Industrial and organizational psychology is the study of human behavior in organizations; the behaviors of interest contribute to either the effectiveness of organizational functioning, the satisfaction and well-being of those who populate the organizations, or both. These behaviors and the people who exhibit them exist in a dynamic open system (Katz & Kahn, 1978).
Behaviors observed in the present are influenced by past behaviors and conditions, as well as by the anticipation of future ones. Individuals are systems nested within other systems—such as teams and work groups—that are nested under larger organizational systems. All of these systems are open to the outside through connections to family members, customers, and multiple other potential sources of influence on organizational members’ behavior.
Although open systems models capture the complexities of a psychology bound by the context in which the behaviors occur, the field of industrial and organizational psychology has—for the most part—constrained its domain to that of the interface between individuals and their environments, where that environment is physical (tasks, jobs, working conditions, organizational structures) or social (superiors, subordinates, peers).
Furthermore, the beliefs, feelings, and behaviors of interest within that domain arc limited to those for which there is some reason to believe that understanding them will enhance our ability to influence organizational effectiveness or individual well-being.
Underlying Ihe psychological locus on individuals in organizational settings is the implicit assumption that both the organization and the individual are best served when there is a good lit between the goals, expectations, and conditions of organizations (e.g., jobs) with the characteristics of the people in them.
From a prescriptive viewpoint, there are many ways to obtain a good lit. One is to consider organizations and people as relatively fixed entities. From this position, characteristics of each entity are assessed and the match is accomplished through selection—selection of people by organizations or organizations by people. The second option to obtain fit is to modify either or both of the two domains.
In the case of changing people, training and development arc primary mechanisms. Job design, organizational development, organizational design, or policies and practices related to goals, work rules, and other factors are relevant for changing organizations. For any particular case, multiple factors influence the fit, and the fit is a dynamic interaction between people and the organization, with each influencing the other over time. In addition, of course, while efforts at producing good fit are underway, both the individual and the organization are subject to evolutionary forces outside of the control of cither the leaders of an organization or those whom they trust as advisors.
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