In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Self-Management and Personal Agency

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Introductory Works
  • Personal Goals
  • Feedback and Feedback Seeking
  • Personal Agency
  • Proactivity
  • Personal Resources, Stress, and Well-Being
  • Long-Term Perspectives
  • Career Perspectives and Self-Management Training
  • Special Topics

Management Self-Management and Personal Agency
Thomas S. Bateman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 July 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 July 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0012


Management generally implies managing organizational resources, projects, and people. It also can include managing oneself. Many have observed that effective leadership begins with oneself. Lao Tze said, “He who overcomes others has force; he who overcomes himself is strong.” Although urgent priorities often lead managers to attend primarily to projects and resources, secondarily to their people, and to themselves as afterthoughts if at all, self-management arguably is where most managers should begin their efforts to improve their effectiveness. “Self-management” is a bit colloquial, but it is a useful term that can include more specific academic theories and perspectives such as self-regulation, self-control, proactivity, and others. This bibliography is not about “self” theories, agency theory, or the neuroscience underlying impulsivity, executive function, and inhibitory control. Nor is it about self-managing teams. It focuses on theory and research with the most direct or potential relevance to the active management of oneself and one’s own job performance, with a perspective on individual behavior in which the person, more than the environment, is “in charge.” An additional goal here is to expand the focus beyond established self-management domains to include psychological constructs and managerial topics such as career management, goal orientations, future-oriented and long-term thinking, job crafting, mindfulness, and personal leadership development. Most work cited here has a focus on adults in the workplace, although some is based on laboratory experimentation with students, with potential implications for future research with working adults. Much of it represents psychological research and theorizing not yet capitalized upon fully by management scholars. Offered next are some general scholarly overviews, and then some introductory works, followed by major sections dedicated to self-regulation and related topics (goals, feedback and feedback seeking; action and goal pursuit; multiple goals and resource allocation; and goal orientations) and to personal agency and related topics (proactivity, personal resources, stress and coping, and others).

General Overviews

These scholarly overviews are useful for learning about the general topic of self-management and offer tastes of the variety of specific topics within. Karoly 1993 defines self-regulation as processes that enable an individual to guide his or her goal-directed activities over time and across changing circumstances or contexts. Karoly specifies component phases of goal selection, goal cognition, directional maintenance, directional change or reprioritization, and goal termination. Carver and Scheier 2000 applies a control theory perspective, describing how behavior is goal directed and feedback controlled. Boekaerts, et al. 2000 and Mischel, et al. 1996 provide useful and wide-ranging collections of chapters covering many self-regulation and self-control topics. Diefendorff and Lord 2008 offers a taxonomy of self-regulation theories, and Vancouver and Day 2005 reviews not only self-regulatory concepts but also interventions in work contexts. Lord, et al. 2010 offers a general model of self-regulation based on the negative feedback loop and arranges goals hierarchically from long term to short term. The thorough overview of the recent work motivation literature provided in Diefendorff and Chandler 2011 includes a helpful summary of action goals and self-regulatory processes.

  • Boekaerts, M., P. Pintrich, and M. Zeidner, eds. Handbook of Self-Regulation. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2000.

    Chapter topics include social-cognitive perspectives, control theory, goal networks, personality and adaptation, self-understanding, intentions and mindfulness, cultural and community influences, the work context, health, and self-regulated learning.

  • Carver, C., and M. Scheier. “On the Structure of Behavioral Self-Regulation.” In Handbook of Self-Regulation. Edited by M. Boekaerts, P. Pintrich, and M. Zeidner, 42–84. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2000.

    Discusses how goals are arranged in hierarchies and other topics including affect, confidence and doubt, persistence and giving up, and application of catastrophe theory. References include the authors’ important 1998 book On the Self-Regulation of Behavior (New York: Cambridge University Press).

  • Diefendorff, J., and M. Chandler. “Motivating Employees.” In APA Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Vol. 3, Maintaining, Expanding, and Contracting the Organization. Edited by S. Zedeck, 65–135. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1037/12171-000

    Considers processes and problems in goal setting, goal striving, goal revision, unconscious goals, multiple goals, and other issues in self-management.

  • Diefendorff, J., and R. Lord. “Goal-Striving and Self-Regulation Processes.” In Work Motivation: Past, Present, and Future. Edited by R. Kanfer, G. Chen, and R. Pritchard, 151–196. New York: Routledge, 2008.

    Taxonomy of self-regulation theories includes structural, phase, and content theories (the latter including self-determination, regulatory focus, and goal-orientation theories) and describes the need for integrative models. Applies a neurocognitive approach to self-regulation, including conscious and unconscious processing, and identifies topics for future research.

  • Karoly, P. “Mechanisms of Self-Regulation: A Systems View.” Annual Review of Psychology 44 (1993): 23–52.

    DOI: 10.1146/

    For scholars, a good place to start. Provides historical perspective and identifies relevant contemporary psychological disciplines.

  • Lord, R., J. Diefendorff, A. Schmidt, and R. Hall. “Self-Regulation at Work.” Annual Review of Psychology 61 (2010): 543–568.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100314

    Describes hierarchical levels of goals, from long-term possible selves through more proximal achievement goals to short-term components of task behaviors. Discusses complications in the workplace (multiple goals, complex tasks and expertise, and team-based processes) and identifies important methodological and analytic issues.

  • Mischel, W., N. Cantor, and S. Feldman. “Principles of Self-Regulation: The Nature of Willpower and Self-Control.” In Social Psychology: Handbook of Basic Principles. Edited by E. T. Higgins and A. Kruglanski, 329–360. New York: Guilford, 1996.

    Discusses the human potential for self-regulation, having control and taking control, helplessness, implicit theories of agency and control, personal standards, long-term goals, and self-regulatory competencies, including planning, self-instruction, maintaining goal pursuit in the face of obstacles, cognitive focus, regulating beliefs and expectancies, regulating affect, self-knowledge, metacognitive awareness, and well-being.

  • Vancouver, J., and D. Day. “Industrial and Organisation Research on Self-Regulation: From Constructs to Applications.” Applied Psychology: An International Review 54 (2005): 155–185.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1464-0597.2005.00202.x

    Argues that whereas some self-regulatory constructs (e.g., self-efficacy and goal commitment) have been well validated, others (e.g., feedback and discrepancy) have acquired very different meanings. Identifies gaps in our knowledge about self-regulation in organizational settings and ways in which researchers can fill the gaps.

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