Left to Right: Raymond C. Ottinot, Adam Bandelli, & Gabriel E. Lopez
Adam Bandelli, Gabriel E. Lopez Rivas, & Raymond Charles Ottinot
University of South Florida
Greetings fellow graduate students! We hope your fall semester is going well and that each of you is having a smooth transition back into graduate life after a refreshing summer break. Over at the
TIP-TOPics for Students headquarters, we have been busy putting together another riveting article for you. For the unfortunate and misguided souls who did not check out Julys issue, we are Adam, Gabe, and Raymond (better known as Charlie) the new editors of this column for the next 2 years. In our first issue, we outlined the agenda for our editorial term. To recap, our goal is to provide information focusing on the various challenges that face graduate students throughout their educational process. To accomplish this, we plan to (a) provide you with some basic, need-to-know information about important and up-and-coming topics within our field; (b) extract information from successful ex-grad students on how they survived the trials and tribulations of graduate school; and (c) provide an open venue for current graduate students to share their stories and experiences.
In following our outlined agenda, this issue will focus on our first topic, occupational health psychology (OHP). In this column, we will provide you with a basic overview of OHP based on interviews with subject matter experts, talk with
James Campbell Quick, a major figure in the OHP literature, and present the results from our lifestyle and stress survey, which was sent to I-O graduate students around the globe during the summer. Before we get into the interview with Dr. Quick and discuss some of the surveys results, some of you might be wondering what OHP is all about. If youre not sure what it entails (or even is for that matter), dont worry, at first we werent quite sure either, but read along and lets find out.
What is OHP? Individuals studying OHP conduct research and/or practice in the workplace as part of a collaborative mission aimed at promoting worker and workplace health and safety. According to the National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH), an average of 137 individuals die from work-related diseases and 16 die from job-related injuries everyday. Furthermore, it is estimated that occupational injuries cost companies approximately 170 billion dollars in profits per year. Thus, one can easily see the value of OHP for workers and employers and its relationship with occupational health and safety.
How does OHP relate to I-O? Although the field of OHP has a short history, its origins date back to the pioneering work of psychologists like Mnsterberg, Kornhauser, and Kahn, who focused on issues pertaining to health and safety in industrial settings (although we swear weve seen a few petroglyphs on how to properly and safely hunt mammoth as well). A majority of OHP research focuses on I-O related topics such as (a) stress and emotions, (b) workfamily issues, (c) workplace violence, d) personenvironment fit, (e) safety, and (f) work design/environment.
Peter Chen points out that, Given the interdisciplinary nature in OHP, the most critical component in the graduate training process is to learn how to bridge different disciplines (e.g., engage in OHP activities with people from different disciplines) and expand traditional I-O boundaries.
Where can I find information about OHP? For general information, go to the Web site devoted to OHP:
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ohp.html. This link will provide an overview of the area, universities that offer OHP as a concentration, and professional journals that cover OHP-related areas. It is important to note that not all OHP concentrations will cover the same type of training. As
Paul Spector notes, The sorts of things psychologists might do can be quite different. For example, a clinical will be able to do clinical work with employees that other psychologists cant do. An I-O could do selection-related work that others couldnt (or shouldnt) do. They all might do similar research, but they will tend to be interested in somewhat different things. What if your university does not have a concentration in OHP? If this is the case,
Leslie Hammer suggests, Taking courses in other departments to obtain some of the traditional occupational health and safety background. In addition, students interested in OHP should go beyond the traditional I-O journals (e.g.,
JAP, PP, AOM) and look for other types of health-related publications, such as
Work and Stress and the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.
Where can I work? It depends (the proverbial answer you get in every seminar and probably didnt want to hear). The traditional training I-O psychologists receive and the training in OHP is so diverse that you can end up doing anything within the field. However, to satisfy the curious, some occupations include positions in education and training, consulting with organizations on OHP-related topics, health and safety management, organizational development, and academic or applied research. It is important to be thorough and creative in the job search process. If the title of a job doesnt sound like it would be appropriate for someone with a background in OHP, inquire about it anyway.
