Pieter Drenth & Wang Ming. The International Handbook of Psychology. Editor: Kurt Pawlik & Mark R Rosenzweig. Sage Publications. 2000.
The organizational psychology of work is a twentieth-century product. With the rapid development of industrialized society, the growing number of larger enterprises and the increasing complexity of production processes so typical of this century, company directors have learned, sometimes by bitter experience, that economic and technical models alone are not enough to understand and control these developments within their organizations. Directors and managers have turned to social science and to psychologists in particular to help them gain insight into workers’ individual needs and motives, into the complexity of social interplay, and into the conditions likely to facilitate the development of satisfied workers and harmonious as well as productive workgroups. They have asked psychologists to develop methods for optimizing man—machine interactions, valid and reliable procedures for assessing and selecting personnel, and effective methods for the training and development of employees. They have also asked them to examine organizational culture and working conditions and to suggest ways of measuring and improving them, to advise on the best type of leadership behavior, and to find out how best to market their products or recruit new employees. In other words, an appreciation grew that concern for the human side of an enterprise was as essential for the survival of industrial organizations as their concern for technical or financial issues.
Psychologists working on these issues gradually united and organized themselves into a special subdiscipline of psychology, which was first called ‘industrial psychology’ (or its equivalent in a number of other languages: Betriebspsychologie in German, bedrijfspsychologie in Dutch). Later the broader term ‘Industrial and Organizational (I/O) psychology’ became more current in the USA, whereas in Europe the term ‘Work and Organizational (W&O) psychology’ was used more widely.
Since the beginning of this century, when the first modest attempts were made to answer such questions and to render such services, W&O psychology has grown continuously. W&O psychologists currently constitute the second largest category of psychologists in the world after clinical psychologists, and in many Western European universities W&O psychology is one of the two most preferred specializations within psychology. Of course, this is partly determined by the better prospects for graduates on the labor market, but this also clearly reflects the importance of the contribution made by W&O psychology as perceived by industry and by public and governmental administrations.
Definition and Domain
W&O psychology refers to the specialization within psychology that is specifically concerned with human behavior at work in or in connection with a work organization. It is sometimes asked why a special subdiscipline had to be created (or had to emerge) to deal with this behavior. Why such a special interest and why so much special attention?
The arguments are twofold. A first motive stems from the significant position that ‘work’ has in most lives. This can be taken literally; in a great many cases, some 40 years of work experience, preceded by an ever-increasing number of preparatory years of schooling, and in many instances even followed by an extended (often voluntary) contribution to the economy or to society in general, indicate the core position of work in a person’ lifetime. Moreover, a great many workers spend the major part of their daily waking hours either in or in relation to their working role: preparing for work, commuting to or from work, or at work. This is not to say that the present situation will not change. Working times will become more flexible, the total number of hours spent at the workplace or in the office may decrease, the distinction between working and learning will become less apparent, retirement age may become more variable or less distinct, etc. but none of these developments alters the fact that, in terms of time spent and energy invested, the work role will remain a central one in a person’ life.
A second argument may be found in the salient position which work occupies in the psychological sense. In all the countries taking part in the international comparative study ‘Meaning of Working’ (MOW, 1987) the work role is described as highly central in one’ life, taking only a second position after ‘family.’ Similar findings were reported in the longitudinal, cross-national comparative ‘European Value Study’ (Ester, Halman, & de Moor, 1993). This finding does not come as a surprise to anyone who takes cognizance of the often intense emotional reactions to the loss of the work role, either through unemployment or because of physical disability.
Even retirement, whether voluntary or compulsory, is a far from gratifying experience for many employees.
At the same time it should be realized that we are dealing with a very large and diverse scientific field, only part of which has yet been clearly delineated. The large extent of this scientific field stems from the enormous diversity of its subject: people working in organizations. The large variety in kinds of work, types of organizations, working conditions, and social interactions, as well as individual differences, create a complex and intricate field of study.
The large differences in kinds of work, for instance, are reflected in the enormous variety of occupations and professions that exist. The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (1965) lists tens of thousands of descriptions of occupations, divided into 22 work areas and 114 trait groups. And of course, this list does not include the many new functions created by the developments in new information technologies, automation, and computing that have taken place since 1965.
Organizations differ widely in nature (private or public, privately owned or officially listed, etc.), structure (size, type of hierarchy, location, etc.), culture (democratic, output-oriented, bureaucratic, etc.), and product or service (industrial products, raw materials, services, banking). The variation in working conditions is equally large, varying from conveyer belts to operating rooms, from motor cars to space vehicles, and from offices to marketplaces. Looking at modern developments, even more radical changes are in the offing; people in one organization no longer work at the same location, or they may operate in networks that connect different organizations. More and more traditional organizational tasks are being ‘outsourced’ and carried out by consultants, interim employees, and project workers. It is sometimes even difficult to define the exact boundaries of an organization; a reason why the term ‘boundaryless organizations’ has become en vogue.
As far as individuals are concerned, one sees about as much variety in work organizations as in society in general, with the exception of the disabled, the very young, and the very old. Workers differ in their capacities, education and training, experience, needs and expectations, personality, attitudes, and values. They have different regional, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. They may be male or female, young or old, high or lower class, healthy, sick or handicapped, and they all have their individual parts to play in what is supposed to be the harmonious symphony of the working organization as a whole.
This short description of the great variety in individuals and situations which can be found in work organizations should make it clear that work and organizational psychology is concerned with a highly complex field of study. Many of the subjects in this specialization have been studied at one time or another, and although some sub-areas of this field have been extensively explored, little is yet known about others.
As was mentioned in the introduction, in Europe the subdiscipline under discussion is now generally referred to as ‘work and organizational psychology’ rather than the previously used term ‘industrial psychology.’ This shift in terminology is not without significance; it indicates a conspicuous change in thinking and orientation. First, of course, it illustrates the widening of interest in the subject. In the early 1960s Leavitt (Leavitt, 1961) was already arguing in favor of a merger of classical ‘industrial psychology’ with ‘organizational psychology.’ Similar pleas could be heard in the chapter by Leavitt and Bass in their 1964 Annual Review article. A little later, Porter also expressed the hope that a marriage between ‘personnel-differential’ and ‘social-organizational’ orientations and interests would be contracted (Porter, 1966). In fact, that is exactly what happened in the following years, and this is correctly reflected in the alteration of the name.
