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What I Learned Along the Way

Frank J. Landy
SHL North America


This is the fourth installment in a column dedicated to recollections. This issue includes the recollections of Paul Thayer about writers block, Mark Schmit about the experience of work on the lower rungs of the ladder, Jim Farr on the vagaries of federal funding, and Art Gutman describing his transition from an experimental to an I-O psychologist. I still need recollections for subsequent columns. With 3,000+ professional members, I would expect about 10,000 (printable) recollections in the population, so please get them to me at Frank.Landy@shlgroup.com.

Writers Block

Paul Thayer
North Carolina State University


It is 1959. Bill McGehee and I had signed with John Wiley & Sons to write Training in Business and Industry in 1958. Weve agreed to meet at APA and discuss progress, compare notes, and so forth. At both APA meetings since signing the contract, weve met over martinis, talked about our families, our jobs and Bills fishing but havent gotten around to the book either time.

Weve agreed on which chapters to write and to submit drafts for the others revision. I find it very difficult to write a book when Im working a 60-hour week at LIAMA (later LIMRA) and traveling a bit. The only time I have to write is between 10 at night and 2 in the morning. 

Writers block is a serious problem. I finally come up with a solution. I am writing my chapters longhand. I sit at the kitchen table after my wife and kids have gone to bed and pour a glass of beer from an imperial quart. I start to write. If nothing comes, I sit there with my beer until I fill a page with writing, no matter how bad it is. To heighten the level of motivation, my rule is that I cannot leave my chair FOR ANY REASON until I have written a complete page. 

The stuff isnt very good at first, but once I start writing, it gets better, and I only need to throw half of it away (not the beer, the writing).

Yes, motivation does contribute to higher performance!

Incidentally, Bill and I did not take kindly to each others revisions. When I received his revision of one of my chapters, I wrote long letters explaining why he should have left things as they were. He reciprocated in kind. Believe it or not, the collection of such letters was longer than the book manuscript.

We never did meet face to face to discuss the book. Everything was done via the U.S. mail. But, we did finish the book, and it was published in 1961. 

The Roots of Work Addiction

Mark J. Schmit
SHL USALitigation Support Group

I have always had a passion for jobs. This may sound like a strange lead in, but let me explain. I find the selection process intriguing, and I am fascinated by the enculturation into a new job and organization. There is nothing more rewarding than mastering the new job-learning curve and enjoying the thrill of the first big accomplishments. For me, it has always been a bit like the thrill of falling in love for the first time. I couldnt have found a better career fit than being an industrial-organizational psychologist where I can study all these things that have always excited me so much.

I would consider myself a job adventurist (my term, not in Websters). Some have mistakenly labeled my journey with a job hopper tag, but I have never seen it that way. I have always had a certain degree of logic behind all of the self-imposed changes in my life. I have no regrets, just lots of great memories and experiences to build on into the future. 

My first job was like many youngsters first jobI was a paper carrier. I was just 10 years old, but I had more money than any 10-year old in my neighborhood. I then moved up the food chain of jobs in my teens. When I turned 14 and was eligible to obtain a work permit, I took a job cleaning a small caf. My boss quickly learned my potential for being trusted with the store and made me head cook for 3 hours after school every day. Unfortunately, he used this time to head to the local tavern and bury himself in a bottle. This was my first experience in playing psychologist, as I often had to convince my boss that he should let me work the rest of the night as cook because he would clearly be dangerous anywhere near an open fire!

When I turned 16, I figured it was time to move up to working in a corporate job. I made my big move by landing a job at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Now I was on the fast track. Within a year I was made Crew ChiefI had made it to management! You know how research has shown that internal referrals are, on average, more successful than any other recruitment source? Well, this may be true, but when youre 17 and youre the boss, never hire all of your best friends. Trust me, this n = 1 study is all you need. I learned a hard lesson about who is ultimately responsible for performance and nonperformance. All turned out well thoughit only took me about a year to make a new set of friends.

