An Autobiography – sort of Frank J. Landy
Paul Thayer has been after me to complete my “Presidential Autobiography” for some time now. Bless his soul, he has been relentlessly patient (yet resolute). At one point, he engaged Laura Koppes, who was the SIOP Archivist/Historian, to take over the duties of the prodder. Bless her patience as well. But I have finally done it!! And I wondered to myself why I was so resistant to completing it. After all, I have written 3 books in the time it has taken me to complete this autobiography. Writing comes easily and pleasantly to me, so the task itself was not onerous. I think I have figured it out.
First, autobiographies at the peak of your productivity seem a little goofy. Inevitably there is decline, stumbling blocks, etc which belong in the document. Second, many if not most autobiographies I have read seem eerily integrated. My life has been more episodic that programmatic. I am easily bored and move on to new challenges and topics frequently. My scholarly interests to date have included infatuations (and some long time love affairs) with motivation, performance, stress, psychometric theory, time urgency, psychophysiology, philosophy (including the philosophy of science), history, emotional intelligence, decision making, national culture, etc. I am the drunk in the liquor store. Who knows what will catch my fancy tomorrow. Finally, I have an enduring interest in the history of applied psychology and have written on the topic with some frequency. As a result, it seems weird to me to be presenting myself as an object of historical interest. It makes me feel I should be dead or at least in a retirement village somewhere. I know that is my stuff not Paul’s or Laura’s. But I am trying to explain why this has taken so long.
This autobiography will be presented in a non-traditional form – a series of recollections and episodes rather than a linear, flowing, integrated description.. I see my life as episodic rather than integrated. I hasten to add I am not saying I am disintegrated ( and thereby deny my clinical buddies the pleasure of doing a riff on schizophrenia). I am just saying that any integration or linearity in my life must be discovered by someone other than me. Plus, I can add episodes, including past as well as those-to-come, at my pleasure.
My early years were entirely uneventful. I was born the second of three children and the only boy to a working class mother and father. My Dad was a plumber and my Mom a secretary then care-giver. I was a typical difficult grade school kid – often in trouble for trivial things and wandering through grades without distinction. My parents had in mind that I would go to college – the first in the nuclear or extended family – so they sent me to an expensive prep school at considerable sacrifice to them and my siblings. Lucky for me it was a Jesuit school and the priests and brothers took me apart and put me back together again - at least intellectually. My four years in high school were incredibly challenging and I have seldom been challenged that same way since. The Jesuits pride themselves in this particular form of sadism and I was lucky to be their victim. College was uninspiring. I was bored most of the time and had more fun working at various jobs than enduring undergraduate classes. During the periods of my youth, until starting graduate school, I had lots of jobs and really liked most of them. I was a plumber, garage mechanic, mail sorter, short order cook, dishwasher, bagel deliverer, auto parts deliverer, car rental rep…….. In retrospect, I think what I liked most was simply working hard – sweating, hurting, juggling jobs and work and school, etc. I guess I was easily bored then as now. In any event, there is nothing noteworthy about my early years (other than the fact that I was a semi-regular on American Bandstand in Philadelphia between 1956 and 1960) and my episodes will roughly begin after I have arrived at college.
It is November of 1961. I began my undergraduate career a year ago in mechanical engineering. It was a mitigated disaster. I was awarded an F in every required course. I went to summer school to take two of the courses over as a way of expunging the failing grades. I flunked the courses in summer school as well. I never could understand why someone would want to fire a bullet from the front platform of a subway train going 60 MPH, let alone catch up with that bullet. Not to mention what you might tell the judge about WHY you were firing the bullet. The “mitigated” part was that while I was failing every course, I successfully pledged the engineering fraternity. My parents were delighted that I had made some new friends. I spent most of the Spring semester sleeping on the floor of the closet of my “pledge master” – as well as in my required classes. In any event, when my summer school grades were in, the Dean asked if we might have a chat. He asked me if I had chosen engineering or my parents had chosen it for me. This guy was not as dumb as he looked. I hypothesized that my parents had always wanted to be engineers. He suggested that he call his friend the Dean of Liberal Arts and get me set up in Psychology. He felt this would be a good way to transition into college level courses. I accepted Psychology with enthusiasm. It sounded good (and easy!).
My first course in psychology was the mass intro course with hundreds of students. The first test was a snap and I felt that I had found a safe haven for a while. I got the test back the following week – F!! OK. Minor adjustment in study habits, blip in the road. Next test, another F!! Whoa. Now I was scared. Third test, I actually study over a weekend – hard. The instructor hands back test grades and I have received an A! Yes.!!! OK.!! He calls out my name and asks me to see him after class. What a guy. Notices the change in grades, here comes the “atta boy” that makes it all worthwhile. He takes me over to the side of the classroom and looks me deep in the eyes and says “where did you get the copy of the test.” I am in the early stages of developing what will become a signature response style – I am uncomprehending. He repeats his question and I mumble something about having studied hard. He smirks, turns on his heel, and leaves me stand to savor my humiliation.
My undergraduate psychology experience is only modestly better than my engineering expedition. I am in and out of academic problems. A new Dean of Liberal Arts has made it his mission to make me leave school. Every semester he calls me in to discuss my progress. I am always about .05 GPA points above an automatic expulsion so he takes the moral high road and tells me I am taking up space that a truly deserving student could use to advantage. I’ve seen bullies before so I just smile and ask if we are finished. He gives me the “stare” and says I may leave. This goes on every semester until I graduate in 1964. It is Christmas 1975. We are visiting family in Philadelphia. I have been at Penn State for 6 years, have received my first promotion and it looks like I will get tenure as well. My wife and children ask to see my undergraduate campus, Villanova University. We drive out and I give them the walking tour. As we walk through the main administration building a secretary is coming out of the President’s office. She smiles benevolently, it is obvious an ex-student is showing the family the site of his glory days. I look on the door and see that the bully-Dean is now President. I smile. She notices. She asks if I “know” Father.XXX (he was an Augustinian priest). I reply that he was Dean of Liberal Arts when I was an undergrad. She is tickled. “He so loves to see his old students. He is free for a few moments. Would you like to pop in and say “Hi.” There is a God. I say “sure” as innocently as I can. The family is tickled. The President!! They don’t know our history. We walk in. He comes around the desk, hugs the kids, shakes my hand and my wife’s hand and asks me to help him recall what interactions we might have had. Oh, yeah. I do. The room becomes very quiet as I help him recall. The secretary is edging out the door. My wife is trying to follow her out. But the Dean, a smile frozen on his face, and I are on a roll. You don’t get there by being a sissy. He says, “So, at least you graduated. I guess you have me to thank for that.” I say “Just what I was thinking.” We look at each other a long second, each knowing that is crap. But my wife, children, and his secretary all breathe a sigh of relief thinking we have reconciled our old difficulties. We haven’t made up, but we do let it go. It was great to catch up. And let it go.
It is the fall of 1964. I have arrived at Bowling Green State University to begin my graduate career in I-O psychology. Much to the amazement of my undergraduate advisor, my family, and my friends, not only have I been admitted to a graduate program, but I have been given an assistantship!! My GPA was embarrassingly low and my GRE scores equally depressing so this turn of events has come as quite a shock to everyone—including me. I appear in the department office to announce my arrival and ask what my assistantship duties will be. I give my name – Frank Landy – and there is an awkward silence. The secretary says FRANCES Landy? I respond “Frank, Francis, whatever.” She says “We thought you were a woman.” I chuckle and point out that I am not so let’s move on with the duties discussion. She says “The Assistantship was for a woman.” Move on Ma’am. I am still in a state of bemused indifference. She asks the Chairman to come out and explain the situation to me. The Chairman is John Exner – a rough and tumble Rorschach expert ( I realize that this may seem like an oxymoron but John was rough and tumble and a Rorschach expert, so it is what it is). He says “Sorry for the mistake. You can’t have the Assistantship” and walks back into his office. I leave the department and pick up a local newspaper and later that day, begin a job with a local restaurant frying chicken. As an Irish Catholic, I was brought up to expect to get kicked in the teeth so this was not a particularly stunning development – same old same old. I will fund my first semester from that job as well as additional gigs showing films for audio-visual and scoring standardized tests for the counseling center. Two weeks later, we have the annual Faculty/Student softball game. I am on third base when a ground ball is hit deep in the hole between second and third. I run for home plate. The catcher is John Exner. I arrive at the same time as the ball and knock him on his ass and he drops the ball. He smiles for the audience with a that-didn’t-hurt expression and whispers through clenched teeth “you punk.” The students lose the game by at least 10 runs. John and I eventually become good friends. Since we all look the same to him, he forgets I am “the punk.” And I usually lose money to him playing pickup sticks on the floor of the conference hotel hallway outside wherever we have our department party going on. It is a traditional game played by the faculty and students after drinking lots of beer. The I-O students hope that Bob Guion doesn’t see us acting drunk and stupid. The clinical students hope he does. The experimental students don’t care one way or the other -- they never come to the party.
