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What I Learned Along the Way

Frank J. Landy
SHL North America

This column presents the recollections of I-O psychologists about various events that played a role in how they got from formative stages of undergraduate and graduate study to their roles as functioning I-O scientistpractitioners. In this issue, Gary Latham tells us about his early experiences in Canada, his education in the U.S., and his eventual collaboration with Ed Locke. In addition, Gerry Barrett describes his transition from human factors to more mainstream I-O psychology. I am confident that these recollections will stir memories in each reader. Turn those memories into a recollection and send them to me (Frank.Landy@shlgroup.com) for subsequent columns. 

Down From the North Country
Gary Latham

In the 1770s, my ancestors, loyal to King George III, emigrated from Massachusetts to Nova Scotia. In 1950, my father, believing that it was now safe for him and his family to do so, became the first member of our clan to return to the U.S. Before going back to Massachusetts, it was preordained by family and knowledgeable friends that I would return to Nova Scotia to attend Dalhousie University. I did so in 1963 following a critical incident that had occurred the previous year.

Another promotion for my father resulted in us moving in my senior year of high school to another city. While washing dishes in the back of a restaurant, a 19 year-old waiter observed that I was no longer fun to be around. After pouring out my heart regarding the girl I had been forced to leave behind, he suggested that I major in psychology when I entered university. That was the first I had heard of this discipline. In moments, he differentiated clinical psychology from psychiatry. In moments, I knew that this was what I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life. 

The majority of the psychology courses at Dal included laboratories. In my first laboratory course, my new girlfriend received 19/25 on her laboratory report with the comment: Congratulations, highest grade in class. Stunned, as I had helped her prepare the report, I waited in anticipation for my grade. Imagine my chagrin when I read 21/25 minus 4 points for poor penmanship. Immediately I raced to my professor, Dr. Beach, demanding that my rightful grade be restored. After I patiently explained to him the importance of grades for gaining admission to a graduate psychology department, he patiently replied that I should improve my legibility. Exasperated, I informed him of the impossibility of me doing so at my age. This frustrating man then had the gall to ask me, a third-year student, to define psychology. In my attempt to educate him, I explained that it is the science of behavior. Without looking up at me from his chair, he then laconically requested me to tell him what psychologists do. Doubly exasperated, I informed him that psychologists predict, explain, and, and, and; damn it, Dr. Beach had just allowed me to hang myself in his presence. Well, changing behavior is not easy, I blustered. He agreed. The grade stood.

While unimpressed by my attempt to improve my penmanship, Dr. Beach was impressed by my creativity, including my ability to entice my fraternity brothers to serve as participants in my experiments. At the end of my third year, I became, I believe, the first undergraduate student at Dal to become a research assistant. This was the second critical incident that advanced my career toward psychology.

Dr. Beach was a former Rhodes Scholar, a World War II hero, a boxer, and the director of the Clinical Psychology program. I loved him. We did research and subsequently published a paper on the importance of awareness versus unawareness in the conditioning of the galvanic skin response. My distant interactions with his clinical clients, however, led to the third critical incident.

An article appeared on my desk in Dr. Beachs laboratory, an article on job satisfaction and performance by two people named Brayfield and Crockett. I read it. Immediately, I ran into the office: Dr. Beach, I want to be an industrial psychologist. He looked at me long and hard before replying that it was time for me to return to the U.S. There was no I-O psychology program in Canada in that time period. Walking in the hallway from a psychology class, I noticed a description of the I-O program at Georgia Tech. That was the fourth critical incident. 

Fall, 1967 I was among Techs six graduate students. 

Georgia Tech embraced the scientistpractitioner model. The majority of the faculty had served in the military as psychologists during World War II and/or had worked in industry. They taught us how psychology could make a difference in organizational settings. Their focus was on individual differences and ways of measuring and then influencing the criterion. Our heroes included Marv Dunnette, John Flanagan, Edwin Ghiselli, and Paul Thayer. My mentor was Bill Ronan, who had studied under Flanagan. My thesis was based on the critical incident technique.

