Organizational psychology represents an important theoretical and practical field of contemporary psychological science that studies mental and behavioral phenomena that take place in individuals and groups belonging to social organizations. From a historical point of view, the roots of this specialty can be traced to the psychological approaches to the world of industry and work that began to appear in the beginning of the 20th century. The discovery of the relevance of individual differences in both mental and behavioral processes paved the way to the creation of a scientific and technical knowledge that could maximize an adaptation of humans at work that would benefit industrial activities, would increase worker satisfaction, and bring progress and peace to all of society. Such specialized knowledge has evolved during the past century through a series of stages that permitted a growing theoretical complexity and more efficient technological interventions. This evolution of basic topics includes the study of the human operator; humankind’s capacities and abilities; the influence of social factors upon people in the workplace; and the structures of all sorts of organizations created to obtain desired and needed goals. The relevance of social powers influencing the world of labor have made possible the creation of a rigorous and complex body of scientific knowledge that continuously provides information, advice, and help to modern society in its economic, social, and political structures.
Neal M. Ashkanasy and Alana D. Dorris
Organizational behavior (OB) is a discipline that includes principles from psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Its focus is on understanding how people behave in organizational work environments. Broadly speaking, OB covers three main levels of analysis: micro (individuals), meso (groups), and macro (the organization). Topics at the micro level include managing the diverse workforce; effects of individual differences in attitudes; job satisfaction and engagement, including their implications for performance and management; personality, including the effects of different cultures; perception and its effects on decision-making; employee values; emotions, including emotional intelligence, emotional labor, and the effects of positive and negative affect on decision-making and creativity (including common biases and errors in decision-making); and motivation, including the effects of rewards and goal-setting and implications for management. Topics at the meso level of analysis include group decision-making; managing work teams for optimum performance (including maximizing team performance and communication); managing team conflict (including the effects of task and relationship conflict on team effectiveness); team climate and group emotional tone; power, organizational politics, and ethical decision-making; and leadership, including leadership development and leadership effectiveness. At the organizational level, topics include organizational design and its effect on organizational performance; affective events theory and the physical environment; organizational culture and climate; and organizational change.
Robert G. Jones
Based on current earth science findings, survival of our species will rely on better management of our relationships with the environmental system in which we reside. Accomplishing this requires the enlistment of a scientific understanding and management of our internal natural systems. Specifically, human urges that are oriented toward individual and small group well-being must be successfully managed to ensure species-level adaptation and survival. An essential first step for accomplishing this is to define a set of psychological criteria presumed to mediate the relationship between these individual urges and behavior at broader levels of analysis, and particularly organizational and community behaviors. Once criteria have been elaborated by key stakeholders, assessment and feedback processes common to major areas of applied psychology provide many options for intervention. This approach is at the heart of the applied psychology of sustainability that will be elaborated in this article. After defining the core problem and laying some foundational assumptions, an overview of this approach will be presented as a means to addressing the problem of using our psychological systems to manage our psychological systems’ effects on the environment.
Mark G. Ehrhart and Benjamin Schneider
Research on the internal psychosocial environment of work organizations has largely been captured through the study of two constructs: organizational climate and organizational culture. Despite the inherent similarities between the two constructs, they have largely been studied in separate literatures, by different sets of researchers, and more often than not with different methodologies. For instance, research in organizational climate tends to have a relatively narrow focus on the shared perceptions of employees, and contemporary climate research in particular tends to have a focus on specific strategic goals (such as climates for service or safety) or internal processes (such as climates for fairness or ethics). Organizational culture is broader than organizational climate, starting with deep-level assumptions and values and becoming manifest in almost all aspects of organizational life. A review of both literatures and the suggested integration of them leads to a rich understanding of how employees experience their work organizations and the consequences of organizational behavior for what happens in organizations for people and organizational effectiveness.