My summers in high school were spent at camp. I worked for a Boy Scout camp, which eventually led to working as a chaperone for a troop of boys traveling all across Europe in 1978the great experience of my young life.

I graduated from high school in 1979 and being the 70s it was a time for experimentation. So I passed up college to pursue the love of my lifejobs! From here I worked anywhere from two to four jobs at the same time for the next 6 years. I worked as a bartender (in a nautical-themed disco! I first met my wife there, so it wasnt all bad), a truck driver for a moving company, a pounder in tape factory (a pounder knocks big rolls of industrial grade tape apart with a metal club), a sandwich truck driver, a freight truck driver (yes, I have driven an 18-wheeler), a forklift driver in a pallet factory, a pulp thrower/blower in a paper mill (dont askever smell a paper mill?I made and dwelled in that smell), a stocker at a department store, a medical supplies delivery and setup technician, and an industrial roofer (I went to Florida for a summer to do thisshould have waited until winter to explore this one).

At this point I decided I wanted to move to the next level in my life, so I went on to college. I spent about 6 years as an undergraduate because I worked full time while going to school (at this point I was married and had a 1-year old son). I worked many different jobs, mostly to meet the changing demands of my course schedules, but again, I also couldnt resist the many opportunities to try new jobs. During my college years, I worked as a hotel desk clerk, a convenience store clerk, a computer help desk attendant, a counseling center assistant, a security guard, a college recruiter intern, a latch-key after-school program director, and a day camp director during the summers. In my longest and most rewarding gig, I worked in HR for a large insurance company. I was exposed to many aspects of HR including direct contact with some I-O psychologists who did contract work for the company. My major area of study was psychology, but I was also working toward a minor in HR administration. So, my love of jobs, my experience in the HR job, my contact with the I-O psychologists in that job, and a stimulating course in psychometrics, convinced me to go onto graduate school for a PhD in I-O psychology. I could not have made a better choice!

Research Funding and Adaptive Behaviors

Jim Farr
Pennsylvania State University

A couple of weeks after I completed my PhD at the University of Maryland in July 1971, I joined Frank Landy at Penn State to work on a grant that Frank had recently been awarded by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) of the U.S. Department of Justice. LEAAs research division had funded a group of projects concerned with various personnel and staffing issues in law enforcement and wanted all project senior staff to become aware of the collective goals of the funded work. LEAA staff convened a 2-day meeting in Washington, DC, in the fall of 1971 at which each project was described by the principal researchers in a 6090 minute presentation. Our project was focused on the development of behaviorally anchored rating scales (BARS) for the evaluation of performance of municipal police officers. We planned to gather data in several dozen U.S. cities and to develop separate BARS for use by supervisory and peer raters. Our presentation was scheduled for the afternoon of the first day, and we had structured our presentation to begin with the rationale and procedural steps for developing BARS and then to discuss the specific research and applied questions that were our research goals. Frank and I probably overly prepared for this presentation because we knew that another presenter at the meeting would be I-O guru Marvin Dunnette, who would be speaking about his project entitled something like Psychiatric Standards for Police Officers. We thought that this sounded like an unusual topic for Marv but thought that perhaps some of the University of Minnesota clinicians were involved. Marv was scheduled to present on the first morning just prior to lunch and, as his presentation unfolded, Frank and I were quite surprised that a major portion of it was a discussion of BARS methodology. Such a discussion did fit the Dunnette project since their major goal was to develop BARS for municipal police officers! Frank and I kept glancing at each other during Marvs presentation, each thinking What are we going to talk about?!? Fortunately, lunch intervened prior to our presentation. 

