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Desirability for Control in the Workplace Essay

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Updated: Mar 29th, 2019


In the psychological studies concerned with the behaviour of human beings and their reactions to different situations, there is one character present in human beings that is of great interest to scholars and researchers. This is the degree to which the way different individuals believe in themselves and seek to control the things that happen around them.

There are two main categories of people in this aspect; people who believe that they can control what goes on around them and those who believe that things happen by chance and hence only let things happen and allow themselves to flow with them (Hammond & Horswill, 2001).

This character of controlling things around us may be measured in order to determine the degree of the difference in different individuals pertaining to a given phenomenon. This character is called desirability of control and is measurable using different scales.

This study seeks to undertake a research into the desire for control in the workplace and specifically to understand why most people are willing to take greater risks when they are at the position of control or leadership rather than when they are not (Langer, 1975).

Aim of the Study

The study sought to formulate a scale that would have been efficient for measurement of desirability of control for the workplace. The results of the study would then be used to test the hypothesis that most people prefer to take greater risks while they are in control rather than when they are just ordinary, subordinate employees (Smith, Wallston, Forsberg & King, 1984).

The personality trait of desirability for control is related to other personality traits especially the ones in the five factor model such as conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience. However, this measure may be very important in the understanding of the human behaviour that pressures many to wish to be the ones in control in the workplace and in other scenarios.

It is important to understand this trait in the workplace since it may have an association to other traits that are characteristic of employees. For example, someone may wish to be a leader so as to overcome fear, frustration, anxiety or simply due to such personalities as greed or meanness at the workplace (Svenson, 1981).

Desirability of Control and Workplace Anxiety

There seems to be a great relationship between desirability for control and workplace anxiety. Since the workplace involves taking of risks, most people do not feel safe as subordinates when the company is taking great risks. They always feel that their interests may be at stake if things turned against their expectations.

However, research has shown that most people are comfortable taking great risks while they are at a decision-making position of control at their workplace (Taylor & Brown, 1988). They usually feel that they would be able to more easily overcome any challenges that might arise from such a risk as well as getting a reduced workplace anxiety (Burger, 1991).

Therefore, it is acceptable to make a general conclusion that there is a negative correlation between desirability for control and workplace anxiety such that an increase in control results to reduced anxiety and vice versa.

Hence, those in decision-making positions are likely to provide better productivity than the subordinates due their low level of anxiety as well as their improved risk-taking propensity (Trimpop, Kerr & Kirkcaldy, 1999).

Why Measure Desirability of Control

Desirability of control is a very important trait to understand especially for organizations that seek to increase worker productivity, performance and the overall output of the company. Since the trait has a relationship with the effort that an employee puts in their work as well as their performance at work, it is important to take the trait into consideration as a function of performance.

Therefore, there seems to be a close relationship between desirability for control and performance such that an increase in control results to more productivity by an individual worker and vice versa. On the other side, the trait may make the employees to work harder for their effort to be noted and rewarded through elevation from their position to a position of more control (Wolfgang, Zenker, & Viscusi, 1984).

Measures of Desirability for Control in the Past

The desirability for control (DC) scale has been used by researchers in the past to understand the character of different people in relation to their desire to control things around them rather than to be a follower. This scale was designed to collect and analyze information about different aspects that are associated to desirability for control and which were used as a test for the degree of this trait.

A scale of 1-7 was established from which the mean of all the questions considered for the study was calculated and then used to determine the degree of the trait. This scale has been effective in the past especially due to the fact that it was comprehensive in collection of information used for testing the trait.

The measure used before would need to be upgraded due to the fact that there have been tremendous changes and improvements in technology and livelihood in general. Hence, there is a need for the measure to be updated so as to ensure it incorporates the modern society in order for it to be able to collect unbiased and comprehensive information for the current society.

The Proposed Scale

This study will seek to understand the reliability and effectiveness of a scale that has been proposed though research. The scale, if approved, would be more reliable since it would incorporate changes that may occur in the near future and hence would be easier to understand. It will also be easier to use especially for long-term projects and researches.

Reliability and Validity

The reliability of the scale will be determined by considering the number of subjects that portray a higher degree of desire for control. If this number is larger than the one portraying a low degree, then the scale would be ready for valid (McBride, 2009).

The validity of the scale was determined through calculation of the correlation coefficient and then determining the significance of this scale (Zechmeister, & Shaughnessy, 2011).

Hypothesis to be Tested

The hypotheses that were being tested in the study were:

H1: Desirability for control would be negatively correlated with social Anxiety, such that people with high desirability for control will score low in Social Anxiety.

H2: It also been Predicted that people who have high desirability for control and low in social anxiety end to perform better in workplace.

H3: It hypothesized that Desirability for control might be able to predict successfulness of an individual in workplace.

Validating the Scale

The new scale to be used for measurement of the desirability for control trait would be validated through pretesting it on real data so as to determine if it would produce the expected results. This would be done through the process of the test of hypothesis (Goodwin, 2009).


Since the new scale for desirability for control in the workplace is an important factor to consider in understanding of the business employees, it is important to adopt the method since it is easier to use and more reliable. Also, its variables will be fewer and easier to calculate.


Burger, J. (1991). The Effects of Desire for Control in Situations with Chance-Determined Outcomes: Gambling Behavior in Lotto and Bingo Players. Journal of Research in Personality, 25, 196-204.

Goodwin, C. (2009). Research In Psychology: Methods and Design. London: Willey.

Hammond, T. and Horswill, S. (2001). The influence of desire for control on drivers’ risk-taking behavior. London: Pergamon.

Langer, E. (1975). The illusion of control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 311-328.

McBride, D. (2009). The Process of Research in Psychology. London: Pearson.

Smith, A., Wallston, B., Wallston, K., Forsberg, R., and King, J. (1984). Measuring desire for control of health care processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47(2), 415–426.

Svenson, O. (1981). Are we all less risky and more skillful than our fellow drivers. Acta Psychologica, 47, 143–148.

Taylor, E. and Brown, J. (1988). Illusion and well-being: A social psychological perspective on mental health. Psychological Bulletin, 103(2), 193–210.

Trimpop, R., Kerr, H., & Kirkcaldy, B. (1999). Comparing personality constructs of risk-taking behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, 26, 237–254.

Wolfgang, A., Zenker, S. and Viscusi, T. (1984). Control motivation and the illusion of control in betting on dice. Journal of Psychology, 116, 67-72.

Zechmeister, J. and Shaughnessy, J. (2011). Research Methods In Psychology. New York; AMC.

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