The aim of the current study was to address the intervening role of perceived control in the job insecurity–strain relationship. Two alternatives were investigated: (1) perceived control as a buffer of the relationship between job insecurity and outcome variables (i.e. job satisfaction, organizational commitment, psychological distress and turnover intentions); and (2) perceived control as a mediator of the relationship between job insecurity and the outcomes. Cross-sectional data of 211 employees were used to test the hypotheses. The results showed that perceived control did not buffer the relationship between job insecurity, and job satisfaction, organizational commitment, psychological distress and turnover intentions. However, perceived control was found to partially mediate the association between job insecurity and these outcomes. The results are explained using the cognitive theory of stress and coping of Lazarus and Folkman, and suggest that job insecurity is stressful because it decreases the experience of control. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.