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Organized I/O Psychology: Past, Present, Future

James L. Farr

Pennsylvania State University

 

Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology, Inc.

Presidential Address

St. Louis, April 11, 1997

 

A plate from my personal collection of American historical views on English china depicts George Washington standing by his own grave. This plate was made in the Staffordshire region of England around 1830; the plate was intended for export to America (the global marketplace was alive and well in the early 19th century). Washington is standing by his tombstone with a scroll in his right hand. No doubt Washington was preparing to address a large number of his peers, perhaps a State of the Union Address, and he was likely pondering the thought that laying in one’s grave is not always an unpleasant alternative!

This plate seems remarkably well-suited to illustrate the feeling that SIOP Presidents have when preparing to present their presidential address. Most past-presidents with whom I have spoken concur with this judgment. It also provides a convenient segue to the subject matter of my talk—the past, present, and future of organized I/O Psychology. My remarks are not intended to be a comprehensive appraisal of all aspects of SIOP or organized I/O psychology since time is necessarily limited. The talk presents my admittedly idiosyncratic look at some issues of relevance to SIOP and its members.

Why look at organized I/O psychology? Since I/O psychologists look at organizations and their effectiveness, it seems to make sense that we should do this periodically in relation to our own professional organization to see how well we are meeting the needs of our most important stakeholders, our members. Such reflection and self-observation may provide insights for desired change that may not always be clear from the more routine "taking care of business" that frequently occupies the leadership of the Society. Immersion in details often inhibits accurate evaluation of larger concerns. Given that it may be useful to look at organized I/O psychology, why look at I/O’s past?

I’ll skip the usual reference to "being condemned to repeat it," and go straight to the millennium argument—it’s just numerology! Look at all the important "anniversaries" related to I/O psychology that occurred in 1996/ 97:

    * Golden anniversary of divisional structure of APA (& Division 14)

    (1945-46)

    * foundings of Journal of Applied Psychology (1917) and Journal of

    Personnel Research (1922) (now Personnel Administrator)

* formation of American Association of Applied Psychology (1937)

    * plans to publish Personnel Psychology announced (1947) (now

    being published is Volume 50 of this journal)

* founding of Administrative Science Quarterly (1956)

* first use of the term "Organizational Behavior" (by Argyris) (1957)

Our past is large and our time this morning is limited so what part of our past do I consider? Selected by Farr—apologies to those whom I could not mention—are Presidential addresses by I/O psychologists who have been presidents of APA, AAAP, SIOP/Division 14, and a few other articles by these individuals. Also, articles focusing on the history or status of I/O have been consulted and their ideas incorporated into this talk (hopefully with appropriate citations).

What did I look for in these various writings? Consistent themes and issues that have been with us for some time and continue to vex us, but where I might be able to make some suggestions for new attacks on these problems or be able to remind us of past suggestions that we have managed to ignore so far.

 

Some I/O History

First, let me provide some historical context. I rely on several sources for much of the historical information that I will briefly review. These include a recent history of the APA, published by APA; and articles in the 1992 Journal of Applied Psychology section on the APA centennial by Landy and by Katzell and Austin; and an "in press" chapter on Division 14's history by Ludy Benjamin. I have also done research myself on the history of I/O for an upcoming article on Bruce Moore in JAP and used that as well.

Organized American psychology is 105 years old—the APA was founded in 1892 with 26 members. Its charter members included a few psychologists with strong interests in the applicability of psychology, including James McKeen Cattell and the founder of the Journal of Applied Psychology, G. Stanley Hall; Hugo Munsterberg was elected a member at the first meeting of the charter group— he was about to leave Germany to join the Harvard faculty.

The first applications of psychology that might be labeled as industrial psychology occurred in the early 1900s; Walter Dill Scott in Chicago began work related to advertising, and published books related to this topic in 1903 and 1908. Munsterberg conducted research on the use of aptitude and work sample tests in personnel selection and later published Psychology and Industrial Efficiency in 1913.

Cattell (1895), Munsterberg (1898), and Scott (1919) were all elected as presidents of APA, although Scott alone would have been identified as an industrial psychologist at the time of his term in office.

