Public: Summary of Industrial and Organizational Psychology - Work in the 21st Century - Lande

What is Industrial and Organizational Psychology? - Chapter 1

What is the importance of industrial & organizational psychology? 

During the week and sometimes even in the weekends, most adults are at work. Often, (high school) students also have a vacation job or a part-time job during the week. This means that working and earning money is an important part of almost everyone's life. However, you have to keep in mind that working is not only an exchange of workforce and money. The National Research Council conducted a study in which they showed that when people were asked if they would continue working if they were actually allowed to quit their job and have enough money, the majority said they would not want to quit their job. After all, work is an important determinant of people live their lives.

What is the 'Good Work' concept?

Gardner (2002) noted that psychology has often ignored the idea of ​​how workers conceptualize their daily experiences. For example, the goals and concerns that workers bring to the workplace are often not considered in studies. Gardner also came up with the term "Good Work". Good work is the term for work that exhibits a higher level of expertise and it also concerns the implications and applications of an individual's work in relation to the rest of the world. These terms and concepts have been combined into the 'GoodWork Project'. The goals of this project are to create good work for people and to help people identify good work. Things such as wanting to keep costs low and profits high, to do more in less time, and to fulfill numerous life roles can lead workers to 'cut corners'. This 'cutting of corners' leads to what researchers call "compromised" work: work that is not illegal or unethical, but that still undermines the core values of a profession.

The interesting thing about the 'good' and 'bad' aspects of work are that the employee and the employer together have the power to define good work. In addition, they also have the power to turn good work into bad work and vice versa. 

I-O (Industrial and Organizational) psychologists often study cultural changes. For example, in recent years the concept of authenticity has become a popular aspect in America. Within I-O psychology authenticity is defined as: an emotionally appropriate, significant, goal-oriented (purposive) and responsible mode of human life.

What is I-O psychology?

I-O is about applying psychological principles, theories and research from psychology to the workplace. I-O psychologists are often referred to as 'work psychologists' in everyday language. However, you should not think that I-O psychology is only about the work atmosphere: its influence extends further than just the workplace. For example, it is about ALL the factors that influence work and many of these factors are not always found in the work setting. For example, these factors include family responsibilities, cultural influences, employment-related legislation, and nonwork events. An example are the attacks on 9/11 in New York which influenced the work of many people in very different ways. Someone's personality also has a lot of influence on their work behavior.

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology is an association to which many I-O psychologists belong. They came up with a more formal definition of I-O psychology: "I-O psychologists recognize the interdependence of individuals, organizations and society. In addition, they also recognize the impact of factors such as growing government influences, growing consumer awareness, skill shortage, and the changing nature of the workforce. They provide answers to the problems that may be present in the workplace. They are psychologists who derive principles of individual, group and organizational behavior through research."

I-O psychologists are often placed in 3 different 'concentrations': personnel psychology, organizational psychology and human engineering. 

  1. Personnel psychology: This is often seen as the human resources management or HRM part of a company. It is about recruitment, selection, training, performance, promotion, transfer and termination within the organization. People are always different in the way they work and the information they receive or use. Research must be used to predict, maintain and increase work performance.    

  2. Organizational psychology: Combines research and ideas from social psychology and organizational behavior. It is about the emotional and motivational side of work. It includes topics such as attitudes, fairness, motivation, stress, leadership, teams and the broader aspects of organizational and work design.

  3. Human engineering / human factors psychology: this is the study of the capacities and limitations of people in a certain environment. It is almost the opposite of personnel psychology. In personnel psychology, the goal is to find the best fit between a person and a particular job. In human engineering psychology, it is the human engineer's job to create an environment that is congruent with the characteristics of the employee. For example: the work environment, the tools, information display, work shifts, the speed of work, machine control and also how safety is guaranteed in an organization or workgroup. Human engineering also makes extensive use of cognitive science, ergonomics, physiology and anatomy to improve work conditions.

So, I-O psychologists use research to solve specific problems. This emphasis on the application of scientific knowledge is known as the scientist-practitioner model. 

What is the the contribution of I-O psychology to society?

I-O psychologists also help organizations to become more sustainable. For example, online testing and assessments, telecommunications and shorter working weeks all are part of a sustainable company. I-O psychologists Deniz Ones and Stephan Dilchert have conducted a study into "green (sustainable)" behavior of employees. They found five dimensions of green behavior: conserving, avoiding harm, transforming, influencing others and taking initiative. They also found that the relationship between green behavioral intentions and next-day employee green behavior was positive only when employes perceived that their workplace was supportive of such green behaviors.