It is the January of 1965. I am teaching a discussion section of developmental psychology. Long story. I started grad school in I-O but the first semester was a disaster. I took four courses – two industrial, one stat and one seminar in personality. I was working three jobs to pay for tuition and living expenses. I came expecting an assistantship but I had this gender problem see, so….. OK. Told you that already. Movin’ on.. With these three jobs, I could just make it. I was the only grad student in the department without support. They only awarded full year assistantships so I would not have had another opportunity until next fall unless a fellow grad student had not freaked at the prospect of standing in front of 60 undergrads and giving a lecture. One day shortly after the beginning of the second semester, a TA went MIA! Gone!! Back to Canada. So the same Department Chairman who had denied me the assistantship in the first place asked me to come in for a “chat.” The same guy I had knocked on his ass a few months earlier in a softball game.
How’s it going Frank? Pretty good. Thanks for asking. Adjusting to grad life OK? Yeah, things are going OK. How’d you make out grade wise? OK. An A, a B and two deferred grades. How come the deferred grades? I don’t know. They were two classes with Dr. Guion and he didn’t have time to grade our papers, so he gave us deferred grades. (It would be at least three more years and a Ph.D. before I could utter the name Bob instead of Dr. Guion.) See, the reason he was asking, which I well knew, was the department had a rule – any grade lower than a B in ANY course, and you were gone. Write if you find work. Outta here. This meant that if my grades were not B or better, he couldn’t even THINK of giving me the assistantship of my dear departed colleague. I knew that – and he knew I knew that – and we both knew what was coming.
Do you have any interest in developmental psychology? Oh, absolutely. When I applied, I was trying to decide between developmental and industrial. Not even sure why I decided on industrial. Well, you may be in luck. Yeah? How? Well it seems as if a slot has opened up for a teaching assistant in developmental. A family crisis for one of our grad students and he had to leave the semester. Right. A family crisis. The student in question had done a crying drunk number two nights before in presence of about a dozen of us at the local hangout and spilled the beans about his instruction-phobia. Oh. No. I didn’t know about that crisis. I hadn’t seen Pat for a few days but I didn’t know he left. Wow. What a shame. How can I help. Well, we would like to offer you an assistantship. Could you take a discussion section of the developmental course this afternoon? Sure. No problem. But I’m not sure what I should do. No problem. Go in there, ask them if they have any questions about the lecture. If they do, write them down and tell them you’ll answer them next class. Make it a short class. They love getting out of class early. You only meet once a week and you can bone up by going to the lectures the rest of this week. Sure. Sounds good. Thanks. No Frank-- thank YOU. Actually – John – my name is Francis. With an “i.” Oh – sure – Francis. He had a look of dull comprehension on his face. He should be remembering something about the Frank – Francis- Frances bit but he couldn’t right now. I never even showed the HINT of a smile. I saw him a week later. He said “How’s it going Francis? I said “Great John, thanks for asking – and I prefer Frank.”
Well it was an interesting semester. I did fine as the TA, even began a research program on the topic of father absence with the Biggies in developmental. My deferred grades came back in two weeks – two C’s!!. But it was too late. I was in and they couldn’t get me out until the end of that semester. Years later, I asked Bob Guion to look those papers over again. He did. He said he had been too kind. Whatta guy. Gotta love him. Anyway, during that semester, I was doing this research on father absence (things like divorce and death and going to Cleveland) and we were using the Thematic Apperception Test as one of our measures. The participants (we called them subjects then; they didn’t seem to care what we called them as long as they got their extra credit) often wrote stories about a father coming home from working the night shift and finding his wife and kids murdered. A little hostility here. So I asked some of those who had written these themes to talk with me about shift work. There was a LOT of hostility there. And I started a whole new line of research for the Biggies – the effect of shift work on the cognitive and emotional development of children between the ages of 4 and 11. Even published it in developmental journals, much to the consternation of the industrial crowd.
I guess the two C’s got my attention (plus not having to work 70 hours a week any more helped) and I got all A’s the second semester. This raised my cumulative average over the “C” level at the end of the academic year and they decided I could stay. The next year, I kept the developmental TA slot but went back at I-O hot and heavy. Bob Guion (we just called him Guion – not Bob Guion or Dr. Guion or that person - but GUION!! the major antagonist in the tragedy that was our life) had become chair and needed someone to run some research he had started with the Department of Labor and for some reason, he must have decided I was OK because he picked me to run it. I think it was because I had given him an award one night at a grad party as the winner of the Hugo Munsterberg look-alike contest. I had had a few beers. He had not. I had a microphone. He did not. Everyone roared. Bob roared the loudest. Everybody else was afraid of him. I was too – I just pretended not to be. I think that was when he decided I was OK. It took me a little longer to decide HE was OK.
It’s late spring of 1965. I am in Chicago for my first “convention.” It is the Midwestern Psychological Association. I am a new grad student at Bowling Green in the I-O program. Bob Guion (GUION!!) is the director of that program and I am standing next to him at a social hour. He scares the hell out of me and everyone else in my cohort. He uses words we have never heard of (let alone can spell). His criticism of our written work is withering. He likes to use the word “sophomoric” a lot and he seldom honors us with an “A” in tests or papers. So here I am next to him while he drinks a coke and I worry about whether I should be drinking Coke instead of the beer I am clutching. I came up to stand next to him but I am not sure why. Just as I am trying to think up something to say that will not be vacuous, some people come up. They seem to be old friends of his but I haven’t a clue who they are. Without hesitation, he introduces me to them as “one of our bright new students.” “They” are Marv Dunnette, Joe Weitz, Paul Thayer, and Chuck Lawshe. I think I am about to pass out. I have been reading their stuff for nine months and think of people like this as the “unattainables.” And now they are reaching for my hand. And “GUION!!! the Terrible” has called me a “bright new student.” And then, mirabile dictu, he leaves and they stay!! Talking to ME!! About THE PROFESSION!! And they are also drinking BEER!!! That night, I entertain the possibility that this might work out after all.
It’s the summer of 1966. I have begin my first “real” consulting job. Art Elbert and I have been hired by Stouffer’s Frozen Foods in Cleveland to do a job evaluation and classification project – basically redo their hourly wage scale. We live in Cleveland for that summer, in a blue collar neighborhood just east of the Hough district, Cleveland’s “tough” neighborhood. The plant is a 24/7 operation so we are there at all times of the day and night. The disruption of the day night cycle makes the whole experience surreal. In addition, we are continually going back and forth from the cook floor, where the temperatures are about 140 degrees, to the blast tunnel, where it is minus 40 degrees. There are two particular supervisors who love to lure us into the blast tunnel for long discussions of work procedures. Of course they are wearing parkas and we are in shirt sleeves. We finally get what’s going on after a few weeks when we see people giggling as the supervisors take us into the tunnel.
The cafeteria is open 24 hours a day and you can be served a free meal anytime you want, regardless of whether you are working or not. This is a real perk for most of the workers. We both gain a lot of weight. Stouffer’s frozen food, particularly before it is flash frozen, is good stuff. Lobster Newburg, Chicken Tetrazini, Welsh Rarebit. Not bad after a grad student’s typical fare. It is a tough place with a tough workforce. In the back of the plant is a rail siding. During scheduled work breaks, a few people go out by these loading docks and buy drugs or alcohol, or spend their 15 minutes with a prostitute. If you are back there during a work break, you are there for one of those reasons. It is essentially the “red light” district of the plant. Although it is against company regulations to do anything like this on company property, officials have given up trying to stop it. As far as the cops are concerned, it is a victimless crime so they don’t intervene. Ironically, in the front of the plant there is a wholesale counter for Stouffer’s products for employees. As a courtesy, cops are treated like employees and they can buy at wholesale, so it is not uncommon for cops to be buying food up front while employees are buying drugs out back. Go figure.
