Organizational Psychology

Organizational Psychology


Why are you feeling miserable at work?

Do you get along with your colleague?

Why did your colleague get promoted, but you didn’t?

How can you perform better at your job?

Do you attribute your burnout to your current overwhelming responsibilities?

While organizational psychology may not have all the answers to our problems, it can certainly help us with some of them, especially when it comes to the issues we face in our workplace on a daily basis. Organizational psychology helps improve job satisfaction, occupational safety, and overall health, as well as the employees' well-being.

That said, it also explains how these work-related issues influence other areas of our lives, too. In order to explain how everything is interconnected, we did a lot of research and prepared this informative article for you.

So, read on to find out more about organizational psychology and why it matters so much!

What Is Organizational Psychology?

We can’t define organizational psychology without mentioning that it usually goes hand in hand with industrial psychology. In fact, most of the time it’s referred to as I-O psychology (which stands for industrial and organizational psychology), work and organizational psychology, or even occupational psychology.

But they all have the same goal in mind - to analyze the science behind human behavior at the workplace, how that affects one’s personal life (as well as the life-work balance), and what can be done to make it better. Hence, according to HRZone,

Industrial and organisational psychology (IO psychology) is the use of psychological knowledge and techniques to better understand how businesses work and how employees function in the workplace – what drives them, motivates them, angers them – in order to develop a more engaged and productive workforce.

However, this is easier said than done. A lot of I-O psychologists face many challenges when trying to do their job. In other words, they might face a lot of resistance, dysfunctional workplaces, companies that lack a lot of regulations, and so on. 

This simply means they need to adopt different strategies in varying contexts depending on that specific scenario. And while this isn’t always fun, it’s certainly this challenging dynamic that makes this job so exciting and rewarding.

Organizational Psychology Definition

Organizational psychology is:

  • a branch of psychology; 
  • as of 1996, one of the seventeen recognized professional specialties by the American Psychological Association (APA) in the USA;
  • said to combine several methods and concepts from various subspecialties of the disciples including motivation, social psychology, and learning; 
  • focused on assisting workers in their workplace; 
  • motivating the workforce;
  • increasing business efficiency; 
  • coaching;
  • assessing;
  • evaluring;
  • understanding:
    • group dynamics; 
    • the origin of the problems;
    • how to identify issues;
    • why offering feasible solutions matters;
    • why honest communication is key to every solution;
    • how to lessen the impact of the consequences stemming from bad decisions;
    • why you can’t do anything unless you have criteria and valid goals in mind; 
  • said to be part of the "protected titles" within the profession "practitioner psychologist" regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council;
  • a serious and a responsible career - I-O psychologists are required to have a high level of ethics and commitment; 
  • meant to help people establish better work-life balance and handle issues that may stand in the way of that;
  • one of the fastest growing jobs in the USA based on some 2012-2022 projections; 
  • meant to understand how businesses tend to work and how employees function; 
  • said to apply psychological principles and various research methods to solve issues and help executives, development specialists employee training, managers, and so on; 
    • I-O psychologists use both qualitative and quantitative research methods:
      • Qualitative: focus groups, case studies, and interviews; 
      • Quantitative: analysis of variance, correlation, and multiple regression.

Organizational psychology isn’t:

    • a strict career path - it offers many options in terms of fields you can work in; 
    • simple - it requires a lot of research, deep thinking, understanding a specific workplace and the employees’ needs, and so on;
    • based on fixed rules and/or regulations - each situation calls for a specific “plan”;
    • focused on a single aspect of bettering the work situation within a company - it includes a plethora of factors, such as:
      • Job analysis - may include observation, questionnaires, task analysis, examination of duties, skills, and aptitude;
      • Recruitment - focuses on the employee recruitment process, and could revolve around knowledge tests, specifically tailored interviews, ability tests, personality tests, collecting data and work samples, and so on;
      • Performance appraisal - denotes the detailed process of assessing the individual’s work (or sometimes even whole groups), and it’s frequently applied when promotion and compensation decisions need to be made;
      • Occupational health and overall well-being - includes assessing workers’ state of being while they’re at work, identifying potential bullying, stress, any violence and aggression, or anything that may affect the individuals’ mental health and well-being;
      • Motivation at the workplace - includes what motivates the organization's employees, which incentives work and which ones don’t, how the motivation levels vary among individuals, and what can be done to boost their passion and drive.

The History of Organizational Psychology

Many trace the roots of industrial-organizational psychology back to the beginnings of psychology as a science. This is connected to Wihelm Wundt, a German philosopher, psychologist, and professor, who found one of his first psychological laboratories in Leipzig, Germany, in 1879. Later on, Wundt also trained Hugo Münsterberg and James McKeen Cattell (both were psychologists), who also had a major impact on the development of industrial-organizational psychology. 

Cattell was one of the first to notice the significance of the differences among individual people in order to comprehend work behaviors. Scott, on the other hand, was considered to be the best industrial-organizational psychologist of the time.

Industrial-organizational psychology became quite popular in the period during World War I. A lot of it had to do with testing and providing placements for more than a million army recruits.

After the war ended, a lot of the principles that applied to the army were adopted and became common in everyday life. One such thing was mental ability testing. 

