autobiography is an edited version of a first draft prepared by Bill McGehee in
1978. The original has several
references to "inserts" that cannot be found.
I appears, however, that the inserted texts were rewrites of sections
that were crossed out. I have kept the content of the crossed out sections, but have
rewritten them for clarity and style. I
also added the headings throughout the text to aid the reader.
I believe I have been faithful to Bill's thoughts and words. (Paul W.
Thayer, January, 2002)
autobiographer should avoid writing an apologia
pro vita sua, or a Horatio Alger story.
He must decide what hills to climb again and what valleys to slug through
again. Ross Stagner has set the
direction he hopes will be taken by each autobiographer.
It is to emphasize the events in each life which illuminate the growth
and development of industrial psychology as a science and a profession.
As I mentally reviewed my participation in the growth and development of
industrial psychology, it seems to me my association with it could be used as
evidence for a disordered universe. So,
I hope too much thunder in the index will be tolerated by both the editor and
I had no
awareness of psychology as an academic discipline or a possible vocation until
after I had finished undergraduate college.
In fact, I do not remember the word "psychology" being used or
the subject discussed until I was 20 years old.
The term was
not in the lingua franca of the
inhabitants of the small West Tennessee town in which I spent most of my youth.
This town, Paris, in no way resembled the more famous Paris.
The major and perhaps the only cultural and intellectual event in the
town was the annual visit of the Redpath Chautauqua.
Parisians attended more to see the magician than to hear William Jennings
Bryan speak on the "Cross of Gold."
inhabitants of Paris were for the most part native born whites of North European
descent. There was a certain amount
of Puritan attitude toward pleasure, especially someone else's pleasure.
The Protestant work ethic was rampant.
Education beyond learning to read, to write and to figure had little
status in the community. Males were expected to become productive members of their
families at an early age, and the place for women was strictly in the home.
Paris in many
ways was a good town in which to spend your youth.
There was little wealth or poverty.
Socioeconomic class distinctions were rarely present and never for
children. Paris was only a short
distance from the outdoors the intriguing valleys of the Tennessee and Big
Sandy rivers. Most males became
avid hunters and fishermen.
My father was
a railroad conductor who had left his father's farm at an early age to find
employment. My mother was the
daughter of a self-educated lawyer. She
had more than the usual formal education roughly two years of college.
I am the oldest of four children, another boy and two girls.
Except for one
event, my life was like that of other youngsters in Paris.
The incident was an accident in infancy a burn which left my right
hand practically useless for all practical purposes.
As a result, I could not do the normal things most youngsters do until
plastic surgery at age nine gave me reasonable use of my hand.
Even after surgery, my manual skill was low.
So, I developed little or no interest in any activity requiring manual
skill, or use of tools or machinery. I
did, however, become an ardent hunter and fisherman.
My hands allowed me to play football, at guard, of course.
I played the game with success in high school, and with little success in
My mother, to
occupy my time when I couldn't play with other children, told me stories, read
to me and played games with me. I
learned to read at an early age and have been a voracious reader ever since.
I found as I grew older that
while I could not compete in motor activities with others, I could compete, with
success, at the cognitive level. I
made good school grades and performed well in forensic activities.
This, of course, endeared me to teachers, but rarely improved my status
with my peers. It is possible that
this led to my lack of interest in the physical sciences in contrast with
liberal arts subjects.
My injury had
a direct bearing on my attending college. Children
from affluent families were usually the only ones in Paris who attended college.
The financial situation in my family was such that sending a child to
college was out of the question, yet my mother had determined early that I would
have a college education to compensate for problems I might encounter in making
a living due to my manual handicap. Early
on she instilled the idea of college in me.
I saved some money from part time and summer jobs for this purpose.
Through the efforts of a friend of my mother, I was given a scholarship
by the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee.
I was also promised work in the dining hall.
These, with some help from my grandfather, provided enough money to see
me through my first year at Sewanee.
grandfather served as a model for me. (Of
course, neither of us knew what that meant then.)
He was a self-taught lawyer, born near the end of the Civil War.
He was also an enthusiastic hunter.
I spent a great deal of time with him at his home and at his office.
gave me my first lesson in sportsmanship. He
had given each of his four grandsons a shotgun when they reached age 12.
He taught each how to use his gun safely.
I was bird hunting (always doves in the South) with him shortly after
receiving my gun. We came upon a
covey of birds still on the ground. I
was about to shoot when he stopped me. He
said, "You don't shoot birds on the ground.
Always give them a chance." He
took my gun away for two weeks while I was to think about why I shouldn't shoot
birds on the ground.
was a confirmed skeptic. He once
told me that if someone told me it was raining, I should go outside and get wet
before believing him. He also had
low tolerance for cheats and phonies.
sometimes great teachers have had a profound influence on my life.
The first was a Mr. Weston from New England, a Princeton M.A.
I never learned what brought him to Paris, but he taught Latin and
history there for over thirty years until his death.
He made the hedgerows of Normandy as vivid as if you had been one of
Caesar's centurions trying to see through them.
He was a teacher who never segmented learning.
A history test turned in with correct answers and mistakes in spelling,
grammar or sentence structure was marked down and returned for the student to
correct the language mistakes. I am
certain his model made me a more effective teacher than any course in education
I had to take to get a teacher's certificate in Tennessee.
especially good teachers in English and mathematics in high school, and an
especially poor one in chemistry. As
a consequence, I avoided all courses in the physical sciences in undergraduate
school. Thus, it was not until
graduate work that I had any understanding of or appreciation for the scientific
method of investigating phenomena.
I had no
specific vocational aim when I enrolled at Sewanee, nor did I develop one during
my four years there. I was also
ignorant of what college life would be like, given my small town background.
Thus, my adjustment to Sewanee was difficult, and I was not well accepted
by other students until my junior year. By
then I had competed successfully in cognitive activities, and my financial
difficulties had diminished through an assistantship in the English Department,
being head waiter in the dining hall and having four or five part time jobs,
including night relief operator on the telephone switchboard. I made more money as a senior than I did during the first
three years after graduation, twelve hundred seventy-five dollars.
curriculum was modeled on the classical one of Oxford.
Four years of an ancient language was required for graduation.
Philosophy, English, modern foreign languages and mathematics were
emphasized. I avoided biology and
the physical sciences except for the one required course.
There were no majors in today's sense, but students had areas of
concentration. Mine were
philosophy, English, Latin and Greek. It
is somewhat ironic that in spite of my mother's and my concern about a vocation,
my education at Sewanee had little value on the job market.
So far as I
remember, Sewanee offered no courses in psychology. The nearest we came was in a philosophy class in which we
studied William James, but as a philosopher, not as a psychologist.
Neither can I remember any discussion of psychology among students even
in its popular sense in the late 1920's.
