The Importance of Locus of Control in the Workplace

Topic(s): job attitudes, personality
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (2010)
Article: A Meta-Analytic Examination of Work and General Locus of Control
Authors: Q. Wang, N.A. Bowling, K.J. Eschleman
Reviewed by: Rachel Marsh

Locus of control is a personality trait that affects how a person views life. When people have an internal locus of control, they believe that rewards and punishments occur because of choices they made. If people have an external locus of control, they believe rewards and punishments are controlled by outside forces, people, or fate. General locus of control refers to life in general, but people also have a work locus of control, and a person’s work locus of control can affect job attitudes.


In the current article, researchers (Wang, Bowling, Eschleman, 2010) analyzed 184 research articles that tested locus of control. They suggest that work locus and general locus of control are different concepts (having an internal general locus of control does not necessarily mean having 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.