Another important aspect in the historical development of industrial-organizational psychology is the name changes that took place. We already mentioned some of them when we explained what industrial-organizational psychology is, but here we’ll provide a more detailed explanation. 

First of all, it’s important to understand that industrial pshyhgplists became used to “the sentiments, feelings, and attitudes of workers, supervisors, and managers, and with the interplay of people in the social organization of the industrial enterprise” throughout World War I. That’s why I-O psychology was referred to as industrial psychology back then. 

Later on, the name change from "industrial psychology" to "industrial and organizational psychology (I-O)" actually reflected the shift in the industrial psychologists’ approach. This is so because they originally perceived things from an industrial perspective and dealt with larger groups, and now the focus was on the performance of individual workers. In other words, the scope of their work became much broader than it was at the beginning.

In the 1980s to the 2010s, industrial-organizational psychology went through some other changes. Both researchers and psychologists adopted a much more general approach with the attempt to fully comprehend both group dynamics and individual behavior at the workplace. 

Today, industrial-organizational psychology is more versatile than ever, with a wide range of research methods and approaches that grows every day. All industrial-organizational psychologists are required to have relevant qualifications and education, as well as to engage in continuous training and self-education.

Why Is Organizational Psychology Important?

If you know what organizational psychology stands for and what it implies, then it’s very easy to conclude why it matters so much. 

As a branch of psychology committed to making workers’ lives better, organizational psychology has a lot to offer. In fact, helping workers perform better at their workplace, also helps the organizational physiologists do their jobs better in the future, too. 

Communicating with people each day is a learning experience for these psychologists, and other jobs that in general include a lot of human interaction. Therefore, organizational psychologists should work on having patience, as well. This applies to the need to see noticeable changes in the company and in the individuals they work with right away. In reality, such things take time and can’t be rushed. They don’t have a fixed deadline - it’s an ongoing process.

Organizational psychology matters also because it has a bit of a different approach than other branches of psychology. In essence, while most psychology branches and subdisciplines focus on an individual’s mental health and struggles, organizational psychology has the power to shift group dynamics and bring about drastic changes within whole companies.

That said, it also has the ability to affect people on an individual level, but even those changes end up being felt on a much larger group scale.

And precisely such changes show us how significant organizational psychology is. To illustrate this further, imagine a rapidly growing company with ambitious managers, devoted employees, a big budget, and so on. Imagine (almost) perfect working conditions. 

Now imagine if this company (no matter how developed or successful it is) can’t solve its problems on its own. In other words, most managers and employers don’t have a deep understanding of human behavior and psychology, and while they may be able to delegate tasks and monitor employees, they won’t be able to solve other issues that arise in the workplace.

This is when organizational psychologists step in. They have intensive training, relevant qualifications, and their only job is to focus on bettering a particular workplace without engaging in tons of other unrelated tasks (How devoted can a manager be to their subordinates if they have their own tasks to deal with, projects to monitor, answer to their superior, and so on? Basically, how devoted can they be to the employees’ overall well-being?). 

Also, a lot of companies could use a change in perspective and an outsider assessing their overall performance. Organizational psychologists can remain more or less objective because they’re not directly engaged in the company’s issues and job responsibilities. They really are outsiders, but with the intention of fixing the inside.

All in all, organizational psychology matters because those who practice it (i.e. the psychologists) tend to leave the companies in a better shape than they were in when they found them. 

How To Develop Organizational Psychology Skills? 

How do you become an organizational psychologist? 

What skills do you need to develop to become one?

And how do you go about developing them? 

First of all, to become a successful organizational psychologist you need to work on your interpersonal skills. You should know how to communicate with people, and understand what they’re communicating back. Psychologists need to convey their message across, and make sure they’re understood properly (and also understand others in the same way). You’re expected to be comfortable with reading someone else’s body language and facial expressions, too, because sometimes people aren’t comfortable voicing what they feel.

That said, they need to be persuasive, too. After all, how can they make changes and make workers act upon their suggestions if they aren’t a bit “pushy”? Emotional intelligence comes into play here too, as you need to understand other people’s behaviors and motifs, see whether they’re telling the truth or lying, understand where they’re coming from, and so on.

Potential organizational psychologists need to work on their adaptability skills as well. They might come across toxic and completely dysfunctional working environments, and yet they need to do their jobs professionally and remain devoted. Also, they’ll deal with different personalities, as each worker has their own issues, thoughts, remarks, and struggles. Still, they need to accommodate all of them equally. Overall, organizational psychologists need to be prepared for a plethora of challenges.

We can’t forget about solid critical thinking skills, too! Organizational psychologists are asked to use their logic and reasoning to recognize both the pros and cons of alternative solutions, and analyze different approaches to dealing with issues and obstacles.

Organizational psychologists shouldn’t neglect their integrity either, as well as the impression they leave when someone first meets them. In other words, they need to appear serious, yet open-minded and friendly; professional, yet welcoming; courageous, yet willing to be vulnerable with the people they work with.

Finally, psychologists need to work on improving their mental models whenever possible, solve their own personal problems so that they don’t “bring them” to work, and keep their values, principles, and ethics in check at all times. 