About 50% of the workers are black and another 20% are immigrants from eastern Europe, mainly Romania and Poland. This is a bad summer. Many cities experience racial tension and riots. Cleveland is no exception. We go to work each morning with Army reserve units on the corners with 50 caliber machine guns mounted on jeeps and personnel carriers. There is looting and some deaths. Each night, a different area explodes. We live on the east side of the Cleveland ghetto, Hough, and the plant is just to the west of Hough. That means we need to drive right through a dangerous area twice a day. One night, when the riots are at their height, a black supervisor who is friendly with us and knows where we live says “Go down to Route 21 and across to get home tonight.” That route will take us an extra hour. We joke “Can’t we just ask them to throw smooth rocks at us?” He doesn’t smile. “If I were you, I would take the long way home.” We are working the afternoon shift so we start home about 11:00 pm. We decide to take his advice because he clearly knows something and is trying to help us. As we are headed to Rt. 21, we see a road block ahead and we turn left off the main highway. Within minutes, we are on a street clogged with people and cars. Lots of shouting, lots of running. The Army reserve owns the days – the people own the nights. We try to snake our way through and we hear someone shout something about the white M..F..s in the red chevy. That’s us, we think. At least we know we are white and we are in red chevy. In such circumstances, 2 out of 3 is close enough. Just then, I see an empty pop bottle with a wick and a flame arch over the small crowd to our left, headed toward our car. Someone has thrown a Molotov cocktail of cleaning fluid at us. This has happened frequently over the nights and is the weapon of choice. It goes over our car and hits a wire fence, falls to the ground, and explodes with a great deal less force than I had expected. Art and I are shouting, not so much at each other as just shouting. To our right, there is a relatively empty sidewalk. Art drives onto the side walk and we go the rest of the block with our horn blaring and the few people on that side of the street getting out of our way. We turn right, then right again, and within a few minutes, we are back on Rt. 21. We arrive home in an hour and sit quietly nursing a beer until we can sleep. The next day, we go back to work the same way as always and see Jim Swain, our protector. He asks if we got home OK. We say yes and thank him for his advice. We can’t think of anything else to say to him. The riots diminish in two days and the city is back to normal within a week or so.
One day, an elderly white woman with a thick accent stops me and asks if I can do something about the cleanliness of the bathrooms. She knows I have something to do with the personnel department. I explain that I am not in the personnel department, I am just a contractor doing a job analysis. She waits patiently for me to finish then repeats her request. She is “sure” I can do something. Of course, I can’t. I don’t even know who to ask. My contact in personnel says that the washrooms are part of the maintenance department’s responsibility. Over the next week, I try to find out who that would be, but with little success. I don’t have a lot of time to devote to my quest. Before I am able to locate the appropriate person, the same woman approaches me again and gives my arm a little squeeze, and says “Thank you.” I say “For what?” She tells me the bathrooms are a lot better and she credits me with the improvement. I try to tell her that I was not even able to find out who is responsible for the bathrooms, let alone get them to pay more attention to them. She is having none of it; she sees this as false modesty. For the next several weeks, she introduces me to her friends as the “nice young man who fixed the bathrooms.” After a few days, I just smile and accept the praise. When I get back to Bowling Green in the fall, I read the full account of the Hawthorne Studies and understand what happened.
That fall, Art and I write up our job evaluation study and send it to JAP. About two months later, we hear it has been accepted – with no revisions!! We decide this publishing stuff is not as tough as it is made out to be. This is the last article that I will submit in 37 years for which no revisions are required.
It is the fall of 1969. I have arrived at Penn State, a new Ph.D. I am teaching a stat course and an intro I-O course. Since I had some free time that summer, I had prepared all of my lectures for the I-O course so I was feeling pretty good. They were all written out down to the 4th level heading. It was a quarter system so I would deliver about 25 lectures. By the end of the 6th week, I had gone through all of my lectures – ALL OF MY LECTURES!!!! I discovered that I had very little to say that was not already in the book. My research in grad school had been very specific, and pretty much all on the same topic. I had done no consulting and very little field research. I simply had no war stories to tell. I invited colleagues in to talk about their research and managed to make it through the semester.
It’s spring of 1970. I am sitting in my office at Penn State, a new assistant professor of psychology. My new “colleagues” are Charlie Cofer, John Hall, Hersh Liebowitz, Ray Carpenter, etc. I am known fondly as the 1969 “recruiting mistake” by my colleagues in the department These guys have been writing good stuff for DECADES. I am trying desperately to make them think that I-O is a legitimate subarea but I am not having much success. They are kind and bright and broad beyond belief. But I have certainly not been able to get a seat at the table yet. I have been hired to replace an I-O psychologist who retired, Kinsley Smith. Kin had been a grad student of Morris Viteles and had come directly to Penn State in the early 1940’s and “represented” I-O for 30 years in the department. He had survived because he was a very funny guy and a terrific poker player. I was asked to take his seat at the department poker table after he retired. I lost my ass every game and, as a result, endeared myself to my colleagues. Whatever. I received a call from an undergraduate from another University the week before asking me if he could talk with me about I-O psychology as a profession before he left for a stint in the service. I said sure, although I was very busy (I can’t remember now what could have kept me busy at that stage in my career) , I could spare a few of my precious minutes. He arrived and told me about his undergrad education and aspirations for when he got out of the service. He asked me for my frank (I don’t think he intended the play on words, but in retrospect, he may have) assessment of his potential. I said “Kid… (he later told me I really did use the word “Kid”) .. I don’t think you really have what it takes, pick another line of work.” He left somewhat discouraged. 26 years later, Wayne Cascio reminded me of that brief meeting we had.
It is 1972 and Bob Guion (now BOB!!) has been elected the President of Division 14 of the APA. I am a new Assistant Professor with very little “juice” in a department that has no “standing” in I-O psychology. In his role as President, Bob appoints me to chair a minor committee but, in the process, provides me with access to the movers and shakers on the Division 14 executive committee, presence at the quarterly exec committee meetings, etc just generally “exposure.” The range of reactions of my new Division 14 colleagues to my presence varies from annoyance to enthusiasm. I probably lowered the average age of the executive committee by 15 years and was about as “nobody” as you can get. The modal reaction was one of bemused tolerance. Even then I had a big mouth and was prone to use it. This crowd had even bigger mouths and used them better. Bob’s only role was to get me in the door. From then on, he sat back and watched with glee as I got beat up by one after another member of the committee. There was a lot of drinking by the old guard at those meetings – not before or after – but AT those meetings. I remember one meeting in particular where one “colleague” turned mean drunk really ripped me up and down for some ill considered comment I made. That left me shaken but later that night, I got a call from another member apologizing for the event and simply acknowledging that this guy got mean when he was drunk and he got drunk at almost every meeting. The issue was just how soon. Next day, this guy acted like nothing had happened (and for all intents and purposes, nothing had happened – other than my bruised ego which probably deserved some bruising). I dealt with this guy on and off for many years and he remained a mean drunk and abused whoever was around.
But back to the executive committee meetings. It wasn’t just the content of the meetings themselves that was important; equally important were the discussions, arguments, speculations, etc. that went on before the meetings started, and over meals and drinks and breakfast and dinner. It was great. And at the end of a few years of this kind of exposure, I had a name and a face and access to the people whose work I had read and drooled over during my years in grad school. And I understood more clearly issues related to the profession, and the science more generally, and APA politics, etc. Stuff you never got from journals (there was no regular issue of TIP then!!) And in subsequent meetings, the old guard all remembered with amusement the night I got raked over the coals by the drunk and kept my mouth shut. From the committee experience, I was appointed to subsequent committees, then elected to an APA rep office, then eventually to SIOP presidency. I think those early experiences helped me understand the broader context of what we do as I-O psychologists. And the passion with which various issues were debated in these meetings really helped me understand how important these broader issues were. Even then, the stirrings of revolution were in the air in discussions about the possibility of splitting from APA and going it alone. It was an interesting time.
In 1992, by the time I assumed my presidency of SIOP, the executive committee meetings had become more civilized. Issues were discussed more dispassionately, and there was no drinking in the committee meetings. In comparing the old days with the new days, one was not better than the other. – they were just different.