In 1915, Walter VanDyke Bingham was brought to Carnegie Tech to create a unit that would use psychology to help students with career choices; Bingham created the Bureau of Mental Tests, and in 1916 an umbrella organization, the Division of Applied Psychology, which in fact developed into the first organized academic/industry cooperative personnel research program. Scott was brought in as Professor of Applied Psychology (first to hold such a title); later Bingham and Scott were joined by other applied psychologists (both before and just after WWI) of much fame: Yoakum, Strong, Thurstone, to name but a few. Research fellowships were also awarded and the first Ph.D. program in industrial psychology was established; in 1921 the future first President of Division 14, Bruce Moore, was awarded the first Carnegie Tech Ph.D. in industrial psychology.

Edwin Boring in 1920, in a demographic analysis of APA members published in Psychological Bulletin, had determined that the center of population for US psychologists was somewhere in central Pennsylvania. This seems to fit well with the situation for industrial psychology in the early 1920s as well as with the Carnegie Tech group in Pittsburgh, Morris Viteles beginning his long career in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania, and Bruce Moore starting his long career at Penn State (located in Centre County, PA). [I do not wish to make too much of the obvious argument that little has changed to date regarding the center of the I/O universe!]

To backtrack a little, World War I had provided a great impetus to applied psychology and mental testing. In the years following WWI, industrial psychologists found a more receptive audience in work organizations for their "scientific" selection and placement programs. While the majority of industrial psychologists were still based in universities, Scott left academe to found the Scott Company in 1919, the first industrial psychological consulting firm (although he soon also left the Scott Company to become the president of Northwestern University). Cattell, who had left Columbia University some years earlier because of his pacifist beliefs, created the Psychological Corporation in 1921. Despite some years of marginal financial success, the Psychological Corporation survived and became, of course, an important force in personnel selection testing.

In the 1920s and 1930s the development of industrial psychology was influenced by a number of factors, but generally it was a period of maturation for the young subdiscipline. Journals were expanding and the number of books were increasing. Reviews of published industrial psychology research in Psychological Bulletin by Link in the early 1920s and Viteles, half a decade later, showed an increase in the number of references from about 50 in Link’s review to about 350 in the Viteles review.

Important books written in this era included Burtt’s Psychology and Industrial Efficiency (1929); Fryer’s Measurement of Interest (1931); Kornhauser and Kingsbury’s Psychological Tests in Business (1924); Bingham and Moore’s How to Interview (1930); Poffenberger’s Applied Psychology (1927); and Viteles’ Industrial Psychology (1932), the first comprehensive text in industrial psychology.

Graduate programs were increasing although still not numerous and the program at Carnegie Tech had been abolished in 1923 when a new president and Bingham clashed. There were now Ph.D. programs in industrial psychology at Ohio State, Minnesota, Stanford, Penn State, Purdue, Columbia, Pennsylvania, and NYU.

Nonacademic employment of industrial psychologists increased as industrial corporations began to add them to their staffs. The famous Hawthorne studies gave rise to field research with varied methodologies: observational, experimental, and action-oriented, in addition to the correlational methods more commonly used. The Depression caused a shrinkage in many organizations’ uses of psychological tests in selection and of training, but more concern for social issues can be noted. Industrial psychology remained, however, a management-oriented discipline.

 

The Organizing of I/O Psychology

Meanwhile, things were not so happy within APA; clinical psychologists were able to get APA to create a Section of Clinical Psychology in 1919, but efforts to do the same for industrial psychology were not successful. The APA Clinical Section did not fully meet the needs of clinical psychologists. Various groups of other applied psychologists formed the Association of Consulting Psychologists in 1930. In 1937 the members of a number of applied groups, including the APA Clinical Section, the Association of Consulting Psychologists, and various local and state groups, created the American Association of Applied Psychology (AAAP) as a national association to represent the interests of applied psychology, broadly defined.

Section D, Industrial and Business, was one of the four (later five5) sections created within AAAP. Although not a large section, it was very influential as four of the total of eight AAAP Presidents had backgrounds in industrial: Fryer, Paterson, Bingham, and Poffenberger. Although applied psychologists had negative perceptions of their treatment within APA, interestingly most did not give up their APA memberships—about 90% of the AAAP members were also members of APA in 1943.

In 1945, following about 2 years of meetings, deliberations, and member votes, APA and AAAP agreed to a re-organized APA as THE national psychological association in the US. Part of the re-organization was a divisional structure with a Council of Representatives—essentially the same form of organizational governance that exists today in APA. All of the five sections of AAAP were charter divisions of the new APA, including Division 14, Industrial and Business Psychology.