Examples of Organizational Psychology in Everyday Life 


Discussing organizational psychology within a work context is very straightforward. In essence, we already explained and defined what organizational psychology is, what the tasks are, and what can be done.

But explaining what they mean, and explaining how they can be truly applied into practice are two different things. Plus, the latter comes with real challenges. 

The first thing you need to understand is that every workplace has its problems. The boss could be demanding or belittling their employees, the HR team may not be as supportive as it should be, the employees might be underpaid and therefore demotivated, and so on. 

And the first mistake a lot of people make is they try to solve all the problems, without actually understanding the source of the problem. For instance, certain employees may be given the sack if they haven’t been performing their tasks the way they were expected to, and so, new employees come into the picture and after a while they start behaving in the same way as those who got laid off. Some might even quit their jobs on their own. 

So, now what happens? Should the new employees be fired, too? Even if they end up being fired, the problem hasn’t been fully solved. In other words, the source of the problem is still there.

And what the source is may vary - depending on the company and the overall context. But for the sake of giving a concrete example, let’s imagine that all those employees are overworked, but absolutely underpaid. And the employer decides to make some changes in regard to the working conditions, without really letting their employees know. On top of all, they’re not allowed to take days off when they wish to - only when the company allows them to.

If you worked in such a company, what would you do?

How would you feel?

And more importantly, how motivated would you be to show up and simply do your work the way you’re supposed to? Would you feel motivated to really do your best? Probably, no, and rightfully so.

We understand the example may be a bit exaggerated, but here’s the thing: this company already has a lot of problems, and bringing in new employees won’t solve them. You need to work from the inside out. In order words, you need to address the reason why they start quitting and why they get demotivated and therefore fired. 

Where do we go from here?

You start one by one. You analyze the employer’s behavior, then you communicate with them. You explain that by doing some of the things they're doing, they might be breaking the law, like in instances with blatant worker exploitation.

For instance, here’s what EurWORK (European Observatory of Working Life) says about making changes in the working conditions

Changes in working conditions and other aspects of the employment relationship can generate serious industrial relations problems. One issue is that workers may not have precise information about their working conditions in the first place. This was addressed by Council Directive 91/533/EEC of 14 October 1991 on an employer’s obligation to inform employees of the conditions applicable to the contract or employment relationship. The directive stipulates that the employer must provide information covering all ‘essential aspects’ of the employment relationship. The employer is obliged to prepare a document with the requisite information, and give it to the employee not later than two months after the commencement of employment. Further, a new document that reflects any changes in core working conditions must be issued.

Granted, each company has its own policies that it adheres to, but it doesn’t take much to understand that employees should be aware of any changes that take place within the company they currently work in.

So, an industrial-organizational psychologist will assess the employer, the employees, the procedures, the policies, and the overall working environment. In essence, the psychologist won’t stop until they get to the root of the issue. They’ll ask questions until they get all the answers. Then, once they identify the problems, they’ll suggest possible solutions. 

These solutions are meant to improve the performance and the success of everybody included in the company work. In other words, the I-O psychologist saves the day! 

How to approach this?

If you’re the employer:
  • What makes YOU as an employer stand out from other employers? 
  • What makes a successful employer? 
  • Are there any flaws you have that you want to work on?
  • How worried are you about the future of your company? And why? 
  • How do you decide who gets promoted in your company? 
  • Have you ever fired someone? How and why did you do it?
  • Do you supervise your employees? If yes, in what way? Do you tend to be in their presence all the time, and monitor what they do (or don’t do, for that matter) or do you allow them to do things in their own time and at their own pace as long as the work is done?
  • Do you think employers should be leaders who lead their team (that is, their employees), or should they mostly behave like bosses and just boss people around?
  • Would you appreciate it if your employees opened up to you more? Why? Why not?
  • How can you strengthen the relationship you have with your employees? What are some things you can do to improve the current relationship (for instance, after work parties, team building weekends, other informal gatherings, and so on)?
  • Marillyn Hewson suggests adopting an emotional and friendly relationship at the workplace. Here’s what she has to say:

You can't forget that organizational success flows from the hearts and minds of the men and women you lead. Rather than treating your people as you'd like to be treated, treat them as they would like to be treated. Small gestures like opting for face-to-face meetings or sending personal notes can have an enormous impact on teams and their morale.