How can you use the SIOP as a source of information?

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology is the best source for information for anyone who is interested in I-O psychology. They also have a quarterly news letter called the TIP (The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist), which contains important and informative stories and research for people who are interested in I-O psychology.   

How can this course help you?

Working is a part of everyone's life. That is why this course on I-O psychology can be helpful to you in various ways.

  1. It can help you to understand what you are experiencing in the workplace. This is not about emotions, but about the broader context such as the policies and practices that you are likely to experience in your work.

  2. There is also a chance that you will eventually be placed in a position of a leader. The information in this summary provide you with a good foundation for developing and/or implementing effective policies.

  3. You will certainly also hear your friends, family or parents in your life talk about problems and irritations at work. Then you could be a source of information for them and help them to resolve these issues. 

You also learn certain professional terms that you might encounter or that you have to use yourself later.

  • Welfare-to-work programs are programs that require work in return for government subsidies.
  • Telecommunication: working from home.  
  • Virtual teams: this means that workers are located in many different offices and work online, without meeting each other physically.

Why is it important to involve the younger generation?

A large part of I-O psychology deals with managerial, professional and other white-collar full-time employer problems. However, the authors of this book question the appropriateness of that focus. So, younger workers are often ignored. Loughlin & Barling (2001) state that it is important to include this generation of young workers in their focus, because:

  1. First of all, they represent a large portion of a population of part-time workers, and as part-time work becomes more common, we need to know all we can about the experience of part-time work;

  2. One's first job is likely to have a big influence on the filter through which subsequent work experiences are viewed.

Jobs such as cashier, customer service rep, camp counselor, lifeguard/swim instructor, waitserver and retail salesperson are the most common paid positions for younger adults.

What is the past, present and the future of I-O psychology?  

What does the past of I-O psychology look like?

It is important that you know something about the history of I-O psychology, because you want to know what has been achieved so far and where there is room for improvement. Also, when we look at the history from a broad perspective, it is possible to make accurate predictions about the future.

What happened between 1876-1930? 

The beginning of the I-O psychology coincides with the beginning of psychology as a science. Wilhelm Wundt developed the first psychological laboratory in Germany in which he conducted research on physical, chemical, physical and biological concepts in the world. He trained two psychologists who later had an enormous influence on I-O psychology: Hugo Munsterberg and James McKeen. Munsterberg, for example, made the first translation of a German to English scientific book about I-O psychology. Munsterberg was also one of the first to look at employee opportunities. He also tried to make it clear to the American government how important I-O psychology would be for the nation's economic growth and development, and this led to the emergence of "economic" psychology. 

Walter Dill Scott and Walter van Dyke Bingham were also trying to develop methods for better staff selection. When World War I broke out, Scott and Bingham, along with a few other volunteers, began to develop a test to select different army recruits. They used the Stanford-Binet test (which was used to measure an individuals intelligence) and adapted this test to make it suitable for mass group testing. This new test was called the Army Alpha.

When the World War was over, other people became important for I-O psychology. Lillian Gilbreth is one of these persons. Gilbreth was the first to ever get a PhD in industrial psychology. Her PhD applied the Scientific Management principles of Frederick W. Taylor to educational institutions. Scientific Management was based on the principles of time and motion study. Gilbreth and her husband became well-known human engineering practitioners and management consultants.

What happened between 1930-1964? 

When Elton Mayo arrived in the United States, a lot changed for industrial psychology. He started studying the emotions of the employees instead of efficiency. He was particularly interested in the possibility that work "caused" workers to act in pathological ways. He said that there was a certain mental state, called revery obsession, that resulted from repetitive, and difficult work that was common at the factories every day at the time. He said that because the employees only had to do physical work and could not use their mental knowledge, certain paranoid or other negative thoughts might arise.

Hawthorne studies were studies which were concerned with this statement of Mayo. These studies wanted to increase productivity by manipulating lighting, rest breaks, and work hours. However, the results of these studies were mixed. Mayo then went on to interview workers to get to know how this is possible. He found out that the workers' attitudes played a role in productivity. 

