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Article

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.

Article

Hannes Zacher

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.

Article

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.

Article

Occupational health psychology is concerned with improving the quality of work life and protecting and promoting the safety, health, and well-being of workers. Research and theoretical development in this area of psychology has focused on a number of core areas, particularly the study of workplace stress, health and safety at work, workplace aggression and bullying, work–life balance, and impact of the organization of work on health and well-being, including flexible work and new technology. Researchers have devoted attention to understanding the causes and mechanisms linking work design and organizational factors to health, safety, and well-being in the workplace, as well as developing interventions to improve work conditions and promote well-being. While much of this work has focused on alleviating negative effects (e.g., preventing disease and injury and reducing stress symptoms), positive psychology has influenced researchers to examine motivating effects that create the conditions for personal growth and learning (e.g., job crafting, thriving at work, and work engagement).