I found my
courses in philosophy interesting, but they left me with a sense of
incompleteness. What were the
answers? I know, of course, that
there is no categorical imperative. But
each philosophic system seemed to have the answerits answer.
What was the evidence? What
was the proof? Or, was philosophy
just a word game, and were distinguished philosophers merely individuals with
high linguistic ability? (I am, of
course, phrasing this in 50 years of retrospection; not the way I might have at
exceptions, I had excellent teachers at Sewanee. Teaching was their major mission, not research or
publication. Classes were small;
total enrollment was about 300. You
knew your teachers as individuals as they knew their students. Skepticism and inquiry were encouraged, as well as
originality. Few limited their
teaching to their subjects. One
learned history in foreign language courses and philosophy in mathematics
courses. H. L. Mencken's The American Language had a place of honor in an English class.
In addition to broad general knowledge, I acquired and internalized a
code of behavior that has remained with me.
In June, 1929
I was graduated from the University of the South. Having no marketable skills nor vocational aim, I
thought vaguely of writing as a vocation, so I got a job as a cub reporter on a
metropolitan daily. I lost that job
after two months for failing to meet a deadline.
in the Public Schools
uncle who was a county school board member, I was offered a job teaching in the
Puryear, Tennessee, High School. (Even
then, it was difficult to find a Latin teacher.) I accepted the job with little enthusiasm and no
investigation. On reporting for
work, I found I was also to teach mathematics, and to coach basketball and
baseball. As I had played neither
sport and had little interest in them, I got a book on how to coach these
sports. My teams had little
success, but that had been true under the previous coach.
teaching interesting, but had no desire to continue in it. Early in 1930, I began looking for other jobs.
As the depression had hit Tennessee early, there were few opportunities.
Whoever had a job did everything possible to hold onto it. I decided I had better secure the 27 hours of Education
required for a permanent teaching certificate.
I managed this by attending Murray State Teachers College in summer
sessions of 1930 and taking a correspondence course.
The latter was my first course in psychology and was strictly Titchnerian.
This introduction to JND's and watered-down neurology failed to fill me
with enthusiasm for psychology.
I got my
permanent certificate and taught until the Fall of 1931.
I moved to teach Latin and coach at Donelson, Tennessee, a town about six
miles from Nashville, where I remained until February, 1936.
This move had several results. I
was paid ten dollars more a month ($90) in cash, not in county script that was
discounted 10 percent at the bank when you needed real money.
It allowed me to coach the sport I knew something about, football.
Also, I met Hortense Ambrose of Nashville, and we were married in 1934.
That same year
I began graduate school. I had
discussed my future in education with my principal and school superintendent.
They suggested school administration and encouraged me to get a master's
degree in educational supervision.
graduate work at George Peabody College in the Fall of 1934, I happened to
select a course on the psychology of the exceptional child taught by Dr. Paul L.
Boynton. He was one of the
great teachers I have had. Although
his lectures were somewhat dull, he conducted most classes as discussion
sessions. He was especially
effective one-on-one, and often led you to the answer to your own question.
His undergraduate training had been in physical and biological sciences.
His Ph.D. was under Joseph Peterson and centered on rational learning.
His major areas of interest were individual differences, psychological
measurement, child psychology and learning.
He had published an excellent text on intelligence and was finishing one
on child psychology when I began my graduate work.
In the Spring
term, I took a course from him on the psychology of learning.
I was finding that psychology filled the void that philosophy had not.
No longer were you completely dependent on ratiocination. You collected data, used controls, and used reliable and
valid measuring instruments. From
the two courses with Boynton, scientific thinking went to the top of my value
system, indeed, with almost a religious quality.
Since the pursuit of knowledge in psychology did not depend on prior
training in physical or biological sciences, I saw psychology as a possible
vocational and intellectual life. Vocationally,
I was thinking of teaching and research.
Near the end
of the second course with Boynton, I discussed the possibility of graduate work
in psychology. He indicated it
wouldn't take much to get a masters in psychology.
As to work following the Ph.D., he indicated that college teaching or
work in a mental health center were the most probable work settings.
It is interesting to note that he did not suggest industry as a site for
a psychologist nor any training in industrial psychology.
I do not remember that employment in industry was ever mentioned during
my graduate work. Nor was any
attention given to industrial psychology as part of the discipline of
psychology. Only a few texts had been published, and very few
psychologists were employed by business concerns.
with my wife, we agreed that the
Ph.D. in psychology was the direction to take.
Boynton accepted me as a graduate student and I completed my master's
degree in August, 1936.
for my thesis was an investigation of free word associations of elementary
school children. Boynton urged me
to publish my research, as he believed it was one's obligation to share his
findings and to submit the research to the judgment of his peers. I published two articles on my thesis, one in 1937 and
another in 1938. I became rather
prolific and published 13 articles between 1937 and my entry into the Navy in
1942. Only two of those were
related to industrial psychology.
to enter college teaching came sooner than expected. I was offered a job as temporary instructor in the Psychology
Department at North Carolina State. Neither
Hortense nor I had heard of NC State, and thought it was the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill. I accepted
the job even though it meant resigning the job at Donelson, and might mean
unemployment in June, 1936. Boynton
pointed out that I could take courses at Duke or Chapel Hill to complete
requirements for my Ph.D.
satisfied the residence requirements at Peabody, and took over half of my course
work for the Ph.D. at Duke and Chapel Hill.
I returned to Peabody for two summer sessions, completed my dissertation
and was awarded the Ph.D. in August, 1939.
My dissertation involved a national sample of 7,986 retarded children in
elementary schools. I had data
involving 25 variables, and this before electronic data processing equipment.
Carolina State, Duke and Chapel Hill
introduction to industrial psychology came at NC State in February, 1936.
My teaching assignment was 18 contact hours per quarter, or six
three-hour courses. Among these
were two sections in industrial psychology, and three sections of introductory
psychology. An instructor-sharing
arrangement added a section of introductory sociology.
Viteles' encyclopedic Industrial
Psychology, 1932 edition.
The majority of my
industrial psychology students came from the Textile School, with a scattered
number from Engineering and Agriculture. The
Psychology Department was strictly a service department; there were no
I doubt my
students learned much about industrial psychology when I first taught it.
I had no industrial experience and it was difficult to find illustrations
from real life to illuminate Viteles' treatment of the subject.
The research and literature of the field was unknown to me.
I am sure I studied the class assignments harder than most of my
students. I learned a lot even if
my students didn't. Anyway, I got
by enough to be re-employed as an instructor in 1937.
At Duke, I
became aware for the first time of the controversy between schools of
psychology. I had several classes
with D.K. Adams who introduced me to Gestalt psychology and the topological
psychology of Lewin. Lewin's field
theory made a profound impression on me. It
has had significant influence over time in my approach to the behavior of
individuals in work organizations.
