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Locus of Control: A dive into why it's important and how it may affect our work-life

Keywords: Locus of control, stress, job performance, job satisfaction, internal locus of control, external locus of control


“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't.”

― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

What is Locus of Control?

“A locus of control orientation is a belief about whether the outcomes of our actions are contingent on what we do (internal control orientation) or on events outside our personal control (external control orientation)." (Zimbardo, 1985)

The two types of locus of control can be defined as:

Internal Locus of Control: “the degree to which persons expect that a reinforcement or an outcome of their behaviour is contingent on their own behaviour or personal characteristics.” For example, if you score incredibly well on a test, you’d attribute this success to your own hard work and dedication.

External Locus of Control: “the degree to which persons expect that the reinforcement or outcome is a function of chance, luck, or fate, is under the control of powerful others, or is simply unpredictable.”

For example: if you’re late for a meeting if you’d attribute it to the weather or the traffic, instead of your own tardiness.

Source: Person Centered Care

A longitudinal study done on ninety small business owners in 1977, found that individuals with an internal locus of control were found to perceive lesser stress than those with an external locus of control (Anderson, 1977). Whereas a study was done to test how individuals react to bullying behaviours found that having an external locus of control was more beneficial when compared to those with an internal locus of control (Iselin Reknes et al, 2019). In this article, I will be dissecting the influences our locus of control has on work life.

Locus of Control and Stress

Stress is defined as, “the physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioural responses to events that are appraised as threatening or challenging” (Ciccarelli S.K. et al, 2017). A study done on teachers in America found that stress was negatively correlated with an internal locus of control. Lazurus explains this phenomenon as follows, “The more control a person judges himself to have in a situation, the less threatening the situation will appear to him. Conversely, the less control a person judges himself to have in a situation, that is, the more helpless he feels himself to be, the more threatening the situation will appear.” Therefore the threat the individuals fear directly contributes to the amount of stress they face.

Locus of Control and Job Performance

According to Porter and Lawler (1968), there are three types of performance:

  1. The measure of output rates, amount of sales over a given period of time, the production of a group of employees reporting to the manager, and so on.

  2. Involves ratings of individuals by someone other than the person whose performance is being considered.

  3. Lastly, performance measures of self-appraisal and self-ratings.

A study done in Taiwan on accountants, in 2008 showed that people who had an internal locus of control had greater job performance. This could be because individuals with an internal LOC tend to be more adaptive in dealing with task-related problems (Martin et al, 2005). Therefore, this adaptive ability could help boost their performance.

Locus of Control and Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction is the pleasurable emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one's job as achieving or facilitating the achievement of one's job values (Locke, 1969). Several determinants of job satisfaction have been established in prior research. They include:

  • factors such as power distribution and centralization,

  • organizational reward systems, and

  • individual differences such as self-esteem and the need for achievement. (Lankauand Scandura, 2002; Lefkowitz, 1994)

Research has shown that individuals with an internal LOC also have greater job satisfaction when compared to those who have an external LOC. (Chen & Silverthorne, 2008). An implication of job satisfaction is that employees take good care of customers and are more dedicated to doing a good job when they are satisfied in the jobs they hold (Morris, 1981).

All of the above-mentioned research may lead you to believe that having an internal LOC is the way to go, although when situations are genuinely out of our control or pose a threat to our self-esteem it would benefit to have an external LOC (K. Cherry, 2021). We must understand that although having an internal LOC is correlated to success (MindTool, Locus of Control) that neither is inherently “good” or “bad”, there are simply situations that warrant one over the other.

Approximately only 17% of people have a high internal locus of control, you can take a test to check what your LOC is here. (LedershipIQ, Internal locus of control) If you find you have an external locus of control, it may help you to build on certain problem-solving and decision-making skills. As they would help you take greater responsibility for situations, rather than blaming circumstances that are supposedly “out of your control”. (MindTools, Locus of Control). All in all, LOC should be of importance to you as it not only can be a strong influencing factor on your motivation to act, but also may have an effect on the way you respond to events in your life. (K. Cherry, 2021)


About the Author:

Hey there, I'm Tanvi!

A third-year Psychology student from Fergusson College, Pune, I've had a keen interest in all things psychology right from my school days. I aim to further take up Organisational or Clinical Psychology in the future. In my free time, you'd find me reading, baking, or walking my dog!



Anderson, C. R. (1977). Locus of control, coping behaviors, and performance in a stress setting: A longitudinal study. Journal of Applied Psychology, 62(4), 446–451.

Cherry, K. (2021, August 17). Are you in control of your destiny, or are you at the mercy of chance? Verywell Mind. Retrieved September 29, 2021, from

Chen, J. C., & Silverthorne, C. (2008). The impact of locus of control on job stress, job performance and job satisfaction in Taiwan. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 29(7), 572–582.

Internal locus of control: Definition and research. Leadership IQ. (n.d.). Retrieved October 6, 2021, from

Parkay, F. W., Greenwood, G., Olejnik, S., & Proller, N. (1988). A study of the relationships among teacher efficacy, locus of control, and stress. Journal of Research & Development in Education, 21(4), 13–22.

Reknes, I., Visockaite, G., Liefooghe, A., Lovakov, A., & Einarsen, S. V. (2019). Locus of control moderates the relationship between exposure to bullying behaviors and psychological strain. Frontiers in Psychology, 10.

Vijayashree, L., & Jagdischchandra, M. V. (2011). Locus of control and job satisfaction: PSU employees. Serbian Journal of Management, 6(2), 193-203.

Locus of Control Are; You in Charge of Your Destiny? MindTools. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2021, from

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