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The High Society: What Else Could We Call Ourselves?

Paul M. Muchinsky*
University of North Carolina at Greensboro

*Unamused, indifferent, or entertained readers can contact the author at pmmuchin@uncg.edu.

 Lets face it, we havent exactly done ourselves a big favor. In 1970 we officially changed our name from the Division of Industrial Psychology to the Division of Industrial-Organizational Psychology. Thus, we are all industrial-organizational psychologists. If a name reflects a brand, and a brand reflects an image, we have a most fuzzy image indeed.

While in graduate school you go home for a holiday. Some family members await your arrival. Your Aunt Bertha, who hasnt seen you in a long time squeals, Oh there you are, my little cupcake. Tell me dear, what is it that you are studying in school? You say, industrial-organizational psychology. Aunt Berthas face goes blank. You then say, Its about psychology applied to work. Your aunt beams, Now your Aunt Bertha understands. Why didnt you say psychology applied to work in the first place? That would make a great title of a book!

After you graduate you start your first job. Someone throws a get-to-know-the-new-neighbors barbecue. Someone at the barbecue says to you, What do you do for a living? You swallow hard and say resolutely, Im an industrial-organizational psychologist. Im afraid Im not familiar with that line of work, comes the reply. You say, Its about psychology applied to work. Oh, now I get it. Why didnt you say that the first time? You know, psychology applied to work would make a great book title.

Whether a student or professional, industrial-organizational psychology just doesnt convey an image. Furthermore, that phrase contains a palate-popping 14 syllables. Medicine is the usual home for multisyllabic job titles, but even they dont come close to us. A pediatric anesthesiologist contains a mere 11 syllables. Its time for something shorter and clearer. As a service to SIOP, The High Society presents a dozen alternative names for what we can call ourselves.

1. In 1970 when the organizational appendage was added to our name, it was to convey the growing recognition that work was performed in an organizational context. Why dont we just drop the old industrial prefix and go with organizational psychology?

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: Im an organizational psychologist.

Q: Oh, Ive read about people like you. You help people organize things. My husband has every tool in the world, but his tool room is such a mess you cant even find a simple screwdriver. But I should talk. My kitchen is a mess, too. I cant find the lids to my pots. And our teenage daughter has a room that looks like a bomb hit it. Two years ago she had a friend stay over, and I wonder if she ever got out alive. There is so much mold growing on some dishes in there you could start a penicillin factory. Can you help us organize this household?

A: No, you dont understand, I

2. We are involved in various aspects of the conduct of work. How about work psychology?

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: Im a work psychologist.

Q: Nice to meet you, work psychologist. Im a work plumber. Lenny here, is a work carpenter. Tony, over there, is a work brick mason. I guess what we have in common is that we all work for a living. And you know what, the three of us never had to attend no college to learn how to work! Now why dont you work your way over to the bar and come back with some strips of beef jerky for us working people?

A: No, you dont understand, I

3. A European name for what we do is occupational psychology. How about that?

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: Im an occupational psychologist.

Q: Am I glad to meet you. About 9 months ago I tripped at work and really wracked up my knee. The x-rays revealed torn cartilage. I began to work with an occupational therapist. I still have this pain, but the x-rays now reveal that everything is healed. So why do I still hurt? The occupational therapist suggested I go see a psychologist, as the pain must be mental. So I guess I need to see an occupational psychologist. Thats you. How much do you charge?

A: No, you dont understand, I

4. The job has been a common framework for what we do. How about job psychology?

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: Im a job psychologist.

Q: Oh, could I ever use you. I dont normally pour my heart out to strangers, but I need help. My ex really did a job on me. My ex got the house, both cars, the bank accounts, and most of the furniture. I got a color TV and a pair of slippers. I need help in adjusting to all this. After the job my ex did on me, Im filled with violent rage. Can I crash on your couch for a few weeks?

A: No, you dont understand, I

5. Some say the job is too broad of a concept. A position is more descriptive. How about position psychology?

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: Im a position psychologist.