  • Would you, as an employer, feel comfortable to do such things for your employees?
  • If you don’t feel guided to do this, would it be okay if employees do this among themselves? Would you like to be informed of such matters?
  • Ben Horowitz claims that the “most difficult skill I learned as a C.E.O. was the ability to manage my own psychology. Organizational design, process design, metrics, hiring and firing were all relatively straightforward skills to master compared with keeping my mind in check.”
    • As an employer, do you agree with this? Why? Why not? Are “organizational design, process design, metrics, hiring and firing” really always that straightforward? Or maybe there’s much more to them than meets the eye? 
    • What do you do to “keep [your] mind in check”? How do you manage to keep things under control? What happens when they spiral out of control? 
If you’re the employee:
  • How happy are you with your current salary? Do you have the courage to ask for a raise? If you don’t, what’s stopping you? Is it because you’re afraid of what your employer may say, or because you’re insecure in your actual job skills and qualifications? In other words, do you maybe feel you might not deserve to get a raise?
  • How would you rate your relationship with your boss on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being the lowest, and 10 the highest)? What about the relationship with your colleagues? 
  • Has a colleague ever betrayed you (whatever that may mean - they presented your project as theirs, stole your idea, blamed you for something, and so on)? How did you feel about it? Did you confront them?
  • What do you think about the HR team in your company? In what ways could it be better?
  • How do you tend to react to criticism?
  • Are you always aware of your job responsibilities and tasks? Have you ever consciously neglected doing some of them? If yes, why?
  • Have you ever gotten into a fight with your currency employer? If yes, what was it about? How did you end up resolving the issue?
  • Do you think companies should give bonuses to their employees? Is this something that can stimulate the employees more? In what way?
  • How would you define success? Do you consider yourself to be a successful ____________ (fill in with your current job position)? How can you be better at what you do?
  • Do you see yourself as a valuable asset in the company you work at? If not, what keeps you from leaving?
  • Define a healthy working environment. What does it look like? How do the employees behave? How does the employer behave? What type of benefits, vacation policy and promotion packages are being offered? Is there an option to work remotely? What about the working hours - can they be flexible? Make a short list, and then think about whether your current company lives up to your expectations.
  • Do you sometimes want to see what it’d be like to try a different line of work? If you have, what would you like to do? And what’s stopping you from trying it?
  • What are your long-term goals when it comes to your profession?

Overall Health and Well-Being

While organizational psychology is indeed meant to improve human behavior and habits in the workplace, its effects impact our private lives, too. In fact, sometimes they’re so intertwined that organizational psychology skills become more relevant in our private lives rather than at work.

...because let’s face it - an unhappy person at home will be an unhappy employee at work. It goes the other way too! And while nobody is striving for perfection (after all, we go through all sorts of things), it’s advisable to “eliminate” the aspects causing us unhappiness as much as possible. 

But let’s not forget there’s room for positivity, too! In other words, if we’re satisfied with our job, happy with our salary, and believe we’re at the right position, then chances are we’ll radite that energy of happiness and satisfaction within the context of our private lives too.

As much as people try to separate their jobs and private lives, we have to admit that a lot of times they’re intrinsically connected. We may try to leave our work problems at work, but if something’s bothering us, it won’t stop eating us from the inside regardless of what we may be doing. So, we could be traveling, hanging out with our kids, shopping, watching a comedy, spending time with our friends - none of it will make the problem go away. 

Finally, if we bring our work problems at home, why not bring our work skills as well?! As Susan Wojcicki said: “It's important for me to show my children the richness of life and be a role model. I find that my organizational and management skills are tested more at home than at work!”

So, what does all of it say about our mental health and well-being? 

Can we be happy when we mix our professional and private life?

When we have a problem with our colleague, why do we take it out on our partner? And vice versa, when we’re frustrated with our partner, why do we explode at work? 

Why do we continue sabotaging ourselves even when we’re consciously aware that we are doing it?

We’ll probably never be able to manage our work and private life balance perfectly so that they don’t interfere with our health and well-being, but we can do our best to try to lessen their impact. After all, we may not be in control of everything that happens to us, but we do control how we react to it, and how much we allow it to affect us.

What about the I-O psychologists’ well-being? 

We’ve explained how people’s work lives affect their private lives and psychologists try to help on that matter, but what about the I-O psychologists’ private lives? Who looks after their lives? Or is it that, since they’re so qualified, they’re able to help themselves? Maybe they have nothing to solve, as they’re expected to lead perfectly organized lives?

Psychologists are humans too, which means they face their own set of challenges on a daily basis. How they cope with it (or don’t cope with it), depends on each individual person.

And just because they’re trained and have the necessary qualifications to help others doesn’t mean they can always help themselves. After all, the very nature of their job makes them much more prone to emotional stress, mental health issues, and anxiety than what we might assume. In other words, they’re not immune to sadness, anger, frustration, grief, and pain.

Plus, they carry others’ emotional burdens with them. And it’s only natural for things to get tough every once in a while. And this can’t be left untreated. As David Lopez, a practitioner for 15 years, explained: “While a client transferring emotions they would have for someone in their outside lives on to their therapist (called “transference”) is generally considered a good thing, a therapist transferring emotions onto their client is to be avoided.'' Thus, “countertransference” is what needs to be avoided.

So, when psychologists decide to go to their own, outside therapy sessions this not only allows them to get support from a colleague who possibly understands them perfectly well, but they also get the chance to deal with their own issues. They need someone to talk to as well - someone who can understand what their day looks like, what handling their issues feels like, and what it means to be responsible for someone else’s progress.

