When you hear the words ‘organisational psychology’ you may picture a psychiatrist stationed in the office staff lounge next to the coffee maker, or a psychologist who can help you rearrange your sock drawer. But organisational psychology is something different.
Sometimes called industrial-organisational psychology, business psychology, or simply ‘work psychology’ – organisational psychology is the scientific study and application of psychological principles to organisations and the workplace. It’s the science of how people think and behave at work. If this is your first time hearing about organisational psychology, you’re not alone. It’s a small field, but there are a number of reasons why you should care about organisational psychology.
Organizational psychology helps people
From finding the right work-life balance to helping people become more satisfied in their job to workplace safety, organisational psychology helps people have a safe and satisfying work life. Given the amount of time you spend at work, it isn’t hard to picture the impact on well-being for an individual lacking these.
Organisational psychology has helped wounded veterans transition to civilian life and been used to fight poverty. Organisational psychologists are working to reduce workplace sexual harassment, prevent discrimination, and advocate for living wages globally. Through the world of work, organisational psychology acts as a lever to improve the lives of others.
Organisational psychology helps organisations
Though you are unlikely to find an employee on a company’s rosters with the title of ‘organisational psychologist‘, organisational psychology is being used to better thousands of organisations worldwide. By helping organisations pick people for the job that are a better fit, build a better workplace culture, and reduce the number of employees who leave a company organisational psychology is not only improving the lives of employees but improving organisations as well.
The United Nations is using organizational psychology to accomplish its humanitarian goals. The US federal government is using organisational psychology to train their employees and develop their leaders. NASA is using organisational psychology to get astronauts to Mars. Organisational psychology is the scientific study of work, and through using this science, organisations can flourish.
Organisational psychology is growing
Though still small compared to some other subfields of psychology, the field of organisational psychology is growing rapidly. The number of members of organisational psychology’s national professional organisation called the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) more than doubled from 1997–2018. In fact, industrial-organisational psychologist was estimated by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to the fastest growing job in the US from 2012–2022. With the beneficial, impactful work being done, it is easy to see why individuals would be attracted to the field in addition to a competitive salary and wide range of different career paths.
Organisational psychology as a field is growing, and with it grows the positive impact it’s having on individuals and organisations.
More information on organisational psychology can be found on SIOP’s website or by connecting with members of a local organisational psychology professional organisation. If you like reading blogs, check out I/O at Work and Workplace Psychology to find insights for businesses from organisational psychology research. If podcasts are more your thing, check out the Department 12 podcast which covers a wide range of topics in organisational psychology. If you are interested in a possible career as an organisational psychologist, SIOP provides a searchable list of graduate programmes offering degree on organisational psychology.
The author would like to acknowledge the contributions of Jeffrey Olenick, Mike Morrison, and Danielle Gardner
Jacob Bradburn is doctoral candidate at Michigan State University’s Organisational Psychology programme. Jacob’s research focuses on employee selection, individual differences and methodology. His research has been published at the Journal of Applied Psychology, Organizational Research Methods, and the Journal of Vocational Behavior. You can connect with him on Twitter at @JacobBradburnIO.