Thursday, June 30, 2011

Improving Organization Retention

When organizations fail to retain quality employees, they are left with an understaffed and unqualified workforce who will ultimately affect the organization's ability to be competitive (Hausknecht, Rodda, & Howard, 2009). Retention is a critical element of a functioning organization, which has a direct relationship to the managerial skills within the workplace. Organizations must implement strategies designed to improve programs for attracting, developing, retaining, and utilizing people fairly, equitably, and professionally. Job satisfaction is conducive to a positive work environment that will enable JC's Casino to meet current and future business needs (Hausknecht, Rodda, & Howard, 2009).

Work Motivation Theories

Reinforcement Theory

Reinforcement theory describes how rewards or reinforcements affect behavior. Based on Skinnerian theory, the concept of reinforcement does not focus on internal states such as motivation, but explains behavior as a function of the individual's reinforcement history - the behavior that has brought rewards in the past. Skinner believed people are controlled by their environment and are not necessarily free. Although it appears people are motivated by internal causes, usually the causes can be related to the environment (Feist & Feist, 2009). Reinforcement theory claims behavior is a response to the environment. According to this theory, behaviors rewarded within the organization will be repeated. Furthermore, people will perform in specific ways they believe will lead to rewards (Spector, 2008).

In the case of JC's Casino, the employees are not receiving rewards and their performance continues to deteriorate with absences and tardiness until they eventually quit. They are overworked and their performance goes unnoticed and unappreciated. While the housekeeping staff makes a reasonable effort to obtain new employees, the existing housekeepers need to be motivated by a solid reward structure. Until the housekeeping staff is fully prepared, providing an external reward for accomplished tasks will perpetuate a reinforcement history and the housekeepers' desire to perform will be repeated. Rewards can be simple such as movie tickets, grocery coupons, or services already offered in the casino.

Justice Theory

Justice theories state people value fair and equitable treatment by their organizations.  People value fair treatment, which motivates them to maintain fairness within their organizational relationships (Guerrero, Andersen, & Afifi, 2007). Equity in the workplace is based on the relationship between inputs and outcomes. Inputs are the contributions made by the employee for the organization. When people are treated fairly and equitably, ordinarily they will change the level of their performance in the organization (Spector, 2008).

People are motivated to seek equilibrium. When a situation is out of balance, individuals are typically unhappy, unmotivated, and have a sense of dissonance or tension. According to Spector (2008), people compare themselves to others to assure themselves they are receiving as much for the same job as the person next to them. Fairness is an element people integrate into their perceptions of life, work, and family life, and it is a necessary ingredient in the health and well-being of the workforce.

In the case of the housekeepers at JC's Casino, regardless of the quality or quantity of their work, they are pushed to work harder and produce more. Treatment is neither fair nor equitable and their performance goes unrewarded. Without change to the management's expectations, the housekeeping staff has become angry, resentful, and unmotivated. New housekeepers must be recruited. Additionally, the dealers' work environment is supervised by a manager who is toxic, overbearing, evil, and incompetent. The human resources director must confront the owner about his step-son's supervisory performance at work. Without addressing this component of JC's organizational problems, the casino's ability to retain dealers will continue to deteriorate.

                                               Occupational Stressors and Alleviations

According to Spector (2008), "a job stressor is a condition or situation at work that requires an adaptive response on the part of the employee" (p. 292). A variety of stressors in the work environment can be stressful for employees. Conflicts between supervisors and coworkers can be especially stressful as well as heavy workloads (Spector, 2008). Research claims excessive workloads have psychological, physical, and behavioral effects and can lead to anxiety, frustration, job dissatisfaction, and the intention to quit (Hausknecht, Rodda, & Howard, 2009). Interpersonal conflicts between coworkers or supervisors can have the same effects. Employee perception that supervisors "engage in self-serving behavior in which they put their own interests above those of the organization" is a significant stressor as well (Spector, 2008, p. 297).

Stressors for the housekeepers include the staff shortage, which requires the current staff to clean more rooms per day than their counterparts. This situation puts additional strain on the administrative staff who is consistently asked to clean rooms, which is not a regular part of their job description. One of the first quick fixes is to find additional staffing for the housekeeping department. Recruitment should be the task of the human resources director and should be accomplished immediately. Once additional staff is selected and trained, the fundamental problems associated with understaffing will be resolved. Full staffing will relieve stress and promote staff retention.

                                Job Satisfaction and its Influence on Employee Retention

Job satisfaction at the casino has been minimally accommodated until now. The complaints of the dealers in exit interviews has not been addressed because the human resources director is afraid to confront the owner about his step-son. Equally as distressing is the director's inability to hire a sufficient staff to accommodate the casino's needs. Ultimately, it may be in the casino's best interest to retrain the human resources director, or recruit a new department manager who will not be afraid to accommodate the needs of the employees prior to facilitating his fear to make necessary decisions. The human resources director should play a key role in recruiting staff for housekeeping.

Job dissatisfaction is pervasive throughout the staff at the casino. The managerial staff has suffered role ambiguity because of being asked to work as housekeepers. Several are applying for positions elsewhere. The dealers stay with the casino on average two months because of Joe's unprofessional supervisory behavior. The housekeeping staff is overworked and many of the employees are looking for new jobs. This department must be fully staffed immediately, which will resolve problems in this area. Furthermore, the housekeepers should be compensated in some way for responding to the overbearing needs of the department.

To maintain dealer retention, Joe, the pit boss, needs to be appropriately trained in professional managerial protocol. Toxic, overbearing, evil, and incompetent behavior are characteristics mutually exclusive to successful management. Removing Joe or addressing and changing his poor management skills is essential to regain dealer retention. No organization can subject employees to incompetent, degrading, and unprofessional management, and expect to retain them.