At Duke, I had
two seminars with William McDougall. I
was impressed with his broad erudition, his courtly manner, and his courtesy to
me as an outside graduate student. I
remember little of the content of the seminars, except the title of one:
The Place of Instinct in Psychology.
Another course at Duke with Karl Zener made a lasting impression on me.
It was called the Neurological Basis of Behavior.
There was, at that time, only sparse research on the relationship of
behavior to neurological structure. Nevertheless,
I came away from this course with a firm conviction that an understanding of the
neurological basis of behavior was essential to understanding individual
At that same
time, I was also taking classes at Chapel Hill.
I was fortunate to have another great teacher there, John Dashiell.
I had a course in experimental psychology and one in the history and
theory of psychology with him. Dashiell
had moved from his extreme behavioristic position (Fundamentals
of Psychology, 1927) to a broader position (General Psychology, 1936). He
was an excellent classroom teacher, but, as was Boynton, he was at his best in
one-to-one interaction with students.
The breadth of
Dashiell is illustrated by two incidents. First,
in spite of his behavioristic view, he allowed me to take an independent study
of Lewin and Hoppe's concept of level of aspiration.
I did an experiment on the relation of level of aspiration to judgment.
Second, after I became head of the Psychology Department at North
Carolina State (1940), I developed
a proposal for a master's degree in Industrial Psychology.
It had no chance unless Dashiell would support it.
When I explained it to him, he said something like this, "Bill, I
know nothing about Industrial Psychology, but if you say it is a legitimate
field for psychologists, I will back your proposal."
He did, and the proposal was ultimately approved, even though its
implementation was delayed by World War II.
an Industrial Psychologist
I completed my
work for the Ph.D. in 1939 at George Peabody College. By then, I had decided on college teaching as a career, but
had not developed a specific field of interest.
My doctoral studies had given me more than casual acquaintance with the
following areas: individual differences, measurement, motivation, learning and
social psychology. Later, when I decided upon industrial psychology, I found I
had an excellent background for the field except for statistics and what is now
called experimental design.
learned as a graduate student were the statistics of large N's.
Small sample statistics were just beginning to be used, so I gave myself
a course in small sample statistics by reading Snedecor.
Later, I went to Siegel for information about nonparametrics.
Research methods in industrial and experimental design I learned from
reading Thorndike's Personnel Research,
Guion's Personnel Testing,
Dunnette's Personnel Selection and
Placement, Jahoda, Deutsch and Cook's Research Methods in Social Relations, and Campbell and Stanley's
1963 book, Experimental and Quasi-
Experimental Designs for Research.
receiving the Ph.D. degree, I continued teaching at North Carolina State.
I was able to get rid of the sociology course by teaching a course in
social psychology. I taught three sections of industrial and one of social
psychology. I also began a student
Psychology was a difficult text for most students.
In searching for something more readable, I came across Jenkin's Psychology in Business and Industry (1935). My thinking about the
application of psychology to industry was heavily influenced by Jenkin's book.
It is interesting to note that his text didn't have a chapter on employee
training. He dismissed the topic with a footnote saying there were not
enough generalizations of known dependability concerning training to justify
including the topic in his text.
was the first industrial psychologist I met personally. It was a casual meeting at the Southern Society for
Philosophy and Psychology in Washington.
(I eventually came to know Jack Jenkins well, as he was my commanding
officer in the Navy.)
As there were
very few industrial psychologists in the late 1930's, I had no continuing
contact with any until after World War II.
I had to rely entirely on the literature to learn about the field.
I read most of the books available, both lay and scientific:
Hepner, Bruce Moore, Burtt, Link, Meyer and Munsterberg.
Each had an influence on my thinking, but not as much as Viteles,
Jenkins, and later Mayo, Roethlisberger, Hartman and Newcomb.
Many of my
students had worked in industry, usually textiles. I started drawing them out about their experiences.
The textile industry was by far the biggest in North Carolina, and NC
State had one of the larger and more highly respected schools of textiles.
I decided to learn about textiles by attending courses.
The faculty made me welcome. As most had industrial experience before
joining the faculty, they were kind enough to share experiences and the kinds of
employee problems they encountered.
Textile School faculty, I met several mill managers who also shared employee
problems with me. I appeared before
several industry groups to discuss tests for selecting employees.
These led to some small consulting assignments on selection, adding to my
knowledge of managerial concerns as to employees.
unsystematic way, I put the knowledge from these experiences together.
It became apparent that there were more dynamic and central aspects of
the behavior of individuals in organizations than those of selection and
training. They centered around
employee motivation, rewards, group relations and problems of authority.
In my own thinking, I began to call this the social psychology of
I began to
devote more time to these topics in my courses.
In early 1940, I was asked to teach a course in Industrial Psychology for
a government sponsored management manpower development program.
The program was designed to prepare personnel for the increasing number
of industries manufacturing war materials.
Enrollees were more mature than my college students, and the majority had
industrial experience. Given my
concerns about the social psychology of industry and the content of current
texts, I decided I had to take a different direction.
I developed a
syllabus that touched on the major areas on industrial psychology, but stressed
the social psychology of industry. I
drew on some of the early work of Mayo and the Hawthorne studies that were just
appearing print (Whitehill, 1937; Roethlisberger and Dickson, 1940).
I used material from an as yet unpublished manuscript edited by Hartmann
and Newcomb, Industrial Conflict:
A Psychological Interpretation, (1940).
I had investigations of employee attitudes by Houser (1927,
1928),Kornhauser (1938), Uhrbrock (1934), as well as Mathewson's 1931 study of
restriction of output among unorganized workers.
As a framework
for all this material, I used Lewin's topological psychology without the
geometry. The concept of life space
seemed highly acceptable to the students in this course.
The here-and-now theory of the etiology of the behavior of employees
helped pull them away from half-baked psychoanalytic approaches, and
concentrated their attention on what happened to employees in the workplace.
In developing this framework, I found the text I used in social
psychology useful: J.F. Brown's Psychology
and the Social Order, (1936).
I taught this
course three or four times, constantly expanding and revising it.
I began to write a text on the social psychology of industry in early
1940, by my entry into the Navy terminated the project.
time, I wrote my first article in industrial psychology and submitted it for
publication (McGehee, W and Owens, E.B., 1943).
Like most of my research efforts, this one arose from a problem Owens was
having at his job supervising clerical workers. Employees were taking unauthorized as well as authorized rest
pauses. I suggested research as an
approach. Among other things, we
found the major reason employees objected to authorized rest pauses was the fact
that rest room facilities were inadequate if all employees took pauses at the
same time. This would not be the
last obvious but overlooked problem my research would uncover.
Harbor, I attempted to enlist in all the military services.
