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In the I-O Psychology Credibility Crisis, Talk Is Cheap

Dear Editor,

With the backdrop of science’s replication and now credibility crisis, triggered perhaps by psychology but now much broader than that, I-O psychology is finally beginning to reflect. This is great news. Deniz Ones and colleagues published a paper in the last issue of TIP providing some perspective on the unique version of this crisis that I-O now faces, a crisis not only of external credibility but also of internal credibility. In short, both I-O practitioners and the world more broadly increasingly do not believe that I-O academics have much useful to say or contribute to real workplaces.

In response to this, I suggest seven specific actions that almost any I-O psychologist can take to unravel this crisis before it worsens.  They are:

  1. If your paper is rejected from a journal because you purposefully and knowingly traded away some internal validity for external validity, complain loudly.  If the only way you can reasonably address a research question is by looking at correlational data inside a single convenient organization, the editor should not use criticisms of your sampling strategy as a reason to reject your paper.  Do not let journal gatekeepers get away with applying their own personal morality to your paper. Do not do this with the expectation or even hope that you will get your manuscript unrejected. Do this because it's right. Change one mind at a time.
  2. Prioritize submissions to journals that engage in ethical editorial practices (including but not limited to Journal of Business and Psychology and Personnel Assessment and Decisions). Even better, submit to such journals exclusively.  If you ignore journals engaging in poor practices, they will either adapt or disappear.
  3. Casually engage in the broader online community. I-O psychology is strangely quiet online, limited to Reddit, a handful of Facebook and LinkedIn groups, and an even smaller number of blogs. In the modern era, this lack of representation diminishes our influence. Speak up. You don't need to be sharing the results of a research study to have something worthwhile to say.
  4. It’s time for some difficult self-reflection: Is your research useless?  Does it tackle a pressing problem in organizations, either directly or indirectly? Can it be applied across multiple workplace settings? Are your effects practically meaningful?
  5. Share your research and perspective beyond the borders of I-O psychology.  We all have a shared responsibility to conduct research and spread it not only among each other but also among all decision makers in the world.
  6. Innovate by seeking out what I-O-adjacent fields are doing and learn all about them as if you were in graduate school again (or still are). This is not just a matter of our field’s health.  Many bread-and-butter I-O psychologists can already be replaced with algorithms, and this will only get worse in the coming years. Make sure you have a skill set that can't be automated, and if you're at risk of being automated, go get more skill sets.
  7. Accept that sometimes, engineering can be more important than science. You must actively try to be both a scientist of psychology and an engineer of organizational solutions. When your engineering project is successful, remember to trumpet the value of I-O psychology for getting you there.

After publishing this list and background on my blog, I had numerous conversations about these recommendations at SIOP.  I remain convinced that they are a valuable first step towards fixing I-O, and I encourage you to adopt them immediately.

Signed

Richard N. Landers

(This letter was excerpted from http://neoacademic.com/2017/04/05/fixing-o-psychology-talk-cheap/)



 Dear Tara,

We agree with Ones, Kaiser, Chamorro-Premuzic, and Svenson (2017) about the need to close the gap between scientist and practitioners.  We have research models that have been tested and proven under rigorous peer reviewers and now require proactive effort by professionals in organizations to bring these evidence-based methods into broad practice.  This is how the medical and other science-based professions transfer research to practice.  Today many leading-edge firms are giving our methods and models opportunities to prove their contributions to their companies’ health and profit (Deal & Levenson, 2016).

Take for example, that in order to be effective change agents, HRM professionals need to be trained in executive coaching principles and practices, as well as in the latest thinking and practice of design-focused team culture.  Education in values, issues, priorities and preferred work environments of millennial workers is also a recommended learning agenda to ensure alignment of the latest talent management strategies (Canedo, Graen & Grace, forthcoming).

By following this plan, HRM leaders can more successfully align performance management (PM) strategy with existing business priorities for innovation, gaining executive recognition and avoiding what could be an expensive and lengthy battle to upend current PM standards and practices.  HRM professionals can expand their skills portfolio and satisfy the growing need within new collaborative teams that are increasingly the major decision-making structures in business enterprise.  By taking the role of coach and facilitator of team processes, HR professionals can more fully support management, enable the establishment of team contracts, improve the work flows within teams, and achieve the eventual institutionalization of continuous team performance conversions and monitoring that will replace the dreaded usual performance appraisal and its negative outcomes. 

My two practitioner coauthors, Miriam at Boeing and Bill at Metrus, and I, a supporter of SIOP, think that the scientist–practitioner divide should be viewed as a bridge.  We hope to encourage the active partnership roles of discovering the regularities in our field and making them useful in organizations. We submit this brief letter of encouragement.  We think that in our field, SIOP should become that bridge.  What do you think?

 

Miriam Grace, The Boeing Company

William Schiemann, Metrus Group

George Graen, Keio, Illinois, USTHK

Canedo, J. C., Graen, G. B., & Grace, M. (forthcoming). Let's make performance management work for new hires: They are the future SHRM-SIOP White Paper.

Deal, J. J., & Levenson, A. (2016). What millennials want from work: How to maximize engagement in today’s workforce. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Ones, O. S., Kaiser, R. S., Chamorro-Premuzic & Svenson, C. (2017).  Has industrial-organizational psychology lost its way?  TIP, 54(4). Retrieved from http://www.siop.org/tip/april17/lostio.aspx