The human resources director needs training to learn adequate employee selection and training practices and to gain a more lucid understanding of how important employee retention is to the organization. Research has identified extrinsic rewards, organizational commitment, and fair and equitable treatment as reasons for staying with a company. Extrinsic rewards are particularly important for hourly employees (Hausknecht, Rodda, & Howard, 2009). A human resources manager should understand and implement an effective approach to retention management that involves understanding and addressing the goals of the organization (Hausknecht, Rodda, & Howard, 2009).

                                                   Counterproductive Employee Behavior
Counterproductive behavior in the work environment has far-reaching implications that affect employees throughout the organization (Yang, 2008). Such behavior has a negative, indirect association with well-performing employees if they perceive the general climate as negative. Generating a ripple effect, counterproductive behavior not only affects the target of the behavior but also a second tier consisting of observers or those witnessing the behavior (Yang, 2008). Counterproductive behavior at the casino includes Joe's unprofessional supervision of the dealers, the director of housekeeping's inability to staff his department, and the casino's human resources director, Tom Sneed's inability to identify and reconcile the necessary changes in supervisors.

Although the housekeeper's complicit behavior can be construed as counterproductive, their absenteeism is a direct result of mismanagement, and it is assumed their behavior will correct itself under more professional and appropriate management. In addition to suggestions made under the heading of "Organizational Stressors and Alleviations," training is highly recommended for the human resources director. Understanding how to select and properly train employees is a crucial element in maintaining a productive staff. Immediate efforts must be made to fully staff the housekeeping department. This should be facilitated by the human resources director in association with the director of housekeeping.

Furthermore, regarding the counterproductive behavior of the pit boss, the owner should be fully apprised of the situation with a recommendation for his step-son's immediate removal. His expertise may be implemented in another department if he is properly trained and develops useable professional skills. It is essential the owner understands the implication of imploying his step-son in a supervisory position. Dealers are an integral part of the casino's organizational community, and without retaining the best, the company will suffer.


An organization's success depends on implementing motivational theories to maintain employee retention. Equally critical is removing occupational stressors that negatively and chronically affect retention. Creating a positive work environment is essential to the health and well-being of an organization because job satisfaction is directly correlated to keeping performing employees. Counterproductive behavior must be reduced. As explained by Felps, Mitchell, and Byington (2006), "seeing others act against the legitimate interests of an organization makes those behaviors more mentally accessible and lowers a worker’s inhibitions about behaving in a similar fashion" (p. 219).


Felps, W., Mitchell, T., & Byington, E. (2006). How, when, and why bad apples spoil the barrel: negative group members and dysfunctional groups. Research in Organizational Behavior, 27, 175-222. doi: 10.1016/S0191-3085(06)27005-9

Feist, J. & Feist, G. J. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Guerrero, L. K., Andersen, P. A., & Afifi, W. A. (2007). Close encounters: communication in relationships. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Hausknecht, J. P., Rodda, J., & Howard, M. J. (2009). Targeted employee retention: performance-based and job-related differences in reported reasons for staying. Human Resource Management, 48(2), 269-288. doi: 10.1002/hrm.20279

Spector, P. E. (2008). Industrial and organizational psychology: research and practice (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Yang, J. (2008). Can't serve customers right? An indirect effect of co-workers' counterproductive behaviour in the service environment. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 81(1), 29-46. doi: 10.1348/096317907X203742

Monday, June 27, 2011

Psychological Testing in the Workplace

Psychological testing has found a valuable place in selecting and retaining employees. Psychological tests measure a variety of characteristics and traits, including personality. Ultimately, they are used to match a person's capacities and qualifying characteristics to a job within an organization. Other than employee selection, testing accommodates the retention of employees through assessing their abilities and performance along with other important information. Although ethical issues exist, many types of psychological testing is both valid and reliable and a benefit for both the prospective or current employee and the organization when used appropriately (Spector, 2008).

Specific Psychological Testing used in the Workplace

Psychological tests are standardized questions or problems that assist in assessing a specific characteristic or group of characteristics in an individual (Spector, 2008). Typically, they assess knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes, interests, and personality types. They are usually easily applied, completed quickly, and often made to assess several characteristics in one test. Many companies and websites have tests available online, which makes the application easier for the taker and the organization (Spector, 2008).

Personality Tests

Personality Tests assess innate predispositions and tendencies to behave in similar ways in different situations. Some personality types can predict certain behaviors that may be important in certain jobs and organizations (Spector, 2008). These tests can provide an abundance of information on a single trait or entire personality profiles. Furthermore, personality tests can assess the Big Five personality dimensions of extroversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, openness to experience, and conscientiousness. Understanding personality types can be valuable in determining appropriate candidates for specific jobs. For example, in a position that requires sales and constant communication with people, finding someone who leaned toward extroversion might be more accommodating for the organization's goals (Spector, 2008). For a forest ranger, the traits of emotional stability and openness to experience may positively affect job performance.

Emotional Intelligence Test

Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions appropriately (Spector, 2008). This type of intelligence is neither a personality trait nor a cognitive ability, but a developed emotional state. Theoretically, a well-developed emotional intelligence enables specific social skills and may influence how people affect others. In an organizational setting, this type of person would be beneficial in a supervisory or managerial position. Furthermore, people who receive high scores on these tests are likely to be skilled at interpreting, understanding, and using emotions appropriately. They are competent in social or emotional conflicts, they express their feelings well, and do not hesitate to deal with emotional situations. Evidence on various emotional intelligence tests suggests this test can predict job performance, especially when trying to determine leadership characteristics (Spector, 2008).