It is the fall of 1975. I have just arrived in Sweden for a sabbatical year. I came to work with David Magnusson at Stockholm University in the general area of “psychometric theory.” I am scared to be in Sweden. It is a “social democracy” whatever in the hell that means. I think it means communist but I am not sure. I dragged my wife and kids along and they are all sullen because they had to leave a comfortable life and set up shop in a strange apartment, in a culture they knew nothing about, and cope with a language only slightly more comprehensible than Sanskrit. They are not happy. I go the department to meet Magnusson only to discover: a) he is on sabbatical in another country, b) he is no longer interested in psychometric theory, and c) I-O psychology does not exist in the department. I wonder how I will explain this to my wife and children. So I have some time on my hands. No one comes into my office, no one calls, I don’t have to teach or “do” research, so I decide to write something on a rickety old manual typewriter. I decide to work on a new theory of job satisfaction. Just before I left Penn State, Richard Solomon came up from Penn and gave a colloquium on Opponent Process Theory. I was blown away, more by him than his theory. He was so galvanizing as a speaker that if he had said that night and day were collective delusions, I would have agreed. So I decided to try and translate some of what he said into the satisfaction domain, since satisfaction was supposedly about emotions. I worked on that paper 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, for several months and sent it to JAP. John Campbell was the JAP editor at the time and was very hard on me in early drafts. He was reluctant to publish it in the first place because there were no data and it might belong somewhere else (Psych Bulletin, the trash can, etc.) but he kept pushing me and I kept revising until I wore him down and it was accepted. I think maybe John was a Jesuit, or wanted to be, or used to be, or was educated by them, or lived next to one or whatever. Even today, I think it was the most intense thinking I may have ever done. At the end of every day working on it, my head would literally hurt. It has been the bane of many grad students existence since it was published. I suspect it was an assigned reading in the hope of the instructor that some day, some bright student could explain what it meant.
After I finished that manuscript, I wandered around the department and happened on a radical industrial sociologist, Bertil Gardell, who was doing interesting stuff on stress and the socio-political environment of work. Since I didn’t have anything better to do, I started attending his lectures and research meetings and eventually started going out to visit factories in an attempt to understand this new notion of autonomous or self-directed work groups. I came to view work very differently after that and wrote a little piece for TIP saying that there were interesting things happening in non-capitalist countries. Ed Locke wrote a little piece in response saying that if I liked it so much, why didn’t I move there. Eventually I took sabbaticals in Romania and the former Yugoslavia, as well as research trips to Hungary and the former Czechoslovakia, so I guess I took Ed’s advice.
My debut as an expert witness was in 1982 in a federal court case involving the promotion of fire fighters to officer positions. I was working for the State of New Jersey and they were being sued by black candidates for promotion who fell well down the promotion list. The candidates were represented by the Department of Justice. It’s funny feeling the first time you hear that you are opposing “The United States” or that the lawyer about to depose or cross examine you represents “The United States.” Am I opposed to “The United States”? Sometimes. Do I really want to piss them off? All the time.
I had collected some data and it was messy. There were some mistakes in transcribing thousands of circled numbers into card punches (yup – we used punch cards those days). As part of the discovery process (where, among other things, each side gets to examine the other side’s data), these errors were discovered by the other side. They represented about .01% of the data that had been transcribed, but of course, the mistakes favored our side, although they did not change the nature of the statistical tests that were done. The expert for the other side was adamant that this was intentional, unethical, illegal, fattening, disrespectful, and probably anti-American (since the other side was “The United States”). He filed a charge of ethical misconduct with the APA. (They dismissed it). The U.S. Attorney who was the chief lawyer for the plaintiff followed me into the bathroom one day and told me in a harsh whisper that he would destroy my career, if not in that trial, then at some later time. I guess because I was on the other side of “The United States.” Not really sure. Having been raised in Philadelphia, and taught never to resist a chance to be a smart ass, and beat up by the Jesuits who were better at it than he was, I asked him which career. At that time, I was writing textbooks, teaching, doing research, administering grants, and doing lots of consulting. I told him my wife would buy him candy or flowers if he would destroy one (and she hoped maybe two or three) of my careers. I just needed to know which one so I could begin closing it down.
The trial was grueling and our side lost big time. Turns out that one of the witnesses for the State remembered that he had not actually interviewed some critical SMEs – but he had certainly intended to. Unfortunately, he remembered that on cross-examination, much to the glee of “The United States” and the consternation of “Not-The-United-States.” So part of my report and my testimony turned out to be based on a pile of silly putty. Ugghh. Nevertheless, the judge was a nice man and realized that this State guy had screwed us all and made a comment to that effect in his opinion.
So, in my maiden voyage, my side lost, I was charged with an ethical violation by another psychologist, told by “The United States” that life as I knew it was over, and discovered that the “key” administrative witness for our side had lied. That’s when I decided that this was kind of fun. Turns out the other psychologist was a serial charger of ethical violations and I was not the first nor the last to appear in his cross hairs. Turned out that my career(s) continued along merrily because the lawyer who represented “The United States” only did that for another few months after the trial. He parlayed his success in that trial into a cushy job for a large law firm that defended cities and states and other big thingies against “The United States” – actually against three folks who he used to work with and who stayed in the Department of Justice. Several years later, I was contacted by this EX-spokesperson for “The United States” about working with him on a case. He appeared to have lost all memory of those earlier events (and a great deal of his hair). Nothing came of the contact and I have never heard from or about him since then. That was in 1982.
It is 1995. I am about to be cross-examined in a trial against a Pizza chain. I have just finished testifying about the effect of stress on driving behavior. The drivers for this chain had a nasty habit of killing and maiming people (motorcyclists, bicycle riders, joggers, walkers, pedestrians, Jesuits, etc.) while trying to deliver multiple pizzas in less than 30 minutes. My humble opinion was that maybe these drivers were distracted by the distinct possibility of being fired, getting lousy hours, and in some instances being required to wear a dunce cap around the store for a week if that had the greatest number of late deliveries. Driver=17 year old male. Uhhh, no – I don’t think they want that hat. Anyway, back to the cross examination.
Dr. Landy, I have examined your resume and it’s really impressive. Let me see if I have this right. You went directly from College to graduate school, right?
And then you were in graduate school for 5 years, right?
And then you obtained a position at Penn State and rose to the level of Professor, right?
And you have written books, and taught classes, and done research and published papers, right?
Right (I’m feeling pretty good by now!)
Well here’s my question Dr. Landy: Have you actually had a real job since high school?
What part of that didn’t you understand Dr. Landy?
Well, I guess the word “real”
You don’t know what I mean by a real job?
Let me make it simple for you. Have you worked at any job since high school where you actually got dirt on your hands?
(Pregnant pause by me)
(Smile by me)
Actually, when you define it that way, No, I haven’t had a job where I got my hands dirty.
At this point the lawyer turned to the jury with a mock flourish and held out his arms palms up, as if to say “Need I say anything more, ladies and gentleman of the jury. This guy has never worked so don’t listen to him.” The rest of the cross examination was perfunctory as far as the lawyer was concerned and didn’t last very long. The jury came in with a verdict of $4 million against the Pizza chain.
It is 1999. I am in a trial related to a railway accident. A man and woman were driving along a rural road and crossed a track at roughly the same time that a train wanted to occupy that space. The train horn could have been heard in Bermuda. The light from the train could have illuminated Rhode Island. The driver said he wasn’t really paying attention when he came to the track because he had dropped his cigarette in his lap. The front seat of the car made it across the track, but not much of the rest of the car – at least at that point on the track. The man and woman were OK but alleged that they had neither heard nor seen the approaching locomotive. That should have come as no surprise given the driver’s interest in his crotch at the moment he reached the track. My job was to try and explain to the jury the notion of “direct vision.” Hubel and Wiesel received the Nobel prize in the early 60’s for their research demonstrating the rather direct connection between the retina and the experience of motion detection – direct vision. There is no word that can describe how quickly the human can detect motion – just detect it, not react to it. If the edges of your retina are exposed to motion, those little puppies let you know. Quarterbacks see that blitzing linebacker from the “corner” of their eye pretty quickly, you see a shooting star while looking at a different spot in the sky. This is all direct vision. In any event, my humble opinion was that it would not have taken 7 seconds (as suggested by an optometrist expert – yes optometrist not opthomalogist on the other side) for the driver to notice that a multi-ton blaring/shining locomotive was about to challenge his 1987 Pontiac for supremacy of the crossing.
