Psychology of the Workplace

Organizational Psychology is not a specific topic on the EPPP, rather it is sprinkled throughout the exam and related to other topics.  It has been separated into its own category as understanding the principles of Organizational Psychology on its own can be helpful to answer the questions you may encounter on the EPPP. When it comes to optimal workplace development and the psychology of the workplace, job satisfaction and common workplace issues can be vital for an employer to understand.  Also allowing for workplace groups and being prepared for how this effects a workplace, as well as planning effective schedules and physical conditions, can have an effect on productivity and turnover.

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Job Satisfactionhappy worker

Many people today not only want to work, but want to have a job that increases their satisfaction and overall well being. But job satisfaction is not only a benefit to the employee, it is believed that job satisfaction also plays an important role in performance. It may also affect the rate an employee misses work and staff turnover.  There are a few factors that impact job satisfaction:

Characteristics of Job Satisfaction:

  • Age: Regardless of the industry typically job satisfaction increases with age.
  • Gender: No significant differences in job satisfaction by gender have been found.
  • Race: When compared to minority group, Caucasian individuals typically report higher job satisfaction.
  • Level: The higher the occupational level, typically the higher the job satisfaction
  • Health: Low quality physical and emotional health is correlated with low job satisfaction.
  • Pay: Pay is correlated with job satisfaction, not necessarily higher pay but rather fairness of pay.
  • Productivity: There is a slight correlation between increased productivity and increased job satisfaction.

Turnover: Turnover can be costly for a company in terms of hiring and training, finding variable that lead to turnover can be important for an organization. These factors have been studied and there correlation with turnover.

  • Tenure: When employees express they have an interest in staying, generally they don’t leave an organization.
  • Pay and Promotion: Promotions and raises also lead to less turnover.
  • Routine Work: There is an increase in turnover for jobs that have very routine work.
  • Productivity: It appears that the productivity of an organization seems to have no measured correlation with employee turnover.

Missing Work: These are factors that seem to impact employee absenteeism:

  • Gender: Research shows females miss more work than males.
  • Company Size: Smaller companies typically have less absenteeism
  • Age: Older workers are associated with less turnover and fewer avoidable absences, but high unavoidable absences.

Other Factors: Other factors that affect job satisfaction include limiting wasted movements and wasted time, increasing the number of tasks that an employee performs, and increasing the responsibility that an employee has, and increasing knowledge and skill in a particular field.

Common Workplace Issues

Organizations typically have one of 4 different structures:hierarchy

  • Traditional: A typical hierarchy typical of the stereotypical bureaucracy
  • Project: Division is based around specific products or services being offered rather than discipline. For example elementary, middle and high school division rather than teachers, secretaries, janitors.
  • Team: Work is divided into teams who as a group report to a higher level manager.
  • Multidimensional: Involving combining one or more of the above structures.

Participative Style: This is based on 3 assumptions. 1) employees want to participate in decision making, 2) employees have valuable knowledge to contribute 3) employees can be trusted to make important decision about their work. There are 2 main styles of having employees participate in decision making:

  • Quality of Work Life Programs (QWL): The goal of this program is to improve working life.  Workers are divided into teams and asked to meet weekly, and each team is given an area of focus or responsibility. In these meetings they discuss any identified problems and can even be asked for input on potential solutions.  While these programs have been shown to improve worker satisfaction, they have little impact on performance.
  • Quality Control Circles (QCC): The goal of this program is to increase production or quality of work. In this program a small group of employees who volunteer to join the group are given more control and responsibility of their work and the production of the product or service as a whole.  generally this is effective at increasing production and satisfaction.

Communication: There are 2 types of communication networks:

  • Centralized Communication Networks: This is where one person is responsible for receiving all the information, and is typically the most efficient form of communication.  For example everyone is told to email Kaity about what type of food they want for the next company luncheon.
  • Decentralized Communication Network: Is where everyone can talk to everyone else and is most effective for problem solving, although can be slower.  For example a portion of staff meeting is used so everyone can discuss with each other about what type of food they want for the next company luncheon.

Development: Organization development is something that industrial organizational psychologists are often a part of in the form of outside consultants.  Change in any organization can be slow and somewhat overwhelming, but can result in increased performance, quality and job satisfaction. It typically starts at the highest management level to at least development management support.  Then change is systematically targeted at a variety of levels an can involve survey feedback, confrontation meetings, structural redesign, team building, sensitivity training, management training, role negotiation, job redesign, and even career planning.