Integrity Test

The integrity test is designed to identify levels of integrity. This test does not rate the moral values of an individual, but it quantifies patterns of behavior. In an organizational setting, it may predict which employees will be dishonest or engage in behavior deviant to the notion of a positive workforce. Theoretically, the test can predict cheating, sabotage, theft, and unethical behavior (Spector, 2008). One integrity test called the personality integrity test measures personality traits that have been associated with undermining behavior. Research suggests integrity tests can predict such behavior and job performance and "may do a better job of predicting absence, general counterproductive behavior, and job performance than theft" (Wanek, 1999, as cited by Spector, 2008, p. 120).

Psychological Testing for Pre-employment or Retention

Psychological tests are not only used for interviews for selecting employees. They may be used during employment as a developmental exercise, or as part of a job performance evaluation (Spector, 2008). The personality tests, especially the MBTI are widely used in both employee selection, and employee development and advancement. Emotional Intelligence tests are usually used in pre-employment applications although they continue to be used in some retention applications. The Integrity test is most often used in a pre-employment evaluation and might be considered somewhat insulting when used in a retention application. Organizations hope when they use psychological tests for employee selection, they will choose more appropriate applicants. Choosing the best candidates for jobs ultimately translates to a higher retention rate (Spector, 2008). This is the hope, although there are no guarantees from scientific evaluation. In the case of employee retention, testing can help both the organization and the employee identify strengths, weaknesses, growth, and change in performance (Spector, 2008).

Validity and Reliability Issues of Psychological Testing

Good testing results in better predictions of job performance but their predictions are not perfect. A good test is reliable and valid. A reliable test works the same each time it is given, and a valid test measures what it aims to measure. For example, an English language reading comprehension test would not be valid when given to someone who was only fluent in another language. Some tests are more reliable than others (Spector, 2008). Multiple items on a test facilitate increased reliability as single item measures can be made unreliable if the test taker misinterprets or misreads any one item.

Regarding the emotional intelligence test, some researchers have suggested this test measures long-established variables like cognitive ability or aspects of personality. The validity of the test's construct continues to be disputed, and additional research is necessary (Spector, 2008). With integrity tests, it is difficult to determine how reliable the test is at predicting stealing. Most employees who steal are never caught, so an organization would not know which employees were dishonest. Spector (2008) supports these tests as reliable predictors of other useful work behavior such as work performance.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most popular personality tests and is taken by two and a half million Americans each year (Psychometric Success, n.d.). Eighty-nine companies out of the Fortune 100 companies use if for recruitment and selection, and to assist employees in self-understanding or to understand co-workers. A National Academy of Sciences committee reviewed data from the MBTI and concluded it "has not demonstrated adequate validity, and at this time, there is not sufficient, well-designed research to justify the use of the MBTI in career counseling programs" (Boyle, 1995, p. 5), which is what it is most often used for (Psychometric Success, 2010). Bjork and Druckman (1991) claim the MBTI's popularity is far greater than the scientific research supporting it.

Ethical Issues in Psychological Testing

There is an interesting conundrum in contemporary psychological testing. Test construction has become more specialized and the techniques of the tests have become considerably more defining, although there has been insufficient research on the interpretation of test scores. Theoretical claims are not always backed by solid science (Boyle, 1995). Some of the popular objections to the ethics in psychological testing include their ability to invade privacy, the inability of organizations to honor confidentiality, and the communication of test results. Furthermore, many claim the tests are inadequate and are often misused (Anastasi, 1967). Other objections regard some psychological tests as biased against culturally disadvantaged groups, and some tests foster a narrow conception of ability. More research is necessary before prospective employees and those seeking advancement can count on the accuracy of psychological testing (Anastasi, 1967).

If the "pressures of reality lead us to establish policy-based self-regulation in psychological assessment, it would seem imperative to include at the same time formal provisions for its continuing reappraisal" (Messick, 1965, p. 141). According to the American Psychological Association (2011), there are specific rights of test-takers, and organizations must facilitate compliance (American Psychological Association, 2011). At no time should an organization ask questions about disabilities, sexual orientation, sexual practices, with whom one lives, religious beliefs or ethnic background are inappropriate although not necessarily illegal (USA Today, 2001).


Under the best of circumstances, and when used appropriately, psychological testing in the workplace can assist organizations in making judgments on prospective employees, and for the successful retention of current employees. A large percentage of companies apply tests for employee selection, retention, and advancement, even though many experts question their reliability and validity. Several types of tests are implemented regularly, such as the widely used MBTI, which may have little scientifically proven effectiveness, yet demonstrates ongoing popularity. Psychological testing measures are fraught with ethical issues and they need continued scientific exploration. As they evolve, they will find their rightful and appropriate position in the workplace.


American Psychological Association. (2011). Rights and responsibilities of test takers: guidelines and expectations. American Psychological Association (APA). Retrieved June 12, 2011, from

Anastasi, A. (1967). Psychology, psychologists, and psychological testing. American Psychologist, 22(4), 297-306. doi: 10.1037/h0024521

Boyle, G. J. (1995). Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): some psychometric limitations. Australian Psychologist, 30(1), 71-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-9544.1995.tb01750.x

Bjork, R. A., & Druckman, D. (1991). In the mind's eye: Enhancing human performance.

Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Cherry, K. (n.d.). What's your EQ? - emotional intelligence test. Psychology - Complete Guide to Psychology for Students, Educators & Enthusiasts. Retrieved June 10, 2011, from

Messick, S. (1965). Personality measurement and the ethics of assessment. American Psychologist, 20(2), 136-142. doi: 10.1037/h0021712

Psychometric Success. (2010). Myers-Briggs widely used but still controversial. Psychometric Testing. Retrieved June 10, 2011, from http://www.psychometric-

Spector, P. E. (2008). Industrial and organizational psychology: research and practice (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

USA Today. (2001, January 29). Illegal interview questions. Careers and Workplace. Retrieved June 12, 2011, from

Cross-Cultural Psychology

Cross-cultural psychology includes studies of subjects from two or more cultures, using equivalent methods of measurement, to determine the limits within which general psychological theories do hold, and the kinds of modifications of these theories that are needed to make them universal (Triandis & Brislin, 1984, p. 1007).