A second shift occurred in the orientation of ‘industrial’ psychologists when they no longer paid exclusive or primary attention to profit-making production and sales organizations. Today, service organizations (banks, consultancy firms, insurance companies), hospitals, schools, governmental agencies, sports organizations, members’ associations, and others constitute just as much the field of interest of W&O psychologists as do commercial firms.
Third, the value orientation and guiding principles of W&O psychologists have undergone an important change. They no longer work exclusively on behalf of company management, but have turned their attention rather to the proper functioning of interaction processes in the organization as a whole. In the classical dilemma of ‘client’ versus ‘organization’ (e.g., in personnel selection, performance appraisal, industrial relations, conflict management), today’ W&O psychologists are less inclined to think in terms of ‘either—or’ (and consequently allow the organizational or management point of view to prevail), but rather prefer a ‘both—and’ viewpoint. They try to think of the client system as encompassing both its individuals (with their needs, expectations, and interests) and its organization (with its requirements, expectations, and interests). W&O psychologists of the 1980s and 1990s put themselves in a position to serve both parties, rather than just one (see also Drenth, 1987, p. 267).
W&O psychology is often referred to as an applied science, like any other field-oriented specialization within psychology such as clinical psychology, educational psychology, forensic psychology, and the like.
And to quite some extent this is true. If one accepts the distinction between applied and pure scientific research as being determined by the origin of the research question—being either a practical difficulty, problem, or dilemma (applied science), or scientific curiosity, an unsolved theoretical problem, or a need for more theoretical insight (pure science)—then much of W&O psychology is indeed applied research. Most W&O research in the areas of testing and selection, training, performance evaluation, worker motivation and satisfaction, ergonomics, leadership, accidents and safety, organizational processes and decision making, consumer behaviour, and the like is initiated by practical problems or requests, and is also intended to lead to practical decisions, useful advice, or instruments; they are both field-induced and solution-oriented. Nevertheless, it is also true that the basic disciplines in psychology, representing the more purely scientific side of psychology (including psychonomics, developmental psychology, social psychology, and personality theory), often play an invaluable role in clarifying and deepening the insights and findings of W&O psychology.
Two remarks should be made here. First, it has to be pointed out that in scientific terms there is nothing wrong with, or second-rate about, applied research. Indeed, formally speaking there is no difference between pure and applied research. They apply the same standards and norms, and both types of research lead to generalizable insights and laws. The only difference is whether they start with a practical or a theoretical problem, and whether or not they intend to provide a helping hand in solving a practical problem.
Second, it cannot be denied that W&O psychology has also made a substantial contribution to theoretical and scientific developments in psychology in general. Plenty of examples of practical experience and insights stimulating theoretical, experimental, or psychometric developments can be given. In fact, psychometric and test-theoretical developments would never have taken place without the stimulation of the need for the large-scale assessment and selection of personnel. Social psychological theory has benefited greatly from research into inter-group behavior and interactive processes in organizations. Experimental psychology has been extensively stimulated by studies of task requirements, optimal man—machine systems, and information processes in organizational decision making. This is simply to say that not only is applied research a valid type of research in its own right, but also that there is much interaction and mutual stimulation between applied and pure research.
Of course, a sharp distinction should be made between applied research and the application and use of this research as this takes place in practice; in the latter, the criteria involved are the usefulness or efficacy of the application of the findings, and no longer simply their veracity, as in the former. In this capacity, organizational developers, personnel selection psychologists, management trainers, and stress counselors are not scientists, but social practitioners, whose decisions and actions are also founded on personal, social, and economic norms and values. We have elaborated on this distinction extensively elsewhere; the interested reader is referred to these publications (Drenth, 1996, 1997).
Over the course of time, differentiation within the field of W&O psychology has led to more or less independent sub-specializations. Today, W&O psychologists may identify themselves as ‘ergonomists,’ ‘personnel selection specialists,’ or ‘organization developers.’ These titles refer to large areas within the field of W&O psychology which have developed into more or less autonomous specializations. Other subfields have not developed into such autonomous entities (as yet), but nevertheless indicate further differentiations within the field. The following section will provide an overview of these sub-specializations and the topics to be covered herein.
Four aspects can be distinguished in the description of the domain as given in the second section (see also Drenth, Thierry, & de Wolff, 1998): (1) the individual and individual differences in behavior, (2) work, task and function, (3) group and organizational processes, and (4) the organization and its environment. In fact, this distinction in focus also gives an indication of the historical development of W&O psychology. In the early years of W&O psychology the main emphasis was on the individual, enforced by the development of the instruments (tests, scales, appraisal systems) to be used for assessment, evaluation, and selection purposes.
Stimulated by insights from experimental psychology, interest widened to include the study of ergonomic problems and human factors in the work setting. The view of the worker as a social individual who is part of a larger social and organizational system, functioning in interaction with other individuals and subsystems, led to the further development of the social and organizational psychological approach in the study of organizations. Finally, it was acknowledged that organizations do not exist in a societal vacuum. They interact with other organizations, governments, markets, customers, unions, educational institutions—in short, with a wider environment. This wider environment has also become of interest to W&O psychologists in more recent times.
The following sections give a more detailed overview of these four sub-specializations.
In this section the emphasis is on the individual and on individual differences. One may think here of dispositional characteristics (intellectual abilities and personality traits), habitual characteristics, i.e., stable characteristics, but learned in interaction with the environment (aptitudes, knowledge, attitudes, habits), and motivational characteristics: shorter or longer during physical or mental conditions which cause a certain level of activity or specific behavior (hunger, aspiration level, anxiety) (see Roe, 1984).
As we have said, personnel psychology has a long history which goes back to the early days of applied psychology. Not surprisingly, in older textbooks on ‘industrial psychology’ (Meijers, 1920; Tiffin, 1942; Viteles, 1932), much attention is devoted to issues in personnel psychology. The European Network of Professors in W&O psychology (ENOP) has developed a teaching model for their discipline, in which personnel psychology was described as follows: personnel psychology concerns the relationship between persons and the organization, in particular the establishment of the relationship, its development, and its termination. The focus is on ‘employees,’ i.e., those with whom the organization has a temporal relationship (Roe, Coetsier, Levy-Leboyer, Peiro, & Wilpert, 1994).
Although the total field of W&O psychology has widened to incorporate other social and organizational issues, this classical domain of personnel psychology has always continued to attract the attention of many practitioners and researchers. This has resulted in an ever-increasing body of knowledge. Handbooks, specialized monographs and journals such as Personnel Psychology, the Journal of Applied Psychology and the Journal of Occupational Psychology attest to this substantial and much-researched field of specialization.
The following topics can generally be found in this area.