Several name changes occurred along the way for Division 14—in 1960, drop "Business" when Division 23, Consumer Psychology, was created. In 1970, add "Organizational" to acknowledge the "group and higher order units of organizations, and whole organizations" as part of our domain of interest. In 1982, the division incorporated as SIOP, Inc. Details and rationale of the incorporation appear in the January 1997 TIP and will not be re-hashed here. After the creation of the American Psychological Society in 1988/89, SIOP members were required to be members of EITHER APA or APS, instead of only APA.

 

Themes Identified in I/O Presidential Addresses

We finally get to the themes identified in my look at past presidential addresses of industrial (and I/O) psychologists in their talks before APA, AAAP, and Division 14/SIOP. Of the several candidates for a closer look, I selected two that seemed to me to be the more important ones and which fit my earlier criteria of long-term concern and where we have made some progress recently (and might be able to make more soon). These two themes are: (1.) Science AND Practice or Science VERSUS Practice. (2.) I/O Psychology’s low profile (and maybe NEGATIVE profile) with industry, government, and society at large. Let me consider each of these in more detail.

 

The Science/Practice Relationship in I/O

The science/practice issue in relation to I/O Psychology has really been concerned with several different intergroup relationships:

1. Applied Psychology versus "Pure" Science in early days of APA and later APA/AAAP relations;

2. Scientists and Scientist/Practitioners versus Health Care Providers within APA during the past 20 years, with APA/APS relations as a part of this; and

3. Academic versus Practitioner members of Division 14/SIOP—strife among ourselves.

We might have to reach the conclusion that industrial (later I/O) psychologists are a contentious lot; when viewed historically, we always seem to be fighting with someone. And, given no external "enemy," we fight among ourselves! But, let’s look in more depth at these various fights.

Bruce Moore attended his first APA annual meeting in 1919; he still recalled more than 50 years later the remark of an eminent (but unnamed) psychologist he was introduced to there, when that psychologist learned that Moore was a graduate student in Carnegie Tech’s Division of Applied Psychology, "Well, now that the war is over, psychologists ought to be getting back to the real science of psychology."

While attitudes such as this one were common, applied psychologists were not completely shunned by their "pure science superiors." At that same APA meeting, the presidential address was by Walter Dill Scott on "Changes in some of our conceptions and practices of personnel" and Scott was at the time of his presidency of APA also the president of the Scott Company, a consulting firm as I have noted earlier.

Bingham did feel compelled to write in 1923 an article entitled, "On the Possibility of an Applied Psychology," in which he argued that psychotechnology (or applied psychology) was as legitimate as "pure or scientific psychology," but that pure and applied did have different goals and should not be judged by identical criteria. Bingham drew an analogy to the physical sciences and engineering.

As noted indirectly earlier, the AAAP and APA "split" was not too contentious. Fryer, in his presidential address to AAAP in 1938, noted that relations between pure and applied psychology were not severed by the founding of AAAP. He did express strongly that applied psychology was not subservient to the "pure," and I quote "The applied and professional features of psychology are here to stay; there can be no denial of the rights of the applied psychologist."

Paterson in his 1939 AAAP Presidential address noted that applied psychology had reached maturity and was ready to contribute to the "world of practical affairs" and that applied psychologists should "do all in our power to increase its (AAAP’s) strength and usefulness."

It should be noted that in most years (1937-1944), the APA and AAAP held their annual meetings in the same city on consecutive or partially overlapping dates, again indicating no great hostility.

By 1944, Poffenberger, AAAP President, was supporting reunification with APA. Poffenberger in his 1935 APA Presidential address had severely criticized APA’s disinterest in applications of psychology to practical problems of society and individuals. Reunification did occur, of course, in 1945, and science and practice were together again in APA.

In the 1970s and 1980s, I/O psychologists and others espousing a science/practitioner model joined the "pure" science divisions of APA in opposition to what was seen as a hostile takeover by the health care practitioners (i.e., the practicing clinicians). Now, I/O had many friends in those "pure" science divisions who might have been on the opposite side in previous versions of the science/practice disputes. Milt Hakel has written about these times in the January issue of TIP from an insider’s perspective, so I will send you there for details. APS was formed by psychologists with science and science/practice orientations to better represent their interests. Hot issues related to the definition of professional psychological practice, accreditation of graduate programs, licensure of practicing psychologists, and the possible re-organization of APA.