Steve Jex points out, You may find that the actual job duties are closely related to OHP, but the employer simply may not know much about the field. Some experts suggest working in an environment with a health and safety focus. This could include working with an organizations wellness center, focusing on quality of worklife issues, or working in a traditional occupational safety and health research center. However, other OHP researchers believe that an OHP focus can be incorporated into aspects of different jobs. For example, a job analysis project could include something about workplace hazards, or a test validation project could include accidents and/or injuries as criteria.
What should I be doing now to prepare for a career in OHP? Preparing for a career in OHP is no different than anything else in our fieldread, read, read, and become an expert. As James McCubbin notes, A strong emphasis in both health and I-O psychology will greatly benefit students; interdisciplinary exposure is important. Other experts suggest taking coursework in OHP-related areas and doing research (e.g., thesis, dissertation) on an OHP topic. To find out more information, you should express your interest to your mentors, read the literature, take courses that are applicable to health issues, and visit the OHP Web site. Additionally, you can join the OHPAPA listserve, and more importantly check out the Society for Occupational Health Psychology
(www.sohp-online.org), which will be soliciting for members fairly soon.
For this issue we had the privilege of interviewing James Campbell Quick, an expert in the areas of OHP, occupational stress, and preventive management. Although Dr. Quicks PhD is not from a traditional I-O program (he received his doctorate in organizational behavior), he is a Fellow of SIOP, APA, APS, the American Institute of Stress, and a member of the Development Committee for the American Psychological Foundation. He serves as the executive director of the Goolsby Leadership Academy at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) and has over 100 publications in 10 different languages. Lets see what insights Dr. Quick had to offer us.
What were your greatest doubts in graduate school and how did you overcome them?
All graduate or PhD students at one time or another feel totally inadequate or inept because PhD programs stretch you to your limits. My most difficult period was in the middle part of my dissertation, which was done in Teneco. The demands of the work environment and the academic demands of my faculty were very much in conflict. I really struggled with that and almost gave up on the dissertation at one point. However, my wife said, No, youll finish this dissertation; you can do good quality research later on. As it turned out, my dissertation did have an impact. My work was the first of about three to five dissertations from the University of Houstons Business School that resulted in major theory and empirical articles.
Did your graduate school experiences prepare you for working within the field?
Absolutely. My major professor was Jack Ivancevich. My minor professor in clinical psychology was Bernie Lubin. Jack Ivancevich prepared me to do the kind of experimental and empirical research that I have done throughout my career. Jack also got me focused on organizational stress, which has been a major focus for me. And then Bernie Lubins clinical work, my work with him, and my psychoanalytic background, prepared me to do in-depth interviewing with executives, which has been another major theme and characteristic of my lifes work. Having the background to do this qualitative interviewing has enabled me to produce a whole variety of award-winning articles and books.
How did you go about developing your current research interests?
Well, it developed through conversations with my brother in graduate school. We were teaching each other something about stress from my psychological and organizational side and from his medical and public health side. So we just got really interested in this toy of preventive stress management and that just continued to fascinate me because you never get to the point where you get rid of all stress. You have to learn how to manage it. When we did our classic 1984 book, which set out our framework, both APA and the Public Health Community got really interested in what we were doing and that led to my partnership in the OHP initiative between NIOSH and APA. So it really developed out of my relationship with my brother and, again, my graduate school experiences with Jack Ivancevich and organizational stress.
Were there any specific experiences from graduate school that relate the most to your current career?
My first seminar in my major area of study, in which my first paper was on organizational stress, played an important role. It was actually in the middle of graduate school that my brother and I formed a connection around stress that led to the building of our preventive stress management framework, which has been the intellectual hallmark of both of our careers for about 30 years.
What obstacles in graduate school and in your career did you experience that you were not anticipating and
what advice would you give to students and young professionals to help overcome these challenges?