The results of these studies were the start of a new movement called the Human Relations Movement. Researchers in this movement were interested in more complicated theories of motivation, as well as in the newly discovered emotional world of the workers. Also, studies of job satisfaction became more common.

World War II brought new problems to the work force, especially in the Air Force. There were certain innovations implemented (human engineering) and this led to a reduction in accidents. Because of this reduction, human engineering was acknowledged.

The years after World War II were booming for industry. There were many jobs and many opportunities for employment. There was also an increasing trend toward labor unrest. This means that employees were less likely to participate in all kinds of decisions that the employers made, probably as a result of the bad circumstances during WWII. This labor unrest lead to that employers became more interested in attitudes and personality and the influence of these factors on work productivity. Because of this interest, a lot of tests were created and used to select certain people based on their attitude and personality. Then, in 1964, the Civil Rights Act was created. The Civil Rights Act addressed specific areas of possible discrimination, in domains such as voting, education, housing and employment discrimination. The part about employment discrimination stated that employers need to justify the tests they use for selecting employees. If the test that they used was not shown to be related to job performance and if a protected group (such as African Americans, Hispanics, women) tended to score lower on that test compared to a non-protected group, the test might be considered illegal.

In 1973 the field changed its name from industrial psychology to industrial and organizational psychology. The original name addressed work behavior from the individual perspective. However, later it became clear that there were other, broader influences not only on individuals, but also on group behavior in the workplace. So, "organizational" was added to emphasize the fact that when an individual joins "an organization", he or she will be expoed to a common goal and a common set of operating procedures. So, the worker will be "organized" not only by his or her individual characteristics, but also by a larger social system. 

Some generalizations that can be drawn from the early history of I-O psychology are that:

  1. Mental ability tests have always played an important part in the practice of industrial psychology. 

  2. Most industrial psychologists focuses on improving productivity and reducing counterproductive work behavior such as absenteeism and turnover.

  3. There was a tendency to see I-O psychology as consisting of three branches which were unrelated to each other and which even were in competition with one another to explain industrial behavior.

  4. It was taken for granted that the unit of analysis was the individual worker rather than the work group, organization or even culture.

The present: what are the demographics of I-O psychologists?

The American Psychological Association (APA) is the largest and most famous organization for psychologists. There have been several changes in the demographic nature of the APA throughout history, especially with regards to gender. For example, there were many more female I-O psychologists after 1985.   

There are also many different names for I-O psychologists, such as occupational psychologists, work and organization psychologists, applied psychologists, etc. 

The future, what are the challenges that I-O psychologists may encounter in the 21st century?

I-O psychologists must go through four challenges to ensure that they can continue to help employees, employers and society as a whole.

  1. I-O psychology needs to be relevant: this means that today's problems must be studied, not those of yesterday. For example, nowadays problems related to globalization, technological evolution of the working environment are important themes.

  2. I-O psychology needs to be useful: it is of course an applied subdiscipline, which means that the value of this discipline consists of applying theories and other research findings in practice. 

  3. I-O psychology needs to be grounded in the scientific method: good and systematic observations must be made. The analysis of data and the connection between data and the interpretation and possibility for others by this data makes I-O psychology important.  

What are multicultural and cross-cultural problems in I-O psychology? 

If you look at the difference in life that you had and that your parents had when they were kids, that's a big difference. You probably immediately think of technological changes, but there are also many differences with regards to nationality. In the past, you probably only saw different nationalities in Amsterdam, the capital city. Now, there is a beautiful mix of nationalities everywhere in the Netherlands. But, psychologists are not so much interested in a person's nationality. Instead, they are interested in a person's culture. A culture is a system in which individuals have common ways of interpreting certain people, events and objects. 

I-O psychologists are very interested in culture and on the influence it has on people. When you work together, everyone has a different view on an event or an object. To make the situation even more complex, individuals never carry solely one culture with them. Instead, individuals have different cultures, subcultures and sets of ideas or expectations. This is also referred to as the cultural mosaic phenomenon. For example, take a Taiwanese professor who comes to teach at an American University. In Taiwan, he reads his lectures directly from his notes, he does answer any questions from his students, does not give them a break and receives a lot of respect from his students. This is a normal situation in Taiwan. However, in America, this professor would not be appreciated. 

What are cross-national problems in the workplace?