This term refers to those organizational activities which aim towards choosing people to fill certain posts, often by making use of psychological instruments such as psychological tests, interviews, questionnaires, personality measures, assessment centres, and the like, and often employing different kinds of psychometric prediction functions and utility models. Psychological selection has developed from a rather isolated ‘measurement and prediction’ paradigm to a much more integrated part of human resource management in which the critical analysis of the criterion, the incorporation of dynamic criteria and the need for situational selection, and the relationship with other personnel policy issues (fairness, openness, diversity, employ-ability) or practices (training, career development) are emphasized (Herriot, 1989).
Appraisal and Assessment
Obtaining insight into how employees perform, into their qualities and shortcomings, and into their potential for further development and growth, is of prime importance for an organization. Psychology has contributed significantly to the quality of personnel evaluation and assessment by developing tools and instruments, by suggesting methods and procedures, but above all by providing the necessary sagacity with regard to the psychological mechanisms of the assessment and appraisal process. This has often led to a better insight into employees and their performance, and therefore to an improved foundation of the decisions to be made on this basis (see, for instance, a collection of articles on the subject in Berk, 1986).
Socialization, Training and Development
Very seldom does a school-leaver or graduate have the exact competencies, knowledge, and skills needed for the function or office to be held. Specific further training is almost invariably needed. Moreover, every company or organization has its ‘culture,’ its written and unwritten rules and traditions, to which a newcomer has to adapt and socialize. Moreover, the dynamic nature of job requirements, the frequent introduction of new technologies and the rapid change of applied information systems actually require continuous learning on the part of the employee. In the course of his or her career an employee will also be often faced with new functions and new requirements, for which training or retraining will be needed. In other words, socialization, training, and retraining constitute a permanent and serious concern for any organization that wants its members to perform as well as possible. Psychologists have been able to assist in this respect by applying their knowledge about learning and the development of skills and competencies, about attitudinal change, and about social adaptation processes, hence contributing to the fit between individual and organization.
Work Attitudes and Motivation
These concepts refer to another classic topic in W&O psychology: the measurement of work attitudes and work motivation. The original emphasis was put on the measurement of satisfaction; more specifically, satisfaction with work content, payment, co-workers, supervisor, promotion opportunities, and work conditions. This was firstly defended for its own sake; workers were entitled to be satisfied with what the organization offered to satisfy their needs. But it was also defended for ‘external’ reasons; it was thought that satisfaction would also be a determinant of hard work and good performance. It was only later, and convincingly defended in Vroom’ (1964) book Work and Motivation, that a clear distinction was made between satisfaction and motivation; a happy worker is not necessarily a hard worker, and dissatisfaction does not necessarily lead to lower performance. Determinants of performance, i.e., the sum of forces that produce and maintain the efforts expended in particular behaviors or performances, are subsumed under the concept of ‘motivation.’ Many useful theories of work motivation have been derived from the more general theories of motivation developed in the experimental laboratory. Thierry (1998) classifies these along two dimensions: in the first place content (e.g., need theories) versus process (e.g., goal setting), and in the second place reinforcement (e.g., Skinner’ behavior modification) versus cognitive theories (e.g., equity or expectancy theories). In the meantime it has become clear that if one wants to understand what makes people work and work hard, and which incentives are functional and why, then motivation is a more useful concept than satisfaction.
Human Resources Management
The concern for personnel, often described today as ‘human resources management,’ has an individual as well as an organizational dimension. In an approach which emphasizes the individual dimension, the career of individual employees is the object of investigation. Topics like career choice, career management, promotion strategies, management development, and lifespan psychology (developmental phases during adulthood) fall within this chapter. Of course, there are points of contact with other related fields such as selection, training, and appraisal.
In the organizational orientation, issues having respect to personnel in organizations are approached from a more institutional perspective, and include proper personnel planning, the optimal composition of the work force now and in the foreseeable future, optimal age and educational distribution, a balance between male and female, and social policy with respect to minority groups or handicapped workers. Some of the subjects in this area that are especially pertinent nowadays are:
- Women and work, as a specification of the more general issue of gender differences and work;
- The older worker in the organization, including the question of how the older worker can be trained or retrained and kept motivated to keep working satisfactorily at higher ages;
- Equal opportunities for and fair treatment of members of minority groups;
- Work and employment, with specific attention to the problem of unemployment and its social and psychological consequences.
Like personnel psychology, work psychology dates back to the early days of applied psychology. Whereas personnel psychology was rooted in an interest in individual differences and its instrumental base of ‘tests and measurement,’ work psychology originated from a more experimental tradition which emerged in time and motion studies, fatigue research and safety research. Numerous studies have since been published and a substantial body of knowledge has been established in this particular area.
In the American literature both the personnel and the work psychology orientations have developed strongly, although with some prevalence for the personnel tradition. In a number of European countries the work psychology tradition has often prevailed. In the German journal Zeitschrift f ü r angewandte Psychologie and the French journal Le Travail Humain, both leading journals in the field of W&O psychology, emphasis is much more on ergonomics and human factors than on training, selection, and other human resources topics.
In middle and eastern Europe this preference for experimental work studies was even stronger, at least before the fall of communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In those countries, research into personnel psychological and organizational psychological questions was subject to a strong political taboo. All matters related to personnel and organizational policy were under central control and did not allow for research that might undermine political doctrine. Relatively value-free experimental work psychology was clearly less dangerous and therefore less vulnerable. In Eastern Germany and other Eastern European countries, a strong tradition and an advanced body of knowledge in experimental work psychology therefore emerged (Hacker, 1986).
The following sections within work psychology can be identified.
Task and Job Analysis
The difference between task analysis and job analysis is that of a lower order versus a higher order analysis (see e.g., Jewell & Siegall, 1990). A task is a piece of work assigned to an individual which has to be completed within a certain time and which has to meet some standard of quality. The tasks performed by any employee define a position. Positions that are more or less alike form a job. Groups of jobs are job families. The general term ‘job analysis’ refers to the attempt to seek and to provide information about the tasks and their requirements with respect to the various jobs and job families in organizations. For W&O psychology purposes, these analyses are made in terms of psychological abilities and competencies as well as psychological needs and motives.
The results of these analyses are of fundamental importance to many applications in W&O psychology: they form the starting point for the development or choice of selection instruments, for the definition of the content of training courses, for remuneration systems, for the evaluation of individual performances, and so on. For many of these applications, job analysis provides the necessary elements for further measures or practices.
