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The Role of Psychology in the Workplace

There’s no shortage of obstacles facing employers in the modern age. From rapid changes in technology to higher rates of burnout due to a lack of work-life balance, leaders have their hands full as they try to create an inclusive environment for all employees.

Through Avila University’s online Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology with a concentration in Organization Development program, students learn how to turn theories of human behavior into positive changes for workplace culture. Their new skills can be used to implement interventions that improve productivity and employee engagement.

Improving Organizational Culture With Psychology

Every business owner wants to make their organization sustainable and profitable. Organizational psychology posits that satisfied workers create successful companies and that businesses must be adept at addressing their concerns at individual and organizational levels.

By studying human behavior in the workplace, organizational psychology practitioners investigate the nature of decisions, how managers and their employees communicate and how workplace systems can function better to facilitate collaboration, according to the American Psychological Association. Their jobs often involve coaching employees and business leaders, which includes creating training programs for organizations and conducting performance evaluations.

Their study is guided by psychologists like Viktor Frankl, who identified the pursuit of meaning as the primary motivation for all humans. Human resources professionals apply this principle by creating environments where employees see their values, such as community service or diversity, reflected in their work.

They also strive to create cultures of “psychological safety,” or an environment where trust and transparency allow staff to more freely share feedback without fear of repercussion. Organizational psychology helps leaders understand that their employees feel respected — and are more willing to take risks that pay off — when their questions and contributions are not just allowed but welcomed.

The Impact of Psychology on Employee Engagement

Evidence of the positive impact that effective organizational psychology can have on businesses is not difficult to find. In 2015, Google researchers discovered that psychological safety, or the sense that workers could take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed, determined which teams were the most high-functioning within the company. This culture created higher employee engagement and clarity around the team’s mission and potential impact.

To accomplish goals of higher employee engagement and a greater sense of purpose, leadership coach Deon Senturk says managers can adopt several elements of positive psychology. Their focus should turn from fixing problems to nurturing employee strengths, Senturk writes. Adopting a “growth mindset,” or the idea that staff should look at challenges as opportunities for improvement rather than obstacles to achievement, can also shift an organization’s work culture. Even simple steps, such as celebrating accomplishments in a public forum or offering remote work options and flexible scheduling, show a dedication to employee fulfillment.

Organizational psychologists help businesses of all kinds recognize which solutions would have the most positive impact on their work culture. The fix may include offering mindfulness and wellness programs to employees seeking outlets for stress related to their jobs, Senturk writes.

In other cases, a consultant may identify better systems for aligning employees with roles that suit their pursuit of meaning. Human resources specialists may also implement avenues for staff to offer anonymous feedback as well as open conversations about work culture that lead to changes in policy.

Develop Organizational Psychology Skills With Avila University

Students in Avila University’s online M.S. in Psychology with a concentration in Organizational Development program can take their interest in workplace dynamics to the next level with courses like Applications of Psych in Organizations. The course explores the psychology of decision-making, social processes and leadership while also offering strategies for turning theory into workplace interventions.

Through a capstone project focused on applying psychological science to an organization’s needs, graduates leave with the knowledge to further their careers as organizational development coaches and practitioners.

Learn more about Avila University’s online M.S. in Psychology with a concentration in Organizational Development program.

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