Interest in Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology, the psychology of the workplace, has gained a lot of traction in recent years. Unfortunately, even with increasing interest many Intro to Psychology students, especially non-psychology majors, rarely get exposed to this dynamic field. Why is this exposure important? First and foremost it broadens a student’s knowledge and understanding of psychology’s application in various contexts. This was the main reason I was drawn to I-O as an undergraduate. I attended a predominately business-oriented college and initially planned to major in economics and finance. That changed when I was introduced to I-O — the perfect marriage of my desire to major in business and my new-found interest in psychology. Secondly, understanding I-O can be extremely beneficial in navigating the world of work, an important skill for students who are starting their careers.
In surveying several colleagues who teach Introductory Psychology, three themes emerged as to why the majority of them don’t include I-O into their courses:
- Lack of knowledge about the field
- Not enough time to cover topic
- The textbook used doesn’t cover I-O
In this blog post, I will address these problems in hopes of encouraging and motivating instructors to incorporate I-O into their introductory courses.
Lack of knowledge:
The simple answer to this problem is to be proactive in educating yourself about I-O. But where do you start? Your first stop should be the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). If you aren’t interested in becoming a member, SIOP has a free quarterly publication you can read in addition to other resources I’ll highlight later. In addition to SIOP, there are various websites that actively publish quality evidence-based I-O content. Three in particular are ScienceforWork, IO at Work, and Minds for Business.
Don’t have much time to read additional research/content? No worries! Personally, I’m a huge fan of podcasts especially since I can listen to them on my morning commute or while in the office. Podcasts are a great way to gain additional knowledge and insight for both instructors and students. Below is a list of my favorite I-O related podcasts.
- L&D on Trial
- Mind Your Work
- Mind On The Job
- Workr Beeing
- Worklife with Adam Grant
Lastly, if you’re active on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) follow I-O related groups and/or prominent individuals in the field. Check out this public Twitter list created by Paul Thoresen for tweets and Twitter handles related to Industrial-Organizational, Occupational, Work & Business Psychology.
Lack of time:
Not having enough time to cover the plethora of content in psychology is completely understandable. To best mitigate this concern, consider incorporating I-O content into already discussed topics. Since I-O draws from so many other psychology disciplines this shouldn’t be too daunting of a task.
- Highlight group dynamics and team development when covering social psychology. This is especially beneficial if you have students working on a group project.
- Mention why intelligence and personality assessments are used in the workplace (i.e.: Psychological assessments and the NFL).
- Explore the role emotions play in the workplace (i.e.: emotional contagion)
- Talk about employee motivation (i.e.: why are people motivated to work for certain companies).
- Cover workplace mental health issues in relation to stress/health and psychological disorders (i.e.: burnout is work induced depression).
- Highlight organizational neuroscience.
- Mention evidence-based management as a part of rational decision making.
You might also want to consider replacing and/or modifying current assignments to incorporate I-O. For example, a career exploration group project where students conduct research on a particular psychology discipline and then present their findings (i.e.: What does an I-O Psychologist, Occupational Health Psychologist, etc. do?).
Lack of textbook coverage:
The lack of I-O content in Introductory Psychology textbooks is a huge problem. One that SIOP is actively trying to address. The ideal approach would be to change your course textbook to one with a chapter devoted to I-O. I know this isn’t always possible (i.e.: department selected textbooks, etc.), therefore providing your class with supplemental material is the best work around. Below are some great resources (free textbook chapters, content summaries, PowerPoint presentations, activities, etc.) for incorporating I-O Psychology into your current course.
- SIOP Teaching Resources:
- Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP) Teaching Resources:
- NOBA Project
- Openstax Psychology
Hopefully the above information and resources will encourage you to incorporate I-O Psychology into your Introductory Psychology courses.