Is the Locus of Control Theory valid in Talent Management?

March 6th, 2012 by Sarah Green Leave a reply »

Zircon has recently been talking to clients about the relevance of the Locus of Control theory in talent management. This is a personality theory, referring to the extent to which individuals believe that they can control events that affect them. The concept was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, and has since become an important aspect of personality studies. One’s “locus” (Latin for “place” or “location”) can either be internal (meaning the person believes that they control their life) or external (meaning they believe that their environment, some higher power, or other people control their decisions and their life).

Individuals with a high internal locus of control believe that events result primarily from their own behavior and actions. For example, if a person with internal loci of control does not perform as well as they wanted to on a test, they would blame it on lack of preparedness on their part. Or if they performed well on a test, then they would think that it was because they studied enough. Those with a high external locus of control believe that powerful others, fate, or chance primarily determine events. Using the test performance example again, if a person with external loci of control does poorly on a test, they would blame the test questions being too difficult. Whereas if they performed well on a test, they would think the teacher was being lenient, or that they were lucky.

Those with a high internal locus of control have better control of their behavior, tend to be more politically involved, and are more likely to attempt to influence other people than those with a high external (or low internal respectively) locus of control. They also assign greater likelihood to their efforts being successful and more actively seek information concerning their situation.

Within Zircon, we find that by integrating the concept of locus of control into our talent assessment, development, coaching, performance management and talent management processes, we are able to support our clients with the attraction, recruitment and development of employees with an internal locus of control and consequently a high level of potential and ownership for growth and development.

Written by Dr Amanda Potter, Adapted from J.B. Rotter (1966) Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement, Psychological Monographs, 80, (1, Whole No. 609).

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