Ergonomics and Job Design
Ergonomics, or as it is often referred to in the US ‘human factors psychology,’ deals with the individual as an information-processing or moving system which interacts with operating systems, machines or information technology. Its aim is to fit the job to the worker, rather than fitting the worker to the job by means of selection, training, and adaptation.
This field has developed rapidly since its origin in the beginning of the twentieth century. It grew out of the classic time and motion studies which were aimed at finding the best way to perform a job, i.e., with maximum rapidity and minimal waste. The focus was on the study of physical and mental workload, human errors, and the effect of different work conditions. The worker operated a machine or apparatus and the latter did the work. In the course of time, the combination of man and machine were seen more as a ‘system’ with varying distributions of tasks. Sometimes the roles were reversed: the man did the work and the machine did the guidance and the controlling. Moreover, with the rapid development of new technologies and information systems, greater cognitive and decision-making demands were placed on the operators, while the total system became much more complex, demanding, and interrelated with other subsystems within the total production or operating process.
The design of work based upon ergonomic principles has accordingly changed throughout this period. It originally aimed at adapting the tasks and machines to the primarily physical and perceptual capabilities of the worker. Later these requirements were enlarged so as to include the psychological and social needs of the worker: the quality of work movement. Later again, the worker and the machine were seen as a single integrated operating system: the systems approach. At present the entire organization is seen as a large and complex system in which human, technical, and organizational components, each with their own demands and limitations, have to be integrated and optimized. This is the modern form of the socio-technical approach as originally developed at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, London, UK.
Accidents and Safety
This sub-specialization has developed from general ergonomics into a separate field of study, partly because it is a phenomenon often associated with grave personal and economic consequences. Originally, much attention was directed towards accidents themselves: their causes and, consequently, their prevention. From the W&O psychological perspective, it was particularly the ‘human error’ which was studied.
However, it has gradually become clear that ‘accidents’ were not the proper starting point for the study of industrial safety. The number of accidents is often too small to make proper statistical analyses, chance factors play too important a role, and there are a great many ‘near accidents’ which are not registered but which are just as relevant as actual accidents.
This focus on accidents meant that an excessive amount of attention was given to the immediate determinants (human errors), to their amendment, and to the workers that ‘caused’ the accidents. The present-day approach to industrial safety regards it, rather, as resulting from a deliberate management philosophy and practice in which safe operation and good operation are basically identical and in which safety management is the combined responsibility of all company employees.
Work and Health Psychology
This combination of health psychology and work psychology is a fairly new independent subdiscipline, although some thirty years ago Abt and Riess (1971) had already pointed out the usefulness of combining clinical psychological and organizational psychological knowledge in their book Clinical Psychology in Industrial Organizations. One of today’ key words in this respect is ‘work stress,’ or rather—since a certain degree of tension is normal or even desirable—‘work distress,’ which manifests itself in physical, psychological or social disfunction. The first possible determinant in this respect discussed in the literature is ‘workload,’ and its psychological consequences. Other sources of unhealthy disfunction, such as the consequences of conflicts, work conditions, post-traumatic syndromes, burnout, unemployment or threats of unemployment, strong dissatisfaction with work, supervisor or co-workers, have also become the subjects of increasing attention. A significant broadening of the horizon of the work and health psychologist is stimulated by the consideration that health should be seen not merely as the absence of disease, but, in accordance with the definition of the 1987 constitution of the WHO, as ‘a complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing.’
Another ‘offspring’ of ergonomics that has developed into a more or less independent field of interest is the study of automation and its effects on work and the worker. The term ‘automation’ refers to the application of sophisticated technical resources in entirely or largely self-regulating processes, eliminating or reducing human intervention in the direct production process (Koopman & Algera, 1998). In the automation of production processes as well as in office automation, both the collection, storage and retrieval of information and the related decision making, previously handled by human beings, are taken over by the automated system or the computer.
The effects of automation on the work itself, on modes of steering and control, on the employee who has to work in such systems, on the capacities and skills needed to operate them, on the requirements for the new man—machine interface systems, on the need to develop user-friendly software as well as early warning systems in case of malfunctions, have been analyzed in an increasing number of publications over the last 15 years. Questions like the wider impact of automation on the organization as a whole and on employment opportunities, and how to smoothly introduce and implement plans for automation in existing organizations, have also become the subject of extensive research.
Systematic analyses of organizations, their formal structure, and the roles of their members, have long been carried out in other disciplines; economics, organizational theory, and business administration studies have produced a fairly good insight into how organizations are built and how they operate. Again, the term ‘organization’ should not be restricted to industrial companies, although most of the organization theories stem from studies of the latter, but should be understood to include social clubs, hospitals, armies, schools, churches, and the like, all of which are organizations, albeit with specific structures and objectives.
It was only after World War II that industrial psychology more systematically turned its attention to organizational factors and tried to incorporate these into the study of work behavior. After all, the central constituents of organizations are people, not machines, buildings, telephone lines, or other infrastructural hardware. Not only do people create organizations, they are also in turn influenced by these creations; the way they work, the way they interact with co-workers, subordinates and supervisors, and the way they define and play their roles is to a large extent determined by the nature, goal and culture of the organization they belong to. This attention has been strongly reinforced by a growing interest in social psychology in general and by the Human Relations Movement in the US and the early work in Sociotechnics at the Tavistock Institute in London in particular.
This field is sometimes referred to as ‘organizational behavior’ (see for instance, Bobbitt, Breinholt, Doktor, & McNaul, 1978). However, this term is somewhat confusing, since it includes the behavior of individuals or groups in organizations (with the individual or group as unit of analysis) as well as the ‘behavior’ of organizations themselves (with the organization as unit of analysis). Organizational psychology focuses on the interaction between individuals or groups of individuals and the organization, but always from the perspective of the former. Organization theories as such do not fall within the remit of organizational psychology, although, of course, knowledge of organization theories is an important condition for understanding the behavior of individuals in organizations.
This organizational psychological orientation has created an active and productive subdivision of W&O psychology. A large number of books have been written and new journals have been started in this field (Organization Studies, Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, Administrative Science Quarterly, Human Relations and many others). If one compares the classical books and readers in ‘industrial psychology’ with the more recent published ones, one sees a significant increase in organizational topics. In the earliest publications these topics were actually completely absent, whereas for instance in the first edition of Dunnette’ Handbook, published in 1976, as in Dubin’ Handbook published in the same year, more than half of the space devoted to the content of W&O psychology deals with social-organizational issues.
The following clusters of topics can be distinguished within this particular domain.