Action regulation theory is a meta-theory on the regulation of goal-directed behavior. The theory explains how workers regulate their behavior through cognitive processes, including goal development and selection, internal and external orientation, planning, monitoring of execution, and feedback processing. Moreover, action regulation theory focuses on the links between these cognitive processes, behavior, the objective environment, and objective outcomes. The action regulation process occurs on multiple levels of action regulation, including the sensorimotor or skill level, the level of flexible action patterns, the intellectual or conscious level, and the meta-cognitive heuristic level. These levels range from unconscious and automatized control of actions to conscious thought, and from muscular action to thought processes. Action regulation at lower levels in this hierarchy is more situation specific and requires less cognitive effort than action regulation at higher levels. Workers further develop action-oriented mental models that include long-term cognitive representations of input conditions, goals, plans, and expected and prescribed results of action, as well as knowledge about the boundary conditions of action and the transformation procedures that turn goals into expected results. The accuracy and level of detail of such action-oriented mental models is closely associated with the efficiency and effectiveness of action regulation. One of three foci can be in the foreground of action regulation: task, social context, or self. A task focus is most strongly associated with high efficiency and effectiveness of action regulation, because it links task-related goals with relevant plans, behavior, and feedback. Action regulation theory has been applied to understand several phenomena in the field of industrial, work, and organizational psychology, including proactive work behavior, work-related learning and error management, entrepreneurship, occupational strain and well-being, reciprocal influences between personality and work, innovation, teamwork, career development, and successful aging at work.
Adequately appreciating any area of applied ethics necessarily begins with indispensable foundations from moral philosophy and moral psychology, which are the bases for understanding normative ethical principles. (Otherwise, one could be reduced to the rote memorization of a near-infinite list of “dos and don’ts.”) Personal and social values also are critical as they shape people’s conceptions of ethics and morality. (For example, what constitutes a harm or a wrong? What is the right thing to do?) Traditionally in moral philosophy there have been three ways of answering those normative questions: from deontology (determining what is permissible based on absolutist ethical principles of right and wrong); consequentialism (assessing which alternative is best because it produces the greatest good [or least harm] for all those affected); and virtue theory (being virtuous). Yet, they have all been shown to have weaknesses. For example, what happens when principles are contradictory? What counts as a good? Who determines what is a virtue? And situations sometimes lend themselves more readily to one or another approach, so prudence suggests understanding and being prepared to use all. A person experiences an ethical problem when faced with a choice that challenges one or more of their ethical principles, with potential significant impact on the well-being of others. Professionals often experience ethical dilemmas, which entail having to make uncomfortable choices—choices one would rather not have to make at all. It helps to be able to recognize the form or structure of the dilemma (e.g., contemplating a self-serving act that will harm others). What makes the situation painful is that the person is motivated to some appreciable degree to “do the right thing” (otherwise they wouldn’t be experiencing a “dilemma”). Professionals such as work and organizational psychologists (WOPs) encounter a variety of ethical challenges in the different venues in which they work—as educators, researchers, practitioners, and administrators. Recent empirical survey data concerning ethical situations experienced and reported by WOPs have become available, illustrating that variety. The process of ethics education and training ought to entail becoming familiar with one or more of the several decision-making models for facilitating ethical reasoning that are available in the professional literature.
Ante Glavas and Mislav Radic
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an important topic for both academics and practitioners because it potentially influences all aspects of an organization—from relationships with stakeholders to strategy to daily routines and practices. Thus, scholars have explored CSR for close to one hundred years. Prior research has been primarily conducted at the organizational and institutional levels, but has largely overlooked the individual-level of analysis, which is a major gap considering that CSR is enacted by and influences people. Recently, this gap has been addressed by an increased focus on the individual level of analysis—also known as “micro-CSR.” However, CSR is a multilevel construct, so even when focusing on the individual level, all levels need to be taken into consideration at the same time. Moreover, CSR is cross-disciplinary. Prior research has often focused on disciplines such as strategy, but fields such as psychology have much to offer—especially because CSR is conducted through and affects individuals. Moreover, due to the historical focus of CSR on the organizational level of analysis, most studies have aggregated CSR to the firm level. These studies have shown mixed results of the effects of CSR. One reason is that when CSR is aggregated, the variance at the individual level of analysis is lost. Employees might react both positively and negatively to CSR. For example, CSR is often extra-role (e.g., volunteering, being part of committees) and can have a negative effect of role strain and stress. For other employees, they might find tension with the way that CSR is carried out. Future research could dive more deeply into the psychology of CSR and how, when, and why employees might react to CSR differently.