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Psychology at Work

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Psychology at Work

Think about your first job or what you hope will be your first job. What do you look for in a job? What motivates you to do your best or only to do the bare minimum? How do you prepare well for an interview or remember information on the job? How do you resolve conflicts with coworkers as they come up? All of these questions relate to psychology in the workplace!

  • What does psychology do in the workplace?
  • What are psychological harassment, injury, and safety at work?
  • How does psychology help in workplace innovation?
  • What type of psychology focuses on the workplace?

Psychology in the Workplace

What does psychology have to do with jobs? You'd be surprised! Psychology is used nearly every day in every workplace in one way or another. Believe it or not, some jobs employ specific psychologists to study and create balance in the workplace. From offices to research labs, industrial-organizational psychologists focus on improving the work experience for employees and employers.

Suppose an organization struggles to develop a new structure after being bought out by a new company. In that case, it may hire an organizational psychologist to promote psychological safety and a smooth transition through all of the ongoing changes. This organizational psychologist will observe, assess, and determine what is working well and what needs to be modified to suit the needs and demands of the workplace.

Psychology is not only used by psychologists in the workplace but also by employees and employers. Some ways that psychology is used in the workplace include:

  • Achieving success through Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

  • Understanding emotions and how our work impacts them

  • Motivating employees to excel through reward programs

  • Group work and projects

  • Education and training in the workplace

  • Hiring and onboarding process

  • Self-assessments or employee observations

  • Access to resources for those in the workplace that need support or assistance

Psychological Harassment, Injury, and Safety at Work

Harassment, injury, and safety in the workplace are not always about physical health. Chances are you've experienced or will experience some type of psychological harm or injury at work.

Psychological Harassment at Work

Psychological harassment at work can look like nasty or hurtful comments from a co-worker. Of course, these comments aren't always made by a peer in the same position. Sometimes they are by a superior in the workplace, putting the employee in an even tougher spot. While this type of harassment is not physical, it can make someone feel like they are being targeted in an unsafe manner. Some examples of psychological harassment could include stealing someone's ideas and framing them as your own, discrimination in the workplace, or repeatedly targeting someone with negative words or insults.

In most situations, psychological harassment can be prevented or handled by human resources teams, but it can still negatively impact an individual. Being psychologically harassed can affect someone's ability to do their job effectively. If a person is being psychologically harassed, they might become more stressed, which can negatively impact their health.

Psychological Injury at Work

Psychological injury is when too much stress at work harms your mental state of mind, often leading to some type of mental disorder, including anxiety, depression, and phobias. Too much stress can lead to burnout, putting someone at higher risk of developing psychological injuries.

Burnout is chronic stress that stems from being overworked or physically and emotionally exhausted, causing a person to become unmotivated and unhappy in their job.

Psychological Safety at Work

Psychological safety in the workplace is an environment that allows employees to openly express their feelings and speak out about things that impact them. When employees feel psychologically safe, they often feel comfortable, motivated, and inspired to take on new ideas or tasks.

Employers may also see a slight increase in work performance if their employees feel psychologically safe, as employees tend to feel supported in decision-making when they are psychologically safe. Feeling psychologically safe at a workplace can make the difference between deciding if your workplace is just a job or a career.

Psychological safety might seem pretty straightforward, but it is more complicated than you think. The workplace is a dynamic, open group of people, with some employees resigning and some starting brand new. Some workplaces have a high turnover rate, which means they are constantly losing and gaining new employees. These changes and transitions make it more difficult for everyone to feel safe emotionally.

Psychological safety begins with an established sense of trust between the employee and the workplace. The employee knows what to expect from the employer, and the employer knows what kind of performance to expect from the employee. If the employee-employer relationship is healthy, employees can speak up and express concerns. If an employee feels nervous or scared at work, these feelings will impact their productivity.

Innovation at Work through Psychological Perspectives

Innovation at work can look like exchanging ideas, overcoming challenges, and using creativity to develop new solutions. Hiring onboarding personnel psychologists and organizational psychologists to come in, assess the workplace, and provide suggestions on how to improve the overall environment of the organization is another way to discover and implement innovative ideas.

These professionals may suggest changes to the hiring process, the office space, the workplace hierarchy, or the flow of communication from one person to another. Innovation in the workplace is one of the best things that a boss or employer can encourage in their employees.

Innovation involves creativity, diversity, and novelty. It allows employees to work in a more diverse environment and continuously improve the workplace.

