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How Your Internal Locus Of Control Can Impact Your Business - HRDQ

How Your Internal Locus Of Control Can Impact Your Business

Individuals with an internal locus of control are believed to be more successful in business and life. On the other hand, having an external locus of control is correlated with being less goal-oriented, being more prone to learned helplessness, and ultimately achieving less success.

If you own or manage a business, where you fall on the locus of control spectrum can have a tangible effect on whether your brand thrives or struggles.

What is an internal locus of control, though, and how do you know if you have one? How can your internal locus of control impact your business?

Let's look at these questions and more to help you orient yourself in a way that is most beneficial to your career, organization, and life.

What Does the Term "Locus of Control" Mean?

Locus of control is a term that refers to how much control people feel they have over the events that impact their experience. This can be used concerning one's private life, career, or both.

An individual's locus of control describes their orientation relative to the outcomes in their life. People who believe that they have control over what happens to them are said to have an internal locus of control. In contrast, those that believe that what happens is solely a product of external variables are said to have an external locus of control.

Control Over Outside Forces

Whether or not you are oriented to believe that you have control over what happens or not can have a significant impact on the way that you respond to events as well as how action-oriented you are. People who feel that their experience is in their own hands are much more likely to take action than those that believe their actions don't create any change.

What Is the Difference Between Internal and External Locus of Control?

The concept of locus of control is a spectrum rather than two black and white camps. Most people will have characteristics of both of these two extremes, though they might be more oriented towards one side of the continuum than the other.

Someone who falls more on the internal side of the spectrum is typically much more likely to take responsibility for their actions and have a strong sense of self-efficacy. They are much less influenced by other people's opinions than those with an external locus of control and frequently work better when they can tackle tasks at their own speed. When challenges arise, they feel confident about their ability to overcome them.

Individuals with an internal locus of control are much more likely to achieve success in the workplace and are known for working hard to achieve the things they want in life.

Beyond that, people who believe that they have control over what happens also tend to be happier, more independent, and physically healthier than those that feel they are at the whim of external forces.

Team With Different Mentalities

On the other hand, people that are more oriented toward an external locus of control will commonly blame their circumstances (whether in the workplace or outside of it) on external forces. When they achieve success, they're much more likely to chalk it up to dumb luck or chance.

Because these individuals don't believe they have the power to use their efforts to change their situation, they are commonly burdened with feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness in challenging situations.

As you might imagine, a person with an external locus of control is more influenced by the opinions of others, less successful in the workplace, and less motivated to work hard for what they want. They also tend to be less physically healthy, less happy, and less independent.

How Can You Measure Locus of Control?

The most commonly used instrument to measure the locus of control is the Rotter's internal-external scale. It includes twenty-three groups of statements with six filler groups of statements. The respondent has to select which statement they agree with the most in each group.

Locus of Control Scale

Once the test is completed, you can use the key to add up the results. This number will indicate whether the individual has a locus of control that is more external or more internal.

However, you can also do a simpler self-audit using the above descriptions of each extreme. What do you believe? Do you feel that your career and life are things you have control over, or do you feel like everything that happens is out of your hands? If you find yourself in the latter camp, there are things you can do to take back control. We'll discuss these a little later in the article.

How Can an Internal Locus of Control Impact Your Business?

Having an internal locus of control instead of an external locus of control can considerably impact your career. Understanding the importance of the different extremes on this spectrum can also help you hire employees that are well suited to the team.

Team Business Meeting

Understanding your internal locus of control can help give you the awareness necessary to succeed in business. Ultimately, the more you know about yourself, such as your leadership style, the better you will be able to lead a team to success.

It Makes You More Likely to Love Your Career

One study found that people who have an internal locus of control are much more likely to be happy with their careers. That is likely because people with a higher amount of agency are driven to pursue the job they want, rather than just taking what they can get. When you have a high internal locus of control, you are much more likely to work hard to reach a position you are happy with and give yourself credit for your achievements.

Employees Enjoying Their Careers

This is, of course, also true for your employees. Employees with an internal locus of control are much more likely to recommend their company as a great organization to others.

Employees With a High Internal Locus of Control Are More Likely to Give Their All at Work

When you feel like you have agency in your career, you are much more likely to work hard and give your best effort. This is because you understand that your actions do impact your experience and that the hard work you put in impacts the success of your career and the organization you work for.