Cross-cultural psychology uses critical thinking and scientific research as tools that enable lucid strategies for inquiry, observation, and problem solving between countries and cultures (Shiraev & Levy, 2010).  This branch of psychology is inextricably entwined with cultural psychology, which provides the basic units for cultural psychology's measure and comparison.

Defining Cross-Cultural Psychology
"Cross-cultural psychology is the critical and comparative study of cultural effects on human psychology" (Shiraev & Levy, 2010, p. 2).   In this comparative field, at least two cultural groups are observed and compared by the essential component of critical thinking.  Cross-cultural psychology studies the "links between cultural norms and behavior and the ways in which particular human activities are influenced by different, sometimes dissimilar social and cultural forces" (Segall et al., 1990 as cited by Shiraev & Levy, 2010, p. 2).  This psychology studies interactions between cultures, defines their differences, and determines commonalities and psychological universals between them.  Cross-cultural studies not only address psychological diversity, but also the reasons for such diversity.  One essential outcome of these studies is determining universal applications appropriate for all people, whether they are coping with extreme traumatic events, or finding ways to circumvent and surmount the normal and average, although vexing, difficulties of human existence.
Cross-cultural psychology assumes it is difficult, if not impossible to understand the psychology of a people without first understanding their indigenous ideologies (Shiraev & Levy, 2010).  Behaviors must be judged according to cultural rules and ideologies or the judgment has no basis in the reality embraced by the culture (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991).  Any judgment placed on behavior in another culture must be embedded in a parameter that considers the underlying functions of the cultural context in which the behavior occurs (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991). 

The Relationship between Cultural and Cross-cultural Psychology
Cross-cultural psychology is a comparison between at least two cultural groups, and cultural psychology is the study that seeks to discover systematic relationships between culture and psychological variables (Shiraev & Levy, 2010).  Cultural psychology investigates meaningful links between a culture and the psychology of individuals living within that culture, and believes the behavior of individuals within a culture must be observed within the particular sociocultural context for specific behavior to be meaningful.  Cross-cultural psychology envelopes the products of individual cultures and their respective psychologies, and identifies the significant variations and dissimilarities between them (Triandis, Malpass, & Davidson, 1971).  Whereas cultural psychology refines its study within one culture, cross-cultural psychology is a broader and more encompassing perspective that incorporates many refined cultural studies.  Cross-cultural psychology could not exist without the more focal study of individual culture and its effect on the individual (Shiraev & Levy, 2010).  

Critical Thinking and its Role in Cross-cultural Psychology
According to Shiraev & Levy (2010), critical thinking is an essential and fundamental component of learning upon which psychology relies.  The thought processes involved in critical thinking are cognitive tools that enable lucid strategies for inquiry, observation, and problem solving and simultaneously limit biased, rigid, apathetic, and simplistic thinking (Shiraev & Levy, 2010).  Human nature necessitates the implementation of critical thinking for several reasons inherent in the observation of cultures that vary from one's own.  When facing uncertain foreign cultural exchanges and situations, a natural human response is to impose one's own perspectives to resolve behavioral ambiguities (Stewart & Bennett, 2006).  It becomes difficult to suspend judgment on unfamiliar behaviors although they are normal for the culture.  People tend to measure others (often unconsciously) by their own cultural norms and expectations, and it is typical and normal to presume the superiority of their own culture (Stewart & Bennett, 2006). 
 According to the notion of self-fulfilling prophecy, when individuals hold beliefs and attitudes toward other people or make invalid and thoughtless assumptions, especially those of other cultures, without knowing, these conjectures contribute to and produce the expected behaviors.  Critical thinking facilitates holding accurate, lucid, and evolving beliefs and attitudes toward others.  An unfortunate intrinsic mechanism of human nature is belief perseverance by which people stubbornly cling to beliefs even in the presence of disconfirming evidence.  Other forms of human bias and inaccuracy include the Barnum effect, the availability bias, fundamental attribution error, and failure to acknowledge the difference between causation and correlation, and multiple causality (Shiraev & Levy, 2010).  In communicating and making observations cross-culturally, it is essential to refrain from continually supporting beliefs that serve no purpose other than to alienate and ostracize one group of individuals from another.  Critical thinking prevents this type of lazy and rigid thinking.  Cross-cultural psychologists need to avoid biases of generalization and yet realize that cultural comparisons require a great deal of imagination and abstraction when culturally diverse and unique underlying factors exist (Shiraev & Levy, 2010).  

Methodology Associated with Cross-cultural Psychology

The four fundamental goals of research in cross-cultural psychology are description, interpretation, prediction, and management (Shiraev & Levy, 2010).  Research methodology is divided into two types: quantitative and qualitative.  The former uses a comparative perspective and employs measures of central tendency such as the mean, median, and mode to establish similarities, differences, and other statistical relationships.  The latter is a type of research conducted in natural settings or when there are difficulties measuring variables.  Qualitative methods are useful when "when dealing with phenomena that are difficult to measure (such as dreams, pictures, drawings, songs), [or when] subjects or topics for which standardized measures are not suited or not available" (Shiraev & Levy, 2010, p.31).

The researcher must first identify the goals, and then determine the most appropriate method to accomplish them.  Quantitative research measures human activity and makes comparisons with empirical study using observation rather than more subjective forms of reflection.  In essence, the quantitative approach looks for relationships, or correlations between two or more variables (Shiraev & Levy, 2010).  Cross-cultural psychology uses correlational approaches to establish an association between two or more variables, and the t-test, which estimates "whether the difference between two samples occurred by chance" (Shiraev & Levy, 2010, p. 50).  When using quantitative research, it is imperative to understand correlation does not mean causation. 