Organization Theories and Models
As was stated above, organization theories as such do not belong to the field of organizational psychology, but a knowledge and understanding of organizational principles and processes form a precondition for understanding the organizational behavior of an organization’ members. Much attention is therefore paid to the analysis of organizational characteristics and their influence on human behavior and performance.
In most definitions of organizations the following elements are recognized as essential. Individuals collaborate towards a common goal, the work and tasks are differentiated and divided over the individuals, there is a ‘binding structure’ which integrates the specific tasks, and there is some continuity over time (see for instance Veen & Korver, 1998). Organizations may vary in terms of their formal or structural characteristics, in size, in goals, in type of product or service, in composition, in age and many other characteristics; all these differences have been studied with respect to the consequences and requirements for their members.
However, a more basic framework for understanding the interactions between individuals and organizations is provided by the conceptual approach to organizations. An example of such an approach is ‘scientific management,’ a system in which human capacities are utilized maximally by structuring tasks, controlling performances, and remunerating individuals according to the work done. Organizations can also be seen as systems which have to be ruled by hierarchical structures and preset rules, as in the bureaucratic approach. Other approaches emphasize the needs of working members and focus on ways in which these can be reconciled with organizational goals, as in the human relations movement. Other views again stress the importance of achieving performance targets and meeting objectives while leaving considerable freedom for people’ own creativity and initiative. Organizations can also be seen as systems in permanent interaction (reaction and anticipation) with the environment, as in the contingency theory, or as unstable, opportunistic ‘adhocracies,’ or as systems for ‘sense-making’ by their members, or even as garbage cans. Naturally, each of these different perspectives on organizations will cast a distinctive light on the human factor in organizations.
Leadership and Decision Making
The study of leadership has a long tradition in W&O psychology; the subject was being studied by I/O psychologists even before organizational psychology had been defined as a separate sub-field of W&O psychology. Researchers have focused on a description of the activities and functions of leaders. They have analysed the traits which distinguish leaders from non-leaders, or, more interesting for promotion and training purposes, effective from ineffective leaders. They have also studied a number of styles, such as task-orientation, people-orientation, the charismatic inspirational style, or the various participative styles of leadership.
The latter is strongly related to issues of decision making, since participation almost always refers to the decision-making process in which the subordinate takes some part. Views on decision making have developed from the classical rational model, describing the procedures and parameters leading to maximum output, via the organizational model, which stresses a number of restrictions of this rational model mainly due to the insufficiency of the information-processing capacity of decision-makers, to the arena model, in which it is acknowledged that various players in the decision-making process may have divergent or sometimes even conflicting objectives; they form coalitions and follow strategies that turn decision making into a set of political processes in which negotiations (and conflicts) play a central role.
It is now generally accepted that the effectiveness of leadership is contingent upon a number of situational and organizational characteristics. In fact, leadership itself is part of an organizational process. Leader behavior is strongly determined (and restricted) by the structure, technology, roles, control mechanisms, and other characteristics of the environment.
Organizational Development and Organizational Design
Organizations should be seen as open systems which have to adapt to changes in the environment if they are to survive. These changes may be of a cultural, political/legal, economic, technological, or physical (climate, resources) nature (Katz & Kahn, 1978).
Organizational psychologists have developed a number of methods and instruments to facilitate this adaptation process, which is then called ‘planned change.’ These methods can be either processual or structural. The former are directed towards changes in the attitudes and behavior of employees, as well as towards organizational processes such as communication, decision making, and conflict management. They often result in a more open, communicative and participative climate. The latter are more directed towards changing the formal structural aspects of the organization, such as tasks, role definitions, role relations, job content, and operational procedures. They deal less with the development process or strategy, and more with an analysis of how problems could be solved, how new tasks could be performed and how to overcome organizational shortcomings.
Another, somewhat related, distinction is that between development in which the goals are less concrete and more abstract and general (e.g., to improve the organization’ decision-making capacity, creativity, and problem-solving ability), generally referred to as ‘organizational development,’ on the one hand; and the construction, introduction and implementation of a totally new organization, resulting in a new, stable situation, on the other. The latter is called ‘organizational design.’
It has become clear that with the growing number and magnitude of change processes in organizations, the need for methods and instruments with which to assess progress and the eventual success of the change has also increased. Such methods focus on the measurement of the change process itself, on obstacles and resistance to the acceptance and implementation of change, and on the shorter- and longer-term effects of the organizational development interventions.
A fairly new, but fast growing chapter within organizational psychology is concerned with organizational culture. The concept is borrowed from anthropology and refers to the basic and relatively stable patterns of values and beliefs within an organization.
Two perspectives in the treatment of organizational culture can be distinguished. The first sees culture as a variable, as a characteristic of the organization. Various specific aspects within this variable can be distinguished, such as, for instance, those offered by the matrix based on Quinn’ (1988) two polar dimensions ‘external versus internal’ and ‘flexibility versus control,’ leading to the four ‘cultures’: support, innovation, goal orientation, and rule orientation. Another approach is the more social psychological analysis of the processes of problem-solving, learning, and adaptation within organizations by Schein (1992).
In the second perspective, organizational culture is treated as a root metaphor; the organization is a culture. Authors sometimes refer to organizations as systems of knowledge or cognitive enterprises whose individual members store their experiences in ‘organizational memory maps.’ Others speak of organizations as patterns of symbolic discourse, and ways of understanding work-related experiences by individual members. Anyway, the objective in this perspective is to understand the constructed realities, and not to analyze the instrumental meaning of culture as related to (for instance) organizational effectiveness or the satisfaction of its members.
This subject deals with those interrelationships between the various layers within industrial organizations which affect the process of reaching and implementing decisions. These decisions may refer to all kinds of issues (day-to-day work aspects, tactical medium-term problems, or long-term strategic issues) and all layers within the organization (direct supervisor—superior relations, higher and middle management interactions, and the negotiation of management with representatives of the employees, either through a works council or through a system of shop stewards, welfare committees, a central or local union, or any other form of representation). The subject of industrial relations is therefore strongly associated with concepts such as ‘worker participation’ and ‘industrial democracy.’
The literature on industrial democracy has focused on various processual aspects, including: (1) its objectives and motives (are they principal and political (structural democracy) or do they aim at the improvement of effective decision making or workers’ well-being (functional democracy)?), (2) the level of participation (the right to be informed, the right to advise, the right to vote, the right to exercise a veto), and (3) the effectiveness of different systems of industrial democracy.