And in case you were wondering what a typical day In the life of an industrial organizational psychologist looks like, then allow us to break it down for you, just for fun:

Amanda H. Woller’s day:

8:00 – 8:30: she gets to work, reviews ongoing tasks, and shares progress with her coworkers; 

8:30 – 9:00: she responds to emails and adds important tasks to her to-do list; also, she makes necessary adjustments for the day; 

9:00 – 10:00: Amanda organizes and carries out the webinar training for the managers; 

10:00 – 11:30: she analyses and then reviews the data from the manager training program; then, she explains the relevant pieces of information based on what she previously identified to be both successes and concerns;

11:30 – 12:30: she again checks and responds to emails; 

12:30 – 1:30: Amanda has lunch;

1:30 – 2:00: she meets with the leader to talk about the training needs of his prospective leaders;

2:00 – 3:00: Amanda makes a content plan for the leader orientation event; 

3:00 – 3:30: she talks to the vendor over the phone and discusses a new contract; 

3:30 – 4:30: Amanda researches leadership development initiatives aimed at emerging leaders;

4:30 – 5:00: she checks her email and responds to any new emails yet again;

5:00 – 5:30: Amanda establishes contact with her boss - she asks questions, awaits directions, and gives updates; 

5:30 – 5:45: she prepares a task list for the upcoming day; 

Can you imagine living one day as Amanda and handling her tasks and responsibilities? Is there anything that surprised you? Do you think her day is stressful? What would be some challenges you’ll have to overcome? Also, what sounds a bit boring or overwhelming?

Of course, this is just one day and applies to one I-O psychologist. We already outlined a wide range of tasks and responsibilities that I-O psychologists tackle, so you already have a better understanding of it. 

How to approach this? 

  • What three habits can you adopt right now that will make your life way better? What three habits can you drop to improve it?
  • Do you feel that sometimes you waste your energy on the wrong things? How can you change this?
  • Do you wish to inspire others with your healthy lifestyle? Do you see yourself as a role model? Why? Why not?
  • When you’re trying to form a new habit, ask yourself the following:
    • What’s some action you can take right now?
    • Are you willing to truly commit to this?
    • If you stick to this each day, what changes will this habit bring to your life?
    • What meaning does this new habit hold for your current life?
    • Do you have any fears around adopting this new habit?
    • Are you aware of some consequences that come with adopting this new habit (if any)? For instance, if you decide to stop drinking coffee, you may struggle with headaches at first. Or people who stop smoking end up gaining weight. Are these things you’re willing to put up with? 
  • Is there something that you do each day, yet you know you shouldn’t because it’s harming you in some way (for instance, drinking Coca Cola although you know it’s unhealthy)?
  • If your younger self could take a look at the life you have today and the activities you engage in, what would they say to you? Are they going to be proud of you?
  • Have you ever struggled with some mental health issue? What was it? What helped you solve it? Did you let your employer/employees know? If you did, were you treated any differently after letting them know?
  • Are you currently worried about your mental health? What’s the reason behind it?
  • When you’re feeling down, what helps you feel better?
  • Do you have the tendency to take your work problems home? If yes, how does this affect the rest of your family?
  • How much stress do you deal with on a daily basis? Are you doing something to change this?
  • What worries you the most?
  • Are you an overthinker?
  • Do you think your mental health is as important as your physical one? If you do, what steps do you take each day to make sure you look after your mental well-being? 
  • On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being the lowest, and 10 the highest), how happy are you with your current life?

Getting a University Degree

Getting a university degree in Organizational Psychology is yet another way of experiencing this branch of psychology in everyday life. Of course, it isn’t a pathway for everyone, but for those geared toward helping people, analyzing issues at the workplace, and coming up with solutions, this job position may be more than attractive. 

Industrial-organizational psychologists make an average salary of $77,350 a year, which is higher than the average salary for all psychologists ($72,580).

That said, it’s not just about the salary or wanting to help people and analyze their behavior at work. It’s about handling specific tasks, adjusting to unforeseen circumstances, and dealing with a lot of people with different personalities.

However, a lot of people still don’t understand what type of subjects I-O psychology students may be required to take as part of their degree. We briefly mentioned some of the tasks in the Organizational Psychology Definition section, so based on that, you may assume the subjects and the courses you’ll have to pass in order to get your degree.

I-O psychology students learn various social science research methods to help them investigate how to make organizations and their workers much more effective and reliable. Students are asked to study people’s behaviors and work environments to understand the reason behind their actions, what makes them productive and what doesn’t, and what changes a specific workplace needs.

They study the core elements of management and psychological theory, as well as social psychology, motivation, human resource management, organizational behavior, and so on.

What’s more, they’re asked to attend courses related to a much more advanced understanding of leadership, workplace wellbeing, psychology of diversity, talent development, and so on. 

It’s very common for I-O psychology students to attend People Management courses, too, such as Human Resource Management, Workplace Preparation, and engage in group projects and active learning experiences organized by their lecturers and tutors.

Getting a degree in Organizational Psychology opens up different pathways for graduates, which go beyond the traditional job positions in psychology. For instance, many opt for a career in human resources (HR), education (both administration and teaching), counseling or consulting, marketing, and public relations(PR).

Some even engage in various technology-related jobs in order to make sure certain online programs are user-friendly; others work in data administration to organize and maintain personnel and company records. That said, some of these job positions may require further certification apart from the degree in Organizational Psychology. 

What about MAs/MScs and PhDs?

Many decide to get a master degree or even a PhD in order to get better job prospects, and possibly even higher salaries. For instance, if you’re chasing an academic career and wish to teach organizational psychology at a university level, then you have no other choice but to continue with your education beyond your undergraduate studies. 