Employees Giving Their All

That being said, it doesn't necessarily mean that you need to build a team of people that fall on the extremes of the agency spectrum. People who are more oriented toward an external locus of control are more likely to conform, which can be helpful in the workplace. You also might find that your employees become more engaged and productive when you utilize the platinum rule, even if they are more externally oriented when it comes to the locus of control.

It Means You Handle Stress Better

In any business, unforeseen challenges and obstacles will pop up from time to time. When you have an internal locus of control, you believe in your ability to come up with a solution to the problem. On the other hand, someone with an internal locus of control is more likely to get shut down by an unexpected issue.

When you believe that you can deal with any problem that crops up, it reduces your stress about outside forces. While there are undeniably things that you don't have control over in the workplace, you do control how you react and how you solve problems.

Handling Stress Well

There will inevitably be stressful days at work in any organization. However, with an internal locus of control, you're more likely to cope with issues through task-centered coping behaviors rather than emotion-centered coping behaviors.

It Makes You More Goal-Oriented

Goal Oriented Workers

If you understand that your actions change your circumstances, it can make you much more motivated toward creating and achieving goals. For those that don't believe they have control over their lives, on the other hand, setting goals and working towards them is less appealing because they don't see the way that their actions impact their experience and success. With an internal locus of control, your career and your life become a blank canvas, and you're the one holding the paintbrush.

It Empowers You to Take Responsibility for Your Circumstances

When you have an internal locus of control in your business, you take responsibility for your actions, achievements, and missteps. Even in the case of the mistakes that you've made, this can be incredibly empowering.

For example, let's say you decided to implement a new software for your customer service team that was ill-suited. As a result, it decreases job satisfaction among your employees, makes the customer experience more frustrating, and ultimately decreases overall productivity.

If you have an external locus of control, you might hem and haw that it's the fault of your employees, the software, or even your customers. This might leave you to keep the new software in place for far too long, if not even indefinitely, in a way that creates lots of adverse outcomes for your business.

Responsibility For Actions

However, with an internal locus of control, you recognize the part that you played in picking a new software that didn't fit the needs of your workers and your customers. You see that the software wasn't the right tool for the job or that maybe your workers and your customers weren't ready for the change. By taking responsibility for your actions, you can use your mistakes as a learning tool that helps you make better decisions in the future that suit the organization as a whole.

The same is true when it comes to successes in business. If you have an external locus of control, you might ascribe a promotion to chance. You'll be much less likely to strive to meet the demands of your new job and much more likely to phone it in most days.

On the other hand, people with an internal locus of control in business recognize that their success results from hard work and dedication. Therefore, they believe that they received the promotion because they deserved it more than the other candidates due to their actions to prove their worth to the organization. From this viewpoint, you can celebrate yourself and your achievements, understanding that your good fortune results from your own doing.

How Can You Shift Your Locus of Control in the Workplace?

If you find that you fall more on the external rather than the internal end of the locus of control spectrum, it doesn't mean that you aren't cut out for owning or managing a business. It simply means that you will want to do some work to shift your mindset to allow you to see that you have much more control than you thought.

You can work to create this shift by being self-aware when something goes wrong. For example, are you quick to blame others for your role in such occurrences? If so, you can practice redirecting responsibility back towards yourself. The point here isn't to make you feel bad about yourself or to create guilt, but rather to see that every issue that crops up is a learning experience that can allow you to make better future decisions.

Employees In The Workplace

Learning to set goals and achieve them is another way you can work to have a more internal locus of control. Similarly, if you feel that your team lacks the agency the job requires, you can start by setting goals for the team and creating simple steps that allow them to achieve them. This can help them realize that it was through their actions that the goal was achieved, not just because of luck or chance.

Can You Harness Your Internal Locus of Control to Help Your Business Thrive?

Maybe you are already oriented towards having an internal locus of control, or you need to do some work to regain your sense of control in the workplace. Either way, understanding how impactful your locus of control can be on the success of your business is the first step towards creating the outcomes you want for your brand.

Strong Business Building Blocks

Having an internal locus of control becomes even more powerful when you combine it with self-awareness regarding your leadership and management skills. With our Leader Manager Profile, you can receive invaluable feedback that will help you better harness your control over your brand's success.

Do you have any questions about the internal or external locus of control or how they can impact your business? If so, be sure to leave a comment down below, and we'll get back to you within a day or two! We make it a point to reply to every comment or question that we receive, and we would be more than happy to assist you however we can!

Related Products of Interest

Previous article Accountability vs. Responsibility: Striking the Balance for Success

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.