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Essay: Psychologists – A Collision of Worlds

Posted by on May 19, 2017

Psychologists: A Collision of Worlds

Consider the idea of industrial psychologists. What exactly are they? Some like to consider them “behavioural scientists”. But when was the last time a theory – ground breaking, earth shattering, life moving theory – was founded?

The fact is, IOPs are not the ones doing this. Psychologists are. And if psychologists are the people creating theories based on the internal workings of the mind, heart, soul, chi’s (insert any other word here) that links to the behavioural aspects of one’s being, then what exactly are IOP’s for? This conversation falls outside of the “scope of practice” topic. This is looking at what is happening economically within South Africa and identifying what people – business people – are doing.

Jobs are scarce. People need to be entrepreneurial in nature and identify the gaps that need to be filled in order to make a living. Psychological issues do not sit at home only – they follow patients in their psyches wherever their bodies traverse. As such, psychological issues find themselves being realised in the workspace.

As industrial organisational psychologists, we are meant to focus on psychological aspects that impact on behaviour thereby limiting the realisation of potential. This is the gap that we need to fill. This is something an HR person cannot necessarily do. They cannot specifically perform acts to help these individuals, as this falls out of their training.

But what is stopping a budding psychologist from coming into this sphere? The IOP’s area of professionalism is an encroachment of occupations, as well as a collaboration of levels. A collision of worlds, so to speak.

Consider the different layers an IOP must deal with. There is the industrial level, indicating management perspectives involving the very construction of jobs within the larger structure of the organisation, taking into consideration the industry within which competitive advantage should be gained and maintained. There is also the organisational level, including the elements within the organisation from individual to group to macro level. This would include employee wellbeing, succeeded by team cohesion, and thereafter ensconced by organisational performance.

It is the job of the IOP to put steps into place to align these different levels. This includes the optimisation of HR-relevant actions, as well as psychological related activities. The argument is that an IOP has been trained and taught how to identify the dynamics between these different levels. They are aware of both the business and the individual. They are the catalyst through which alignment can be created, allowing a symbolic eclipse of worlds, and not necessarily a collision.

Therefore it is interesting to see the number of clinical and counselling psychologists in the workplace performing the activities that IOP’s have appropriated to their “occupational identity”. Counselling and clinical psychologists have experienced as much of a demise as most other occupations considering the decline in the economy. They too have had to break out of their usual scope of practice and find new ways of applying their skills.

To the point: the money is in business. This is where any aspirational and ambitious individual will find opportunities for organisational / firm / practice growth and business sustainability. For psychologists to survive in the current economic turmoil, they need to develop their skills to include activities that industrial psychologists have been performing. However, the clinical and counselling psychologist has a lot more to offer to the individual than an industrial psychologist. There is often little need to refer to any other profession when a psychologist is dealing with a client, as they normally have the scope of that act within their grasp. Industrial psychologists do not have that luxury. They deal with the person in the work place – not the home space. IOP’s can merely identify this problem and then make the referral.

Which is right, as otherwise the balance between levels becomes skewed. The IOP is not solely looking out for the individual. The IOP’s gift is in being a channel of communication – a vessel through which all parties can be heard and fit within fit within fit can be gauged and sustained.

So it may be a collision of worlds having HR, IOP’s, and psychologists working together in such close proximity. But the fact is, there is a need for the IOP role in the working world. One that psychologists and HR, through their very nature, cannot fulfil. Only an IOP can do that.

The metaphor of IOP’s aligning different needs across levels: individual; team; organisational

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