Greg A. Chung-Yan, PhD Industrial-Organizational Psychology

WHY STUDY I-O

PSYCHOLOGY?

I-O Psychology is useful

In mixed company, when asked to describe Industrial-Organizational (I-O) psychology, I usually don’t know what to say. I want to make it sound both important and interesting, while at the same time not sounding like a puffed-up, out-of-touch academic. Try doing that in a tight 2 minutes. The damn title alone is 14 syllables long. Here’s an assortment of my failed attempts. It’s like human resources management only more scientific. Unlike business schools, we don’t only tell you what to do, but why you’re doing it. When you apply for jobs, all that stuff you go through, I-O psychologists developed them. Some of us do executive coaching, helping managers who are stalled in their careers. Other stuff, too. “Industrial” is like human resources; “Organizational” is closer to what you think of when you think of psychology; behaviour in organizations, teamwork, sh*t like that. FAIL! And to think I’ve had 20 years to come up with a better response. The irony: I-O psychology is both important and interesting. More than that, you develop employable skills, it’s relevant to your life now, and you can have a direct impact on people’s lives. You also have more career options than in other areas of psychology. I think part of the problem is that the arenas in which I-O psychologists work are so vast and varied that it defies pithy description. We also don’t want to sound like hacks that use business-speak like “capitalizing on human potential”; “leveraging talent”; and prefacing anything with “synergizing.” Using nouns as verbs should only be done as broad satire. In an effort to stop embarrassing myself, I’ve attempted to explain what we do here. Some of it is adapted from the websites of the Canadian Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (CSIOP); and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). Also known as (AKA) Industrial-Organizational Psychology is referred to by other names and also subsumes other popularly known topics. Personnel psychology Work psychology Organizational behaviour Human resources management Labour relations Human factors and ergonomics Vocational guidance Journals frequently referred to by I-O researchers and business professionals Journal of Applied Psychology Academy of Management Journal Personnel Psychology Academy of Management Review Journal of Business and Psychology Journal of Organizational Behavior Journal of Occupational Health Psychology Industrial and Organizational Psychology:  Perspectives on Science and Practice …and many more.

This is how CSIOP defines I-O

The Canadian Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (CSIOP) is an organization whose mission is to further the welfare of people by: (a) helping organizations effectively manage their human resources, (b) scientifically investigating human behaviour and cognition at work, and (c) helping individuals realize their work goals, including helping them to maximize job satisfaction and productivity and minimize work stress.” Not a bad definition, all things considered. It’s not terribly concrete, though.

Sectors I-O psychologists work

When it comes to career paths, I-O is not short on options. They include: Academia (colleges, universities) Consulting Industry (for-profit and not-for- profit) Government (public servants) Hybrids of the above (e.g., research institutes, think-tanks, health-care) That pretty much covers everywhere a human works. And if you refer back to CSIOP’s description on the left, that pretty much covers everything humans do at work. So, basically, I-O psychologists study and influence the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours of humans at work. In terms of career advice, this is about as useful as a fortune cookie. (Actually, SIOP does have more detailed resources that can aid in identifying and planning possible I-O career paths. )

I-O psychology is not a “job”

According to their brochures, colleges and other vocational schools train you for “jobs.” That’s all well and good, but a job is what is referred to as a social construction: A group of people (e.g., society) have agreed that a particular set of tasks, duties, and problems to be solved form a category called [insert job title here.] This taxonomic convenience is useful when your kid announces that he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up. The alternative is little Bobby telling you that when he grows up, he wants to control and extinguish fires or respond to emergency situations where life, property, or the environment is at risk, drawing upon the following knowledges, skills, and abilities ... [yada yada yada]. This is a simple and readily understood example because the general public knowsor thinks they knowwhat a firefighter is and does. Alternatively, if Bobby says he wants to be a  “consultant”, you’d think a) who’s Bobby hanging out with? and b) what kind of consultant does he mean? Describing a consultant is not quite as straightforward as describing a firefighter. There are consultants willing to give advice on almost any topic, using any method you can imagine. Similarly, defining what an I-O psychologist does is like nailing Jell-o to a wall. Hence, the use of “sectors” (see above) rather than “jobs” when discussing what I-O psychologists do: it’s more manageable and informative. Think of I-O psychology as a toolbox: It contains a vast array of different tools to fix a wide range of problems in all sorts of different ways. A full and comprehensive toolbox gives you the most flexibility in fixing different problems, but even a small number of tools have their place and don’t necessarily have to be used by a handyman. (Metaphors are not my strong suit).

What I-O psychologists do

Right off the bat, you should know that the title of this section is erroneous and misleading. If you noticed, test passed. If you didn’t, read the section to the left. To give you more concrete examples of what I- O trained people can do, here’s a brief and incomplete list of activities. They are taken from the Psychology Career Guide. Note that the activities listed could be performed by people with other “jobs” such as a human resources director, an advertising consultant, or a vocational guidance counsellor. What we DON’T do is therapy. Design/select tests or interview formats to guide employers in who they should hire and for what positions Develop and facilitate performance evaluations to assess individual employees and the organization as a whole Provide relevant training to managers. Determine needs of new and existing employees and develop/evaluate related training programs (e.g., technical or diversity training Advise an organization’s attorneys (such as when faced with litigation cases concerning employees) Analyze a company’s job positions to determine if employees are treated fairly and legally Design, evaluate, or advise on systems that promote employee satisfaction, organizational performance, and fill employee needs, such as incentives and rewards, on-site childcare, fulfilling job tasks, and more Evaluate customer satisfaction
Greg A. Chung-Yan, PhD Industrial-Organizational Psychology
Everyone Everything Everywhere

INDUSTRIAL-ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY

EXPLAINED

WHY STUDY I-O

PSYCHOLOGY?

