the customers and the quality of their interaction with them, hence in turn, changing the behaviour of the customers as well.

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Thus, it can be concluded that sociological factors such as this need to be taken into account for the successful management of a large organization like Tesco. The three components of Bandura’s Reciprocal Determinism, thus, need to be studied separately and in relation with each other. The context of operations in Tesco, especially the relationship between the workers and the customers, offer a good chance to asses these three components together. At any point, they’re working in tandem to develop and educate an individual. They dynamics of Reciprocal Determinism are not only operating with respect to an individual’s relationships with others, but also they also cause significant structural change, as we just witnesses.

Total Words (excluding references): 1484


  1. the Guardian. 2020. Grocery Store Urges Customers To Rethink Plastic With Embarrassing Bags. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 November 2020].
  2. the Guardian. 2020. Social Norm Strategies Do Work – But There Are Risks Involved. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 November 2020].
  3. Boateng, H., Adam, D.R., Okoe, A.F. and Anning-Dorson, T., 2016. Assessing the determinants of internet banking adoption intentions: A social cognitive theory perspective. Computers in Human Behavior, 65, pp.468-478.
  4. Pike, M., 2020. Employees Reveal What It's REALLY Like To Work At Tesco. [online] Mail Online. Available at: [Accessed 19 November 2020].
  5. Bratton, J., 2015. Introduction to work and organizational behaviour. Macmillan International Higher Education.
  6. Judge, T.A., Jackson, C.L., Shaw, J.C., Scott, B.A. and Rich, B.L., 2007. Self-efficacy and work-related performance: The integral role of individual differences. Journal of applied psychology, 92(1), p.107.
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