Dr. Landy, you’re not a physician are you
You are not an optician are you?
Or an Optometrist?
Or an opthamologist?
How about a neurologist?
Yet you challenge the expertise of Dr. X who has studied the eye for years, and treated patients, and given talks on the eye and testified in other cases about how long it takes to detect motion, is that right?
And on what basis do you make such a challenge?
On the basis that no reputable scientist accepts his theory of motion detection
NO REPUTABLE SCIENTIST!!! How can you make such an outrageous statement?
Because the scientific community rejected Dr. X’s view some time ago
Some time ago? How long ago?
Well Dr. X got his license in 1977. The scientific community embraced the theory of direct vision 15 years before he got his license. That’s probably long enough for it to get into a textbook he might have used.
But you don’t know WHAT textbook he used, do you?
Yet you criticize his KNOWLEDGE, is that correct.
Yes, and if he taught geography, he would probably have told his students not to join the navy because they would fall off the edge of the earth.
(The Judge: Dr. Landy, please just answer the question as it is put to you. Although I take your point about obsolescence)
Dr. Landy, when was the last time you taught any course or gave any lecture on vision?
That was 6 years ago, is that correct?
And since then, you have devoted your time to consulting and testifying, is that correct?
6 years -- 72 months – 288 weeks – 2016 days – right?
That’s a long time isn’t it?
How many of those – what did you call them ----
Yeah, how many of those NOBEL conferences did they have since then?
Well they’re not really conferences, they are awards
OK, Have it any way you want it – awards. How many have occurred since you left your college teaching
And how many have occurred since whatever that year was you said – 1962?
OK. How many
And here is my question Dr. Landy. Have those Nobel people ever bothered to even talk about this new “theory” since then?
So I guess that tells us how important your “theory” is, right? And you would agree that a whole lot of new things have been learned about vision since you were back in your college 288 weeks ago, right?
The lawyer then turns to the jury with outstretched arms and upturned palms as if to say “This guy isn’t really an “expert” – he hasn’t even been in a college as a teacher for 288 weeks. Don’t listen to him.”
It is 2003. I am in State Court on an employment issue working with defendant’s attorneys. This is Voir Dire where my lawyer establishes my credentials before asking the court to admit me as an expert.
Dr. Landy, have you done research on performance evaluation?
Have you done research on selection?
Have you done research on interviews?
Have you done research on test construction?
Have you done research using statistics?
Have you done research on stress in the workplace?
Dr. Landy...The judge interrupts
The Judge: Ok Mr. Lawyer, let’s speed this up. It looks like you
brought in someone who will have an opinion about anything and everything you feel like asking about. Maybe I can ask him about my wife, and kids, and car, and world hunger. Oh, go on – just finish it!
In the past 25 years, I have been accused by lawyers of knowing things I would not tell them, telling them things I did not know, knowing too little, and knowing too much. An epistemological smorgasbord – something Donald Rumsfeld could love (“there are things we know, there are things we don’t know, there are things we don’t know that we don’t know, blah, blah). I have come to suspect that knowledge scares the hell out of many of the lawyers who cross-examine experts. So instead of challenging the accuracy of a piece of knowledge, they challenge the right to possess that knowledge. And they like to spread their arms out, palms up, to juries.
It is the summer 1983 and I am about to interview some NYPD cops as part of a job analysis. I am at a precinct around the garment center waiting for the shift to come on. I wait in the coffee room for my SMEs to arrive. They come in to check their mailboxes before changing into uniform. Most of them look too young to drive. They look at me out of the corner of their eyes. There he is – the guy who’s going to grill us, the psychologist. They are nervous. They come back 15 minutes later in their uniforms, carrying flak jackets, with all their leather on and they now have their guns on their hips. Now they are supremely confident and I am scared. They look a lot older and a lot meaner than before. They are sullen and can’t wait to get out of the room. How can they explain their jobs to this mope.
It is the summer of 1987. I am heading out with two cops on a ride around in Cincinnati. They tell me to go out and wait in the squad car while they pick up some warrants they will serve. They are clearly annoyed that I will be with them. I see them ask the Sergeant loudly if I can be assigned to another car. He says no. They roll their eyes, making sure I see the interchange. I go out and wait in the back seat of the squad car. They take their time. I’m bored. I look down at the rubber covering on the floor of the back section and see a little sliver of metal peeking out. I reach down and extract a knife blade from a slit. The blade is about 5 inches long and sharp. Nasty. They come out and get in the car, talking about something that had happened the day before. I try to interrupt them but they will not be interrupted. They keep up their conversation ignoring me. Finally, the passenger side guy turns with studied indifference and gives me a sliver of his attention. I simply hold up the knife blade. “Holy shit. Where did that come from?” I show them the slit in the floor covering. We all know right away what happened. It was stuck there sometime in the last few shifts by some perp. The cops from the last shift who were assigned this car never knew the blade was there. And they missed it when they did their end-of-shift inspection of the car. My guys were supposed to have inspected their squad car before taking it out and they had missed the blade as well. They look at me. If I say anything to anybody, bad things will hit the fan. I wait a long second, hand them the blade, and ask them where we will be patrolling that evening. They know I won’t tell. One of them goes back in to confront the officers from the earlier shift about how they could have been killed. The other cops are already gone. They’ll get them tomorrow.
We start the shift. Two young white guys and me. We cruise down a main drag of the ghetto looking like conquerors for all the world to see. The driver smiles and waves to kids, tells some old black men on a stoop to put their beer back in the paper bag, tells a prostitute to stay out of trouble on their shift. The driver sees a young black man walking slowly down the street ahead of them. The driver says to his partner “Whatya think?” The partner says “OK.” The driver says “What’s our story.” His partner says “Blue coat.” They stop the black guy and spend 15 minutes just hassling him. What are you doing here? I never saw you here before. I’m going to Mother’s restaurant. I never heard of that restaurant!! Why did you start to cross the street when you saw us? Blah, Blah, Blah. Twenty or thirty people watch with bored amusement. Finally, they tell the guy to take
off but “watch yourself.” We drive on. I ask “What was that about”? I am now their co-conspirator with the knife blade and they have no hesitation about explaining what they just did. “See, if you do the math, the bad guys outnumber us by more than you can count. So every day on every shift, we need to take the street, to show who is the man. We will usually find someone in the first hour of the shift, hopefully in a real public spot where everyone can see what’s happening. And we bust somebody’s chops.” I ask, “You mean you actually rough them up?” They laugh. “No, you don’t understand. It’s not about the use of force, it’s about the THREAT of the use of force.” “What” I ask “did you mean by ‘what’s our story’ and ‘the blue coat’. “Oh. When we stop somebody, we need to have probable cause so we need to decide what that will be. Yesterday, there was a robbery by a guy in a blue coat” . “So” I say “this guy was actually a suspect”? “No” they laugh. “The suspect was a foot taller than this kid and walked with a limp. No, he wasn’t a suspect. But he WAS wearing a blue coat so that was our story.” For the rest of the shift, we talk like old frat brothers. They tell me stuff about what their work is really like and I tell them stories about firefighters and cops in other cities.
It’s spring of 1988. I have just arrived at a firehouse in Cleveland for a three day stay as part of a job analysis. The fire fighters do 24 hour shifts here, one day on two days off, so I will get to see three different shifts and get a sense of how the job goes. With new building materials, stiffer building codes and inspections, and sprinkler systems, you don’t really get to see a fire (what they call a piece of work – cops call each incident a “job”) unless you are prepared to hang out for a while. You could just stay with a Battalion Chief and go to any piece of work within that Chief’s region, but the firefighters think of that as cheating and they think of you as a wanna be. “You want to see a piece of work, wait for it like we do.” Sounded good to me. So I waited with them.