Now that things are more cooperative within APA and there are generally cooperative relations between APA and APS (again, there are many joint memberships for SIOP members—much like occurred with APA and AAAP 60 years ago), I/O psychologists can focus their energies on civil unrest! Several recent SIOP presidential addresses have looked at aspects of this issue; I’ll summarize these talks.

First, Richard Klimoski spoke on "Revitalizing the Interface Between Science and Practice"; then each of the two sides was addressed in more detail—first Paul Sackett on "the Content and Process of the Research Enterprise within I/O," followed by Wally Borman on "Practicing I/O Psychology: What are We Doing and How Well are we Doing it?." Klimoski called for transforming science/practice tensions into a dialectic that could benefit all of us. He suggested that a broadening of our usual definition of what is a contribution to knowledge would be necessary before such a dialogue could be profitable. There would also need to be a shift from normal science (the positivist paradigm) toward an acceptance of a pluralist approach that legitimizes a variety of modes of research inquiry, including the positivist, the action-oriented, and the experiential. Both academics and practitioners would be expected, in Klimoski’s vision, to contribute to "I/O knowledge," although they might use different methodologies and epistemologies to do so.

Sackett noted that I/O research, as reflected in journal articles, is very frequently motivated by theory and prior research articles and rarely by observed, real-world problems, documenting many of Klimoski’s views (fears?) about I/O normal science. This is compelling evidence for an academic/practitioner separation of considerable negative utility for our discipline. Borman found that about of the academic-based SIOP members who responded to his questionnaire on practice did engage in professional practice. The amount of their practice was necessarily less than full-time so that academics by Borman’s calculations conducted about 10% of the "total practice" of I/O while comprising about 37% of the sample. Borman argued that his data suggest that it is difficult to make a sharp academic/practitioner distinction. Many practitioners also teach on a part-time basis, further blurring the two categories to be sure. However, many I/O psychologists place themselves in one camp only, if we can trust self-statements heard in the halls of SIOP conferences!

Why should the academic and practice sides of I/O be arguing with each other? Aren’t we really part of the same enterprise? Have we ignored Klimoski’s plea for change and dialogue? Bingham in 1923 captured well the view that seems to persist throughout the vast majority of the I/O pioneers’ writings. "The clear recognition of these two contrasted aims, the scientific and the practical, cannot fail to benefit both the pure and the applied science." Did the common enemy of REALLY PURE scientific psychology cause the more academic and the more practical industrial psychologists in the first half of this century to close ranks, to see similarities, not differences?

The Division 14 by-laws, derived in large part from the by-laws of Section D of AAAP, from its founding have stated practice, research, and the exchange and cooperation among all members as goals and purposes of the Division. Again, the party line is ONE family. Bruce Moore, who chaired the committee that wrote the first Division 14 by-laws, in the first Division 14 presidential address, urged all industrial psychologists to test their theories, their ideas, in real world settings, further supporting the mutual benefit of the science and practice sides of our discipline.

So, what are these tensions that we are experiencing? Here are some that I have read or heard—they will not surprise you, I suspect: There is a disconnect between graduate education in I/O and the required practitioner competencies. I/O practitioners implement programs, systems, and processes in organizations without a solid research base. I/O academics conduct trivial research on meaningless theories.

These are not new issues—the concern about graduate training properly preparing industrial/organizational psychologists for careers in industry and consulting has been in print for many years. It persists. Academics and practitioners hurl barbed comments about the other group—practitioners are not enough research-oriented for the academics; academics have no clue about the important issues in work organizations, according to practitioners.

Some of the tensions reference SIOP as an organization: SIOP recognizes and rewards academics but not practitioners (reflecting again an academic/practitioner split). SIOP leaders constitute a closed group of "insiders." While this does not explicitly reflect an academic/practitioner split, there is frequently an implied association—the academics "run" SIOP aided by a few defectors from the practice side (usually these are graduate school buddies of the academics).