At lunch we talked with Marv and his colleagues (including Rich Arvey) about how we collectively could keep these seemingly somewhat different projects. Marv told us that a couple of weeks earlier he had been asked by LEAA staff to change the title of his project to Psychiatric Standards from the original Performance Standards. Frank and I noted that we planned to collect data in multiple locations and to develop supervisory and peer BARS. Marvs project focused on supervisory BARS but for several target ranks (e.g., developing BARS for the ranks of corporal and sergeant, in addition to police officer) and would gather most data in the Twin Cities area. Frank started our afternoon presentation with something like, Dr. Dunnette has already given a pretty good description of the BARS procedure, and then attempted to recover from that modest gaffe by noting that his older daughter always complained when he complimented her by saying that was pretty good. After some laughter (even from Marv!), Frank jumped the discussion of our project on to the different research questions that we would be able to address given our planned methodology. As I recall, we all thought at the end of the day that the two projects sounded sufficiently different, although we also thought that the LEAA staff had not realized how similar they were until about the time they had asked Marv to change the title of his. So much for the new PhDs idealistic view of the wisdom and rationality of the federal research funding process! The experience also taught me the importance of being well-enough prepared for presentations and discussions with funding agencies and client organizations that one could roll with the punches of unexpected events and modify ones material as needed. 

What a Long Strange Trip Its Been

Art Gutman
Florida Tech

In preparing this recollection, I picked the above title because of my life-long love affair with the Grateful Dead. I could have done the Beatles (Long and Winding Road), but Im an original Dead Head who grieves for Jerry Garcia. Also, for you Sinatra fans, I Did It My Way wouldnt work because as you will soon learn, my way was a recipe for failure.

Just a small bit about conditions of birthI was lucky to have them. I was an anoxia baby born to Holocaust victims in a German deportation camp in 1948. Unconsciously, I guess, my passion for studying workplace discrimination stems from a lifetime of wondering what a crime it was for my ancestors to be Jewish. Thats an easy translation to any group, including classes not protected by federal laws. I was a very slow learner who could not read well until a smart school psychologist in Brooklyn figured out I was thinking in the wrong language. Thank goodnessmy parents knew I wasnt retarded, but they had no way of proving it.

As a senior at Tilden High School I had a record as a reasonably good student, but I set the 4-year detention record for things like making wisecracks and jokes; I am now rewarded for doing those things as an instructor. Go figure! I went to school with Rosalie Nurman from seventh grade through high school. Trust me, this will become important later. I didnt want to go to Brooklyn College, too close to home. I wanted to go out of town, so I went to Hunter College in the Bronx (now Lehman College). I was floundering. It was fall 1965 in a school that had turned co-ed in 1961. There were six females for every male and I was bound and determined to meet all six of them. And if one of my buddies dropped out, I would meet his six as well. In this arena, I expended considerable mental and emotional energy. Unfortunately, I was flunking chemistry and earning Ds in calculus. In fact, had it not been for a valiant effort at studying second semester, I would have flunked out after my first year.

I spent a total of 5 years (10 semesters) at Lehman. Through my 5th semester, I scrupulously chose BS courses I knew I could do well in. One day, while registering for my 6th semester, I was in the poly sci line and it was full. The psych line was empty and I was in a hurry, so I took my first psych course. Dont recall ever again seeing a short psych line and a long poly sci line. Best thing that could have happened to me. I had great profs who inspired me. As a result, my college career got the boost it needed, and things went smoothly after that. My undergrad mentors helped me find a home in the social psych grad program at Syracuse University. 

I was as brilliant in my first year of grad school as I was in my first year of college. My performance was lousy, and it looked like I was history. Ed OConnell, whom I grew to adore, took me aside and told me I had excellent presentation skills and a great sense of humor. He encouraged me to consider a life on stage (and even offered to put me on one and pay the fare). No offense, but I was bored with all the attitude-change stuff, and I was going to leave in the summer of 1971, but a young prof who had befriended me talked me into switching to the experimental program. He thought Id be good with rats and dogs. I did lots of animal experiments and I taught experimental courses. Also, since the class in front of me mysteriously disappearedthe program director was a bear and either scared out or flunked out the entire graduate class in experimental that had preceded meI became a lab leader, breaking in new grad students and supervising the undergraduate research assistants. It was great.