Culture: Often having shared beliefs and values can have a positive impact on an organization.  Companies that have a culture that involves high participation and involvement from its employees tend to outperform other organization.


group workGroups can be either formal or informal, but seem to have an essential role in organization as they can shape the employees attitudes, behavior, and even productivity. Groups can influence individuals to work far below what they would individually (referred to as social loafing) by creating their own group of norms, even if it below the company standard.

Cohesiveness is an important component of groups, and is influenced by size, diversity, rewards, outside threats, difficulty to join, and frequency of contact. The typical stages of group development include forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning.

Tasks: 3 types of group tasks:

  • Additive Tasks: where each persons individual work contributes to the groups success.
  • Disjunctive Tasks: Where one group member is particularly effective and has a significant impact on the group outcome.
  • Conjunctive Tasks: Where one group member is particularly ineffective and has a significant impact on the group outcome.

Decision Making: Here are a few factors in decision making:

  • Group Effectiveness: typically groups make better decisions than individuals if they are dealing with a particularly complex problem.
  • Brainstorming: In a group brainstorming is more effective than just open discussion, but research seems to indicate that individual brainstorming offers better solutions than group brainstorming.
  • Risk Shift: Typically people in a group will make riskier decisions than individuals who tend to be more cautious.  This higher risk can lead to higher level of innovation.
  • Response Polarization: When in groups people tend to become more rigid and extreme in their views.  For example if an individual who supports the democratic party joins a group of like-minded people, that individual will tend to become more extreme in their democratic support.
  • Groupthink: In a group individuals can lose their own critical evaluation skills and just go along with whatever the group thinks.

Working Conditions

There are many factors that can influence working conditions including safety, schedules, and physical conditions.

Safety: Workers with higher levels of stress also have a greater liklihood of being in a workplace accident. Education, training, feedback, and rewards for safe behavior are all effective in reducing accidents, as well as technological improvements and governing bodies to manage safety protocols.

Schedules: Typically the longer the works week the lower the productivity, therefore extending work hours does not always increase production.  Here are a few work schedules:

  • Compressed Work Week: Doing the same amount of hours in few days (for example 4 ten hour days) seem to reduce turnover and increase satisfaction.  But it can result in increased fatigue and while productivity is initially increased, this seems to wear off over time.
  • Flextime: The ability to work extra and store up time to take off at another time has mixed reviews on the increase of productivity.
  • Rest Breaks: This seems to reduce fatigue and boost morale and increase productivity.
  • Shift Work: Most employees prefer daytime work over night time work.  Night shifts correlate with lower productivity and higher employee stress and other health problems.  Shifts that rotate between night and day have the most negative health impacts for an conditions

Physical Conditions
Research indicates a few important findings on physical conditions.  Higher temperature and humidity are associated with lower work output, appropriate lighting for the work conditions (not too bright and not too dim) affect productivity, loud noises can cause hearing damage and intermittent noise can be distracting, cool colors like blues and greens have a calming effect, and music can be helpful for increasing productivity with repetitive tasks.

***What type of work environment do you prefer as an employee?  If you are (or if you were to become) a manager would this information change anything about how you manage? Do you enjoy working in groups? Have you experienced any of these factors of group decision making?  What are your ideal work conditions in regard to schedule and physical conditions? Please comment below as relating the material to your own personal experience can help you memorize the material and understand the concepts better.

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4 thoughts on “Psychology of the Workplace

  1. This was a very interesting article that I think can apply to any job. You laid it out very specifically to where it was easy to understand. Personally, I think that every “boss” needs to read and understand this in order to accommodate his employees. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    1. Yes I agree that this is really essential for any leader to know, as well as the article specifically on leadership. These theories came out of what researchers observed was already taking place in the workplace, but to truly have an effective work environment a leader AND employee can benefit from knowing this information. I really relate to the the idea that job satisfaction increases with age, yes as I have gained more experience I have gotten better jobs, but I am also more satisfied just working hard then I was when I was younger. Thanks for your contribution.

  2. Lots of things covered here about what works for employee well-being that contributes to both productivity and retention.
    These things are important to know to take the EPPP test.

    I myself am not an aspiring psychologist or anything, but am simply interested in psychology. I see how important it is to keep the mind and morale well in order to be productive while working.

    1. I don’t think you need to be an aspiring psychologist to benefit from this material, nor do I imagine many of these theories were developed simply for psychologists. They are meant to be shared and understood by people in all walks of life. Thanks for your contribution!

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