So, for those on the lookout for a high-quality master program in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, here are the top 25 campus-based programs in the USA. We selected 5 of them to get you started:

  1. Master of Science in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Salem State University, Salem, Massachusetts
  1. Master’s in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, University of Nebraska, Omaha, Nebraska
  1. Industrial-Organizational Psychology Master of Science, California Baptist University, Riverside, California
  1. Master’s degree in Industrial- Organizational Psychology, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Kentucky
  1. Industrial Organizational Psychology Master’s Program, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina

If you wish to get further informed about things such as tuition fees, student to faculty ratio, and details about each of the programs, we recommend checking out the link we provided above.

With such a vast choice of I-O master degree programs, it’d be a shame not to do one! 

How to approach this?

If you’re the educator:
  • What’s the most challenging thing about teaching organizational psychology? Why? Also, what’s the most rewarding one? 
  • Do you think you apply certain psychology principles with your students when you deal with them? For instance, how do you handle the following situations:
    • dissatisfied students wanting to retake an exam,
    • students using their phones during lectures;
    • students cheating during an exam;
    • students insisting on having your mobile phone number;
    • students not answering your emails and you have no idea how to make contact with them; 
    • asking certain students to show up during office hours, but they never come;
    • overhearing students saying bad stuff about you/another student or professor?
  • Why does a major in organizational psychology matter? What should motivate a potential student to enroll in such a degree program?
  • Can you please walk us through a typical lesson you deliver in front of your students? How much time do you need to prepare for your lessons? Do you have any lesson planning habits you wish to share? Is there anything you want to change when it comes to how you teach?
  • How should an organizational psychology student be assessed? Does standard testing work? If not, what assessment methods should be applied? Could you make such changes?
  • When you assess your students, do you primarily focus on their exam scores, or do you prefer to evaluate your students’ overall work? In other words, do you pay attention to class attendance, how they behave during lectures, whether they write homework or not, participate in group projects and engage in individual work, and so on? Is it easy to track all these things? If yes, how do you manage? 
  • Have you ever graded a student unfairly? If yes, what did you do afterward? How did you realize it? How did you feel about the whole thing?
  • As an educator, how do you show your love toward organizational psychology (apart from obviously teaching it)?
  • Do you encourage students to engage in informal learning outside their regular classes? If yes, how? Also, how do you upgrade your own knowledge? What methods and ways of learning work for you? 
  • What type of a relationship do you form with your students? Is it solely a professional one or is there some friendly aspect, too? 
  • According to you, what makes a student an excellent graduate in organizational psychology?
  • What’s the most important skill your students can obtain throughout their organizational psychology studies?
If you’re the educatee:
  • What piece of advice would you give to prospective students who wish to study organizational psychology? What can you share that would help them? 
  • If you’re already an organizational psychology student, can you tell us whether you have any regrets choosing this type of degree? Why? What would you choose now? 
  • Is it worth majoring in Organizational Psychology? What job prospects are there? Are you happy with the potential opportunities? The salary? The possibility for progress? 
  • Do you think your studies in Organizational Psychology are preparing you for the real world? How equipped do you feel to call yourself a psychologist? If you aren’t, would you blame it on yourself, or would you feel like the education system has failed you? 
  • What aspect of organizational psychology interests you the most? Why? Do you think a specific professor may have influenced you?
  • Are you happy with the way you’re being assessed on a regular basis? Does the “testing method” stress you much more than you expected? If it were up to you, would you make any changes? What precisely?
  • Are you satisfied with the overall quality of your programme? Is it outdated in any way? If yes, how so? Also, who should you contact if you have any negative remarks about the program?
  • Have you ever felt like you can learn much more on your own rather than going to uni? If yes, when did that happen? Did things change a bit later on? 
  • Is your degree in Organizational Psychology helpful in your everyday life? How so? 
  • What skills do you think a graduate in Organizational Psychology should acquire throughout their studies?
  • What subjects that you’ve had so far have taught you the most?
  • How do you feel about working with people? Are you proud to obtain a degree that can make changes in other people’s lives?
  • What qualities should a successful organizational psychologist possess? Why? Make a list?
  • What are the shortcomings of being a psychologist? Think of at least three cons.
  • If you’re doing a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Psychology, would you consider continuing your studies and perhaps doing a master’s degree as well? Why? Why not? Were the details we shared above informative?
  • How much of your success as a psychologist will you owe to your studies and professors, and how much to your own personal commitment?
  • Once you graduate, would you consider switching careers at some point? What else can you see yourself doing (apart from maybe being a psychologist)? Do you think your degree in Organizational Psychology will prove to be useful regardless of what you end up doing in life? Why? Why not?

Famous Quotes About Organizational Psychology 

“As you try to balance between the socialist and capitalist systems in the world, you will come up against the biggest problem facing humanity today. Jung wrote in 1938 ‘Any large company composed of wholly admirable persons has the morality and intelligence of an unwieldy, stupid, and violent animal. The bigger the organization, the more unavoidable is its immorality and blind stupidity.’ Each of these systems promotes itself by pointing out the moral failings of the other, but these moral failings are actually failings brought about by people acting within the context of large organizations. What is truly needed is to learn a structure of organization of human beings that provides for the organized group the same capacity and propensity for moral behavior that is possessed by individuals.” 