 

Origins of These Tensions

Why do these beliefs exist? I believe enough in the science/practice model that I tend to develop sets of hypotheses about causes of organizational phenomena that I observe and then look for evidence concerning those hypotheses (admittedly, a rather positivist approach—sorry, Professor Klimoski!). Here are some hypotheses that I’d like to briefly explore today:

1. "Kernel of truth" hypothesis—from the perspective of the ideal, there is probably some truth to most, if not all, of these concerns or tensions that I have noted above.

2. Searching for confirming data—we know from both science and practice that we imperfect humans have a tendency to search for confirmatory evidence (i.e., we are biased to find support for our existing opinions and beliefs). If there are data in line with the kernel of truth hypothesis, as argued above, then we will be able to find data confirming these opinions: That is, most graduate programs in I/O don’t teach students how to estimate the budget requirements for the evaluation of a large-scale HR intervention. I did chair Kevin Murphy’s dissertation committee.

3. An invalid science/practice model—have we overbought as individuals the scientist/practitioner model? Have we as a Society oversold that model? Is this really a matter of level of analysis and application? At a discipline level, the scientist/practitioner model works well in my opinion and can fulfill, in the ideal, the mutual interest that Bingham described in 1923. At the individual level, the model cannot be expected to fit well every I/O psychologist. Individual differences are supposed to be something we know about; we seem to have ignored them when we toss our barbs at those not like us. Practitioners want academics to be as sensitive to the realities of organizational life as they are; academics want practitioners to love theory. Most of us seem to have muddled along on our career paths, eventually offering support for Schneider’s ASA model—we have been attracted to and stay in settings where we "fit" and can do the types of things we are reasonably good at. This leads to Hypothesis 4.

4. Does personal insecurity drive some of this tension? I now fully leap to an area of my incompetence by examining our deep-seated fears of possible failure if we were suddenly to be thrust into the OTHER role. I marvel at my I/O practitioner colleagues who successfully implement complex interventions in organizations while dealing with Dilbert-like management structures. I know that I would soon be serving 30 years to life if I were asked to do that as my full-time job. Practitioners may have similar qualms about performing some of the tasks required of academics. Do we each abuse the other in compensation for our worries that we couldn’t perform well the other’s tasks, that we cannot meet the ideal science/practice model? Stronger ties with our clinical colleagues may be needed to answer this question!!!

 

The Image of I/O to External Groups

I’ll return shortly to what SIOP is and can be doing to help us appreciate our colleagues. First, let me turn to the second theme that has concerned I/O psychology: Lack of respect from others. These "others" include other psychologists and psychological associations; the corporate world; and government and society. Sometimes the issue isn’t really lack of respect, just "forgetting" about us or being uninformed about what we do and our expertise. Whatever the root cause, the outcome is generally the same: constraints on our profession, both the scientific and applied aspects, in terms of the positive impact I/O could have, and, on a more individual level, constraints on our personal satisfaction and sense of efficacy about making a difference. I do not wish to elaborate endless examples of this—I should mention a few just so I am not labeled "paranoid" [at least for this reason].

1. APA’s Public Policy Office issued last year a report on affirmative action without any input from SIOP (they didn’t consult the Science Directorate either, who would have put us in contact with them).

2. Corporate executives decide to change all organizational HR practices, policies, and procedures on the basis of a "competency model" established by a group of HR middle managers during an afternoon meeting.

3. The National Skills Standards Board cannot find a spot for one I/O psychologist because there are "only" 20-something such slots on the Board.

As depressing as this can be sometimes, it is not new. Katherine Blackford, M.D., championed a character analysis scheme for making employment decisions in the first quarter of this century that included among its nine physical variables the trait of pigmentation or color, specifically contrasting blondes and brunettes. She wrote: "In brief, always and everywhere, the normal blond has positive, dynamic, driving, aggressive, domineering, impatient, active, quick, hopeful, speculative, changeable, and variety-loving characteristics; while the normal brunette has negative, static, conservative, imitative, submissive, cautious, painstaking, patient, plodding, slow, deliberate, serious, thoughtful, specializing characteristics."

Bruce Moore encountered the use of Blackford’s system at Westinghouse when he conducted his dissertation research there around 1920; he noted years later that one had to be tactful when discussing such a personnel system with a VP who embraced it! Donald Paterson, later a President of AAAP and whose greatest legacy to I/O psychology may have been his mentoring of Marv Dunnette, conducted in 1922 a quantitative study of blondes and brunettes to demonstrate that they did not differ on these traits, trying to quash the all too frequent use of this scheme in organizations.