I-O Psychology is useful

In mixed company, when asked to describe Industrial-Organizational (I-O) psychology, I usually don’t know what to say. I want to make it sound both important and interesting, while at the same time not sounding like a puffed-up, out-of-touch academic. Try doing that in a tight 2 minutes. The damn title alone is 14 syllables long. Here’s an assortment of my failed attempts. It’s like human resources management only more scientific. Unlike business schools, we don’t only tell you what to do, but why you’re doing it. When you apply for jobs, all that stuff you go through, I-O psychologists developed them. Some of us do executive coaching, helping managers who are stalled in their careers. Other stuff, too. “Industrial” is like human resources; “Organizational” is closer to what you think of when you think of psychology; behaviour in organizations, teamwork, sh*t like that. FAIL! And to think I’ve had 20 years to come up with a better response. The irony: I-O psychology is both important and interesting. More than that, you develop employable skills, it’s relevant to your life now, and you can have a direct impact on people’s lives. You also have more career options than in other areas of psychology. I think part of the problem is that the arenas in which I-O psychologists work are so vast and varied that it defies pithy description. We also don’t want to sound like hacks that use business-speak like “capitalizing on human potential”; “leveraging talent”; and prefacing anything with “synergizing.” Using nouns as verbs should only be done as broad satire. In an effort to stop embarrassing myself, I’ve attempted to explain what we do here. Some of it is adapted from the websites of the Canadian Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (CSIOP); and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). Also known as (AKA) Industrial-Organizational Psychology is referred to by other names and also subsumes other popularly known topics. Personnel psychology Work psychology Organizational behaviour Human resources management Labour relations Human factors and ergonomics Vocational guidance Journals frequently referred to by I-O researchers and business professionals Journal of Applied Psychology Academy of Management Journal Personnel Psychology Academy of Management Review Journal of Business and Psychology Journal of Organizational Behavior Journal of Occupational Health Psychology Industrial and Organizational Psychology:  Perspectives on Science and Practice …and many more.

This is how CSIOP defines I-O

The Canadian Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (CSIOP) is an organization whose mission is to further the welfare of people by: (a) helping organizations effectively manage their human resources, (b) scientifically investigating human behaviour and cognition at work, and (c) helping individuals realize their work goals, including helping them to maximize job satisfaction and productivity and minimize work stress.” Not a bad definition, all things considered. It’s not terribly concrete, though.

Sectors I-O psychologists work

When it comes to career paths, I-O is not short on options. They include: Academia (colleges, universities) Consulting Industry (for-profit and not-for- profit) Government (public servants) Hybrids of the above (e.g., research institutes, think-tanks, health-care) That pretty much covers everywhere a human works. And if you refer back to CSIOP’s description on the left, that pretty much covers everything humans do at work. So, basically, I-O psychologists study and influence the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours of humans at work. In terms of career advice, this is about as useful as a fortune cookie. (Actually, SIOP does have more detailed resources that can aid in identifying and planning possible I-O career paths. )

I-O psychology is not a “job”

According to their brochures, colleges and other vocational schools train you for “jobs.” That’s all well and good, but a job is what is referred to as a social construction: A group of people (e.g., society) have agreed that a particular set of tasks, duties, and problems to be solved form a category called [insert job title here.] This taxonomic convenience is useful when your kid announces that he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up. The alternative is little Bobby telling you that when he grows up, he wants to control and extinguish fires or respond to emergency situations where life, property, or the environment is at risk, drawing upon the following knowledges, skills, and abilities ... [yada yada yada]. This is a simple and readily understood example because the general public knowsor thinks they knowwhat a firefighter is and does. Alternatively, if Bobby says he wants to be a  “consultant”, you’d think a) who’s Bobby hanging out with? and b) what kind of consultant does he mean? Describing a consultant is not quite as straightforward as describing a firefighter. There are consultants willing to give advice on almost any topic, using any method you can imagine. Similarly, defining what an I-O psychologist does is like nailing Jell-o to a wall. Hence, the use of “sectors” (see above) rather than “jobs” when discussing what I-O psychologists do: it’s more manageable and informative. Think of I-O psychology as a toolbox: It contains a vast array of different tools to fix a wide range of problems in all sorts of different ways. A full and comprehensive toolbox gives you the most flexibility in fixing different problems, but even a small number of tools have their place and don’t necessarily have to be used by a handyman. (Metaphors are not my strong suit).

What I-O psychologists do

Right off the bat, you should know that the title of this section is erroneous and misleading. If you noticed, test passed. If you didn’t, read the section to the left. To give you more concrete examples of what I-O trained people can do, here’s a brief and incomplete list of activities. They are taken from the Psychology Career Guide. Note that the activities listed could be performed by people with other “jobs” such as a human resources director, an advertising consultant, or a vocational guidance counsellor. What we DON’T do is therapy. Design/select tests or interview formats to guide employers in who they should hire and for what positions Develop and facilitate performance evaluations to assess individual employees and the organization as a whole Provide relevant training to managers. Determine needs of new and existing employees and develop/evaluate related training programs (e.g., technical or diversity training Advise an organization’s attorneys (such as when faced with litigation cases concerning employees) Analyze a company’s job positions to determine if employees are treated fairly and legally Design, evaluate, or advise on systems that promote employee satisfaction, organizational performance, and fill employee needs, such as incentives and rewards, on-site childcare, fulfilling job tasks, and more Evaluate customer satisfaction
Greg A. Chung-Yan Industrial/ Organizational Psychology