There have always been connections between countries, for example borders or cultures. But, the connections that can be made now are much more complex and intense, because of globalization. This can cause problems. Consider, for example, the large multinationals that place companies and factories in third-world countries or China, because the production costs are much lower compared to first world countries. These global connections lead to less job certainty. For the I-O psychologist, the importance of this global connectedness is that it brings many different cultures into contact with one another at the workplace, particularly when that workplace is a virual one. The challenge then becomes one of developing systems (training, motivation, reward) that are compatible with so many different cultures.

Why is multiculturalism important for I-O psychology?

Hermans and Kampen (1998) came up with the idea of "West versus the Rest mentality". This is defined as the tendency of researchers to develop theories that are relevant to Western countries, such as the US, while ignoring the application of these theories in other countries.

Increasingly, I-O psychologists and HRM fields are becoming aware of the importance a multicultural approach to understand work behavior. However, this means that they often apply things which are not grounded in theory (in science). An example of this is the problem of expatriates: American managers and professionals who are assigned work in locations outside of the United States. Some of these expatriates fail, because they cannot or will not adapt to the culture of the new location. When this happens, this is bad for the organization, because it was a waste of financial investment in addition to losing productivity and goodwill in the new location! That is why expatriate selection and training has now become a booming business.  

What are theories of cultural influence?

A manager may realize that individual rewards seem ineffective in Japan, while they are effective in the United States. But, that manager may not understand the underlying principle: The Japanese culture is a collectivist culture, which values the group more than the individual. The U.S. culture is an individualist culture, which values the individual more than the group. 

What is Hofstede's theory?

Culture is a very complex system that goes beyond the difference between individualism and collectivism. In 1980, Hofstede described how, based on five domains, cultures could be distinguished from each other:

  1. Individualism / collectivism: In countries such as the US, the UK and the Netherlands, individualistic culture has much more influence, which means that individuals place more importance on themselves and their family than that they place importance on society. In countries such as Colombia, Pakistan and Taiwan, the emphasis is more on the society compared to the individual.

  2. Distance of power: This is the distance between the government / leader and the habitants. In Denmark and the Netherlands, they try to keep this distance as small as possible, while in North Korea and China they try to keep this distance very large. 

  3. Avoiding uncertainty: Cultures such as Jamaica and Singapore do not view uncertainty as a bad thing and they live by the day. On the other hand, cultures such as the Greek and Portuguese culture, place a lot of emphasis on certaninty.

  4. Masculinity versus femininity: In masculine cultures such as the US, Japan, and Germany, achievement, success, and well-being are very important parts of the culture. In feminine cultures such as Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands, people, relationships and environment are more important than wealth and accomplishment.

  5. Long-term versus short-term orientation: cultures with a short-term orientation (such as the US and Russia) focus on the past and present and honor tradition. Cultures that have a long-term orientation (such as Japan and China) tend to have a long-term orientation and are not as concerned with immediate benefit as they are with thrift and persistence. 

There are also several reasons why managers should be sensitive to culture:

  • Culture differ greatly on how subordinates expect leaders to lead and what motivates individuals: therefore, the selection and training of managers should vary accross cultures.

  • Cultures influence human resource practices. For example, in the United States, hiring decisions depend  heavily on an applicant's technical skills, whereas in collectivist cultures such as Japan much more emphasis is placed on how well the individual will fit into a group.

  • Compensation policies vary widely between cultures: people in Western cultures often get paid more. Also, in the US, the highest-paid individual in a company may earn 200 times more than the lowest-paid individual. In collectivist cultures, the highest-paid individual rarely earns more than 20 times the compensation of the lowest-paid individual.

  • In collectivist cultures, group decision-making is more highly valued, but in individualist cultures, individual decision-making is more the norm. This type of cultural discrepancy will lead to problems in communication and decision-making when an individual from one culture is placed into work groups or work settings with individuals from another culture. 

What are other theories of cultural influence?

Triandis suggested a variation on Hofstede's dimension of individualism/collectivisim. He suggested that a horizontal/vertical dimension interacts with individualism/collectivism. Horizontal cultures are cultures that try to minimize a distance between individuals. Vertical cultures are cultures that accept the distance between individuals and also depend on those distances.     

Triandis' view of the cultural determinants in the workplace






Sweden, Australia


China, India, Greece

America, Germany

What should be kept in mind is that Hofstede's theory was created by by averaging the responses of all respondents from a given country and assigning that average as the country value on the dimension. So, it is a theory about countries, not about individuals. However, within a country, not all individuals share the same culture.

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