I had difficulty getting accepted due to my age, the injury to my hand,
and my occupation. Finally, I was
offered a commission in the Coast Artillery, and another in the aviation
psychology section of the Navy. I accepted the latter and reported for duty in September,
assignment was to an instrument instructor school based in NAS Atlanta.
The school was just starting and was pioneering a new teaching method of
instrument flying that used a full panel of instruments and was called
"attitude flying." I
became involved in developing the training program and evaluating its graduates.
I spent many hours flying with students and instructors, analyzing the
instructor's job. The job analysis
revealed that some aspects of teaching were being over-emphasized at the expense
of other, more important ones. One
change in the program was a course I taught on the psychology of instrument
flight. It was aimed at a major
problem, pilots not believing what their instruments told them.
I was involved
in developing curricula for Waves who were to become Link trainer operators, for
tower control personnel, and for mechanics.
Even though it violated Navy regulations, for a brief time I was
commanding officer of the control tower school and the Link instructor school.
I did a study of instrument panel design on aviator performance and pilot
fatigue. I used an old PBY5A or the
study. My work was frequently
interrupted because the Marine executive officer repeatedly ordered it on
special trips without regard for my research schedule.
In defense, I finally obtained the following order from the Chief of
Naval Operations: "Lieutenant
William McGehee is designated as Commanding Officer of PBY5A (73860) and it will
be flown only on his cognizance." Thus,
I think I became the only psychologist to become the commander of a Naval
program for selecting flight trainees was a clear success in terms of the number
of trainees who could complete training and become aviators.
We wondered, however, whether it was selecting those who would become
good combat pilots. To secure research evidence, we needed to confront the
criterion problem. Pass rates from
school were not adequate to the task, and we struggled to come up with some
alternative. Chester Bennett
suggested we go to fellow pilots for judgments using Moreno's nominating
technique. Jack Jenkins, commanding
officer of Naval Psychologists, tried it in the fleet under combat conditions
and concluded that it worked.
several aviation psychologists were sent to the Pacific Fleet in 1944 to collect
peer nominations from pilots in combat squadrons:
Verne Lyon, Chester Bennett, Jack MacMillan and William McGehee.
I was assigned to search, antisubmarine and air-sea rescue squadrons. Even though our work had strong endorsement from the Chief of
Naval Operations, the mission required some selling on our part.
Early on, I was challenged by one commander who said if I wanted to know
what a good pilot in combat was like I should be on the flight line a 0400 and
fly a mission with him. I did, and flew for 16 hours to Borneo, Pallawan, Mindanao
and back to Morati, our base in the Netherlands East Indies.
Eventually, I flew with all the squadron commanders and believe my
willingness to fly with them had a significant effect on their cooperation in my
research. Only four of over 100
pilots I interviewed refused to make peer nominations.
In my opinion,
the technique did uncover those pilots who were exceptionally good or
exceptionally poor. The procedure
tapped vital and realistic experiences of combat aviators.
The efficiency of a fellow pilot could make the difference between
survival and being shot down. Pilots
could be picturesque in describing other pilots. When asked why he did not want to fly with a particular
pilot, one said, "Christ, he is so uncoordinated that he walks in a
skid!" Another pointed out
that he wouldn't fly with another who had shot down ten enemy aircraft because
he had lost more wing men than he had shot enemy planes. Combat flying from a carrier is a team affair, not a place
for individual stars.
attempted to use peer nominations in industry following the war, I had little
confidence in the results. I
believed they were based on judgments that were much less critical to the
employees, compared to the stakes involved with combat pilots.
Employee judgments seemed too much like a popularity contest.
In any event, the combat criterion study was not completed until near the
end of the war with Japan. Although
the results were not available to me, I later heard that the only good predictor
variable consisted of biographical inventory items.
What did my
four years in the Navy mean? It
came at a time when I was beginning to establish my career, and should have been
the most productive of research. It
didn't hasten the war's end or save lives.
In spite of little professional or scientific development, I gained many
things from naval service. I
learned that the authority of competence could deal successfully with the
authority of position. This has
been helpful in my later interactions with plant managers and corporate vice
presidents. I also learned that
acceptance as a professional was greater if you participated in activities of
individuals with whom you are working, and approached problems from their point
If I made no
significant contribution to the war effort, wasn't my naval service a waste of
time? No. What I had to do had to be done by someone.
I find today that my concept of a citizen's obligation to his country is
out of date and somewhat quaint. It
is my firm belief that a citizen owes his country his service and his life if it
is required. This is true despite the frequent asininity of its leaders.
Our country is one of the few in the world where I could write the last
sentence without fear of governmental reprisal.
Four years of your life is not too much to try to preserve the United
States of America and its way of life.
naval work, I did expand my acquaintance with psychologists of different
interests. These continued after
the war, to my benefit. Among those
psychologists were Lowell Kelley, Jack Dunlap, Ben Underwood, George Kelley, D.N.
Fiske and Bob Selover, all from the aviation psychology section.
From the Army, there were Art Melton, Paul Fitts, Frank Geldard, Ed
Henry, Erwin Taylor, and especially Rains Wallace.
Many of these men had a significant influence on my thinking about
psychology as a science and profession.
to NC State
Near the end
of the war, I was stationed aboard a seaplane tender at Okinawa.
I returned to the States aboard this ship and was assigned to the Naval
Air Station at Jacksonville, Florida. I
had intended to stay in the Navy until I sorted out what I wanted to do:
return to NC State, stay in the Navy, or seek industrial employment.
However, I received an urgent request from NC State's chancellor that I
return. The college was flooded with returning veterans, and State now
had a contract to establish a vocational guidance clinic for veterans.
I was released from active duty in December, 1945 and returned to NC
inundated by administrative work. The
increased student load meant I had to find four additional faculty.
The vocational guidance center needed 18 counselors that we would have to
train ourselves. This hectic schedule continued as we tried to cope with
the massive load of students and veterans.
In the Spring
of 1947, I received a phone call from Ed Michael of Fieldcrest Mills in Spray, North Carolina.
He asked me to send a supply of the Otis Mental Ability Test, the Bennett
Mechanical Comprehension Test and the Bernreuter Personality Inventory to him.
He wanted to use them to select supervisors based on conversations he had
with a psychologist at Allegheny College. As
he had no training in testing or statistics, I refused.
I was blunt, a little rude and forgot about the call.
Three weeks later, he called again asking if he might meet with me in
Raleigh to talk about using tests. Even
though I was swamped with administrative work, I reluctantly agreed to meet with
him. I described what was necessary
to validate a test, and he asked if I would undertake a study for Fieldcrest.
I said I would if I could first meet with the executives to explain what
would happen, their responsibility, and the likelihood of success or failure.