An application-oriented strategy attempts to determine how research discoveries can be applied to countries or cultures other than the one in which the findings were identified.  A comparativist strategy places emphasis on the similarities and differences in a sample of cultures (Shiraev & Levy, 2010).  A variety of psychological methods of investigation are used in cross-cultural psychology:  observation, survey, content-analysis, experiment, psychobiography, focus-group methods, and meta-analysis, and each method has a particular use according to the situation in which it is used.  One of the difficulties in cross-cultural investigations is the need to translate from one language to another in such a way that nothing is lost or incorrectly translated (Shiraev & Levy, 2010).  When analyzing cross-cultural data, some psychologists take an absolutist approach, which claims psychological phenomena are the same in all cultures.  Others lean more toward a relativist approach, which contends human behavior can be understood only when judged and observed within a contextual parameter that accommodates the psychological individuality of the culture in which the behavior occurs (Shiraev & Levy, 2010; Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991). 

In the comparative field of cross-cultural psychology, the goal is to study interactions between cultures, define differences, and determine commonalities and psychological universals between them.  Cross-cultural studies address psychological diversity as well as why the diversity exists (Shiraev & Levy, 2010).  The relationship between cultural and cross-cultural psychology is interdependent, and cross-cultural psychology could not exist without the microcosmic view of cultural psychology (Triandis, Malpass, & Davidson, 1971).  The scientific scrutiny under which the two psychologies are held requires critical thinking to identify information correctly and free from human bias and inaccuracy. 


Shiraev, E. B. & Levy, D. A. (2010). Cross-cultural psychology: critical thinking and         contemporary applications (4th ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn Bacon.

Solomon, S., Greenberg, J., & Pyszczynski, T. (1991). Advances in experimental social      psychology. San Diego: Academic Press.

Stewart, E. C., & Bennett, M. J. (2006). American cultural patterns: a cross-cultural perspective. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.

Triandis, H. C., & Brislin, R. W. (1984). Cross-cultural psychology. American Psychologist,          39(9), 1006-1016. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.39.9.1006

Triandis, H. C., Malpass, R. S., & Davidson, A. R. (1971). Cross-cultural psychology. Biennial     Review of Anthropology, 7, 1-84.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Job Analysis

Job analysis is a way to describe the tasks of a job and the attributes necessary to accomplish them effectively (Spector, 2008). There are two basic approaches to job analysis, the job-oriented and the person-oriented approaches. The former provides information about the job and the important tasks associated with it, and the latter describes the attributes necessary for the job. Job analysis provides an apparently simple function, although it is an essential and foundational component upon which other functions are built (Spector, 2008). Although performance appraisals are often limited by the frailty of human accuracy, they are an equally essential component in maintaining employee compliance, safety, and well-being within the organization (Spector, 2008).

Functional Job Analysis: Sommelier


Sommeliers assist customers to identify wines that complement their meals and their tastes. They develop wine lists, advise customers on food and wine pairings, maintain wine stock, store wines appropriately, and tastes wines. Individuals must have knowledge and extensive experience in fine dining. This job has a limited amount of supervision and individuals must be self-motivated (Occupational Informational Network, 2006).

Knowledge ranked by importance

Using categories designed by the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), the most important knowledge attributes include customer and personal service, sales and marketing, English language, food production, mathematics, clerical, and psychology (Occupational Informational Network, 2006).

Skills ranked by importance

The most important skills include service orientation, speaking, active listening, social perceptiveness, reading comprehension, product inspection, and information gathering (Occupational Informational Network, 2006).

Abilities Ranked by Importance

Elements of ability are memorization, oral expression, speech clarity, oral comprehension, manual dexterity, information ordering, auditory attention, speech recognition, written comprehension, fluency of ideas, originality, selective attention, and problem sensitivity.

Work Activities Ranked by Importance

Work activities include judging qualities of things, services, or people, communicating with persons outside the organization, monitoring and controlling resources, providing consultation and advice to others, establishing and maintaining relationships, and selling or influencing others (Occupational Informational Network, 2006) .

Work Context Ranked by Importance

This job position provides service to others, works indoors, deals with customers, stands most of the time, requires social interaction, persuasion, using hands-on tools, and constant walking.

Functional Job Analysis (FJA) is a person-oriented job analysis, which uses observations and interviews with experts and experienced operators to provide adequate and multi-dimensional descriptions of jobs while clarifying relevant tasks and necessary experience for potential employees (Fine, 1974). FJA enables organizations to achieve statistical reliability in defining job information, clarify training needs, and support employee growth as an essential component of the organization (Fine, 1974). FJA scores on different aspects of a job, and uses the same dimensions on all job descriptions making it easier to make comparisons (United States Department of Labor, 1991). This type of job analysis clarifies employees' tasks and the attributes necessary for their accomplishment, defines attributes necessary for advancement, and sets criteria by which employees will be evaluated (Spector, 2008). FJA contributes valuable information for setting salaries, job classifications, design and planning, and accommodates legal compliance to fairness in employment (Spector, 2008).

Evaluation of Reliability and Validity of Functional Job Analysis

FJA is a reliable and valuable tool for defining and describing many dimensions of a job. Evidence suggests levels of validity are highest when information is obtained by a variety of sources, such as incumbents, supervisors, or managers. Functional job analysis contains subjective data, and depends on the accuracy, objectivity, and analytical ability of its information sources (Spector, 2008). Measuring the consistency, reliability, and validity of non-quantitative data is difficult. Although research suggests reasonable validity in most job analysis, Spector (2008) suggests there has been inadequate research focused on the validity of job analysis in general. The descriptive data for FJA listed in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, and in the Department of Labor's O*NET online database were obtained from a wide variety of sources, and descriptions are reasonably valid, reliable, and accurate (United States Department of Labor, 1991).

