flowing motion

Work psychology: 2008 AD

Posted on: November 11, 2008

Do you know what work psychologists do?

Thirty-one years ago, I decided to study psychology.  And for 28 years, I have practiced as a work psychologist.  Can you imagine my surprise when some readers said this blog was their first encounter with my esteemed trade?  So what do we do?

What do we do all day?

I love being a work psychologist and I think it is important for you to know I go to my ‘office’ every day with a spring in my step, looking forward to the people I will meet during the course of the day.   Most of our lives are spent ‘on the road’.  We usually work at our clients’ factories and offices, and we need strong arms to carry around briefcases laden with confidential papers.  When you see us, we are likely to be taking part in some HR exercise – recruitment, selection, or team-building, say.  When you don’t see us, we will be reconciling paperwork, doing computer work, or talking to senior managers about the direction of the company, and ways to organize, lead, up skill, confront challenges, and look after each other.

Why do clients hire us?

We deal with the pulse of the organization.  Ideally, we want everyone to enjoy their work as much as we do.  There is fascination in what we do, but little mystery.  Our understanding of how organizations work has grown in leaps and bounds over the last 100 years.  The last ten years have been particularly interesting as the limits of old ‘mechanical’ organizations have been reached and we’ve begun to embrace the fluidity and flexibility of the internet.

The psychologist’s role is to bring to the party up-to-date information about the way work practices are changing around the world, hands-on experience of changes in other companies, and deep commitment to supporting you as you think through changes in the immediate and foreseeable future.

What is special about what we do?

Just looking at us work is not sufficient to see the value we add.  You can see us talking to people – lots of people do that!  You see the briefcases – a prop?

The key to what psychologists do is deep training and ongoing exposure to work situations around the world.  When we talk with you, we are not asking whether we like you.  Nor, are we are asking about things we want.

Our interest is in accurately understanding your motivation and your circumstances, reflecting them against the changing world of business and work, and helping you work through the mix of emotions you feel as you cast your story in terms of today’s economic conditions – globalization, credit crunch, and new technologies.

This is a complicated process.  Even in the simplest business, we have on the one hand the things we want, and one the other, ‘what’s out there’.  And that gap in knowledge is not all we cope with.  When we really want something, we feel fear and trepidation.  Our job is to stay with you while you work through your anxiety and take the first step towards what will ultimately be success and very deep satisfaction.

Psychologists understand this process, see it is normal, and are there to help steer you through all three questions: you, your opportunities, your emotions.

When we work in most modern businesses, 5, 10, 15, 10 000, 100 000 of us are going through the same process.  When I decide, for example, to pursue my story in certain ways, my actions change your circumstances.   The key to good organization is that the give-and-take between us as we follow our own dreams strengthens us individuals and as a group.  Therein, the discussions we hold with senior managers.

Some case studies next?  Do let me know if I have made it any clearer what we do for a living!


9 Responses to "Work psychology: 2008 AD"

Great Post.

As i am still studying, i have not decided what area of Psychology i want to major in. Organisational Psychology has always been up the top of my list, because i have wanted a more direct hands on type of job. You have almost convinced me to persue work psyche.

What type of person do you think it takes to be an Org Psychologist?

Hi Jo!

Now I know exactly what you do! 🙂

As a business owner I find myself thinking ‘I don’t need any help. I know what I need to do and how to do it’ but it is never that easy. Having an outside source look in through a different prospective is always of benefit to the direction my company has taken.

Keep up the great and very worthy work you do.

Shelley xx

Work psychologists are so integral and it is surprising how many people don’t have any knowledge that we even exist! Those that do know, however, definitely know the benefits we provide.

Thanks Trudy, Shelley and David. Happy you dropped by.

[…] Acknowledgements Work psychology: 2008 AD […]

[…] A psychology student, Trudy, commented on my post about Work Psychology: 2008 AD. I first ‘found’ Trudy using Twitter, the micro-blogging service, where you say what […]


I have a M.A. in Industrial Psychology but unfortunately when I graduated the market was bad so there wasn’t much need for someone with my background. As a result I found myself working in HR since I also had an MBA in HRM. My education in IO Psyc hasn’t been used and it sometimes saddens me that I wasn’t patient because IO Psyc is what I wanted to do since High School.

What are your thoughts concerning my situation.

Hi Rae

I don’t know your role exactly but the combination of psychology, MBA and an HRM position should be very powerful. You should be in a very good position to influence HR policy and the quality of life of many other people. I encouraged my students to seek HR positions and to work towards a senior position.

What you might like to do is google Dr Rao at Googletalk and listen to what he has to say. Without doing anything radical, you should be able to make very slight adjustments to what you do that add up to a radical transformation over a year.

If you find that talk, then let me know what you think of it?

Thanks for dropping in. I’ll be interested in how you get one.


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