I really wanted to gauge the enthusiasm for the project.
went well, and the top executives asked the kind of penetrating questions that
made me believe they were serious. In
addition, I was assured that security would be tight and that no one in the
research group would be jeopardized by his test performance.
I would have the test scores.
We started the
study in June, 1946. It was a
simple concurrent study, although it wasn't called that until Thorndike did in
1949. I had not heard of
cross-validation, moderator variables, or suppressor
variables. I was soon confronted
with the problem of vanishing N. When
I controlled for extremes in experience and eliminated supervisors whose jobs
were totally different from the one under study, my N went from 80 to 55.
The three tests were administered on company time, and all executives
took the battery as an example for the foremen.
(I am not certain which group experienced the greater tension, but I had
scores on all management personnel when I later joined Fieldcrest as a full time
failed to collect criterion data in advance, or even to decide on same.
I tried a graphic scale of overall performance with disastrous results,
and finally used paired comparisons in which raters compared every shift foreman
with every other one under their supervision.
Where possible, I got two raters for each foreman.
Coefficients of agreement between raters ranged from 0.68 to 0.95, with a
median of 0.81. I split the group
in half based on criterion scores and obtained biserial correlations from 0.36
to 0.43, with a multiple of 0.65. (When
asked years later why I never published study, I said I didn't remember, but I
thought it was because the correlations were so low!!)
management was not greatly impressed with the improvement in selection the tests
would make possible, they believed that any improvement was worthwhile,
Thus, I trained a member of the personnel department in test
administration, scoring, and use in selecting foremen.
I was asked to
continue as a consultant to validate tests for key production jobs.
For mechanical jobs, I tried to use objective output data, and also tried
to avoid criterion contaminationwe didn't call it that then by rotating
worker machine assignments. That
created both administrative and personnel problems, as workers liked their own
machine and didn't want to work on equipment of other employees.
Again, I used paired comparisons with success, but my attempt to use peer
ratings as a criterion was a disaster.
Join Fieldcrest Mills
1946, I met with H.W. Whitcomb, Manufacturing Vice President, and Macon Miller,
Director of Industrial Relations. They
wanted to move faster on test validation for production employee selection.
Whitcomb added something like this, "Bill you and I have discussed
what you call the social psychology approach to employee relations.
As you know, I have not agreed with you fully.
But in the future, I think management is going to have to take different
approaches to employees if we are going to have efficient employees.
We are going to need someone who keeps us informed about psychological
approaches and to guide us in our use of them."
pretty new territory for a psychologist. Few
were employed full time in industry and none were employed in the textile
industry or in the South. It meant
giving up my academic job and its security, as well as possibly losing my
identity as a psychologist. I would
have to abandon plans to write an industrial psychology book.
On the other hand, I would gain industrial experience that would help if
I returned to academia. I could
learn if what I knew really worked. I
would have a modest financial increase at first, but would raise the ceiling
well above what was available in the academic world. After receiving assurances as to professional affiliations,
research publication and job duties, I accepted the offer.
When asked for a title, I suggested "Industrial Psychologist."
Fieldcrest wanted one that would indicate my status in upper management.
Further, they feared that hiring a psychologist might indicate to
employees a concern about their sanity. Miller
suggested "Director of Personnel Research."
I don't where he got the idea, as there were few if any such in industry
in 1947. In fact, I may have been
the first psychologist with the title.
research as a distinct function in American industry grew out of World War II.
Many servicemen had been exposed to psychological and behavioral science
research, and took their interest in them back to their companies.
About 1949, the American Management Association ran its first seminar on
personnel research. I attended it,
and conducted some of the subsequent seminars.
of that experience had an indirect, if not direct, influence on the future of
industrial psychology. Several
individuals who attended these seminars organized a group of personnel
researchers to meet and discuss behavioral science applications and developments
in their companies. This group, the
Dearborn Group, was limited to representatives of 16 of the larger corporations
in the country. They began their
semi-annual meetings in 1950, and continue to meet today.
Initially, several disciplines were represented, but the majority of
members have been psychologists. With one exception, none of the members were
full time academicians or consultants. The
exception was Douglas MacGregor, who served as advisor and commentator for the
group. I was among the first members.
Interaction with members greatly influenced my thinking about the
application of psychology to industry.
difficult to document the influence of the Dearborn Group on industrial
organizational psychology. However,
MacGregor's Harvard Business Review paper, "An Uneasy Look at
Performance Appraisal" (1957) could have been influenced by a full day's
discussion by the Dearborn Group of problems with appraisals that were occurring
in their companies. Herb Meyer, a
member of the Group, was possibly influenced in his research on performance
appraisals he reported on in, "Split Roles in Performance Appraisal,"
Harvard Business Review, (1965).
MacGregor's Human Side of the
Enterprise was influenced both by Maslow's thinking, and by MacGregor's
interaction with the Group. It
is also noteworthy that six past-presidents of Division 14, APA, were members:
Ed Henry, Herbert Meyer, Doug Bray, Paul Thayer, Rains Wallace and Bill
studies of tests for use in selection of key production employees continued
after I joined Fieldcrest. The
question of selection and development of upper level managers never came up at
this time, perhaps based on the belief that such decisions were infallible.
But then, this was true in other industries and companies, too.
(1948) review of efforts to find traits discriminating between leaders and
nonleaders suggested the futility of the effort.
It was the early 1950's that saw the efforts of the Michigan Survey
Research Center and the Ohio Sate University group to describe leadership in
terms of leader behavior. Fielder's
(1967) situational approach was nearly 20 years away.
It may be
understandable that little work was being done on the selection of managers, as
there was little agreement as to what was being sought in managerial selection.
Flanagan's critical incident technique was a breakthrough for analyzing
significant behaviors of managers. Hemphill's
(1959, 1960) heroic attempt to develop a taxonomy of managerial behavior
suggested additional techniques for studying managerial behavior.
Even today, procedures for analyzing managerial jobs leave much to be
desired. Part of the problem stems
from concentration on one aspect of the role leadership or increment of
social influence at the expense of the cognitive aspects of the role.
Perhaps the failure to identify differential traits arises from
considering that all managers are leaders.
It is in this
context that I became involved, in the early 1950's, with problems of selecting
and developing managerial employees. From
time to time, members of Fieldcrest management came to me for advice in regard
to their subordinate managers who were not performing to their supervisors'
satisfaction. This, in turn, led to
requests for recommendations with regard to promotions, and selection of
candidates from outside the company for managerial jobs.
In recommending candidates from outside, I used clinical assessment
procedures. In responding to
requests for advice, I made it clear when I was giving advice based on sound
psychological data, and when the advice was based on instant wisdom.
for recommendations in selecting managers increased. I believed we might be overlooking talent already employed by
the company. General management
agreed that a manpower audit should be made.
The first audit occurred in 1961. There
were two immediate consequences. We
found that qualified internal candidates for shift foreman were in short supply.