Particularly the last of these questions has been extensively researched in Europe. Quite a variety of formal systems of industrial democracy exist in Europe, and the question of the extent to which these systems have led to power equalization and/or employees’ involvement in decision making has been analyzed cross-nationally and longitudinally by the international research group, Industrial Democracy in Europe (IDE, 1981, 1993).
The Organization and Its Environment
A last and relatively new chapter in organizational psychology devotes attention to the relationship between the organization and its complex and multifaceted environment. Early W&O psychology was confined to what happened within the organization, and rarely was any attention paid to its relationship to the external environment. This has since been seen as an unjustified restriction of the domain. The boundaries of the system in which the interactions between individuals or groups take place do not coincide with the factory gates or the offices’ revolving doors. The organization as such is also in constant interaction with its environment. Some go even further, and state that the organization creates its own environment. ‘Environment’ in this sense may refer to the economic market and customers, to the labour market and potential employees, to other collaborating or competing organizations, and to the outside socio-political world, including supra-national, national, or local governments, pressure groups, and political movements.
This fourth area of attention has not yet developed clear sub-specializations, as have the previous three. It encompasses rather a combination of (rather recently developed) lines of research and interest, and a systematic treatment will have to confine itself to mentioning a number of themes rather than clearly defined sections. The following themes can be listed.
This theory is based on the presumption that there is no one best way to organize, but that the best form of organization depends on the fit with the environment. In some earlier writings this ‘fit’ was based on normative views, the propagation of freedom, autonomy and decentralization as stimulants for entrepreneurship and flexible adaptation to the environment. Later approaches, called structural contingency theories, focused more on the study of empirically demonstrated optimal fit models between the organization and the environment (Pennings, 1998).
Organizational Field and Networks
Almost any organization is part of a supra-organizational field or network. Interest can be focused on the organizational field as such, consisting of the strategically interdependent organizations. But attention can also be directed towards the cooperative interactions between the organizations making up an organizational network. Players in this network field can have different forms of interrelationship. They can be mutually or unilaterally dependent; this dependence can be horizontal (both need each other on an equal footing, such as in the free market structure) or vertical (e.g., different stages in a production chain). They also have different forms of interaction, ranging from cooperation to negotiating and bargaining and to power struggles, disruptive strategies and authoritative control.
Communication and Image Building
Many W&O psychologists make use of modern techniques of communication and marketing in building the image of the organization. The image can concern the work climate and work conditions (aiming at creating a positive image of the organization for potential employees), the incorporation of ethical and social objectives in their mission (so as to please national or local governments), or specific measures to avoid possible harm to the environment, to further the health of employees, or to promote the prudent use of animals or raw materials in production processes (so as to face confrontation with action groups successfully). Many of today’ large or multinational companies have included such ‘rules of ethical conduct’ in their corporate mission.
Related to the previous theme is the sub-specialization of economic psychology, sometimes referred to as ‘consumer behavior’ or as ‘marketing psychology.’ In fact this branch of W&O psychology also deals with ‘communications,’ but its primary aim is to study (and in practice to influence) individual customers or clients and their economic decisions (buying, saving, spending, allocating) under conditions of scarcity. The difference between economic psychology and economics is that the latter deals with economic behavior at a high level of abstraction (of systems, companies, or nations), and the former focuses on individual decisions at the micro-level. Economic psychologists have successfully found their way into the worlds of marketing, advertising, company—customer relations, and so on.
A fairly recent theme that fits within this last section is cross-cultural W&O psychology, i.e., the study of the extent to which cultural differences determine organizational characteristics or the behavior of the members of the organization, and to what extent we find differences or similarities under different cultural conditions. Since it is our presumption that this subject is of particular interest to an international audience we will devote a separate and more extensive section to this subject.
Cross-Cultural Work and Organizational Psychology
In recent years, research and applications in work and organizational psychology have developed rapidly in the area of economic development and cross-cultural management. Considerable efforts are being made in terms of conceptual development and methodological refinement with respect to cross-cultural studies. Work and organizational psychology has placed new emphasis on the cultural embeddedness of values and work attitudes, team effectiveness and leadership, organizational decision making, personnel assessment, and Human Resource Management in general.
Cross-cultural organizational psychology is concerned with two basic questions: first, do organizations located in different countries differ with respect to organizational characteristics, to the behavior of its members, or to the interrelationship between the two; and second, can these differences be explained in terms of culture (see Drenth & den Hartog, 1998)?
In order to answer both questions, it is not enough to investigate whether organizations differ cross-nationally. The problem is that not all national differences can be considered as cultural differences, in spite of the fact that these two words often are used synonymously. Nations may differ in language, legislation, education, religions, geographic and climatic variables, and economically, technologically, and in many other ways. These variables may be related to culture, but they cannot be equated with it. One has to define culture on the basis of a reasoned choice. A widely accepted definition is Kroeber and Parson’ ‘patterns of roles and norms embedded in certain paramount values’ (Kroeber & Parson, 1958).
The following section will present a more specific treatment of some of the prevalent issues in cross-cultural W&O psychology.
Cultural Dimensions and Organizations
Several cultural dimensions have shown their usefulness and relevance in understanding national and cultural differences in behavior and attitudes within organizations. The following selection of fairly independent cultural dimensions, which are relevant for understanding cross-cultural differences in organizations, can be put forward on the basis of an analysis of the relevant literature (Hofstede, 1980, 1991; House et al., 1998; Inglehart, 1997; Schwartz & Sagiv, 1995; Triandis, 1994; Trompenaars, 1993):
- Collectivism versus individualism (is the primary concern in life oneself and one’ immediate family, or the wider groups to which one belongs?);
- Egalitarianism versus power distance (should power be distributed equally or unequally in society and organizations?);
- Uncertainty avoidance (do people feel threatened by ambiguous situations and are they trying to avoid uncertainty through formal rules?);
- Masculine control versus harmony (rational and power control of people and environment versus harmonious and affective relations with other people and nature);
- Universalism versus particularism (can what is good and true be defined and applied everywhere, or do unique conditions and relationships always have to be taken into consideration in order to determine what is good and true?);
- Discipline versus individual autonomy (soberness and adherence to moral values versus emphasis on intellectual and moral independence);
- Neutral versus affective relationships (the extent to which culture allows people to express their emotions or forces them to keep their emotions and affections under strict control);
- Achievement versus ascription (are people evaluated by their functional performance or by their roles, status, or formal characteristics?);
- Materialism versus postmaterialism (emphasis on economic goals and financial rewards versus an emphasis on a much more broadly-defined well-being objective and non-material values);
- Future orientation (the extent to which the (more distant) future is an important orientation in the choice of behavior and decision making).