Various Performance Appraisal Methods

The two commonly used appraisal methods are objective performance measures and subjective judgments (Spector, 2008). Objective measures are quantitative counts of specific behaviors such as sick days taken, sales amounts or number of accounts opened. Subjective measures are assessments made by supervisors or other superiors in a position to observe and scrutinize the employee's performance. Research supports the usefulness of both methods, although when both are applied to the same employee, the two assessments do not necessarily agree on the quality of performance (Spector, 2008).

Objective Measures of Job Performance

The five common objective measures of job performance are absences, accidents, incidents at work, late arrivals, and productivity. All of these categories account for behaviors that affect performance. Records are usually kept on these facts and are easily accessed for performance appraisals. For effectiveness, the objective measure used to assess performance must match the nature of the work accomplished (Spector, 2008).

Subjective Measures

Subjective measure assessments are used more often than objective ones, but are subject to personal bias and the mistakes of human judgment. Rating forms help to increase accuracy of appraisals. The Graphic Rating Form is the most popular type of subjective measure and assesses several dimensions of an individual's performance. The Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scales are measures that present with vertical scale points ranging from five to nine (Spector, 2008). In the mixed standard scales the rater must indicate how closely an employee fits the statement, exceeds the statement, or is not as good as the statement (Dickinson & Zellinger, 1980; Spector, 2008).

Benefits and Vulnerabilities of Performance Appraisal Methods

Schwab, Heneman, and De Cotiis (1975) question whether "performance should be viewed and measured as a single overall composite, or as a multidimensional construct consisting of several independent performance dimensions" (p. 550). The meaning of objective measures can be easy to interpret in relation to job performance criteria (Spector, 2008). Numerical measures do not have to be interpreted, and they can be compared across various jobs. Furthermore, objective measures can be associated to the goals of the business, and easily maintained in organizational records, enabling easier future performance appraisals (Spector, 2008).

Objective performance measures are limited in jobs that do not use countable production or when productivity is not part of job performance. Furthermore, some criteria are not well described, such as determining the acceptable number of absences that reflect good job performance (Spector, 2008). Saved data can be erroneous and inaccurate, and may contain attribution errors. In using objective performance measures, incidents may go unreported along with omissions from biased individuals. Unfortunately, this type of measurement considers quantity rather than quality and lacks consideration for the broader scope of the employee's performance (Spector, 2008).

Subjective rating scales provide a more dimensional picture of employee performance. Rather than limiting appraisal to quantitative data, it includes qualitative information, which, in many jobs is far more important to an organization's bottom line in the long-term (Spector, 2008). Although subjective rating scales are an accurate method for rating behavior and performance, they can be unreliable, contain leniency biases, and suffer the raters' inability to discriminate between different aspects of performance (Kingstrom & Bass, 1981). Subjective rating scales rely on the inaccuracies of human judgment, the rater's mood, perceptions, culture, and other factors. Providing feedback from multiple sources can help to reduce human bias.


Job analysis and performance appraisal are foundational components of a successful relationship between an organization and its employees. Job analysis establishes and documents the all-encompassing nature of a job and the company's employment procedures including training, selection, compensation, and performance appraisal. Performance appraisal is an essential component in judging the relative worth of an employee (Spector, 2008). Both elements are crucial for organizations to obtain, maintain, and support a valuable, efficient, and cohesive workforce, and both are central themes in organizational success.


Dickinson, T. L., & Zellinger, P. M. (1980). A comparison of the behaviorally anchored rating and mixed standard scale formats. Journal of Applied Psychology, 65(2), 147-154. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.65.2.147

Fine, S. A. (1974). Functional job analysis: an approach to a technology for manpower planning. Personnel Journal, 53(11), 813-818.

Kingstrom, P. O., & Bass, A. R. (1981). A critical analysis of studies comparing behaviorally anchored rating scales and other rating formats. Personnel Psychology, 34(2), 263- 289. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.1981.tb00942.x

Occupational Informational Network. (2006, August). 65008B - Wine stewards/stewardesses - ONET job description. Dictionary of Occupational Titles DOT - Job Descriptions - Retrieved June 09, 2011, from

Schwab, D. P., Heneman, H. G., & DeCotis, T. A. (1975). Behaviorally anchored rating scales: a review of the literature. Personnel Psychology, 28(4), 549-562. doi: 10.1111/j.1744- 6570.1975.tb01392.x

United States Department of Labor. (1991). Dictionary of Occupational Titles (rev. 1991). United States Department of Labor, Office of Administrative Law Judges, Home Page. Retrieved June 09, 2011, from

Friday, June 10, 2011

Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology addresses the human component of organizations and explains basic motivational drives and social implications of people working together in an organizational setting. Both its research and applications strive to accommodate characteristic human nature as a means to productivity and efficiency while facilitating safe and conducive environments as they affect the employee. Throughout its rich history, I/O psychology has used scientific research and statistical analysis to determine real-world applications within the work environment as a means to promote efficiency while providing a safe environment conducive to employee satisfaction and well-being (Spector, 2008).

The Evolution of Industrial/Organizational Psychology

I/O psychology has its genesis in the early history of psychology during the late 1800s when experimental psychologists sought to apply psychological principles to organizational problems such as efficiency and individual performance (Spector, 2008). Credited with foundational work in the field, Hugo Munsterberg and Walter Dill Scott were influential university professors and experimental psychologists with a keen interest in employee selection and the newly introduced psychological tests. Frederick Winslow Taylor developed scientific management, which focused on managing production workers and Frank and Lillian Gilbreth studied the efficiency of performance as a means to develop more efficient ways of working. Their work became foundational in the study of designing technology for people (Spector, 2008).

