Most recently I heard Locus of Control referenced on an episode of Bull I was half watching on my way to Tampa. The question he posed to prospective jurors was “Why do you catch a cold?”. Those with an external locus of control answered “ because I was exposed to germs” or something along those lines. Those with an internal locus of control answered “Because I let myself get run down”. You can quickly discern the difference. One believes things happen to them and the other believes they are in control and they make or allow things to happen.
Locus of control is a psychological concept that refers to how strongly people believe that they have control over the situations and experiences that affect their lives. A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes, while someone with an external locus of control blames outside forces for everything. Infrequently does anyone fall exclusively in one category or the other. Most people fall on a continuum somewhere between the two.
Your locus of control can influence not only how you respond to the events that happen in your life, but also your motivation to take action. If you believe that you hold the keys to your fate, you are more likely to take action to change your situation when needed. If on the other hand, you believe that the outcome is out of your hands, you may be less likely to work toward change.
Think about that for a minute in terms of your workforce:
Those With an Internal Locus of Control
- Are more likely to take responsibility for their actions
- Tend to be less influenced by the opinions of other people
- Often do better at tasks when they are allowed to work at their own pace
- Usually, have a strong sense of self-efficacy
- Tend to work hard to achieve the things they want
- Feel confident in the face of challenges
- Tend to be physically healthier
- Report being happier and more independent
- Often achieve greater success in the workplace
Those With an External Locus of Control
- Blame outside forces for their circumstances
- Often credit luck or chance for any successes
- Don’t believe that they can change their situation through their own efforts
- Frequently feel hopeless or powerless in the face of difficult situations
- Are more prone to experiencing learned helplessness
Which set of characteristics do you believe yield more motivated and productive employees? Perhaps we should add to our long list of questions during interviews, “Why do you catch a cold?”