Some ways to create an innovative workplace include:

  • Hiring people with different backgrounds and cultures

  • Asking employees to speak up about their ideas, thoughts, or issues regarding the workplace

  • Including a reward system for great work efforts and displays of appreciation

  • Encouraging teamwork

  • Allowing team members to get creative in expressing themselves

  • Make meetings and training fun, always offering employees the chance to contribute

Theories of Psychology in the Workplace

Many theories apply to psychology in the workplace for both employees and employers. Two important theories that help explain employee motivation are Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and the Effort-Reward Imbalance Model, focusing on achievement motivation.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

In general, employees try to achieve success through Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. There are five levels of achievement in Maslow's hierarchy: physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Maslow's theory states that we have to achieve these levels in order. We can't move on to the next and become more happy and motivated until the lower level is satisfied. We naturally become more motivated by each level of achievement we meet. Each step is a new level of motivation that keeps employees focused in the workplace.

Effort-Reward Imbalance Model

The effort-reward model of psychological work stress is based on the fact that people put in a bigger effort at their job if they feel appreciated through rewards. Rewards from employers include anything from higher pay, raises, promotions, or recognition. In turn, if someone does not receive rewards, they will most likely maintain low motivation and effort. This is also known as achievement motivation.

Psychology at Work - Key takeaways

  • From offices to research labs, industrial-organizational psychologists focus on improving the work experience for employees and employers.

  • Psychological harassment at work can look like nasty or hurtful comments from a co-worker, and psychological injury is when too much stress at work harms your mental state of mind, often leading to some type of mental disorder.

  • Psychological safety in the workplace is an environment that allows employees to openly express their feelings and speak out about things that impact them.

  • Hiring onboarding personnel psychologists and organizational psychologists to come in, assess the workplace, and provide suggestions on how to improve the overall environment of the organization is a great way to discover and implement innovative ideas.

  • In general, employees try to achieve success through the five levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging, esteem, and lastly, self-actualization.

Frequently Asked Questions about Psychology at Work

Work psychology can also meaniIndustrial-organizational psychology.

Psychological safety at work is an atmosphere that allows employees to express their feelings and speak out about things that impact how their needs are being met at work. 

One way to create psychological safety at work is to establish a sense of trust between the employee and the workplace. 

Psychology is used in the workplace to develop healthy relationships with employees and increase productivity.

Psychology can be improved in the workplace by hiring onboarding personnel and organizational psychologists.

Final Psychology at Work Quiz

Question

____________ refers to an activity that a person does that is rewarding in and of itself. In other words, someone completes the task for the sake of enjoyment in completing the task.

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Answer

Autotelic

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Question

Which of the following is not a required condition for the flow state?

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Answer

Easy and challenge-free goals

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Question

_______________ is when each moment responds to what happened immediately before, rather than a preexisting state within a person or environment.

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Answer

Emergent motivation

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Question

What are the 3 characteristics of flow?


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1) Altered sense of time

2) Sense of control

3) Merging of action and awareness.

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Question

Why is it easy to experience flow while playing sports?

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Answer

Due to the immediate feedback on performance, emergent motivation is high.

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Question

What is flow?


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Flow is the state in which a person is fully attentive to a task, functioning at their fullest capacity, and unaware of themselves or anything else other than the task at hand.

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Question

True or False? It is possible for someone to experience flow while gardening. 

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Answer

True

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Question

Why are positive psychologists interested in flow?


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Positive psychologists are interested in flow because it is the point at which a person is experiencing peak satisfaction and enjoyment while fully in the present moment.

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True or False? People rarely settle for a less optimal state of happiness or fulfillment in order to survive.

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Answer

False

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Question

Which of the following is a benefit of experiencing flow?


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Answer

All of these are benefits of experiencing flow.

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Question

True or False? People with mental health disorders can, in fact, reach a state of flow regardless of their mental health diagnosis.

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Answer

True

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Question

Which of the following can cause someone to come out of the flow state?

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Answer

All of these can cause someone to come out of the flow state.

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Question

Who first coined the term "flow"?

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Answer

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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Question

What did Lanfranchi et al. (2011) find?


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When given a Flow Questionnaire, 76 percent of the schizophrenic patients identified structured leisure activities such as mountain therapy as primary sources of flow in their lives.

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What was the significance of Voytilla (2006)?

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Answer

Voytilla (2006) found that many participants in art therapy reported that they experienced flow during the art-making process.  

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Industrial-organizational psychology is?

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Answer

used to improve the work experience for employees, while enhancing the workplace overall.

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Question

__________ _______ allows a person to express their feelings and speak out about things that impact how their needs are being met at work.


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Answer

Psychological safety

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Question

When an employee feels psychologically safe, they often feel...?