At least twenty new shift foremen would have to be appointed each year to
maintain present staff levels and to provide for expansion.
Given that a separate study had shown that foremen hired from outside had
to be replaced twice as frequently as internal appointees, we decided to develop
a pre-supervisory training program. We
also shifted emphasis in hiring production employees to those with foreman
At the higher
levels, there was also a shortage of potential replacements.
It was decided to step up college recruiting and to develop a management
training program for college graduates. These
programs became my responsibility. I
did the college recruiting for the company, and monitored the training program
until 1969. At that point, I
secured an assistant with responsibility for executive and college recruiting. I continued to be involved in management training.
I must admit that I did little to formally evaluate the recruiting and
training programs. When I retired,
however, I noted that ten of the fourteen vice presidents had come through the
passed, managers called on me more and more to not only give advice concerning
individuals, but to advise on general organizational problems and behavioral
science approaches to managing the human resources of then company.
Much of my time in the last years of my work at Fieldcrest was spent in
these activities. I also had
administrative duties, including supervision of a large staff responsible for
salary administration, job analyses, production employee training, executive
recruiting, and related issues. I became less a psychologist and more a manager.
In the late
1950's and 1960's, consultants "crawled out of the woodwork" with
panaceas for human resource problems. The
panaceas were allegedly based on behavioral science research, even though the
consultants were usually not behavioral scientists. Fran Tarkington, the Minnesota quarterback,
was peddling a behavior modification program.
A former industrial engineer was hawking sensitivity training, while
another was selling "rational training,"
and a minister offered transcendental meditation at five hundred dollars
often suckers for personnel panaceas. Perhaps
this reflects their unwillingness to spend the necessary time and effort in
effective personnel administration. Since
consultants had to sell their panaceas to me before the company would buy, I
saved Fieldcrest a substantial amount of money by not buying.
I don't condemn all consultants, as many offer worthwhile services.
From time to time, for example, the American Institutes for Research and
the Psychological Corporation have provided valuable services to Fieldcrest.
One of my
internal consulting services created something of an ethical problem for me, the
conflict between responsibility to the individual versus responsibility to the
company. Individuals came to me
from time to time to discuss personal job problems.
It was understood throughout the company that this was an acceptable
practice, and that discussions about personal problems would be confidential.
I never experienced any pressure to reveal these confidences.
On the other
hand, I might discuss a personal problem with someone, and then months later be
asked to make a recommendation on a personnel decision involving that person.
While I could not reveal a confidence, that confidence might influence my
recommendation. I attempted to
handle this by telling anyone who wanted to discuss a problem that I would not
reveal any confidence, but that they might affect any recommendation I had to
make in the future. I then left it
to the individual as to whether or not to continue the discussion.
I am not sure this settled the ethical problem of the psychologist's
obligations to the individual and the corporation.
My presidential address to Division 14, "Esau Was An Hairy
Man," dealt with this problem.
I did not
adopt the role of clinical psychologist in these sessions, and made no attempt
at psychotherapy. If I thought deep
emotional stress was involved, I recommended help from qualified professionals,
as well as assistance in locating same.
at Fieldcrest Mills
Let me turn
back to the beginning of my time at Fieldcrest.
A few months after I joined the company, I was asked to assume
responsibility for all training. That
was agreeable to me, as I had intensive exposure to learning theory in graduate
school, and found the work on training Navy pilots to be instrument instructors
both challenging and interesting. Further,
I learned that Fieldcrest's training activities needed substantial improvement.
(I learned later that the status of training at Fieldcrest was not
atypical of training in American industry.)
responsibility for training production employees was the shift foreman's.
Training usually consisted of showing the employee how to do the job, and
checking back occasionally to see if he had caught on. For
jobs requiring long learning times, the new employee was assigned to an older
employee for training. The trainee
usually received little instruction as teaching interfered with the trainer's
own production, resulting in a loss of pay.
Thus, a new employee not only had to learn how to perform the job, but
also had to learn how to learn.
There was a
minimum of formal management training, usually restricted to shift and
department foremen. Such training
consisted of courses in how to deal with employees along the lines of the
"human relations" approach, a product of the Hawthorne studies.
There were also courses in work simplification and safety.
Many foremen had had a course in Job Instructor Training during the war,
but its effect was not apparent in their training efforts with production
all supervisory training was carried out on the employees' time.
All supervisors had to participate, regardless of the need for training.
No effort was made to evaluate training results.
companies that ran more sophisticated training programs, but they were in a
minority. As part of taking over
training for Fieldcrest, I visited about 25 well known companies to discover how
they trained. In general, training
for production employees was informal and rarely organized.
The management training I found involved following fads and fashions.
There was little effort to determine the organization's training needs,
or the needs of individuals. There
were no adequate attempts at evaluation of training.
Managers seemed to regard training as a necessary evil rather than a
means to achieve company objectives.
Research Approach to Training
I found no
suitable model on which to build the training program at Fieldcrest.
Therefore, I developed my own. It
involved an initial determination of organizational training needs, and the most
effective way of meeting them. It
included evaluating training in terms of the effectiveness in meeting
organizational goals. I called it the research approach to training.
public statement of the model was at the annual meeting of the personnel
division of the AMA, later published in the Personnel Series of AMA (1948).
In subsequent years, I presented this approach in several publications.
approach to training was presented to general management at Fieldcrest in late
1947. It was foreign to their ways
of thinking about training. It was
accepted with little enthusiasm, but with a strong statement of support from H.W.
Whitcomb. In implementing the
model, I encountered no serious opposition, and only a rare bit of
foot-dragging. In retrospect, I am
amazed at its acceptance and the lack of serious opposition, as it departed
radically from managers' and supervisors' ideas of what training was.
It also contained some threats to their concepts of their own expertise.
And for supervisors, it meant giving more time and effort to training
than they had in the past. Whitcomb's
support was crucial for initial acceptance.
An early demonstration of the efficiency of the approach in reducing
training time for two important jobs, and increasing production through
retraining in a couple of other instances convinced many of the "Doubting
Thomases" about the efficiency of the approach.
At the beginning, we were
confronted with a horrendous task. James
Gardner joined my staff as an assistant in June, 1947.
He had just completed his masters' degree in industrial psychology with
Jack Jenkins at Maryland. He became
heavily involved in implementing the model.
He made many suggestions that made the research approach more effective.
I regret that Jim didn't continue to the Ph.D., as I think his research
would have made significant contributions to industrial psychology.
company had 925 different production jobs, some with as few as three employees,
and others with a hundred or more. We
consulted the managers to determine priorities for developing training programs
for the various jobs. Our top
priority included jobs which, in terms of organizational indices, were not being
performed satisfactorily. The other high priorities were for jobs requiring the highest
skills and unusually long training times, and those involving the largest number
of employees. Once plans were
completed for these three categories, there were only about fifty jobs left
The first priority led us
into retraining, and that led us into identifying employees whose job
performance was below standard. Once
an employee was identified, an analysis of his specific training needs was
required, and that necessitated a thorough job analysis.
