top of page
  • Writer's pictureJeremy Noble

What Can an Organizational Psychologist Do for You?




I recently moved to the charming little town of Opelika, Alabama. I attended a Rotary meeting for the first time last week, and during introductions someone asked me what I did for a living. When I told her that I’m an organizational psychologist, her reaction began with a flash of interest immediately followed by a puzzled look. She said, “Oh, is Opelika big enough for something like that?”


Much like my conversation with the Irishman that I referenced in my previous post, I had another realization: the term “organizational psychologist” can be misleading. It sounds like something that is exclusive to large corporations- to Organizations, with a capital O. That’s a problem. Organizational Psychology isn’t reserved for big businesses. It can benefit an entire community.


Organizational Psychology is simply the application of psychological principles to the workplace. Sure, large corporations have teams of organizational psychologists to run their hiring processes or study their marketing effectiveness, but small businesses can absolutely benefit too. Here are some examples of how a small business and I could be a good match.


Dental Practice


Rachel is the owner of a small dental practice. She bought an existing, failing dental office to merge with her own. However, since merging, she has had some unanticipated difficulties. The new staff members aren’t assimilating to the office norms well resulting in inconsistencies in procedures and lots of interpersonal conflict across the shop. Rachel doesn’t know what to do and is regretting what was otherwise a sound business decision and one she should have been excited about.


How could I help?


Rachel’s shop lacks unity. There’s an “us vs. them” mentality between the two groups causing turmoil and unnecessary stress for everyone. The practice lacks a collective cultural identity. Instead, it’s two cultures working side-by-side, competing for which one is best.


I could meet with Rachel for a series of coaching sessions to collaboratively develop ways to best integrate the new staff. Alternatively or additionally, we could plan a dedicated training day for the entire shop aimed to build team cohesion, formulate company goals, and collectively create the principles of the practice. Each staff member could take a personality test and I could facilitate a group discussion around the differences in staff member personalities and what that might mean for their interpersonal dynamics.


School District


Don is the superintendent for a small school district. From rapidly pivoting to remote platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic to fielding heated accusations by parents about school curriculum, the past few years have been chaotic for educators to say the least. Don has seen the effects firsthand with a wave of teacher resignations, greater absenteeism among staff, and even poorer student performance. He knows his school system is struggling, but he doesn’t know how to fix it or even where to start.


How could I help?


Based on Don’s concerns, I could develop a survey intended to measure psychological constructs that are associated with organizational health such as psychological safety, job satisfaction, employee engagement, etc. I could also meet with select faculty and staff from his schools to gain a better understanding of the nature of the problems. This has the added benefit of allowing his employees to feel like their concerns are heard and to know that Don is actively taking steps to address them. I would compile the assessment results into a report and engage in a collaborative discussion with Don to generate ways to improve his school district. If Don decided to make any changes, we could use the original survey as a baseline measurement of the district and readminister it at later dates to see if his changes were making a positive impact.


Property Management


Kim is the lead at a property management company. She can’t seem to keep steady employees. Most stick around for a few months before resigning. What’s more, her current employees are either too passive (the renters love them but the owners hate them) or they are too aggressive (the owners love them but the renters hate them) resulting in inconsistent rent collection and constant customer complaints.


How could I help?


It sounds like Kim’s employees struggle with assertive communication- that is, expressing their needs (e.g., calling a tenant to collect overdue rent) without violating the rights of others (e.g., being sarcastic or accusatory). It also sounds like employees may take confrontation personally resulting in either verbally attacking the customer or trying to avoid confrontation all together. I could put together a training for Kim’s staff that teaches how to communicate assertively and techniques to prevent employees from taking conflicts personally. If needed, I could also meet with employees individually for coaching sessions to provide further support and assistance for navigating difficult conversations.


Construction


Craig runs a medium-sized construction company. He keeps losing employees to competitors who offer a nominal increase in pay. Craig can’t afford to pay his employees more, but he also can’t afford to lose any more of them. His veteran employees and company leaders blame the current generation as the problem calling them lazy and entitled. With 40% of the construction workforce projected to retire in the next 10 years and the lack of employees available to backfill them, Craig worries his company may not survive the coming years.


How could I help?


Money is a shallow motivator. It’s necessary, yes, but there are deeper motivators that can keep Craig’s employees from jumping ship for a dollar more an hour. One place to start is with Craig’s foremen. Like most organizations, Craig's company leaders were promoted based on experience, not leadership skills. They received no formal training on how to lead others effectively and were forced to figure it out themselves. That's not good considering 50% of Americans admit they have left a job to get away from a toxic or ineffective leader. Having adequately trained leaders is vital for any business especially one that wants to keep its employees. I could build a leader development program for Craig’s company leaders aimed to improve their leadership skills which would, in turn, increase employee engagement and retention.


 

To many, Organizational Psychology may sound like something that only pertains to Fortune 500 companies. However, I would argue that its greatest beneficiaries are the smaller species of industry- the small businesses, schools, dental offices, police stations, construction companies, etc. Those are the organizations where it is most relevant as they are the foundation on which our society sits. Who else deserves a healthy, productive, and fulfilling workplace more?








46 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment


Jonathan Langley
Jonathan Langley
Mar 30, 2023

I have personnaly seen Dr. Noble's work and I was extremely impressed by his professionalism, passion, and results.

Like
bottom of page