In 1968, the American Pulpwood Association (the other APA) requested Dr. Ronans services to help them identify ways to measure and then improve the productivity of pulpwood producers in the South. He agreed to be a consultant on condition that I was hired as a research assistant. I was elated, particularly when APA (the other one) agreed with Dr. Ronan that my work for them should allow sufficient rigor to serve as my masters thesis. In 1969, I passed my oral defense at Tech and then presented my findings to a panel of 12 executives from APAs sponsor companies (e.g., Georgia Kraft, International Paper, Owens-Illinois, Union Comp). When I finished my presentation, they asked me where I planned to go next. As it was 11:55 am, I told them I was going home for lunch. Seeing several eyes roll in response to my comment, I was relieved to be informed that I should leave the room. Before going very far, I was summoned back in. To my astonishment, the executives offered me the position of staff psychologist, in addition to lunch. This was the fifth critical incident in my now budding career.

Georgia Tech instilled in me the belief that research and theory are invaluable frameworks for practice. Hence one Saturday I drove to the Tech library to peruse the psychological abstracts for ways to increase pulpwood producer productivity. Serendipity struck in the form of a sixth critical incident. There was a series of abstracts that described laboratory experiments by a newly minted PhD which showed that a person who has a specific high goal solves more arithmetic problems, makes more words out of scrambled letters, creates more toys out of plastic bricks than do people who are urged to do their best. I quickly telephoned Dr. Ronan who was still working for us as a consultant. In a factor analysis of survey data, we too had found that crews who set specific high goals have higher productivity than those who dont. Yet that finding had not captured our attention until that day in the library. Dr. Ronan, I said excitedly, Locke says .

In that time period, I read the journals primarily for practice rather than scholarship. In doing so, I stumbled upon two names that suddenly appeared again and again, Yukl and Wexley. Realizing from my reading of the literature that my knowledge was limited, I decided I should return to school. 

Not much older than I, Gary Yukl and Ken Wexley shared and enhanced my love of application as well as the need for theory. Ken, a PhD from the University of Tennessee, strengthened my knowledge acquired at Georgia Tech. He would alternately enter a seminar in the role of a VP of B.F. Goodrich, an HR person seeking a knowledgeable consultant, or as a critic of our field. As Dr. Wexley, he drilled into us the necessity of publishing; he inspired in us the goal to become a Fellow. My association with Gary, however, was a seventh critical incident. A graduate of Berkeley, it was Gary who opened my eyes to the O in our field. Within the year, Rensis Likert and Ed Lawler were added to my list of heroes. The newly published book by Campbell, Dunnette, Lawler, and Weick that Yukl assigned to us became my bible. But most of all I continued to read everything by Ed Locke. Gary encouraged me to write to him. To my delight, Ed responded. 

Before I completed my PhD, the eighth critical incident occurred. Unknown to me, since leaving APA, Weyerhaeuser Company had been tracking my progress. They telephoned me in the fall of my second year to ask me to come as their first staff psychologist. When I explained that I could not do so because I had yet to do my doctoral dissertation, they countered with the promise that they would provide me the resources (resources?? Wow!) to do it with them on any subject I wished. I accepted without further hesitation. I accepted without stating that I had yet to pass my comprehensive examinations. 

The written examinations were passed with relative ease. The oral examination was a different matter. Explain how training is directly based on learning theory commanded Dr. Wexley. I did. Give another example. I did. Give another example, I did. Now the thought occurred to me that if Wexley continued to pursue this matter, I might run out of examples. He did; I did. Yukl stared at the ceiling. Another faculty member noted that a new book had appeared on the Greening of America. He wanted to know how the book would affect my work when I went to Weyerhaeuser. I didnt know. Yukl stared at the ceiling. Wexley jumped back in regarding an article published a year or so earlier by Abe Korman. He wanted my assessment of it. I sputtered that I did indeed recall the article as I honestly had read it. I simply could not recall at that instant what Abe had written. Yukl stared at the ceiling. Hours passed. Weyerhaeuser had informed me that I was to be there by June 15th or not to come. The reason why eludes me to this day.

The day of my oral examination the plane from Cleveland left at 5 p.m. for Seattle. With legs wobbling I left the oral examination room. The graduate students waiting outside to wish me well remained respectfully silent when they saw me emerge crestfallen. As my career opportunity of a life-time was passing me by, the door to the examination room flew open. Wexley strode down the hall, stopped to congratulate me with a wide grin, and then kept on going. Other faculty were equally congratulatory. Yukl, the last to emerge, walked slowly. Incredulous, I asked him how I could possibly have passed my orals. His response still rings in my ears: I didnt know the answers to many of those questions either.