I found little guidance in the literature for carrying out job analysis.
Viteles' job psychographs and the procedures used by the U.S. Employment
Service were of little help, since they were primarily developed for use in
selection. Job descriptions based
on time studies lacked the necessary detail for training purposes.
Jim and I had to devise our own procedures.
The collection of job
analysis data led to the most serious foot-dragging by department and shift
foremen. As they were our primary
source of information, providing it required additional work on their part.
What job analyses were available would now be called job centered.
As these did not provide data needed for training, we turned to analyzing
jobs in terms of required behaviors of employees.
We collected data on required activities, perceptual cues, knowledge
requirements and the kinds of decisions required.
All the training plans
called for the use of trained instructors.
Again, we encountered problems as supervisors were reluctant to release
efficient employees, even if that would ultimately reduce production problems. Many experienced employees did not want to serve as
instructors, as there was no additional compensation for instructing;
sometimes it resulted in loss of pay, especially on a piece rate job.
These problems were solved in part by getting approval of two new
corporate procedures: (1) a
department would receive training cost credits on their manpower budget only
when trainees were trained by an instructor approved by the Training Department;
(2) employees serving as instructors were guaranteed an hourly wage
fifteen percent above their average earnings.
One fundamental aspect of
a research approach to training is the evaluation of training results. Our efforts here were not outstanding. We didn't ignore the problem, but our research designs left
much to be desired. Sometimes
evaluations were simply a matter of counting;
were enough adequately trained employees furnished the department from
the training program?
We also compared data as
to training time under the new system compared to time under the old.
Obviously, such case studies have many threats to internal validity.
We would point out these threats to supervisors, but they continued to be
impressed when training time for new employees was reduced by 25 to 50 percent,
or when waste was reduced as much as 40 percent (McGehee and Livingstone, Personnel Psychology, 1952 and 1954).
It took several years to
install this training approach in the company.
Perhaps one major conclusion that can be drawn is that no matter how
poorly organized the training may be, it gets better results than unorganized
training. Many training programs
installed by consultants seem to have positive results because they are compared
to a situation in which there had been no prior organized training.
As to management
training, priority was given to the first two levels, department and shift
foremen. The first step again was an analysis of the two jobs.
Flanagan's critical incident method was used, along with time sampling of
supervisory behavior. These
analyses revealed that the jobs required primary skills in addition to human
relation skills. There were heavy demands for thinking and cognitive skills
because of the many managerial controls supervisors had to use on the job.
A program of short courses was developed for these skills, while outside
resources were used for technical training.
Fortunately, a supervisor was enrolled in any course only when it was
clear that the individual needed training, a large departure from previous
Our concern for
evaluation continued. One approach
involved a consumer satisfaction study to find out if managers were getting the
number of qualified employees required, and were the trainees receiving the kind
of training they thought they needed and could use on the job.
Accepting the weakness of such evaluations, consumers seemed satisfied
with our work, and occasionally made suggestions to strengthen the supervisory
Occasionally, we were
able to use more sophisticated methods, as when Gardner and I used a Solomon
four group design to evaluate training of supervisors in time study skills and
knowledge (McGehee and Gardner, Personnel Psychology, 1955). We
learned that with a little planning and foresight, experimental designs could be
used in field studies of training. That was especially true if all members of a job
classification participated in the training.
Serious efforts to train
and develop upper level managers did not occur until the late 1950's.
These efforts were closely tied to performance appraisals.
The initial work was to improve managers' skills in coaching
subordinates. We were unable to do
an adequate evaluation of this in-house program.
We also sent managers to programs provided by universities in the area,
or to AMA programs when a need was indicated.
Perhaps because I was one
of the few psychologists with a major responsibility for training, and because I
had a few publications on the subject, I was asked frequently to participate in
conferences and seminars by both national and local organizations. I have not kept records of such meetings, but I know I
participated in programs on training sponsored by the American Society of
Training Directors, the Conference Board, the American Management Association,
and the American Psychological Association.
I also served on boards or commissions concerned with training and
training research for the Department of Defense and US Labor Department, among
others. These experiences added to
my conviction that training in American industry was being carried out
inefficiently. I was, therefore,
much interested in collaborating with Paul Thayer to write a book on training.
It was an opportunity to protest the misuse of training, and to suggest a
research approach to the subject.
Our book, Training
in Business and Industry, came from another fortuitous incident.
At an annual meeting of the APA (I think it was 1957), Thayer introduced
me to an editor who was seeking someone to write a text on industrial
psychology. I didn't feel capable
of doing that and told the editor so. I indicated, however, that I would like to write a book on
training if Paul would co-author it. Paul
reluctantly agreed, and the book was published in 1961 by John Wiley & Son.
During the writing of the
book, Paul was in Hartford, Connecticut, and I was in Eden, North Carolina.
We saw each other only at the annual APA convention.
All other interactions were by correspondence.
We exchanged chapters each had agreed to write, revised them and wrote
about the revisions. The last
involved protests of changes made
in draft chapters, and reasons for retaining the original.
Paul kept copies of the correspondence and told me that the protest
letters were greater in magnitude than the final manuscript.
The repeated rewrites resulted in a book that is truly the product of
both of us. It became difficult to
say who wrote what. Remarkably, Paul and I remained friends throughout the
The text sold fairly
well, and provided enough royalty for several bottles of whiskey a year. It was
well received by psychologists both here and abroad, and was translated into
Spanish and Farsi. I think it was
less well received by professional trainers.
At least 15 years later, when I was preparing a chapter on "Training
and Development: Theory, Policies
and Practices" for Volume V of the ASPA
Research and Industrial Relations Handbook, I found little change in
industrial training practice along the lines suggested by our training book.
Since I had retired when
I wrote that ASPA chapter, I assumed it would be my final statement on
industrial training. However, Paul
and I had a note in Personnel Psychology
in 1977. As I am writing this
(February, 1978), I have an article on training in press (McGehee and Tullar, Personnel Psychology, 1978), and am considering collaboration on
another text on industrial training.
After publication of our
book, I conducted little or no research on training.
My administrative duties increased, including all salary administration
and market research. I was also
becoming more involved in the affairs of APA.
As Treasurer of APA for six years, I spent approximately thirty days a
year on APA business.
I also found my interests
shifting to aspects of employee behavior I considered more central and dynamic
than selection and training. The
work of Likert and his group on employee attitudes revived my interest in
employee motivation and job satisfaction. From
the early 1950's onward I had conducted sporadic employee attitude surveys.