OK. Its winter 1974. I have lots of job interviews, none to my liking (or theirs either). So I asked my advisor to help me apply for an NIMH post doc. Its Friday and the deadline is Monday. We phone Bruce Overmeir seeking a sponsor, but hes away skiing. Dave Thomas was at our lab 2 weeks earlier, so we call him, and he agrees to be my sponsor. Miraculously, I got the post doc and am off to the University of Colorado in Boulder. 

The first year of my post doc is interesting. Im writing up my dissertation for publication when my advisor arranges a job interview for me from the University of Pittsburgh. I do a super colloquium and am feeling great until they reopen the search and offer the job to another candidate. Ugghh. 

The following year I get a job at Georgia State University coordinating the intro psych program. Two colleagues tell me Im crazy to take the job, and theyre right. The chair is also the principal investigator of a major project (on language in apes) and tells me I cant do animal learning research and coordinate the program at the same time. Like a moron, I tell him I dont need this job, and he fires me. Luckily for me, I was then recruited for a job at Florida Tech, where Ive been truckin ever since the fall of 1979. 

Its summer 1983. Im at APA on a hotel bus when a tall dark-haired gentleman I vaguely recognize examines my nametag and asks if I know Franke Webbe at Florida Tech. I tell him that I do. He asks where Im from and we learn were both from Brooklyn. I tell him I got older on East 56th Street and this tall dark-haired gentleman, whom I come to know as Ed Levineasks me if I know his wife, Rosalie Nurman. I said sureshe once gave me a black eye (a fact Rosalie denies to this very day). Needless to say, Ed and Rosalie are now near and dear to me over and above any professional gifts from Ed (and there have been many). Once again, destiny puts me face-to-face with a great man!

While I am doing my animal work at Florida Tech, I also get a chance to do some consulting with a local company, teaching their engineers some basic statistics and program evaluation. I propose some stuff related to structuring their interview process and the company lawyer stops me at every turn telling me about this federal law (Title VII) and how I have to be careful about the questions I ask of applicants or employees. The questions I wanted to ask had to do with arrests, high school diploma, drug and alcohol history, and so forth. Seemed good to me. I have since discovered that virtually every question I proposed would have been the start of a very nasty lawsuit. I now, reluctantly, realize that a lawyer was RIGHT. There, Ive said ithe was RIGHT! Phew, that wasnt that hard. At his advice, I take a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course through Wake Forest University. Talk about an epiphany! 

Its 1986 and the director of our Personnel Psych program at Florida Tech is about to go on a 2-year hiatus. I am asked to take over. And I agree. I introduce a personnel law class into the curriculum, but no book works well for meso I decided to write my own. I have a close friend, an editor at Sage and I promise her I can write the book in 3 months. She agrees to sign the project. It takes 16 months (but I think this is less than one standard error from 3 months). 

In 1993 I discover SIOP. I dont feel like an I-O psychologist at this point, so I defer joining. But in the next few years, after writing and validating a few selection tests and redesigning a police force selection system (for compliance with the ADA) I begin to feel more at home. So, I join SIOP in 1996. In late 1999, I send an article to Allan Church (on the ADA), and we chat about it over the phone. He invites me to write my own column, which he names On the Legal Front, a column I still write every 3 months (Debbie Major wouldnt buy the 16-month gig that worked with Sage).

I guess Im a lucky person. I met the right people at the right times and was at least smart enough to listen to them. Clearly, the most important person in my life was Rosalie. To this day, she insists that she never gave me a black eye (Eds excuse that he has bags under his eyes and they are genetic still sounds fishywhy is the area ABOVE his eye usually black as well??) She promised that if I ever tell that story again she WILL punch my lights out. Sounds a lot like a TRAIT to me. Excuse me while I see if I have some ice in the freezer.

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