Both World Wars boosted I/O psychology as psychologists developed tests designed to assess mental ability for more appropriate personnel placement. Used by the Army, this was "the first large-scale application of psychological testing to place individuals in jobs" (Spector, 2008, p. 12). World War II continued to stimulate the work of I/O psychology in military applications, and included the new aspect of maintaining the morale of military personnel. After the war, I/O psychologists were called upon to address expansion problems specifically related to productivity and motivation (Kanfer, 2009). Today the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology represents the field whose integrative approach accommodates the individual and the social fabric of organizations, and enhances the environmental character of the workplace (Kanfer, 2005).

I/O Psychology as it Differs from other Psychological Disciplines

I/O psychology is "one of the major applied areas of psychology" (Spector, 2008, p. 22). The unique aspect of I/O psychology is its exclusive focus on people as they function in their work environment as well as the work environment itself. Other disciplines in psychology focus on different aspects of human psychology, but none other supports the research and its applications within the organizational setting (Spector, 2008). Equally important, this branch of psychology applies the principles and information gained from its research. I/O psychology focuses on research and its application to the challenges of human nature as it occurs between individuals within the organizational setting (Spector, 2008). Spector (2008) defines I/O psychology as, “…an applied field that is concerned with the development and application of scientific principles to the workplace” (p. 5). From a human standpoint, life as an employee consumes a significant amount of time, and this time-consuming role deserves the focus of a science that enables efficient function within an environment, yet is conducive to the well-being of the human organism and its social nature (Spector, 2008).

Organizational Use of Industrial/Organizational Psychology

I/O psychology is used in a broad range of industrial and organizational settings including universities, which employ approximately 40% of I/O psychologists in a research capacity as teachers, writers, mentors, consultants, or administrators. In applying I/O psychology, psychologists may fill some of the same roles as researchers, but may also engage in job analysis, solve organizational problems, obtain employee opinion through surveys or discussion, design employee-related systems and training programs, and develop psychological tests applicable to the work environment. Additionally, practicing I/O psychologists evaluate any aspect of the work environment or its systems and practices, and implement "organizational change, such as a new reward system for employees who perform well" (Spector, 2008, p. 7). I/O psychologists work toward creating a more effective environment within organizations. They design more effective jobs, develop and implement more appropriate employee selection, and create training programs that facilitate employee efficiency. Ultimately, the task of the I/O psychologist is to create a safe, efficient, well-oiled organizational machine while preserving and supporting the well-being of the employee.

The Role of Research and Statistics in Industrial/Organizational Psychology

The two main venues in which I/O psychology functions are psychological research and its application. Research is a major focus in this field and is essential to developing the principles that will eventually contribute to the design of new methods and procedural applications for various aspects of the work environment (Spector, 2008). I/O psychology uses the scientific method to collect and analyze data to address ideas, problems, and questions pertinent to organizations. The four major components of the scientific method are research questions, research design, measurement, and statistics.

The researcher begins with a question that translates to a research hypothesis. The hypothesis determines the study's foundational design, which can take either an experimental or a non-experimental form. The study relies on consistent and valid measurement that accurately accounts for results, and is essential to making reliable inferences. Descriptive statistics are used to summarize the gathered data and inferential statistics are applied to interpret the findings of the study. In I/O psychology statistics facilitates the efficient determination of research results for their effective application to real-world situations within organizations (Spector, 2008).


Accommodating the social fabric of the human workforce is the major undertaking of I/O psychology. Throughout its history, I/O psychology has built strong foundational designs for safety, efficiency, motivation, and addressing the behavior, attitudes, and needs of employees (Spector, 2008). Scientifically researched information from I/O psychologists continues to facilitate the evolution of the human workforce, tempering its relationship to the organizations in which it functions, and refining and redefining the work environment.


Kanfer, R. (2005). Self-Regulation Research in Work and I/O Psychology. Applied Psychology, 54(2), 186-191. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-0597.2005.00203.x

Kanfer, R. (2009). Work Motivation: Advancing Theory and Impact. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 2(1), 118-127. doi: 10.1111/j.1754-9434.2008.01120.x

Spector, P. E. (2008). Industrial and organizational psychology: research and practice (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Case Study: John Forbes Nash, Jr.

John Nash won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994, but for most of his life he balanced his mathematical genius against his struggle with schizophrenia. By many accounts, he spent most of his time in delusion, unaccountable to his actions, which were mostly bizarre and maladapted exaggerations of normal human behavior. Although the exact etiology of his illness is mere speculation as it intersects with medical science, his distress was overtly reflected in bizarre behavior and mannerisms typical of schizophrenics. Ultimately, by his awareness and conscious design, he chose to revoke the claims of his delusions and "generate his own transformation" (Meyer, Chapman & Weaver, 2009, p. 103). Unlike many individuals with schizophrenia, he has maintained a full remission for over 20 years.

Overview of Presenting Problem

Both John Nash's history with schizophrenia and intellectual brilliance began at a young age. According to Nasar (2001), Nash was "a singular little boy, solitary and introverted" (p. 4). He was socially avoidant, academically above average, yet under achieving. His parents forced him to participate in social activities although he neither enjoyed nor perpetuated the continuance of such involvement. He developed bizarre behaviors such as grass eating, animal torture, and inappropriate chemical experiments, and his teachers report consistent daydreaming and an inability to follow directions.