So what did I take from all of this? Three things. First, I tried not to get bogged down by borderseither geographic or conceptual. Second, I discovered that people are watching you even when you think they are not. Finally, I came to realize that few things are more satisfying, effective, or enduring than relationships with supportive mentors.

Who Says You Cant Have It All? 
Gerald V. Barrett
Barrett & Associates, Inc.

My first career-defining moment was in high school when I received the results from the SVIB. I was told my interests were those of a president and a scientist. I had no idea what that meant. The second moment was when I received the results from an engineering aptitude test, which stated that I had a high probability of being a successful engineer. Unknown to me, both of those results were prophetic.

My first job under Social Security, at age 15, was that of a honey dipper. One of my assignments was to go under houses and remove the old septic tank pipes. We told the homeowners not to flush their toilets during this time. I learned two valuable work-related lessons from this job. First, people are not very good at obeying even simple instructions. Second, I found out what flows downhill on the low person on the totem pole.

I entered Wittenberg University fully intending to become a physician, which has now been the tradition for five generations of my family. Unfortunately, I had an accident the first semester of my freshman year which resulted in my becoming blind for some time along with permanent alkine damage to one eye. In my junior year, the college medical interest group went to Ohio States medical school anatomy laboratory where the fumes from the cadavers reacted with my eye, making it impossible to be in the room. Fortunately, I was taking a course in industrial psychology, which I enjoyed. This gave me a new career direction. I already was a science major and concentrated on psychology courses my senior year.

Since we had a family tradition of going to medical school at what is now Case Western Reserve, I attended graduate school there.

My first day on campus I met with Fred Herzberg, my advisor, who insisted I sign up for his industrial organization course. The only trouble was that the graduate program was very structured in that you were required to take ten, 3-hour basic psychology courses your first year and pass a comprehensive exam to receive your masters degree. I had to plead my case with the department chair, George Albee, to have my class schedule changed to the appropriate first-year courses. Two years later Herzberg became chair of the department and insisted I now take a seminar on death taught by an adjunct clinical psychology professor instead of a statistics course from the statistics department. His rationale was that he needed more warm bodies in the course to up the psychology departments credit hours.

After another unsuccessful corneal transplant and before beginning my third year of graduate school, I married Pat, who I convinced to quit her TV job and teach since my graduate stipend was only $1,200. In my third year, I flirted with becoming an experimental psychologist. I was intrigued with the seeming rigor of Hullian learning theory and the seeming lack of rigor in industrial psychology research. Luckily, running rats soon lost its appeal.

In my fourth year, I was offered the full-time position of psychometrician in the Universitys Personnel Research Center. I declined since I felt the job was too boring. I taught part time and worked as a consultant, often with Erich Prien.

In 1962, I began work for Goodyear Aerospace (now a division of Lockheed-Martin) working in the human factors area. This was a challenge since I never had a course in human factors or engineering psychology. I soon became director of the Human Factors Laboratory and had the opportunity to work on space (lunar-roving vehicle), avionics simulators, atomic submarines, tanks, information systems, and driving research sponsored by NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, CIA, HEW and ONR, which was very exciting. I was evaluating a driving simulator which involved the reaction of a driver to a pedestrian stepping in front of the car. There were large individual differences in response time. In addition, many individuals regurgitated in the car, causing a very messy research situation. They, in effect, had simulator sickness. Using both laboratory and field studies, we were able to predict and explain both phenomena.

I had been advised by a number of people not to go into private industry because it was impossible to publish archival research in that environment. Without published research, I would not be welcome in the academic world. I planned to stay 2 years in the private sector but stayed over 5 years. During that time I had over 20 professional publications, plus a number of presented papers.

When I met Bernie Bass, he told me I might not be welcomed in many academic environments because I would be considered a rate buster. Despite this, I was fortunate enough to join Bernie in his Management Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh. Going from human factors to organizational psychology was a radical but enjoyable shift. Bernie had grants from the Ford Foundation and ONR and was developing management development exercises, which were eventually used extensively in Europe, Asia, and South America. Six months later, the University of Rochester had acquired Bernies center and everyone was moved to Rochester to start a new PhD program, both in psychology and in the Graduate School of Management. Frank Landy related in his oral history that he told Wayne Cascio to pick another line of work. This was lucky for us, since we were pleased to have Wayne in our new PhD program. Pat and I enjoyed our time in Rochester and because of the job, could indulge ourselves in foreign travel (we often traveled with our children beginning when they were two and five).