Cultural Values and Work Attitudes
Work attitudes have been widely studied in cross-cultural W&O psychology. However, most cross-cultural studies of cultural values and attitudes use scales adopted or modified from Western-based cultural values. Many of these studies therefore actually start from the premise that Western values can be generalized and studied globally. In fact, this was the case in a well-known early study by Hofstede (1980), which was based on measures for satisfaction and well-being in a Western company (IBM). It was only later that he and Bond included typical Asian measures in studying Asian cultures’ consequences (Hofstede, 1991).
In another study, Bond (1988) analyzed survey data from a large Asian sample and found two common factors: (a) social integration versus culture inwardness; (b) reputation versus morality. Triandis (1996) and his colleagues also studied the dimension collectivism—individualism and identified three strong etic factors: separation from in-groups, independence, and personal competence.
Huang (1995) supported the view that Asian cultures have specific characteristics which influence their organizational behavior. He concluded that:
- Asian-based cultural values are characterized as inside- and family-oriented, whereas Western-based cultural values are more outside- and social-oriented;
- Asian-based cultural values are more relationship-oriented while Western-based cultural values are more task-oriented.
However, he also observed a shift in Asian-based cultural values form harmony-orientedness to competition-orientedness and from a collectiv-istic to an individualistic orientation. It seems that in this respect Asian-based cultural values are becoming more similar to Western-based cultural values.
Cross-Cultural Leadership and Decision Making
As was stated earlier, organizational decision making and participation have been widely researched from a cross-cultural perspective. The motivation for comparing management in different cultures arises because indigenous local organizations need to design management systems that are able to handle newly emerging ownership arrangements (Smith & Wang, 1996).
In the early days, models of managerial leadership implicitly treated the manager as an individual agent and tended to ignore the broader social context which made such influences possible.
House (1995) notes that almost all prevailing theories of leadership and most empirical evidence is rather North American in character, that is, ‘individualistic rather than collectivistic; emphasizing assumptions of rationality rather than ascetics, religion, or superstition; stated in terms of individual rather than group incentives; stressing follower responsibilities rather than rights; assuming hedonistic rather than altruistic motivation and assuming centrality of work and democratic value orientation.’ Many cultures do not share these assumptions. ‘As a result there is a growing awareness of a need for a better understanding of the way in which leadership is enacted in various cultures and a need for an empirically grounded theory to explain differential leader behavior and effectiveness across cultures’ (see for instance Misumi, 1985).
Nevertheless, a leader—subordinate or leader—group relationship is a thoroughly interpersonal and social phenomenon, and therefore deeply embedded in the social and cultural environment. It would be difficult to see how attempts to influence and stimulate workers or groups of workers could be abstracted from this cultural context. A good example is given by Leung, Smith, Wang, and Sun (1996), who argue that in Asian joint ventures a new construct for distributive justice is needed in treating personnel. They propose the concept of comparative distributive justice, as opposed to the traditional concept of performance-based distributive justice, in order to capture the social comparison processes that are salient in Asian joint ventures.
Of course, similarity also exists. In a comparative study on power distribution and the effects of participative decision making in China and the UK it was shown that in both countries participative decision making had similar positive effects upon management effectiveness and that there were comparable distributions of decision-making power along different decision-making stages, across organizational levels and concerning various decision tasks (Wang & Heller, 1993).
A recent significant trend in cross-cultural W&O psychology has been a shift of psychological assessment from general testing using translated and adapted Western tests to more specific work-oriented personnel assessment based upon indigenous work behavior analysis. For example, in a personnel assessment project sponsored by the Personnel Testing Center under the Ministry of Personnel in China, a comprehensive test inventory of specific Chinese management abilities and skills has been developed. Four core management skills (planning, organizing, leading, and controlling) together with three specific skills needed in Chinese work situations (relationship skills, teamwork skills, and time management skills) were identified (Wang, 1996a). Another important dimension in Chinese personnel assessment is the stronger utilization of a situational design. Wang and his associates (1998) used such a situational scenario design in the Chinese Microsoft Assessment Process. This design was reflected in testing strategic thinking ability, team-negotiation skills, and group value-orientation. A managerial model of managerial competence was then developed with ‘cultural sensitivity’ as the main dimension of joint venture management competencies.
Another area in personnel assessment in which a culture-specific approach may be needed is the theory and measurement of personality. While most recent studies in this field relate to the ‘big five’ categorization, it is not at all clear whether these five factor dimensions fit to non-Western (for instance, Chinese) traditions and culture. It may very well be that a re-examination of Western personality theories in non-Western contexts will reveal the need for much more specific conceptualizations and measures (Wang, 1996b).
Culture and Human Resource Management
The last subject to be discussed in this context is the definition and use of Human Resource Management (HRM) practices. Management tools such as HRM were long regarded as universals which could be applied anywhere across the globe. The continuing development of the international market, however, has contributed to the belief that successful tools for managing personnel in one country do not necessarily have the same impact in another. Models of HRM have often taken on an individualistic flavor by concentrating on job analysis, staffing, performance appraisal, and compensation, thereby de-emphasizing activities at group and company level such as communication, teambuilding, and cultural values.
Erez (1994) illustrates the contextual boundaries for applying managerial tools by defining context in terms of task and cultural characteristics. HRM practices will only lead to preferred behavior of employees when applied in the right context. In a different context HRM practices will have a different meaning and different effects. The definition of the elements comprising high-commitment strategies is dependent on contextual knowledge such as insight into local organizational structures, cultural values, and labor regulations.
This observation was supported by a comparative study of HRM practices in Chinese and Dutch industrial companies (see Verburg et al., 1999). The results show considerable differences between China and the Netherlands in the HRM practices of industrial enterprises. The organizational culture of the companies studied also varies between the two countries and the differences found are clearly in line with differences at the national cultural level.
As this chapter has shown, W&O psychology has grown into a mature and widely recognized specialization within psychology. We have seen a number of trends in this development that testify to its maturity (see also Bass & Drenth, 1987), and these trends will most certainly continue in the future. These trends include:
- Increasing theoretical and scientific sophistication. Before the 1960s many W&O psychology handbooks were practical manuals, with a strong emphasis on ‘tips and tricks’ and ‘getting it done’ rather than on providing a solid theoretical basis for understanding people’ behavior in organizations. This has changed. Granted, as we have seen in Section 25.3, that a natural tension between research and application does exist, it is still fair to say that the fundamental requirements for the scientific acquisition of knowledge and the embeddedness in general psychological theories have now become widely accepted in W&O psychology.
