Course taster

Occupational psychologists as leaders

Organisational psychology is a science. Organisational psychology, however, is also concerned with the application of scientific knowledge to enhance the effectiveness of individual employees, workgroups and entire organisations. The scientist-practitioner model captures this dynamic interaction between generating scientific knowledge and applying that knowledge for some practical purpose. On a broad level, the scientist-practitioner paradigm asserts that research and practice are not mutually exclusive and frequently 'feed off' one another (Woods and Kandola, 2019).

To illustrate how the scientist-practitioner model works, let us say the branch manager of a bank wants to improve the level of customer service provided to the bank's customers. Fortunately, this individual may draw on the findings of many scientific investigations of customer service to guide their efforts to improve it (e.g. Schneider, White and Paul, 1998). Conversely, scientific investigations of organisational phenomena are often motivated by the practical concerns of organisations. For example, there has been a considerable rise in research in the past decade on the process for older employees when deciding to retire (e.g., Jex and Grosch, 2013). Although such research may undoubtedly be helpful from a purely scientific perspective, another critical factor motivating this research is that organisations often want to influence older employees' retirement decisions to retire earlier and, in other cases, to put off retirement.

Typical employment settings for organisational psychologists include business organisations, consulting firms, government agencies and research institutes (including non-profit research institutes), and even market research firms. Although actual job duties vary widely by setting, many organisational psychologists are involved in organisational change and development activities. For example, this might include assisting an organisation in developing and implementing an employee opinion survey programme, designing and facilitating team development activities or perhaps even helping top management with the strategic planning process.

Professor Michael West sees business psychologists as future leaders and chief executives of organisations because organisations are made up of people. Business psychologists' knowledge from studying human behaviour makes them excellent business leaders (West, 2010). The richness of the discipline and the difference managers can make to organisations by applying business psychology will make managers who can effectively apply business psychology world-class leaders. Managers and business owners will be focusing on performance and strategy. In the future, they will need to integrate their knowledge of business psychology with their knowledge of other disciplines such as economics, strategic management and finance.

Michael West is an occupational therapist, professor and the Executive Dean of Aston University Business School. Michael explains in the video below why psychologists must embrace the notion of leadership:

Occupational Psychologists as Leaders

View Occupational Psychologists as Leaders video transcript

Likewise, Shawn Achor explains in the video below that you need to get better grades next time if you get good grades. So, you will never achieve success and constantly push it over the horizon into the future. On the other hand, happiness makes someone more successful. 'The happiness advantage' means you are better at getting a job, 31% more productive and more resilient.

The happy secret to better work - Shawn Achor

View The happy secret to better work - Shawn Achor video transcript

Activity 1.3: Considering business psychology practices

Reflecting on the material of this unit, this activity will help you describe the primary areas of practice in business psychology.

Critically evaluate the views of Michael West and Shawn Achor. Consider the differences in business psychology in your part of the world, and answer the following questions:

- Consider an organisation local to you. This may be your own organisation, or one that is familiar to you. Identify an issue that this particular organisation is currently facing.
- Will the nature of work and the way it is organised stay the same or change?
- How could you as a manager, employee or business owner apply business psychology (as viewed by Michael West and Shawn Achor) to your organisation?
- Will the nature of work and the way it is organised stay the same or change?
- What professional areas should business psychologists develop and why?

Develop a reflection of up to 200 words and post it in your Personal Journal (The link to the Personal Journal is not available in this course taster).