Organizational behavior was emerging as a discipline, and I tried to keep
up with developments through the literature and through the Dearborn Group.
The social changes in the
1960's focused the attention of both psychologists and managers on the behavior
of individuals in organizations. Docile
and willing work forces were disappearing;
turnover and absenteeism increased; work quality declined; good employees
were harder to recruit. Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act substantially changed the personnel procedures of many
companies. Vietnam was challenging
governmental wisdom. Big business
and big government became the big villains.
Democracy was good, and bureaucracy was bad,
Fieldcrest, like other
companies, struggled to cope with all these threats to organizational survival. Consultants of all persuasions descended on American industry
with a host of remedies for employee alienation and declines in work quality and
quantity. As with selection
earlier, research caveats were ignored.
As managers had neither
the time nor the expertise to evaluate these panaceas, it was my job to do so. One manager was confronted by increased absenteeism in his
plants. Many of the jobs appeared
monotonous and boring, and an outside consultant recommended job enrichment to
reduce absenteeism. When asked for
my opinion, I collected information in a quick attitude survey and found
employees liked their jobs and experienced little monotony.
Further, the absenteeism increase was the result of a change in work
scheduling. Another investigation
of pay dissatisfaction showed that the amount of pay was not the problem.
There was a lack of understanding of the pay administration system and
concern over pay secrecy.
From 1960 on, I conducted
about 35 attitude surveys at Fieldcrest, mostly on an ad hoc basis at the
request of managers. My role
included designing the study and the attitude instruments, and interpreting the
results to managers, and helping them report results to their subordinates.
As a rule, survey results went first to the immediate supervisor and
employees, and then by steps up the chain of command. Only once have I violated this procedure.
Early in my employment, I asked a woman employee if there was anything
she disliked about working at Fieldcrest. After
some hesitation, she replied, "Dr. McGehee, I'm a little embarrassed to
mention this, but there is only one toilet in the rest room for 70 women on this
floor. In addition, the toilet seat
is cracked. Every time I sit on it,
it pinches me, and I say, 'God damn Fieldcrest Mills.'"
I sent this comment directly to the president of the company.
Within a couple of days, there was a crew redoing the restroom and
putting in several toilets without cracked seats.
One of the advantages,
and possibly disadvantages, of being a psychologist in a small organization is
the opportunity it offers to utilize psychology in several aspects of the
business. For example, I became
involved in marketing research and human factors engineering.
In 1953, I was asked to conduct consumer research on a new product.
I employed Paul Thayer for that summer, while he was finishing his work
at Ohio State for his Ph.D. Paul
had full responsibility for the investigation and my contribution was getting
hurdles out of his way. The results
were well received by Marketing. He
also did a quick study of hosiery packaging that was useful.
The following year I did several small studies, including one on
forecasting sales of specific products. By
simulating the purchasing decision, I came within a few percentage points of
actual results when the products went on line.
I must confess, however, that my relations with Marketing went up and
down over the years.
As to human factors
engineering, I did a study of the design of tables for inspecting cloth.
Cloth to be inspected was pulled mechanically across the table surface.
It was believed that several table constriction factors affected the
accuracy of the inspectors in finding fabric faults:
speed of cloth movement, angle of the table top, direction of movement,
and others. I developed a factorial
design to identified factors affecting inspector performance.
As a non-profit research firm supported by the textile industry was
interested in the same question, I turned over the design and served as a
consultant on the project.
Another of my
investigations had machines as subjects rather than humans.
It was a study an engineer probably should have done, and, in fact, the
Vice President of Manufacturing told me as much following the study's
completion. A mill manager was
interested in the maximum speeds for machines that would not result in inferior
quality. After determining the
other factors affecting quality, I designed another factorial experiment.
Not wanting to risk all 100 machines in the plant, we selected 10 at
random. We found we could increase
speeds without affecting quality so that they would produce 25% more.
The Vice President refused a request to speed up all the machines on the
basis of too small a sample. We
repeated the study with 50 machines with the same results.
All machine speeds were increased. We
later learned that a university textile school ran a similar investigation with
comparable results. Perhaps the
moral here is that machines treated kindly are as good experimental subjects as
Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 had a profound effect on personnel practices at Fieldcrest,
as it did in most companies. There
were no confrontations, as Fieldcrest had already integrated white and black
workers. The communities in which
Fieldcrest had plants had no "hard core unemployed ghettos" often
found in large cities. Further,
President Whitcomb made it clear that the provisions of Title VII would be
obeyed both in spirit and letter not only because the provisions were the law,
but because they were right. He
indicated that anyone who couldn't live with integration at Fieldcrest should
get other employment.
The major problem created
by Title VII was the demand for mountains of paper work.
We had to add staff for this purpose.
In anticipation of problems at the supervisory level, we examined the
programs of several consultants to improve supervision of minorities.
There was no program I examined that could produce reliable evidence that
they improved the integration process. Accordingly,
in our supervisory training programs, we simply re-emphasized that sound
supervisory practices worked with both white and black employees.
Fieldcrest began to
upgrade both minorities and women to supervisory and managerial jobs.
Under Title VII, we were not able to use a valuable tool for upgrading,
psychological tests. The validation
of tests we were using was done nearly 15 years earlier, and I made the mistake
of not updating the validations. We
discontinued the use of tests in employment and promotions util we could
revalidate them. By the time I
retired, we had revalidated tests for several jobs.
In 1973, I reached the
mandatory retirement age, 65. I was
appointed a Visiting Excellence Professor of Business and Psychology at the
University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
This gave me an opportunity and reason to review industrial and
organizational research. My review
did little to increase my confidence in many generalizations about
managing human resources of organizations. Participative management, consideration, ,job
enrichment or laboratory training hang on thin reeds.
It is also clear to me that the trend of subordinating the individual to
the organization is wrong. Writers
seem to anthropomorphize organizations without realizing that individuals, not
organizations, plan, maximize, decide, etc.
I agree with Paul Thayer
that organizational variables and individual variables must be investigated if
we are to understand the behavior of the organization's member.
In his recent presidential address to Division 14, he put it succinctly:
"I hope to remind those who emphasize organizational variables at
the expense of individual variables, and those who emphasize individual
variables at the expense of organizational variables that neither can make much
progress." (Thayer, P.W., Personnel
Psychology, 1977.) The next
generation of psychologists will have to face the problems of meshing
organizational and individual variables.
Voltaire wrote in his
autobiography, "Although I think nothing is more insipid than details of
infancy and time spent in school, yet it ought to be mentioned."
For me, these details are basic to understanding my apologia pro vita sua. I
probably should have found an area of psychology and mined it thoroughly with
research, thereby contributing more to our knowledge of human behavior.
Perhaps I should have been a scientist instead of a professional.
But I had a hell of a good time being a professional with scientific
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