My counsel to all of my graduate PhD students and all of our students over the years has always been to pursue your interests. The frustrations I ran into on a variety of occasions were that the generation of professionals in the field ahead of me didnt always fully understand what I was trying to do. My brother and I were doing something very innovative and creative and we were trying to break new ground, but people who were already established were not necessarily receptive to that. There were people ahead of me who were not threatened by what we were trying to do. So, what I did was simply respond to the people who were helping and encouraging me. This didnt mean that I didnt listen to critical or negative feedback if it was valid and appropriate, but I did not let it stop me. We kept carving the pathway forward. Learning to discipline yourself and manage your own frustrations about the pace of doing something new and innovative is important. Some professionals do not intend to harm you, but they can become roadblocks if you try to run through them.
How did you go about getting your first job once you had attained your degree and how long were you at this job?
Im still at the first job! I wanted to come to the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) for a variety of reasons. It took me 8 months to get the interview here. Ultimately, I got the job and everybody thought Id be here for 3 or 4 years and move on, but its just been a great home base. Ive been all over the world. I have worked throughout Europe, China, Israel, and Brazil through APA and through the university, but UTA has always been the home base.
Is the work that you do now related to the work you did early in your career?
Yes, in the sense that its been an unfolding stream. So, as Ive had new students, Ive continued to work through relationships. My first student, over 20 years ago, said, You and your brother have done some great stress work but you havent done anything on women and stress. I said, Its not a personal interest. And she said, What about me? So I said, Go. So, she got us into the area of women and stress. Another colleague of mine, a retired two-star naval admiral, got us involved with I-technology and preventive stress management. And then my most recent PhD student got me interested in character and affect and how that relates to a leaders health and well-being. We did a whole series of research projects around self-reliance, both through in-depth interviews with executives and then through large-scale studies of basic military trainees in the Air Force and officer candidates. So, its really been an unfolding process, where through relationships and the interests of others theyve blended with my core social interests in emotionally healthy people, emotionally healthy workplaces, and preventive stress management.
What things would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now?
I dont think I would have done anything differently. I have pursued my hearts desire in terms of research and teaching, and both have been extraordinarily fulfilling. What I didnt expect at the beginning of my career was joining the Air Force and having them make me an information systems officer. When I decided to go back to graduate school, they essentially funded my education through the GI Bill. I also stayed active in the reserve for a while, and they used me really effectively for my psychological/behavioral training. When I retired from the Air Force in 2000, I was delighted to leave as a full colonel and that was not part of my original plan.
What is your typical day at work like?
I dont have a typical workday. I say that because my days vary by research, teaching, and service activities. So, I do not think of it in terms of a typical workday; I view the university as a home base in which I operate. In terms of my boxes, about 1/ 3 is research, 1/ 3 is teaching, and 1/ 3 is service activity. Also, for about 20 years, which ended in 2000, I spent about of my year as a full professor and then about of my year as a senior Air Force reserve officer. I served as an internal consultant, in a sense, to the Air Force.
What were the most appealing characteristics/qualities of the career you selected and why did you choose this over the other side (i.e., applied or academic)?
I always wanted to be a professor like my grandfather. He actually was a professor of pediatrics, an MD, but he was a second generation Freudian and did very innovative, pioneering work with emotionally disturbed children (primarily hyperactive children). I was just fascinated by the work he did. He was really the one who led me into the pathway of psychoanalysis, which was the entry point into my psychological work. The most appealing part (of being an academic) is the intellectual freedom and creativity that university life affords us.
What are the most satisfying and dissatisfying aspects of our field to you? How has this related to your career?
The most satisfying part, the most deeply gratifying work, has been the work Ive done with a number of really great PhD students, starting with Deborah Nelson whos at Oklahoma State. She and I continue to be productive together. Our textbook, which she really wanted to do (Nelson & Quick), is in its fifth edition and doing very, very well. That was what she wanted to do more than what I wanted to do. Again, the partnerships Ive had with other professionals through the years have been really satisfying. My studentswho are ultimately my colleagues and partners in the professionhave been the most satisfying part for me. Probably the most dissatisfying part is grading papers when students dont do well. I really dont like doing that.