A number of early and not so early studies have been concerned with the acceptance of industrial psychology by various groups. Another interesting survey done by Paterson in the early 1920s (J.A.P.) contrasted the extent to which "mature" applied psychology students (i.e., adult students) believed in the value of "psychology" versus "pseudopsychology" as he termed it. Only 16% believed that applied psychology could "fit people to jobs"; 9% believed that psychotherapy was useful (so we did beat the clinicians!); while 12% believed in mental telepathy, and 5% in graphology and phrenology. Paterson was not optimistic that business executives would provide more encouraging responses; he noted the large number of charlatans in most cities, especially in the "quack-infested Northwest."

Of course, things are better now—aren’t they? Why is there still limited acceptance and understanding of I/O psychology? Can we blame our professional ancestors? Did the early industrial psychologists oversell our wares, promising more than could be produced? Several writers on the history of applied and I/O psychology have made this point, including Frank Landy. Landy has also argued that we have continued to do this throughout the century with respect to the value of testing in particular. He notes that repeatedly we have made an argument that the increased use of psychological testing to make employment-related decisions will result in large gains for the economy, for specific companies, and for individuals. Repeatedly, the larger society has raised questions and has rejected our claims. The mistrust of testing is a far larger topic than can be addressed in any detail here, but it is an exemplar of the resistance I/O faces as its credibility and value are challenged.

Dunnette published "Fads, Fashions, & Folderol in Psychology" in 1967, describing in entertaining but sobering words, many of the "games" that I/O psychologists play in research (and applicable to practice as well in most cases). Unfortunately, many of the games are alive today and I/O is less well because of them. These include, using Dunnette’s terms, "Premature Commitment to some Great Theory or Great Method"; the "Great Word Game" or, in my words, "Name that Construct (again)"; and, to paraphrase Dunnette, "Precise Answers for Trivial Questions" or "Avoiding Tough but Important Questions." Paul Sackett’s more recent look at the genesis of published research articles gives us continued pause at the state of I/O research.

Mary Tenopyr, in her Division 14 Presidential Address in 1980, argued that I/O research and practice were frequently too narrow, too insular. She advocated, first, more collaboration among those of the "I" and the "O" persuasions. We are beginning to see this—Schneider’s ASA (Attraction-Selection-Attrition) model presented in his 1985 SIOP Presidential Address is a good example—but research studies and applied research projects are still more likely to take predominately one side or the other of the hyphen and not give appropriate weighting to both.

Tenopyr also argued for working with psychologists who are not I/O psychologists—clinical, educational, cognitive, social, and so forth—for a broader perspective. We have tended to "borrow" concepts from these other areas of psychology, but much less often do we actually work together with them in research or practice settings. Finally, Tenopyr called for collaboration with other disciplines—economics, education, sociology, finance, management, and so forth. Again, the argument can be made that we have ignored as a field one of our basic findings from organizational research and practice—that attitudinal and behavioral change and acceptance of ideas occur more frequently when there is a perception of ownership and buy-in; working together with those from other disciplines can foster mutual acceptance of multiple perspectives on organizational problems. Now, we tell lawyer and economist jokes; they tell psychologist jokes; the joke is likely on us when it comes to organizational and societal influence. Enough about these issues before we get so depressed that we cancel the rest of the conference!

 

SIOP and These Concerns: Today

What is SIOP doing today about these concerns? I want to briefly review what SIOP has been doing about these concerns and then shift to some personal thoughts about what else we can do in the near future.

 

Science, Practice, and SIOP

I like to think that we have an open Society, but I know that committees and task forces get filled via processes still unclear to many members. Let me outline those procedures. For standing committees, we have our volunteer forms in TIP, and on the SIOP website, and I urge you to volunteer for what interests you. We do our best to place people on committees they want and we have procedures (term limits) that ensure turnover to give others a chance to serve. For task forces and other temporary groups, members with an interest in a topic tend to be asked, but your leaders are limited by their knowledge of who is interested in what issue, so communicate that interest; we are interested in hearing from you. Finally, nominate and vote for our elected offices. Remember, the apathy of many of you contributed to your having to endure this talk!

