2 min read

Don't Give Up Your Locus of Control

Don't Give Up Your Locus of Control

One of the most insidious thoughts you can have at work is "the boss doesn't know what they're doing."

It seems harmless: we've all said some version of this, either quietly to ourselves or out loud with colleagues. But here's why it's a problem:

First, you're usually missing context

If something doesn't make sense to you, your first instinct shouldn't be to criticize, but to understand. Organizations are messy, and the larger they get, communication overhead becomes a real problem. Leadership has a duty to ensure context for important decisions is shared, and you have a duty to ensure that you seek out context for decisions that affect you.

Second, you're making yourself a victim

Top performers have what's known as an "internal locus of control."

They make things happen (vs: things happen to them). When you rant against "management" you're subconsciously saying: I am a passive actor that has no power, I have no influence in this situation, so I'm just going to sneer from the peanut gallery.

This is rarely a useful mindset. When you get in the habit of blaming people, you've started down a path of moving towards an external locus of control. This is mentally and emotionally convenient: it means that nothing is your fault, you have no culpability and that everything you do is great, why don't those idiots just do this thing that is so obvious to me.

Giving up your locus of control feels good in the micro (you get things off your chest), but it's terrible in the macro (you're training bad habits).

Practically, you're wasting your energy

Whenever I'm lucky enough to work with an incredible top performer, I notice that they spend zero time complaining. Top performers don't go get coffee to gossip and rant about their managers. They take ownership.

In other words, top performers go and do something about it:

  1. They ask for context to better understand the 'why' behind the decisions.
  2. They get more cred & influence in their current company so they can change things.
  3. They quit! Especially if you're in marketing - it's a candidate's market out there. It's also a great time to start up or be in startups.