While in Rochester, I continued consulting and was fortunate enough to work with a VP of marketing in setting up a new division that went from zero sales to $100 million in 1 year. I developed the selection procedures for all the sales personnel and sales managers. The good times came to an end when the dean of the Graduate School of Management decided he didnt like the soft behavioral sciences and decided to close down our program. This was the end of our Camelot and fellow faculty such as Ed Deci.

Fortuitously an ad appeared in the Monitor for the position of chair of the psychology department at the University of Akron. The PhD program was on probation from the regional accreditation agency and would be closed down if the standards werent improved. It seemed like a worthwhile challenge, so at age 36 I became professor and chair of the department, a position I held for 22 years. Ken Wexley was on the faculty at that time and Gary Latham had just completed his dissertation. If Gary had the opportunity to take my courses, he might have been a success in the academic world.

The first person I hired was Ralph Alexander, who was my student from Rochester and had just received his PhD. Two other students from Rochester, Ben Forbes and Ed OConner, who hadnt completed their degrees, also joined me. We left Wayne Cascio, who was just beginning work on his dissertation when we left. I induced Pat to return to Akron by promising to build a tennis court in the house we bought. I fulfilled that promise about 25 years later at our vacation home.

The first serendipitous event at Akron occurred on my very first day on the job. The personnel director of the city of Akron came to my office and said he needed help because the police and fire departments were being sued for alleged race discrimination in hiring and promotions. At this time I had been consulting with firms for over 12 years but always in the private sector. The upshot was that in 6 months we conducted a concurrent validation study for police and fire entrance which was accepted as valid by the federal courts. This began over 30 years of also working in the public sector and introduced me to the courtroom as an expert witness.

I still recall the city attorney stating we couldnt demonstrate our tests were valid and we would lose the case. He was wrong, and we havent lost a case involving our tests in over 30 years. This did motivate me to learn more about the law, so I entered the University of Akron School of Law in 1981 when I was 45.

One of my most satisfying courtroom encounters was a situation where the judgment had already been made by the federal court for the EEOC and the plaintiffs that there was discrimination. Barrett & Associates was engaged for the remedy phase where the allegation was that the plaintiffs were owed $15 million. Our team was able to show there were no damages and in fact had the original discrimination verdict reversed. We were able to demonstrate that the plaintiffs expert witnesss work was not accurate, and the defendants paid nothing.

I accepted an early retirement buy-out from the university after 27 years. During that time I supervised 32 dissertations and 16 theses and also had archival publications with over 80 separate individuals (coauthors) in publications ranging from Science to the Journal of the American Dental Association.

At eighteen I thought my career path was set in stone. I was wrong, and in retrospect I realize the path I took was more satisfying than a career in medicine would have been. At 25 my goal was to do research and teach in an industrial-organizational PhD program. I didnt visualize being instrumental in developing two separate successful PhD programs, being a department chair, starting a consulting company, and becoming an attorney. I never planned to leave the University of Pittsburgh nor the University of Rochester. I never planned to work in the public sector or be involved in litigation as an expert witness. I realized as the opportunities came along, career advice often took the form of telling me I couldnt succeed in some endeavor. For example, I was told I couldnt go to law school, remain department chair, conduct research, and have our usual family vacations in Aspen. I learned to ignore the pessimists. I knew they were wrong; I knew it could be done. My career often consisted of doing what I thought would be most interesting and challenging at that point in time. I also learned that other people want to control your time, and you have to be almost fanatical in resisting those attempts. For years I had a standing rule that between 7 a.m. and noon I would not open my office door nor take phone calls (except from the dean, provost, or client). I learned that most meetings were a waste of time. Later in my career, if a meeting lasted longer than 1 hour I would get up and leave. With rare exceptions I was home for dinner by 6 p.m. and resisted any evening meetings, unless it was during a trial. Dont let them fool you. You can have it all. 

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