- Anonymous

“Organizational structures that allow divisions and departments to own their turf and people with long tenure to take root creates the same hardened group distinctions as Congressional redistricting to produce homogeneous voting blocs - all of which makes it easier to resist compromise, let alone collaboration.”

- Rosabeth Moss Kanter

“I have yet to meet members of a leadership team who I thought lacked the intelligence or the domain expertise required to be successful. I've met many, however, who failed to foster organizational health. Their companies were riddled with politics, various forms of dysfunction, and general confusion about their direction and mission.”

- Patrick Lencioni

“You have to, in your own life, get people to want to work with you and want to help you. The organizational chart, in my opinion, means very little. I need my bosses' goodwill, but I need the goodwill of my subordinates even more.”

- Lloyd Blankfein

“As a man, it is true that I will never know what it is like to be a woman. As an organizational psychologist, though, I feel a responsibility to bring evidence to bear on dynamics of work life that affect all of us, not only half of us.”

- Adam Grant

“As a leader, you must consistently drive effective communication. Meetings must be deliberate and intentional - your organizational rhythm should value purpose over habit and effectiveness over efficiency.”

- Chris Fussell

“Business requires understanding financial matters, but management is different from running the financial aspects of the business - it requires understanding complex systems, how they operate, the nature of organisations, what happens when people interact in groups and how to motivate and guide people.”

- Rosabeth Moss Kanter

“We've organized ourselves as cultures, to a large degree, around what we agree we know. And when you have multiple ways of knowing, multiple ways of organizing, the society loses one of its deepest organizational principles.”

- David Weinberger

“If your job requires that you spend a lot of time communicating with people across organizational boundaries, email is perfect. Email is the lowest common denominator, and it's going to cross organizational boundaries really well.”

- Stewart Butterfield

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are some common terms in the field of I-O psychology?

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP): 

An association to which many industrial-organizational psychologists belong. 

Stanford-Binet test: 

A famous intelligence test created for testing one individual at a time. The test was developed by Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon back in 1905, but it was updated later in 1916 by Lewis Terman and his colleagues at Stanford University (hence the test’s present name). 

American Psychological Association (APA): 

It’s the major professional organization for psychologists in the USA. 


It’s the study of individual behavior.


It’s the study of collective behavior.


It’s the study of the interaction of both individual and also collective behavior.

Role ambiguity

This term is a stressor which happens when employees lack clear knowledge/instructions about the type of behavior and responsibilities that’s expected in their job.

Combination Job Analysis Method (C-JAM)

This refers to a job analysis technique which revolves around several methods, including questionnaires and interviews.

Counterproductive Work Behavior (CWB)

This phrase denotes specific employee behavior which harms either the organization or the organization's employees (in some cases even both). 


This is a psychologist trained to measure specific characteristics such as someone’s mental capacity.

Job In General (JIG) Scale

It’s a measure of overall job satisfaction.

Procedural knowledge and skill (PKS) 

It’s knowing how to do a certain task. It’s most frequently developed through practical experience. 

Merit Pay

This is pay based on the person’s job performance.

What’s burnout and how can it be prevented? 

Burnout has been defined as:

a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

Burnout is usually a gradual process. It doesn’t just happen overnight - it builds up over time to the point where you probably won’t be able to take it anymore. That’s why it’s important to recognize burnout for what it is - so that you don’t wait for things to become so worse.

That’s why it’s important to see the early symptoms of burnout and act promptly. 

Signs and symptoms that you’re experiencing burnout:

  • You feel tired and absolutely exhausted most of the time;
  • Your immunity is weakened;
  • You experience frequent headaches and/or muscle pain; 
  • There’s a change in your sleep pattern and/or eating habits; 
  • You feel helpless, agitated, drained, and emotionally chaotic;
  • There’s a sense of detachment - as if you were completely alone in the world; 
  • You experience a total loss of motivation and any urge reach your goals; 
  • There’s a deep sense of dissatisfaction and a negative outlook on life; 
  • You’re slowly withdrawing from your responsibilities (although these are stuff you’ve been handling quite well for a long time);
  • You may turn to alcohol, drugs, and/or other substances to cope with your anxiety and stress;
  • You start taking out your frustrations on other people;
  • You’re becoming a pro at procrastinating (and you do nothing to change this - in fact, you may very well be oblivious to this);
  • Everything seems lost and hopeless;
  • You feel isolated from others without being able to fully explain it;
  • You might come in late to work (or worse - you could try to skip it all together).

Reasons for burnout 

There are many reasons why burount may occur. Some could be work-related, others may stem from your lifestyle. Sometimes even our personality may trigger a burnout episode. 

For instance, individuals with perfectionistic tendencies tend to be more prone to burnout than those who take life much more leisurely. The same applies to overachievers and overly ambitious people who simply don’t know when or how to stop and take a rest. Also, people who are generally more pessimistic and always seem to focus on the negative aspect of life fit in this prone-to-burnout-people group too.