The captain calls the fire fighters together in the kitchen to tell them who I am and why I am there – to help develop a new physical ability test for candidate screening. Their last one got hammered in court. I do my usual schtick – who I am, won’t be in the way, here to help them be a better department, etc. Any questions? A guy who has been sitting on a counter in the back raises his hand. There is a stir, I can sense this is not going to be good. At the same time, I sense a kind of respect for this guy who is going to ask the question. He is a little older than most of them but seems pretty sure of himself. Unlike cops, fire fighters aren’t scared of psychologists. I acknowledge him – “Shoot” I say. “Are you going to HELP us like the last CONSULTANTS!! HELPED!! us” he asks? He sneers the words “help”, “consultants” , and “helped.” I can see a left hook coming as well as anyone. Not the time to back down. “OK”, I say “Let’s hear it.” He goes on a 10 minute rant about how the last consultants did a study that reduced the number of fire fighters on a rig from 5 to 4. This makes his job more dangerous and harder. I try to be sympathetic – I’m not that kind of consultant, yeah, that sucks, I know how hard your work is, blah, blah, blah. He’s not buying it but shuts up and smirks. I hear the other guys call him Larry. Score: Larry – 5, Frank – 0.
It turns out Larry is the cook as well as driver of the pumper. He has been on the department for 20 years, and even though he just turned 40, he is the “old man” in the firehouse. After dinner, Larry is doing the dishes and I come in the kitchen to help clean plates and dry dinnerware. We don’t have much to say to each other. Just do the dishes. When we finish, he says “thanks” and heads into the TV room to watch TV until bed time. We don’t get a call that night so I get up at 6:00 am and go off for a run. When I come back, Larry is drinking coffee. “You a runner” he asks? Yeah, I run. “I ran the Cleveland marathon two years ago” he says. Wow. How did it feel. “I was really hurting but I ran it with a new woman fire fighter I had taken under my wing; couldn’t let her beat the old man. You ever run a marathon?” Yeah, I’ve run about 20. His eyes get wide. 20!!?? What’s your best time? 2:56 I answer. He just looks. I ran Cleveland in 4:30 he says. Then almost to himself he says, I’ve always wanted to run the New York Marathon. “You want to run New York?” I ask. Deadline is way past and besides, they do it by some lottery, he says. I ask again “You want to get in?” Sure he says. I ask when he works next and he says he is taking a few personal days and won’t be back at the house until next week. I tell him I’ll be back in touch next week.
Just then we get a run. It is a car fire and when we get there, the car is engulfed in flames, all under the hood and the entire interior. The owner is standing well away so it’s just a matter of getting the fire out. Larry grabs a 1inch small attack hose and starts a stream of water pouring on the back fender where the gas tanks is while his buddies work on the front and inside. I stay on his shoulder as he advances on the rear fender. We are about 5 feet away and I shout “How do you know it won’t explode?” He turns to me with a look that would stop a clock and says “I don’t” then keeps on advancing. They get the fire out.
A week later I tell him I have called my New York City cop buddies, who have called the Marathon director and had Larry added to the starting field. It has always been the tradition that cops and fire fighters get in automatically. They have extended this courtesy to a fellow fire fighter from Cleveland. Not only that, but they will feed him and house him in a fire house so all he has to do is show up. He almost cries he is so happy, and begins plotting his training. The rest of the fire fighters later blame me for the decline in their menu because Larry now switches to making rice instead of potatoes, more fish, less ice cream, etc. Larry runs, and finishes in 3:45 and makes lots of new fire fighter friends in New York. I go back to Cleveland often for work with the police and fire and always try to go in when he is working. I stay at his fire house and run with him. He eventually brings his family to vacation with me and my family in Maine. In 1991, he asks me if I will be the Godfather to the 6th child he and his wife are expecting. I am stunned. I have a flashback of him sitting on that counter three years earlier. He is now one of my best friends. I have a tough time getting the word “yes” out. Then I say “The kid has to have SOME sane influence in its life” and he punches me.
It’s 1989 and I’m back in New York doing more ride arounds. I go with a patrol sergeant because he goes wherever there is “action.” A Sergeant rides alone usually so its just him and me. We get a call. There is a reported bank robbery really close to us. Someone called it in. All he knows is that there is a robbery going down at a bank two blocks away. We pull up on the corner . The bank is about 5 store fronts down. He asks me if I am “packing”? You mean do I have a gun??? He says “yeah, that’s what I mean.” No. Do you know how to use one, he asks, as he begins to unholster his weapon. It looks like he is about to hand it to me. NO.! I say, I have never fired a revolver (this is before the city goes to the 9mm Glock). “Shit” he says as he heads toward the trunk. Sergeants carry shotguns and he is getting his out of the trunk. If there are a couple of bad guys spread out, the shotgun will work better. He shows me how to key the radio and tells me what code to use if I hear shots. He tells me to keep people from walking down toward the bank. He has already asked for back up but he can’t (or won’t) wait. He walks down the street toward the bank with the shotgun laying down along his right leg. His walk is neither fast nor slow. I see absolutely no emotion on his face as he heads off. I am really worried – about him, about me, about the people in the bank. He reaches the bank and goes in the front door. Just then a woman and a kid start walking around the squad car toward the bank. I stop them. “Don’t go down that street, Ma’am.” Why not!!?? “Just don’t. Go around the other way.” I LIVE DOWN THERE AND I WILL GO WHERE THE HELL I WANT. “Ma’am, you don’t want to be walking down there right now. Trust me. “ Her eyes get wide and she picks up her kid and runs back where she came from. A minute later, the Sergeant comes out with the shotgun over his shoulder and an amused look on his face. “Well?” I ask? “False alarm. We think it was the people in the Bodega across the street. When the kids congregate, they usually try to get us to come to make them go away. Since we don’t always show up so quickly if it just some kids making noise, they will go down to the corner pay phone and call 911 and report a bank robbery or a cop getting beat up or a pedestrian hit by a car or something to get us here in a hurry” . It takes about an hour for my heart rate to get back down to anything resembling normal. The sergeant has long since forgotten the event.
The next night, I am touring with NY Housing police. They get a gun run at about 1:00am – a report of someone with a gun in a nasty high rise. We pull up outside the high rise and they ask “You comin’ with us or do you want to stay here and wait. You can lock the door. I ask “which is safer”? They laugh. Your life expectancy out here is about 45 seconds. With us, it might be more like 60 seconds. I go with them. We never find the guy with the gun. I don’t ask anymore. My rule becomes – go with the cops unless they tell you not to. Mostly, when a job comes, they forget you are there. That’s not always good.
It is the winter of 1982. I am a full professor at Penn State and have been teaching I-O and courses in general psychology for 13 years. I have just completed an intro psychology text and feel comfortable in all areas of psychology. I have had some pretty spectacular colleagues at Penn State who are nationally visible in most areas of psychology – life span, cognitive, physiological, clinical, social, experimental, comparative – and I have learned a lot from them. Brigham Young University is looking for a department chair. The position of chair has always interested me. I was acting Chair at Penn State while our permanent chair was on sabbatical and it worked out well. I liked it and the faculty tolerated me as much as they can any chair. So I send a letter of interest to the BYU search committee and they respond neutrally, expressing a willingness to consider my candidacy if I am so inclined. Several weeks later, a PSU colleague stops in my office to tell me of a conversation he had with a friend who is on the faculty at BYU. The friend suggested that I be told that my candidacy is dead-in-the-water either because I am a Roman Catholic, or not a Mormon, or both. I never bother to complete my candidacy package.
It is Spring of 1988. The Penn State Department is looking for a new chair. They prefer an internal candidate. I apply with two other colleagues, one a psycholinguist and one a clinician. We are all white males. The clinician drops out and the psycholinguist and I meet with the faculty and make departmental presentations on our visions for the future. After a great deal of drama, the department chooses to send my name forward to the Dean. The Dean immediately responds that he will not consider a candidate list which does not include a woman. He asks a female faculty member to apply for the position. She agrees. My interview with the Dean is an abbreviated lunch. He’s sorry, but it a busy time of the year for him. During the30 minute lunch at the faculty club, he spends 15 minutes saying “Hi” to various faculty members who come by to pay their respects, and the other 15 minutes telling me about his research on comparative religion. He asks if I would like coffee or dessert. I say “sure.” He says “Great. I don’t bother with dessert either.” He shakes my hand and tells me we need to do this again some time when he isn’t so rushed. Two days later, he picks my female colleague. I guess she didn’t ask for dessert. The College makes up an award to give me and they have a ceremony. The Dean shakes my hand and they take some pictures. He comments on how much he enjoyed our discussion at lunch. They never give that award again. I am staggered by the process more than the outcome. I vow to leave the University the first chance I get. Six years later, I leave. I’m not sure if that was the “first chance.” My colleague remained chair for ten years and, by all accounts, seemed to have done a fine job.