As an adult Nash spent several years in delusion, perpetuating relationships with nonexistent characters and enacting acutely erratic behavior. Once Nash charged into a New York Times office and accused them of intercepting encrypted messages destined for him (Meyer, Chapman & Weaver, 2009). His wife corroborates erratic behavior with evidentiary accounts of writing on walls, elaborate narrative referring to himself with a different name, writing nonsensical postcards, and making aggravating and persistent phone calls to former colleagues (Nasar, 2001). He was committed to psychiatric hospitals multiple times, and received several weeks of insulin-induced shock therapy (Meyer, Chapman & Weaver, 2009).

Components of Schizophrenia


Recent research clarifies the biological component of schizophrenia's complex neurodevelopmental basis, which includes abnormalities in neurotransmitter transmission as well as the structural components of the neural system (Feist & Feist, 2008). In the case of John Nash, genetic factors were likely implicated, considering his son, John Charles Nash also suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Although the paternal Nash was rarely present in the younger Nash's life, he identifies with his father, which may be construed as a psychodynamic component of the disease. According to Feist and Feist (2008), contemporary research emphasizes the biological role in the disease as a predisposition to abnormal responses that can lead to social withdrawal as was so typical with Nash, from early childhood and throughout adulthood.

Although evidence points to a substantial, although partial genetic component, it is essential to consider the possible environmental factors that interact and affect the inherited predisposition. In the case of John Nash, as there are no accounts of such, one can only speculate on any contributing environmental factors such as viruses, toxins, and prenatal and postnatal injuries. The exact role of genetics in schizophrenia still eludes medical science, although its contribution may be a common denominator in a range of associated disorders (Hansell & Damour, 2008). In Nash's case, stress seemed to be an underlying component and exacerbating factor contributing to the severity of his illness (Meyer, Chapman & Weaver, 2009).


Capps (2003) discussed the underlying conflict in Nash regarding his homosexuality. Freud made such claims in his work with a patient with similar homosexual tendencies and concurrent persistent schizophrenia, from which the patient later attained a remission. According to Freud, homosexual tendencies caused severe repression, which could predispose an individual to paranoid schizophrenia (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Freud believed there may be a biological predisposition for such a progression into the disordered and delusional thinking of this disease (Capps, 2003). Capps (2003) explores the connection between Nash's delusions and experiences and emphasized his tendency to express and reflect bisexual confusion within his delusions. Nash has not discussed such proclivities in detail, and any speculation can be generalized only to the schizophrenic population rather than to Nash specifically.


In the case of John Nash, he used his acute cognitive abilities to override his hallucinations and delusions. By directing himself to resist their imploring attention-seeking behavior, he practiced not believing in them and induced his own remission. According to Hansell and Damour (2008), in the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, individuals are not able to block irrelevant stimuli, which may create a conducive internal environment for giving extraordinary credence to hallucinations and delusions. Further complications arise when individuals try to explain such delusional experiences to themselves (Capps, 2003).

Nash cognitively circumvented his disordered delusional state by understanding its nature. Nash made a conscious effort to ignore the auditory and visual delusions, and made effort to think rationally. He enlisted the help of his mathematical studies as a focal point and
induced a full remission in the 1990s. According to Nash, 
Gradually I began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally-influenced lines of thinking which had been characteristic of my orientation. This began, most recognizably, with the rejection of politically-oriented thinking as essentially a hopeless waste of intellectual effort (Frängsmyr, 2005).

In the behavioral paradigm, the focus is on learning how to respond and act normally within the scope of social norms and the spectrum of expected and accepted behavior (Feist & Feist, 2009). In large part, schizophrenia is caused by conditioning, and biological factors predispose individuals to abnormal responses (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Nash received an abundance of attention for his disorganized speech and bizarre actions as he responded to delusional characters, which became a significant force in his life. For Nash, realizing the characters were, in actuality, nonexistent enabled him to disregard them. He neither tried to eliminate the delusional characters, nor engaged them in further conversation, he simply allowed them to continue without his involvement.

Nash modified his behavior by understanding and accommodating his delusions. By addressing the cognitive component of his disease, he directed his behavior in a more acceptable and expected fashion. Nash said,
So at the present time I seem to be thinking rationally again in the style that is characteristic of scientists. However this is not entirely a matter of joy as if someone returned from physical disability to good physical health. One aspect of this is that rationality of thought imposes a limit on a person's concept of his relation to the cosmos (Frängsmyr, 2005).

It is certain that Nash induced his own remission from schizophrenia, although through further investigation, it is apparent his disease did not abate; the delusions and hallucinations continued for him. Considering the biological, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral components, apparently Nash enlisted traces of each component in his battle toward re-engaging in the more rational character of human existence. Re-engaging was not without suffering losses, even parts of himself. Regarding refraining from his own madness, Nash gives this example:
A non-Zoroastrian could think of Zarathustra as simply a madman who led millions of naive followers to adopt a cult of ritual fire worship. But without his 'madness' Zarathustra would necessarily have been only another of the millions or billions of human individuals who have lived and then been forgotten (Frängsmyr, 2005).
For all intents and purposes, Nash managed to leave behind remnants of his madness, and lead with brilliant mathematical genius, possibly because of, and maybe despite his madness.


Capps, D. (2003). John Nash's delusional decade: a case of paranoid schizophrenia. Pastoral Psychology, 52(3), 193-218. doi: 10.1023/B:PASP.0000010023.58529.95

Feist, J., & Feist, G. J. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Frängsmyr, T. (2005). Les prix nobel: the nobel prizes 2004. Stockholm: Nobel Foundation.

Hansell, J., & Damour, L. (2008). Abnormal psychology (2nd ed.) [PDF]. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Meyer, R. G., Chapmen, L. Kevin, & Weaver, C. M. (2009). Case studies in abnormal behavior. (8th ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Nasar, S. (2001). A beautiful mind: the life of mathematical genius and Nobel laureate John Nash. New York: Simon & Schuster.