Q: Let me see, how many positions are there? There is standing, sitting, stooping, crouching, and missionary. Let me guess, most people prefer missionary. And you get paid to do this?

A: No, you dont understand, I

6. Yet others argue that job and position are now pass. What we all do in work is fill a series of ever-changing roles. How about role psychology?

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: Im a role psychologist.

Q: You most certainly are a specialist. Well, I prefer pecan over cinnamon. Does that make me crazy?

A: No, you dont understand, I

7. Given the rate of change in the business world it has been suggested our job is to help people deal with change. How about change psychology?

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: Im a change psychologist.

Q: I didnt know the U.S. Mint employed psychologists. Well, here is my 2 worth on the topic. In todays society the concept of giving coins in making change is absurd. Everything should be priced on the dollar. I hate those metal dollar coins. They look like quarters to me. Half-dollar coins are big and bulky, and you cant even place them in a parking meter. Pennies are useless in making change. What can you buy for a penny any more? Nickels arent much better. I say if we are going to make change, we limit our coins to dimes and quarters. Its about time we realized we are in a new century, and making change is a product of a time when everything wasnt so expensive.

A: No, you dont understand, I

7. An old fashioned name for business is commerce. How about commercial psychology?

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: Im a commercial psychologist.

Q: Oh, I just love what you do! My favorite commercial is about the white duck that sells insurance. My all-time special commercial is the one where the duck quacks at the couple in bed together. It is such a stitch. You people are so clever.

A: No you dont understand, I

9. A less sexy name for an organization is a company. How about company psychology?

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: Im a company psychologist.

Q: Please keep your voice down, but I could really use your services. Floyd and I spent a fortune to decorate our house to entertain company. But Floyd gets very anxious when company comes over, particularly when they spend the night. He says they interfere with his lifestyle. Next week my mother is coming for a prolonged visit. I havent had the heart to tell Floyd about the arrival of his mother-in-law. Im afraid hell go ballistic. Youre a company psychologist. Can you help Floyd deal with company in our home?

A: No, you dont understand, I

10. A more specialized name for a place of work is a firm. Lawyers describe themselves as working in a law firm. How about firm psychology?

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: Im a firm psychologist.

Q: This has got to be the cheesiest come-on Ive ever heard. So youre not a flaccid psychologist, not a drooping psychologist, not a limp psychologist, and not a sagging psychologist. You are a firm psychologist. Why dont you hop on your firm horse and ride out of here?

A: No, you dont understand, I

11. A more generic name for work is labor. How about labor psychology?

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: Im a labor psychologist.

Q: Oh, thank goodness we met! My wife is about to have our first baby, and we are on pins and needles. Her family has a history of experiencing difficulty in labor. Everyone is so concerned since this is our first. Can you please, please join us in the delivery room? I believe your presence would be such a comfort to us all.

A: No, you dont understand, I

12. At a fundamental level we are involved in various aspects of employment. How about employment psychology?

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: Im an employment psychologist.

Q: You may be our last hope. Our son moved back into our house after he graduated from college. That was 15 years ago. No matter how much prodding and pushing we do we cant convince him to obtain employment. Its so bad he is now watching Nickelodeon reruns of the same shows he used to watch when he first moved back in. For crying out loud, in 3 years he will be covered by age discrimination employment laws. Could you please save my sanity and convince our son its time he found employment?

A: No, you dont understand, I

12. Which brings us back to industrial-organizational psychology.

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: Im an industrial-organizational psychologist.

Q: Hmmm, I think I could use your services. Im director of the Zoning Commission. As you may know, the city recently purchased a big tract of land south of the city to create an industrial park. The members of the Zoning Commission are continually arguing among themselves as to where they want to place the companies in the park. I want to organize the industries by type. I want the manufacturing industries on one side of the park and the service industries on the other. This type of organization just makes sense to me. Can you help me?

A: Have your people get in touch with my people.

 


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