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Locus Of Control: Conceptualisation And Clarification

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When confronted, people often find excuses. For example, an employee blaming traffic for lateness. These excuses fall into either one of the two categories, one where people blame the circumstance or where they assume the blame itself. Psychologist Julian Rotter (1966) developed the concept of locus of control which is used to determine people’s belief in their control over their own destiny. This is useful for motivational purposes so that people can take ownership of their lives. There are two types of locus of control, internal and external. Internal locus is said to be present when a person’s success is determined through hard work. External locus occurs when an individual believes that their outcome is due to luck or destiny.

It is crucial to identify the relationship of locus of control and self-confidence. Self-confidence is defined as the extent to which individuals view themselves positively or negatively (Rosenberg, 1965, as cited in Wu, Li & Johnson, 2011, p. 239). A person’s self-esteem can be determined from the type of locus that he or she has. For instance, a person with low self-confidence would believe that their accomplishments are primarily derived from luck and fate. They would also tend to think that there are other factors that could influence their outcome which leads them to feel insecure (Asberg & Renk, 2012, as cited in Campagna, Wilson, et al., 2015) In contrast, a person’s self-esteem can be enhanced when their success is achieved through having an internal locus.

The locus of control survey was established by Rotter which contains questions with two choices each. Respondents are required to pick an option that resonates most with themselves and upon completion, a score will be given at the end of the questionnaire. The aim of this survey is to identify whether individuals believe that they are in control or that there are external factors that shape their lives.

Antecedents of locus of control

Recent studies show that there are factors that affect an individual’s locus of control. Serin et al. (2010) states that an individual’s locus can be determined through family. Students who reside with their family show more internal locus characteristics than students who stay in dormitories. This suggests that students that live with their family tend to receive more responsibilities than students who stay by themselves. When individuals are occupied with responsibilities, they would try to complete those tasks set by their families, and upon completion, they may feel a sense of accomplishment (Serin et al. 2010). Individuals could believe that their accomplishments are solely derived from diligence. Additionally, Lekfuangfu et al. (2018) claimed that an individual’s locus can be derived from parent-child relationships. Parents’ behaviours pave the way of developing their children’s personality as their locus can be developed from an early age. For instance, most parents would work hard to support their family. Naturally, their children follow their parents’ example and pick up these traits. As the saying goes, ‘like father, like son’, suggesting that parents can aid in their children’s development of internal locus.

Furthermore, job satisfaction can have an impact on an individual’s locus of control. Agarwal and Srivastava (2016) describe job satisfaction as the extent to which needs, desires and expectations of an individual are met. Individuals that feel enjoyment in their line of work will express high internal locus and high productivity related to work performance and this could be due to their liking towards organisational challenges. A study conducted by Agarwal and Sajid (2017) illustrates that employees will develop normative and affective commitment towards their organisation, as to when job satisfaction increases. In contrast, individuals that do not enjoy their occupation tend to exhibit more external locus characteristics. Modise and Rambe (2017) support this by illustrating that external locus of control is positively correlated with high absenteeism, low work commitment and decreased levels of job satisfaction. Employees with external locus would feel that luck or fate has brought them the opportunity to work in the organisation. This could be due to the fact these employees’ goals are not aligned with their organisational goals and thus would not contribute as much mental capacity into their work compared to an employee who has an internal locus.

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Consequences of locus of control

Studies have shown that there are negative consequences that could impact individuals who have a high external locus. Khan et al. (2012) illustrate that individuals with external locus are more prone and inclined to stress than individuals with an internal locus. Occupational stress is present when a worker thinks that his or her success in terms of job responsibilities are insufficient (Ramos-Galarza, Acosta-Rodas, 2019). Every employee has their own way of coping with stress in the workforce. Some use harmful coping mechanisms that can have a detrimental effect on their bodies. For instance, Saade and Marchand (2013) found that there is a positive correlation between external locus of control and the misuse of alcohol consumption as a coping mechanism. When an employee uses alcohol to destress, this could lead to other effects, as alcohol consumption contributes to over 200 diseases (Cremonte et al., 2018). Resulting in, employees living an unhealthy lifestyle because of their dependency on alcohol whenever stress is present.

Additionally, existing research illustrates that there are positive effects on individuals who have an internal locus trait in the organisation. They tend to make more ethical decisions than those who have an external locus trait. Generally, most managers must deal with moral decisions daily and this specifically includes ethically sourcing from their suppliers. Usually, ethically sourcing from suppliers could lead to a higher cost and this contradicts what most organisations are trying to do. Husser et al. (2019) claimed that managers with a high internal locus trait make more moral decisions than those with external locus. There are cases where managers would cut down on cost by unethically sourcing their suppliers. This includes greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation, which could make organisations suffer in business reputation (Chen & Slotnick, 2015). However, individuals with an internal locus are known for looking within themselves rather than listening to others’ opinion, thus making the right ethical decision or action. Organisations that ethically source their suppliers can eventually generate respectable reputation especially in a time like now where corporate social responsibility plays a major role in boosting profits (Low & Davenport, 2009). Therefore, one can say that a person with an internal locus can promote positive impacts in the organisation.

Critique of existing research

It is crucial to note that there are limitations and restrictions to the concept of locus. One of which is when there are biases to surveys on the topic of locus, as the sample does not truly reflect the population. In Husser’s study (2019), they claimed that the scenarios in the study, do not mirror the full range of purchasing dilemmas faced by European buyers, that is the experiment did not account for biases.

Other than that, the data acquired from the study of parent-child relationships affecting children’s type of locus is biased. In Lekfuangfu’s study (2018), the data was taken from a well-developed country and the sample represents the national population of England. The study did not account for under-developed countries. Also, some of the respondents left parts of the questionnaire blank therefore, making the sample size vary in biasness.

To neglect any biases, the data should include samples not just from developed countries but also from developing countries. In doing so, we would have to account for factors such as, cultural difference as it could influence the type of locus individuals have. The sample could regard most demographics around the world as there would be less restrictions and biasness in the study of locus.


This literature review illustrates that the concept of locus can be applied to anyone with goals. Studies have shown that family and job satisfaction can have an impact on an individual’s type of locus. Individuals tend to form internal locus in their personality, when they are brought up in a family. Employees have the tendency to show internal locus when job satisfaction increases. There are positive and negative consequences to the concept of locus. When individuals have an external locus, they would utilise harmful coping mechanisms to destress themselves, such as alcohol. In contrast, individuals with internal locus can help increase business reputation, as they tend to display ethical sourcing behaviour in organisations. In terms of limitations, most studies show that the data are only taken from well-developed countries, as this contributes to biasness.


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Locus Of Control: Conceptualisation And Clarification. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 4, 2023, from
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