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Answer

Comfortable, motivated, and inspired to take on new ideas or tasks.

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Question

There needs to be an established sense of _____ between the employee and the workplace.

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Answer

trust

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Some examples of psychological harassment could include...

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Answer

stealing someone's ideas and framing them as your own, discrimination in the workplace, or repeatedly targeting someone with negative words or insults.

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Question

Psychological harassment can be prevented or handled by

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Answer

Management or Human Resources

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Question

The James-Lange Theory of Emotion, the Demand-Control Model of Stress, the Effort-Reward Imbalance Model, and the Person-environment fit theory are all theories of?

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Answer

Psychological Stress at Work

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Question

The theory that states that we have physical reactions when certain events occur that are a direct response to the environment.

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Answer

James-Lange theory of emotion

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Hiring who can improve innovation and the overall workplace?

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Answer

personnel psychologists and organizational psychologists

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This theory is based on the fact that people will put in a bigger effort at their job if they feel appreciated through rewards?

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Answer

Effort-Reward Imbalance Model

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Question

_______ ______ is when too much stress at work harms your mental state of mind, often leading to some type of mental disorder.

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Answer

Psychological injury

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Question

Some common mental disorders caused through psychological injury could include...?

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Answer

anxiety disorder, depression, phobias, or PTSD.

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Question

________ is stress that often stems from being overworked, physically, and emotionally exhausted.

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Answer

Burnout

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True/False: Psychological Injury can negatively impact someone's ability to do their job.

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Answer

True

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Question

What is one way an employer can create an innovative work environment?

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Answer

1) Hiring people with different backgrounds and cultures.

2) Asking employees to speak up about their ideas, thoughts, improvements, or issues they are having in the workplace.

3) Including a reward system for great work efforts or show appreciation

4) Encouraging teamwork

5) Allowing team members to get creative by allowing them to express themselves

6) Make meetings and training fun, always offering a chance for employees to contribute.

Show question

Question

Name one positive influence caused by Human Factors: 

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Answer

Increase in human productivity. 

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Name one negative influence caused by Human Factors:  

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Answer

Decrease in human productivity.  

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Question

How does occupational safety increase human productivity? 

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Answer

Occupational safety is used to guarantee that employees are safe in their working environment and when this is provided to workers, they can behave optimally because they do not have to worry about safety hazards.  

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Name one positive influence caused by Human Factors:  

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Answer

Technological advancements

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Why are human factors important?  


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Answer

Human Factors in Psychology is worth studying because it plays a role in everyday life. By understanding the interaction that humans have with tools and technology provided to them, we can observe the positive and negative impacts that each invention or advancement can have.  

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Question

How can automation decrease human productivity? 

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Answer

While automation in the work environment does create more time for humans to focus on other duties/tasks, it can also promote laziness and a decrease in overall performance because people don’t need to assert more effort in their work. 

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What is organizational psychology?

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Answer

Organizational psychology is a subfield of industrial-organizational (I/O) psychology that focuses on improving worker motivation, productivity, and satisfaction and the influence of work environments and management styles

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True or False? Organizational psychologists have found that lower job stress can support better health.

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Answer

True

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Question

Job satisfaction may also improve our overall job ________.

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Answer

performance

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What is employee engagement?

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Answer

Employee engagement

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Question

Which of the following attributes do engaged workers share?

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Answer

Fulfilled in their work

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Question

Define leadership.


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Answer

Leadership is the ability to promote group success through motivation and influence.

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A leader with a _________ leadership style will focus primarily on setting employee goals and give instruction on how to achieve those goals.

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Answer

directive

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A leader with a _______ leadership style will invite team members to contribute to decision-making and welcome creativity.

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Answer

democratic

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Leaders using a democratic leadership style will likely engage in ___________in which they prioritize building a team that works well, helping employees resolve conflict, and explaining their decisions.

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Answer

social leadership

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 Leaders using this style of leadership will engage in __________ in which they set standards, organize work, and help workers focus their attention on goals.


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Answer

task leadership

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Question

Who first created the bureaucratic theory?


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Answer

Max Weber

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Question

The ______________ and organizational psychology suggest that social bonds in the workplace and the acknowledgment of workers’ uniqueness can increase employee productivity and motivation.

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Answer

human relations theory

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What study is the human relations theory based on? 

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Answer

Hawthorne Plant of the Western Electric Company in Illinois.

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Question

What is the open system theory?


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Answer

The open system theory in organizational psychology suggests that an organization is the collection of many parts that share data and resources with its external environment.

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