In terms of the work-related burnout causes, several factors come into play. Workers may struggle when their job objectives and tasks aren’t really clear so they go into panic mode which later translates into a heavy burnout episode. So, working in a high-pressure environment never produces satisfied workers.

Sometimes a lack of recognition or adequate compensation for the effort a worker has put in may be a valid trigger, too. And even if the workload matches your capacity, you wish to receive recognition, and so a lot of times workers will try to work even more because they feel that that may bring them the acknowledgment they long for. Unfortunately, this only comes with negative consequences and a sense of having zero control over your work schedule and workload. 

That said, lifestyle-related causes impact us even when we don’t engage in any work. So habits such as an irregular sleeping schedule, lack of close friends and people to connect with on a deep level, and not being able to relax and simply enjoy life for what it is, are another possible root of your burnout-related issues.

How can you improve your work-life balance?

No matter what your job is, you probably struggled, are struggling, or will struggle at some point with maintaining a healthy work-life balance. And the truth is you’ll likely fail at it. A lot. 

But there are things you can do, changes you can implement, and activities you can engage in to lessen the impact of your work-life imbalance.

First of all, prioritize your time. Always. Do the important things first, and then move on onto others. A suggestion is to divide your tasks/responsibilities into several categories depending on how urgent they are.

Then, pick the time of the day when you function the best. For instance, if you’re a morning person, handle the urgent stuff then. That's probably when your mind works the best, you have the most energy, and you’re focused on what needs to be done. That said, sometimes it’s not up to us when we do certain things.

For example, if you want to talk to your sister in the evening on Skype because she lives on the other side of the planet, you’ll probably need to make some compromises and that may include talking to her at “weird” hours.

Another important piece of advice - focus on your body. In other words, don’t skip exercising. Working on your body isn’t just for staying healthy or keeping a nice figure. It’s about learning to enjoy the present moment, and simply finding some time to devote to yourself without thinking about the kids, your boss, your partner, the annoying neighbors across the hall, the project you forgot about, the birthday party you need to attend on Friday, and so on. 

This will help you handle your overactive mind, and calm it down. Set some time to read a book, but also don’t forget to socialize with others.

Finally, be realistic. Allow yourself to make some mistakes. It will be better next time. You may be mad at yourself, you may be mad at others, but here’s the thing: no matter how much we try to plan our lives and/or try to maintain a healthy balance, things will get out of control sometimes, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Recognize those moments for what they are, allow yourself to “solve” them in the best way possible, and tell yourself that you got this! And so it shall be. 

Suggestions for Further Reading 

A lot has been written about organizational psychology, its purpose, implications, and practical use. That said, there are many conflicting opinions and comments about it too. After all, this is common when it comes to explaining human behavior and psychology in general. 

That’s why we invite you to take a look at our organizational psychology book list and read these books (or at least those you may end up choosing) critically:

  1. No Hard Feelings: Emotions at Work and How They Help Us Succeed, by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy
  1. The Art Of Saying NO: How To Stand Your Ground, Reclaim Your Time And Energy, And Refuse To Be Taken For Granted (Without Feeling Guilty!), by Damon Zahariades
  1. Communication Skills Training: How to Talk to Anyone, Connect Effortlessly, Develop Charisma, and Become a People Person, by James W. Williams
  1. The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business, by Erin Meyer 
  1. Unhackable: The Elixir for Creating Flawless Ideas, Leveraging Superhuman Focus, and Achieving Optimal Human Performance, by Kary Oberbrunner and Dan Sullivan
  1. Essentials of Organizational Behavior: An Evidence-Based Approach, by Terri A. Scandura 
  1. The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth, by Amy C. Edmondson
  1. Bringing Out the Best in People: How to Apply the Astonishing Power of Positive Reinforcement, by Aubrey C. Daniels
  1. The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation, by Timothy R. Clark
  1. The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job, by Ruth F. Namie and Gary Namie
  1. Eat Sleep Work Repeat: 30 Hacks for Bringing Joy to Your Job, by Bruce Daisley
  1. The Burnout Fix: Overcome Overwhelm, Beat Busy, and Sustain Success in the New World of Work, by Jacinta M. Jiménez 

What book title looks the most promising? 

Final Thoughts 

All in all, organizational psychology plays a huge role when it comes to understanding human behavior within a working context. We believe it deserves even more recognition as a discipline than it currently receives.

So, if you’re a worker, we hope our article showed you how each workplace can be transformed into a lovely professional environment when one has the right tools and knowledge.

If you’re an employee, we hope we inspired you to take action and consider whether your company needs some adjusting, your employees need help, and/or what changes you can make as of today.

And if you’re someone interested to learn more about organizational psychology, then you can join our online course about organizational psychology, and get further informed. Should you decide to join us, you’ll get to:

  • learn more about how to get the best out of people;
  • setting the workplace culture and paying attention to the overall workplace well-being;
  • learn even more about how to create a better life-work balance;
  • understand the importance of diversity and inclusion; 
  • learn all about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (which may help you understand how it applies to your personal life and where you’re at currently); 
  • understand the significance behind candidate screening, induction and onboarding, and training and development.

Learning doesn’t have to be a daunting activity, and our courses are definitely living proof of that!