The SIOP executive committee probably spends more time on how to encourage BOTH science AND practice than any other topic. We have made progress over the past few years in revising (expanding is probably a better term) the guidelines for election to Fellow in SIOP, that is, what constitutes an unusual and important contribution to I/O and psychology, especially in relation to what kinds of practitioner contributions are appropriate and observable indicators.

Our Education and Training Committee has recently revised the doctoral training guidelines, with changes to the competencies that should be achieved by the graduate of such a program—many of those changes reflect needed skills in the application of the knowledge we gain in grad school. These revised guidelines are in the midst of APA review now, but are available in draft form. They have benefited from considerable input from academic and practitioner members and represent a good example of how we can work together for mutual benefit.

Similarly, a revised I/O ethics casebook will soon (we hope) roll off APA’s presses, a product of a special subcommittee of SIOP’s Professional Practice Committee. It addresses ethical issues in both academic and practitioner arenas. Finally, I want to note that recently we have established two new awards, one that might be categorized as "science"-oriented (the William A. Owens award) and one that is "practice"-oriented (the M. Scott Myers award). These are both supported by endowment funds created within the relatively new SIOP Foundation; they honor prominent SIOP members in the research and practice areas.

 

Enhancing Respect and Acceptance of I/O

We have established, under the auspices of the Long Range Planning Committee, a task force that is looking into the questions of I/O’s image, its acceptance, and the extent to which we are "known" by corporate and policy decision makers. We are also seeking to broaden our connections with associations, both psychological and other. At this conference, several SIOP leaders are meeting with Russ Newman, Executive Director of APA’s Practice Directorate, to explore ways that we may work together. I should add that we are not abandoning our already excellent relations with APA’s Science Directorate; Bill Howell will attend that meeting as well. Let me note that Bill is retiring at the end of this calendar year. Much of the enhancement of relations between SIOP and APA is directly due to Bill’s good offices. A search is underway for Bill’s successor; candidates attuned to I/O are needed. Help us find them!

One area in which SIOP leadership will admit ignorance is the nature of our members’ connections with various non-I/O groups—research, practice, industry, government, whatever—that could be valued allies. Please let us know where we might make connections that can help us spread our message.

 

SIOP and These Concerns: The Future

It seems to me that we do better internally when we have an external concern or threat. All of us, academic and practitioner, ought to be concerned about the image, the respect, the acceptance of I/O as a discipline and profession. Can the enhancement of I/O be a superordinate goal that can help us to stop internal bickering and grumbling, help us have a more open Society, help us have closer academic/practice relations?

How can SIOP help to enhance respect/acceptance of I/O Psychology? I’d like to suggest Society action in three areas. None is THE answer; they do not represent charismatic vision; some are mundane, perhaps; but they collectively offer some possibilities for a more effective SIOP as an advocate for our profession.

1. Broaden SIOP’s linkages. American industrial psychology in its formative years had strong ties with international industrial psychology. Viteles, among others, used to write regularly about industrial psychology in other parts of the world; reports of international conferences regularly appeared in our journals. Given the increasing globalization of our organizations and the economy, we have not been doing our part as a Society to develop our professional linkages with our international colleagues. We have as individuals and as a Society an excellent opportunity next year to improve this situation: The International Congress of Applied Psychology, the meeting of the International Association of Applied Psychology that occurs only every 4 years, is meeting for the first time ever in the U.S., in San Francisco, in August 1998, immediately prior to the APA convention. I/O Psychologists from all over the globe will be there; we should be there in force. I encourage you to attend. I have been at the last two ICAPs and can attest that they are excellent meetings. I also want to note that we have registrants from at least 17 countries at this SIOP conference; we especially want to welcome our international colleagues.

SIOP is also beginning to work with the European Association of Work and Organizational Psychologists to develop joint programming for the 1998 APA convention that follows the ICAP in San Francisco so that we may take advantage of our many European colleagues who will be in the U.S. We welcome ideas for this collaborative effort and plan to continue discussions with EAWOP for other mutual activities in the future.

Mary Tenopyr called for more multidisciplinary work—this has been the theme of several recent SIOP Presidential addresses: to name a few, Shelly Zedeck called for research on work and the family; Dan Ilgen for research on health issues at work; Mike Campion’s address last year noted the existing approaches to work design from several perspectives and called for their integration. SIOP should move to develop linkages with other professional societies that can help us conduct more useful research and practice in these and other content domains.