- Differentiation, both in terms of research methods and analysis procedures and in terms of conceptualizations and theoretical models. Methodological differentiation will become clear to anyone who takes notice of the elaborate data collection and analysis techniques which are available and in use, stimulated in particular by the exponential growth of available computer support. The best illustrative example of theoretical differentiation is probably the widely accepted contingency approach. It is increasingly widely recognized that general laws and rules have to be specified or ‘contextualized’ in the light of specific organizational or environmental contingencies.
- Integration, as the counterpart of the differentiation just mentioned. W&O psychology has also gradually learned to incorporate loose pieces of knowledge and experience into a more integrated theoretical framework. To give a few examples: We have already seen the integration of personnel and organizational psychology. Many previously separated elements of W&O psychology, such as selection, training, and development are now being considered from an integrative career perspective. Individual training and organizational development are viewed from an interactive prospect. The present-day approach of organizational design integrates the production, information, and control dimensions.
- Internationalization. It has to be acknowledged that many present-day insights and instruments in W&O psychology have an American signature, although at the same time a European origin of the line or school of thought often cannot be denied (see also Wilpert, 1990). The US will undoubtedly continue to play a dominant role in the advancement of W&O psychology, but at the same time there is a growing awareness that the phenomena under study in this field are embedded in culture. It is being increasingly widely recognized that one must adapt the methods and procedures used to influence people and change systems to the cultural context in which they operate. This even applies to the methods and procedures used to research the individual and organizational processes.
- Future orientation. W&O psychologists have almost always been concerned with innovations and new developments; in fact, their expertise was and is often called in to assist organizations in dealing with these developments. Innovation, resistance to change, new technologies and work, flexibility, new types of contracts, attitudes and values of the worker in the future, adaptation to new markets, products and services, new types of work and work contracts (telework, virtual offices, distance work, telemeetings, electronic communication), etc. have been and will continue to be central topics on the agenda of the practitioner as well as the researcher in W&O psychology.
In actual fact it would be quite fair to say that W&O psychologists have often been the originators of change. W&O psychologists were among the first to warn against the negative consequences of Taylor’ ‘scientific management.’ They took a lead in pointing out the importance of the quality of working life, the possibility of improving work performance and decision making by promoting the involvement and participation of personnel, in showing that safety policy and accident prevention cannot be confined to the training and conditioning of individual workers but has to be seen as a matter of integral concern for the entire social and organizational system, in warning about the limits of human information capacity and mental load, in indicating the various ways people can learn to cope with stress, in stressing the need to adapt learning and work tasks to older workers and the possibilities for doing so. This list could be extended almost endlessly with examples of new developments in human resource management.
What we are trying to say is that W&O psychologists have often been the forerunner in creating new insights and new ways of dealing with people in organizations. It is our conviction that in the future they will continue to play this role, so inherent to their responsibility: to develop insight into, and to promote the conditions for, an optimal functioning of the individual in organizations.
Let us end this chapter with a brief discussion of the future identity of W&O psychology, a subject which has been dealt with more extensively elsewhere (Drenth, 1997), but which also deserves some attention in this review article. The issue here is that there is a growing interest in W&O psychology outside mainstream psychology, both in training and in the work context. W&O psychologists are increasingly identifying themselves less as psychologists and more as organizational specialists, analysts, or consultants. They more often attend management and business conferences than psychology meetings. Organizational psychology is taught more outside conventional disciplinary psychology programmes (e.g., in MBA and management courses) than within them.
Such developments have driven organizational psychology beyond its original domain and have weakened its identity as a psychological discipline. Interdisciplinarity has become a fashionable motto. Often it is implied that pure psychology is not meaningful, problem-oriented, or relevant enough. Interdisciplinary training is then seen as being more concerned with real-life issues. ‘Real-life problems aren’t bothered about disciplinary boundaries,’ as is often said.
The question is: is this a desirable development and should it be encouraged? In answer, it should first be recognized that broadening the orientation of the organizational psychologist so as to include insight into business, management, economic, political, and social problems should be appreciated as a desirable or even a necessary advancement. Moreover, it cannot be denied that organizational psychology would benefit from developing a more problem-oriented attitude and the political skills needed to operate in a business environment and to implement findings in practice, and from a greater capacity to translate everyday problems into analyzable questions. In addition, spreading the organizational ‘gospel’ in other faculties and schools should also be welcomed. Insights developed and decisions taken in adjacent scientific fields are certainly improved if knowledge of the ‘human factor’ is incorporated into them.
However, it is our opinion that this should not lead to the abandonment of the monodisciplinary identity of W&O psychology. In our opinion, the contribution of the organizational psychologist can best be safeguarded if training is based on a solid, disciplinary education in psychology. This education should focus on three dimensions, the unique combination of which gives the contribution of the W&O psychologist an added value.
The first dimension refers to the distinction between intra- and interindividual behavior. Organizational processes are influenced by both types of factors: individual motives, needs, and expectancies as well as interindividual interactions: collaboration, competition, and conflicts. The second dimension refers to the difference between the analytical knowledge of static psychological structures and functions on the one hand, and attention to processes of development and change on the other. Change can be brought about by natural growth and development as well as by deliberate intervention (laboratory or field experiments). The third dimension relates to the body of knowledge and insight resulting from a long tradition of reflection and experimentation in psychology on the one hand, and to the methodological and statistical tradition with an emphasis on instrument development, research design, and data analysis on the other.
These three dimensions form a cube which encompasses the eight basic competencies in W&O psychology as a scientific discipline, as illustrated in Figure 25.1. As can be seen, another dimension is added, indicated by dotted lines. This dimension comprises the four practical skills for diagnosing and understanding as well as influencing or changing human behavior in organizations. The lines are dotted since this dimension does not relate to the generation of generalizable knowledge, but to practical diagnostic or intervention competencies, which allow for the professional contribution of the W&O psychologist.
It should be stressed again that the added value of the contribution of the W&O psychologist as a researcher or as a professional practitioner results from the unique combination of qualities which are represented in the different boxes within the competence cube. It is our opinion, therefore, that in the definition of W&O psychology as a scientific discipline, as well as in academic and professional training in W&O psychology, a proper balance between all these competencies and qualities has to be pursued. W&O psychology will then be able to retain its psychological identity. It will also be able, through the better understanding of human behavior in organizations, to contribute both to the proper functioning of organizations and to the well-being of their members.