It is the fall of 1994. I have been asked by a law firm to meet with them about taking on a litigation case involving allegations of race discrimination. I travel to meet with them. The discussions are interesting and I think I can help them. They ask if I have an African American on my staff who could be the testifying expert. I respond that I do not. They ask is I can find one to put on my staff. I respond that this would be difficult since I am the principal in a small firm and we cannot simply add people for purposes of a single case. They ask if I would be willing to add an adjunct African American staff member if they can identify one. I am lukewarm about this, worried that their standards and my standards may be different. They call me several days later and tell me that although they were impressed with my credentials and capabilities, they would prefer an African American testifying expert. I am not sure if they ever find one. I never hear from them again.
It is the Winter of 2000. I have decided to re-enter the I-O intro book scrum. I had written several books before but not a serious one since 1989. My employer agreed to give me a sabbatical to work on the book (but rolled their corporate eyes and made disgusting lip noises to let me know that “real” people did not need or take sabbaticals”!!). My plan was to finish it in one year. I would need to be slavishly devoted to reading and writing for that year but I am excited by the prospect. I have contacted several potential publishers and have had cordial discussions with them about the possibilities. I have just received a call from the last of this group, from an editor I had known off and on for 20+ years. I had not heard from him or of him since I stopped writing texts in 1989. He begins by telling me he was happy to hear from me because he thought I had died or left the field some time ago. Things go down hill from there. He explains in his most patient (and patronizing) tone that the field has changed “since I left it” and that any earlier reputation I may have had was no longer of any value. This market was now much more competitive, dynamic, fast-paced, blah, blah, blah. I think he uses the word “young” several times and suggests that I enjoy my retirement and take pleasure in what I had accomplished at a more vibrant stage of my life. Nevertheless, he says it was good to talk with me and wishes me luck if I choose to pursue the text writing (although the tone clearly says “don’t bother”). I sign with McGraw-hill to do the text in collaboration with Jeff Conte. We finish the writing in less than a year and reviewers describe it as dynamic, vibrant, forward looking, and years ahead of most similar texts. I don’t recall that they use the word “young.”
I “professed” my commitment to I-O psychology in 1964, when issues of gender, race, religion, and age were just beginning to dominate discussions of HR practice. Title VII had just been enacted as part of the CRA of 1964. Case law and the Uniform Guidelines would serve to further illuminate these concerns. I have spent perhaps 7-8 person years reading, writing, and testifying about discrimination. I remember how much it hurt when I was treated as a “male” or a “catholic” or “white” or “older.” Even though I can count these instances on one hand, I still remember them. How must it feel to have similar experiences every day?
It is the fall of 1992. I have been teaching intro I-O for 24 years. I have conducted research in about a dozen different distinct areas, done consulting for about 100 companies, testified in 40 or so court cases. I come to class with a few notes scribbled on a scrap of paper and talk for an hour about job analysis and don’t finish what I want to say. Job analysis was supposed to be 20 minutes- tops. I continue talking about it next class – and into the third class. It is the second week of the semester and I am already two lectures behind in terms of topical coverage. It will get worse as the semester progresses. I wish the semester were 35 weeks long so I can say everything I want to say. I never run out of stories. The students ask if they are responsible for the stories for the mid-term exam. I have to stop telling stories. I run into a student at the market. He says “I really love your stories.” Ugghh.
It is July of 1994. I finally did it. I retired from the University. It was a strange feeling. Penn State had been my first and my only “job” in 25 years. When I was hired in 1969, I was told that I would be the only I-O psychologist on the staff and I was being hired to replace Kinsley Smith, who had been a grad student of Morris Viteles and had been hired in the late 30’s. I would only teach I-O service courses and undergrad intro and stat courses and they would not admit any grad students in I-O – ever!!
At the time, I could have cared less about the I-O thing for two reasons: 1) I would be joining a spectacular faculty with people like Charlie Cofer, John Hall, Merrill Noble, Don Trumbo, Howard Hoffman, Hersh Leibowitz, etc. All stars in their respective areas and I would learn tons from simply hanging out with them, and 2) I fully expected to be out of Penn State in less than 5 years for a job in a more established “applied” program. So what the hell. That was OK with me.
A year later, I received a monster grant from a federal agency with the condition that I hire another Ph.D. to help me run the grant program and that I recruit some grad students in I-O to be research assistants. At the time, the size of the grant offer was staggering to the department leadership, and the thought of the overhead, fringe benefits, etc. was too much to reject, so they said “what the hell” and Jim Farr joined us and we began to recruit grad students.
Then Don Trumbo, who had been mostly doing experimental-cognitive stuff on information processing decided more traditional I-O was more fun so he proclaimed his new love for I-O and started teaching I-O courses and recruiting grad students and applying for grants and we had ourselves a program (we got ourselves a CON-voy!!). My colleagues (including those who had told me in no uncertain terms that I would be the only I-O psychologist) were more than gracious. They were enthusiastic about the new turn of events and helped provided a supportive and respectful home for our new program. Eventually, Rick Jacobs, Dave Day, John Mathieu and other high quality colleagues joined the group and provided the breadth and depth needed to endure. It was fun.
It was 1998 and I was in Colorado running an office of the company that Jim Farr, Rick Jacobs and I had established 15 years earlier. Rick was running the State College office and I was in Boulder running an office there, and a second office in California. I had little connection to any University. I was on the faculty at Colorado State in an Adjunct capacity and gave occasional lectures in applied psychology at the University of Colorado in Boulder (they had zero applied people there so I was asked every once in awhile to come in and “perform”). And Shelly Zedeck suckered me into teaching a course in personnel psychology at Berkeley. It reminded me of why I left University life
Side note: I would do anything for Shelly. He and I were grad students together, sweated through GUIONS!! courses together, played intramural softball, football, and basketball together, agonized over stat courses taught by a serial killer, and generally hung out. Our lives have always been connected and I am the better for it. But….. there is one myth he has spread which must now be put to rest. He says he was the first I-O Ph.D. at Bowling Green. This gratuitous claim is based on the fact that he passed his dissertation exam before I did. But, I passed mine several weeks later. But that is largely beside the point. Graduation is alphabetical – even for Ph.D’s. And much as he may protest, “Z” comes after “L”, and I walked across the stage before he did. Case closed.
A British consulting firm, SHL, had decided to establish a presence in the U.S. and made an offer to Rick and I that we could not refuse – a lot of money, a good employment contract for 3 years with even more money, and the opportunity to define how we would earn it. Rick chose to stay in Police and Fire as well as get more heavily involved in the administration of the SHL American practice. I did the opposite. I retreated into a literal and figurative corner of the new SHL Boulder office and avoided any opportunity to be “strategic” in the larger sense. I just spent time on developing my litigation practice and getting involved in more and more interesting and complex cases. It was like an alcoholic had been locked inside a liquor store for a long holiday weekend. I was in heaven. Nevertheless, I continued my involvement with SIOP, attending every conference, making presentations, going to and running workshops, etc. I also continued my writing in the history of applied psychology, which was easy for me because I had managed to accumulate a library of several thousand primary works in the area published between 1890 and 1950. Made life a bit easier.
After I left the University in 1994, I often reflected on what I missed and what I did not. I missed lecturing, I missed working with grad students on research projects, I missed grant and contract acquisition and administration, I missed hanging out with my colleagues over coffee or at a party or on a run. I did not miss faculty meetings (which I had pretty much stopped attending after about 1988 unless there was a special issue that required my presence). I did not miss grading. I had always seen that as a barrier between me and the student – regardless of whether the student was just one of 400 in my intro psych course or an advanced grad student in a seminar. I hated grading. I remember a whimsical essay I read one day that suggested that all students at a university (both undergrads and grads) be admitted, charged for a contracted period of time (say 4 years for an undergrad, 2 additional years for a Master’s, and three additional years for a Ph.D.), and after they paid their money, they would be allowed to stay for the contract period, but they never had to attend a lecture if they did not want to, never had to take a test, and at the end of the contract period, would be given the degree they had paid for. That appealed to me a lot. That changed the nature of the enterprise and would require the student to actually be the architect of their degree and for the eventual consumer to look beyond the degree to what the student had done to define it. I also missed just walking around the campus – it was a surreal environment (like the walled castle in the old tale Edgar Allen Poe tale - “Mask of the Red Death”). Many of my more exotic university colleagues in various departments might have been institutionalized in the “outside” world, but within the walls of academe, they were promoted and tenured. And that was OK with me. I was happy that such an environment existed and happy to be part of it. And happy to have goofy colleagues like that. But also just as happy to leave it.