So we have heard a bit about OHP, an area of our field that focuses on the negative effects that high-stress situations and adverse environments (e.g., working at unhealthy hours, dim lighting) can have upon a person. Bearing all this in mind, lets talk about graduate school. Some people regard graduate school as one of the most taxing periods in an individuals life. We thought that it would be fitting to try to capture these experiences in a descriptive study looking at two aspects of graduate life: (a) the impact of graduate school upon students lifestyles, and (b) the sources of stress in students lives. To accomplish this, we sent out a brief survey and you responded, validating our faith in humanity and earning you our eternal gratitude. Below are some of the descriptive statistics and trends that we observed in the data.
The Survey. We received about 100 responses with 98 being usable and 95 fully completed. The sample consisted of 63 women and 35 men with a reasonable distribution of students from different years (please refer to the APA-esque Table 1 for additional information).
|Fifth year or higher
Surprisingly, the difference between school years was negligible for both the lifestyle and stress measures. As can be seen in Table 2, graduate students reported having less leisure time. However, a majority of our sample resoundingly endorsed the need for setting time aside for nongraduate school-related activities (beyond breathing and other essential life functions). Not surprisingly, students reported using various time management and organizational techniques such as the use of to-do lists and avoiding procrastination, which helps to account for this discrepancy. This could mean that graduate students have less free time but use these techniques to ensure personal time.
Mean Rating for Selected Items
|I have plenty of time each week for hobbies and interests outside of my school responsibilities.
|I have less time to go out and enjoy myself since entering graduate school.
|I have less time for my family since entering graduate school.
|It is important to spend at least one day a week doing something completely unrelated to graduate school.
|It is important to have a life outside of graduate school.
*1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 =
agree, 5 = strongly agree.
Responses to the sources-of-stress measure were not as complicated as the results from the lifestyles measure. In this section, our sample most frequently endorsed two items as sources of stress: their financial situation (72%) and noncourse requirements (e.g., thesis, comps, dissertation, etc.) (54%). Although this may appear to be an obvious finding, we were surprised by the level of consensus. It seems that graduate students around the globe have it pretty good except for these two complications. All we need now is a graduate school that provides living expense waivers and has no noncourse requirements, and we would have a graduate student Shangri-La.
The People. Besides the cold, sterile numbers, we also asked you to share some of your experiences with us. A number of participants provided positive and negative examples of their situations to illustrate what was covered in the survey. Complaints regarding a lack of free time and funding were discussed frequently. Some examples include:
- Our department is not very supportive of maintaining a life outside of graduate school, so I feel like a poor student for being active in the community, taking weekends off, and hanging out with friends. Our department is also not supportive of students working, even after coursework, so you have to be secretive about employment (e.g., internships) even though the department offers no funding for students past their 3rd year.
- Due to a lack of funding from my school I have had to work over 45 hours a week each year that Ive attended graduate school.
On the other hand, many respondents discussed the positive effects that graduate school has had upon their lifestyle:
- "While I was taking classes, I was able to make time to exercise and eat healthy foods between my courses...my schedule was much more flexible. Since starting work I have NO time to exercise and barely get the chance to move during the day since I am sitting behind a desk.
- Compared to my job, graduate school was a picnic. Graduate school provided flexible hours, the opportunity to pursue my interests, and more time with my family.
It seems that although graduate school is a difficult endeavor, it also grants students flexibility that many of us may not experience at any other time in our lives.
Well, thats the end of this quarters informative and entertaining glimpse of graduate life. We would like to thank our panel of experts who provided valuable information for this column. These respondents include Peter Chen (Colorado State University), Leslie B. Hammer (Portland State University), Steve Jex (Bowling Green State University), James A. McCubbin (Clemson University), James Campbell Quick (University of Texas at Arlington), and Paul E. Spector (University of South Florida). If you would like any more information on OHP or have ideas for an issue that you would like to see addressed in a future column, please feel free to contact us at
firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to contact us individually, please feel free to do so: Adam
(email@example.com), Gabe (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Charlie
(email@example.com). Make sure to check out our next issue where we will be covering emotions in the workplace, speaking with
Richard E. Boyatzis, and presenting the results of our next survey. Until then, may your IRB reviews be expedited, your results significant, and anonymous reviewers generous.
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