Locus of Control


Is your locus of control internal or external?

Your perception of where control lies can have an impact on your viewpoint and the way you interact with your environment. This article briefly explores the differences between internal and external locus of control and how each affects organisational behaviour.

Locus of Control.

Control: an easy word to understand yet a challenging word to actually deal with. We have people that think they control everything, others that think they are controlled by the world around them and pretty much everything in between. Control can be defined as the power to determine outcomes by directly influencing actions, people and events.

When we look at it that way, we can begin to see that there is no way to control everything in our lives. I am not saying we cannot control anything, but put in the context of that definition, we have to step back and really analyse what we can and cannot control.

The word ‘control’ becomes even more interesting when we have the word locus, before it. Locus is defined as a position, point or place, or more specifically, a location where something occurs.

A person’s locus of control may be internal or external.

Internal vs. External Locus of Control.

People who base their success on their own work and believe they control their life have an internal locus of control. In contrast, people who attribute their success or failure to outside influences have an external locus of control.

For example, let us say you are a person with an internal locus of control and you get a promotion at work or achieve some other type of success. You will probably attribute that positive result to the work you put in. In other words, your success was a direct result of your hard work.

If, on the other hand, you have an external locus of control, you might attribute that promotion or success to external or environmental factors, such as luck, fate, timing, or other people.

Let us use the same example and say that you were denied a promotion.

If your locus of control were internal, you would find a way to blame yourself for the perceived failure. If your locus of control were external, it would be easy, even natural, and to blame outside sources beyond your control.

The Benefits and Drawbacks

Individuals who identify with an internal locus of control tend to take more responsibility for their actions, whether those actions or the end results are good or bad. He/she do not accept outside influence for the outcomes, no matter what that is.

In contrast, a person who identifies with an external locus of control looks at everything around them as part of the success or failure.

There are drawbacks to both of these viewpoints, though. An internally focused person will be hard on themselves and constantly analyse what they did wrong. That perspective almost forces these individuals to be hard charging/driven individuals that at times can assume a take-no-prisoners attitude. Conversely, those that have an external focus may come off as someone who just does not accept responsibility.

© 2015, Content: Dr Vasilios Silivistris – Artwork: Ian Francis. All rights reserved.