In my life, for the most part, I have found myself looking forward rather than backward. That was the way it was with leaving the University. I loved my time there in the beginning, and in the end, the stuff that defined the University was same-old, same-old and not that exciting any more. So retiring and moving full time into consulting was good. And then getting a bunch of money and being allowed to concentrate on just what I liked to do was even better.
It was 2001 and I had talked my employer into giving me a fully paid 6 month sabbatical. They said they had never done anything like that and I said, OK, so I’ll just leave and start my own practice and take time off before I start up again as my sabbatical. They said, well, just because we haven’t done it before doesn’t mean we won’t do it. So I said, is that a yes? And they said (ggrrrrrrhhhhh!!), Yes. And then they said, what do you plan to do. I said develop a music festival in Texas and carve totem poles. They said (ggrrhhhhh!!), Oh. OK. (ggrrhhhhh!!) And that was really what I had planned to do. I had bought all the woodworking tools, books about northwest totem carving, etc. And I had bought a share of the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas and was into the admin of that. Plus I had just helped produce a CD for a singer songwriter friend of mine in Colorado so it seemed like a pretty sweet way to enjoy a break from my work.
But on the way to the carving and folk festival-developing, I picked up a recent edition of an I-O text and leafed through it. I had not seen one since I left the University. I had written my last I-O text in 1989 and never looked back. I was astonished. The text looked no different than one I might have picked up in 1980, 1985, or 1990. So I got some other “new” texts, and they all looked the same. They were describing work as it had existed when I was a grad student – solitary, machine-dependent, unicultural, non-digitized, 40 hours at the workplace, yada yada. This was bad. Students were being trained in the science of a workplace that no longer existed, and had not for at least 15 years. So, I got angry and then got a co-author (Jeff Conte) and a publisher (McGraw-Hill) and picked up my lance to tilt at some windmills. In the next 9 months, Jeff and I handled about 16,000 pieces of research and we produced a textbook that addressed modern work. And in the process, I realized how dreadfully narrow and out of touch I had become since I left the University. It felt pretty good to be “up” on the field. So in 2004, I asked my employer once again to do that sabbatical thing. Since the relative positions of power had not changed much in the ensuing three years, and since they thought it was kind of neat that someone in the company had written a textbook in any area in which they offered services, they said OK again (but they still did that grrhhhh!! thing). And Jeff and I did the 2nd edition of the book, which was actually more fun than the first because we had been happy with the first and this was really just adding some new stuff and polishing some earlier stuff. And in November 2007, that book came out as well. So through a strange set of circumstances, in the fall of 2007, I was back to an intellectual place where I had not been since the late 80’s – reasonably conversant with everything in our field. The only bummer is that I am still moving the work carving bench and stuff around with me and I gave up my share of the Kerrville Folk Festival. But……I have just moved east to NYC with a second place in Maine and have shipped the wood working stuff to Maine, so there is still the possibility of the totem pole carving.
I stayed with SHL for 7 years, until late 2005. Rick had left the year before. A few years earlier, SHL had become a publicly traded company, and the two founders, Peter Saville and Roger Holdsworth, had taken their equity and moved out of the company. Now share value was critical, costs were ever-present issues, accounts receivable were discussed daily, blah, blah, blah. In short, my insulation from the real world was gone and I was spending more time on administration and less time on the work of litigation – the stuff I really liked. I might just as well have been back in the University generating research dollars. So, in late 2005, SHL and I agreed to part ways and I opened up my own practice again, just as I had in the early 80’s with Rick and Jim, and it was great. I got my “groove” back and kept my clients and got some new ones and went back to doing the things I liked best.
I took my first trip to Europe in 1976. I went to the University of Stockholm on sabbatical for a year with my family. During that year, I traveled extensively in western Europe, using Sweden as my base. Before I embarked to Stockholm, I studied Swedish in a formal classroom setting (as did my wife) and we had a Swedish tutor for our children. They attended Swedish school. We went back to Sweden in 1979 for another year with more travel through western Europe. I then branched out to eastern Europe, starting with a lecture tour in 1982-83 through the former Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, the former Czechoslovakia, and Russia. I ended up going back to both Romania and Slovenia for extended periods of time after that. Whichever country I traveled to, I tried to learn at least some of their language with varying success. I did well with both romance languages (Italy, France, any Spanish-speaking country, Romanian) and Germanic languages (Scandinavian countries, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Flemish Belgium, even some Afrikaans). That was because the Jesuits had demanded that I study Latin EVERY day for four years while I was in high school. I am grateful that John Campbell did not make me submit a Latin version of my manuscript on the Opponent Process Theory of Job Satisfaction. I had more difficulty with serbo-croatian and was hopeless with Hungarian and Finnish. Nevertheless, I always tried to at least begin a talk with a native greeting, or to sprinkle some phrases in my presentation. It was uniformly appreciated and I think lowered some barriers. I also took a great deal of time to read up on the past and present of the socio-political backdrop of whichever country I was in. That REALLY helped insulate me from the “ugly American” stereotype.
Eventually, I spent time lecturing and doing research in South Africa (before and after apartheid) Mexico, South America, New Zealand, and Australia. I believe that my appetite for things un-American provided me with a considerably broader and deeper understanding of work behavior than I might have otherwise accumulated. I studied work in American-style capitalism, non-aligned socialism, non-Stalinist communism, Stalinist communism and a host of varieties of social democracy. In the course of those travels, I developed a very extensive network of foreign colleagues and have tried to stay in touch with all of them through the years. I still travel frequently to see them, talk politics (ours and theirs), tell them what’s happening in U.S. I-O psychology, and find out what things are happening in their professional and scientific environments. I never understood why more of my colleagues did not travel more broadly to investigate work behavior. And it seems to me that those who have “get it” more than those who haven’t. When I started doing serious work in the history of psychology in the early 90’s, it made me feel good to realize that Morris Viteles had the same appetite for things un-American 70 years earlier. Way to go, Mo.
I got my Ph.D. in 1969. It is now 2007. Most of the luminaries I looked up to early in my career are gone – dead, retired, or just don’t care about psychology any more. Not all, of course. Bob Guion (First GUION!! now BOB!!!) is still capable of the odd outburst; Paul Thayer keeps up his incredible pace supporting SIOP, APS, and his research and consulting interests. But most of the kids who were like me in 1969 are the graying (or gray-ed) eminence. Chronologically, we are all old men and women now. And now I look up to my aging cohort with the same enthusiasm as I did the luminaries of decades past. Plus, the cohorts that have continued to emerge after the “class of ’69” are spectacular and it is with great pleasure that I read whatever the Tim Judge’s or Ruth Kanfer’s or Dave Hofmann’s write. And at every SIOP, I hear papers from “kids” whose names I write down because their ideas are so damn good that I want to read what else they have said and written. It is a good time to be an I-O psychologist. Just as it was 35 years ago. My Dad wanted me to be a plumber. This is more fun. It just doesn’t pay as well as plumbing.
I am sitting in a hotel room in Denver, having just finished a meeting with some of my colleagues who are working with me on a wage and hour case. A couple of weeks ago, I was in the Puget Sound, climbing up a swinging ladder to the deck of an 87,000 ton container ship to watch a Puget Sound Pilot bring the ship into port. Impressive to see someone parallel park a pretty good size building. Next week, I will be riding along with a tortilla delivery route sales-driver watching her work on her store accounts. Pretty soon, I will be down south observing transportation department inspectors on county roads, then spending time in a big box retailer venue with the manager and assistant manager at 3:00 am as they prepare the store for opening later that day. After that, I will be hanging out in a Mexican fast food restaurant watching salaried and hourly teams prepare and serve tacos. Then down to Florida to look at the scene of an accident where a trash truck driver jumped off the back step of a moving trash truck – into moving traffic in an oncoming lane – to avoid being hit from behind by a car and truck barreling down on his truck as it waited to turn left.
Yesterday was pretty interesting. Today is even more interesting. Tomorrow will be unbelievable. So far, so good.