Certainly, we need more links with business, industry, and labor groups; again, as individuals we often have these, but SIOP as a society does not. I hope that the SIOP task force on image and acceptance of I/O will help us identify those groups who may be receptive to closer linkages.

Morris Viteles, who passed away in December 1996 at the age of 98, would have been in favor of these suggestions, I think. As I mentioned earlier, he wrote often on industrial psychology around the globe and was heavily involved with IAAP. He wrote articles on industrial psychology in general social science journals with modest titles like "The Role of Industrial Psychology in Defending the Future of America" (1941). Was this oversell? Perhaps, but it did grab some attention outside of I/O!

2. Communicate the I/O perspective. How do we better communicate the I/O message to our multiple constituencies? We have been too technical for many of our customers. Social cognitive psychologists like Nisbett have found that most people are influenced in decision making not so much by dry statistics and logic as by vivid examples. As applied scientists and research-based practitioners, I/O psychologists are loath to downplay data. We try to build credibility by reliance on numbers, statistics, and research methodology. That is our distinctive foundation, and I would never suggest that we abandon these things, but we must accept that not everyone’s heart is gladdened by a factor analysis, a LISREL model, or a utility analysis. SIOP can take a lead here by commissioning task forces whose goal is to produce statements (position papers) on various topics about what we know, how to approach what we don’t know, and why simple answers don’t always work for complex organizational issues.

3. Give I/O psychology away. Now, I engage in heresy of a sort—many of us sell I/O psychology for our livelihoods—indeed, we might agree that all of us do. George Miller in an APA Presidential address advocated giving psychology away for human benefit. I will argue that we must do the same for I/O. But, I think that SIOP and I/O psychology can benefit as well from this action. This is not new. The current TIP describes a very successful pro bono project conducted by a committee of Division 14 in the early/mid 70s—the National Association of Secondary School Principals Assessment Center. I will not repeat here Paul Hersey’s excellent description of that project, except to say that it is the model for what I am advocating: I/O psychologists making a real-world difference for intrinsic reasons, but an effort which could help also to enhance I/O’s image and acceptance in society.

My former Penn State colleague, Frank Landy, when he and I were discussing this notion recently, suggested that SIOP "adopt" the District of Columbia government as a pro bono project, become its HR and OD "agency" and put the city back on its feet. A bold proposal! Perhaps too bold as a first new attempt, but this has stimulated thinking about the concept of pro bono work.

An avenue which I want to explore regarding pro bono projects is the development of SIOP linkages with the many local and regional I/O groups around the U.S. (See the April 1997 TIP for a listing of these groups). This is after all a talk about ORGANIZED I/O, and I have omitted any reference to them so far. This type of pro bono work is both a professional and a political enterprise. All politics are local. Local I/O groups are more likely than SIOP to have the contacts and the awareness of needs that are crucial to success. SIOP can serve as a catalyst, a resource, and a clearinghouse for such efforts. We can do good work and do good for ourselves.

We can also use this as a vehicle for building better academic-practice relations. We will need teams to work on such projects—teams of prac-titioners, academics, and students. Working together can build personal relationships that may have lasting effects. This may be a way for graduate students to gain skills related to practice; for academics to observe real-world-problems requiring varied research methodologies; for practitioners and academics to engage in Klimoski’s dialectic. I don’t want to belabor this idea, but it would seem to have many positive features that can help us as individuals and as a Society.

I should be clear that I usually persist with my ideas, so consider yourself forewarned: Someone may be talking to you about contributing some energy, expertise, and time to a local project. I hope you accept.

Before I close, I want us to remember that we have much to celebrate, not only tensions. We have more members and affiliates than ever before. Our annual conference is a roaring success—look at us all here—academics, practitioners, students. Think about your good SIOP friends—"I’s" and "O’s"; academics and practitioners. Mike Campion last year ended his talk with a typically compulsive and comprehensive listing of all the reasons that he, and all of us, can be proud to be an I/O psychologist. I will not attempt to top that; I agree too much with his list to compete with it.

I wish to end on a personal note—to thank the many teachers, colleagues, and students who have built for me a series of enabling environments—my undergraduate days at Georgia Tech; in grad school at Maryland; my faculty time at Penn State; and within Division 14 and SIOP—so that I might be able to open this conference today. Thanks to you all. May all enjoy their finest SIOP conference ever!