Wanted: Employees with High Work Locus of Control

Topic: Personality, Job Attitudes
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (JUL 2010)
Article: A Meta-Analytic Examination of Work and General Locus of Control
Authors: Wang, Q., Bowling, N. A. & Eschleman, K. J.
Reviewed By: Rachel Marsh

Locus of control is a personality trait that effects how a person views life. If a person has an internal locus of control; they believes their rewards and punishments occur because of choices they made.  If one has an external locus of control, they believe rewards and punishments are controlled by outside forces, people or fate.  General locus of control refers to one’s life, but people also have a work locus of control, and a person’s work locus of control has an effect on one’s attitude about one’s job.

In the current article Wang, and associates analyzed 184 research articles that tested locus of control. They suggest that work locus and general locus of control are different constructs – just because you have an internal general locus of control does not mean you have an internal work locus of control – and they have different effects on a person’s work performance.  Participants who had higher levels of internal work locus of control had higher levels of job commitment, job satisfaction, job performance and leadership initiation as well as lower levels of burnout, absenteeism, psychological strain, and role ambiguity versus people with high general internal locus of control. 

The results suggest that employers should remind employees that they are in control of their destiny within the company. Reward programs might also be implemented to recompense employees who have performed above and beyond the expectations of their job, to again remind employees that their actions affect them.

Wang, Q., Bowling, N. A. & Eschleman, K. J.  (2010).  A meta-analytic
examination of work and general locus of control.  Journal of applied
Psychology, 95
,  761-768.