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Industrial Organizational Psychology – Smart Essays

PSY 3490, Industrial Organizational Psychology 1

Course Learning Outcomes for Unit VII Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

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1. Define occupational health psychology. 2. Distinguish between the types of work schedules and what research suggests about the benefits and

drawbacks of each. 3. Analyze the occupational stress process, and have a basic understanding of common job stressors. 4. Describe burnout, including its components and the results of burnout. 5. Distinguish between work groups and work teams. 6. Evaluate major team concepts, including roles, norms, group cohesiveness, team conflict, process

loss, and team commitment. 7. Explain what research suggests regarding group and team performance, as well as the ways in which

performance can increase and decrease. 8. Describe groupthink and how to avoid it.

Reading Assignment Chapter 11: Occupational Health Psychology Chapter 12: Work Groups and Work Team

Unit Lesson Health, Psychological, and Social Factors at Work Organizations are increasingly concerned with issues associated with the health and well-being of employees. They are taking actions to ensure that employees experience psychological health and fulfillment, are able to form social bonds, and are safe and healthy. For example, organizations often use team-based approaches to complete work, not just because it enhances performance, but because it brings various rewards to employees as they experience belongingness and build relationships. Another area that has garnered significant interest over the past few decades is occupational health and safety. I/O psychologists have a strong interest in this field, which helps to promote health and well-being in the workplace, while taking steps to reduce risks and safety hazards. In this unit, we will explore some of the topics surrounding the health, psychological, and social factors of work. We will also consider the role of I/O psychologists in promoting these areas. Occupational Health and Safety The health and well-being of employees is a growing concern for organizations, and it is a topic of great interest to I/O psychologists. It spans a variety of industries, as psychologists, medical professionals, engineers, human resource professions, government agencies, and others work together to improve conditions and reduce risks at work. For example, this area explores the effects of different work schedules on employees. Researchers have explored the impact of the 12-hour work day and discovered the issues it brings with employee fatigue. On the other hand, they also explore alternative plans, such as flextime, which allows employees some options with regard to when they work in a given week, resulting in decreased

UNIT VII STUDY GUIDE

Social, Psychological, and Health Factors at Work

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absence (Spector, 2012). Among many other initiatives, they aim to increase employee wellness, reduce occupational stress, and reduce deaths, injuries, and illnesses that result from work. Employee Wellness Many organizations are adopting employee wellness programs to improve the lives of employees and to prevent health related issues. They also have the potential to reduce costs associated with health care and absenteeism. An employee wellness program intends to motivate employees to make healthy choices, educate them on how to make healthy choices, and/or facilitate healthy activities. For example, organizations may incorporate health-related goals into their strategic activities, reward employees with well days off, or provide perks such as health related merchandise. They may offer workshops on nutrition, stress management, or exercise. They may invest in office equipment that is ergonomically designed, offer on-site exercise facilities, or provide flexible working hours (Brewer, Gallo, & Smith, 2010). While these initiatives help to prevent many psychological and health issues, other initiatives aim to prevent work-related accidents and death that may be associated with equipment, dealing with patients that have communicable diseases, working under extreme physical pressures, or other inherent dangers on the job. Accident Prevention In 2011, 4,609 people were killed while working in the United States (that is approximately 13 deaths a day) (OSHA, 2012). There were almost 3 million work-related injuries and illnesses (BLS, 2012a). Employees missed a total of 1, 181, 290 days from work due to nonfatal injuries and illnesses (BLS, 2012b). However, these statistics are much better than they were forty years ago, and there is strong evidence supporting the importance of interventions to prevent accidents and to ensure workplace health. There are four factors associated with accidents and safety in the workplace. A commitment by management to maintain safety, minimal job stress, an emphasis on safety rather than production, and certain personality traits (i.e. conscientiousness and emotional stability) all facilitate workplace safety. I/O psychologists work alongside experts from other industries to help identify safe practices, to study and to help cultivate workplace climates that support safety, and to understand the obstacles that prevent organizations and employees from making safe choices. They explore a wide variety of areas, such as the presence of infectious diseases in the workplace, the impact of loud noises, musculoskeletal disorders, exposure to harmful substances, workplace violence, the impact of different work schedules and shifts, and occupational stress (Spector, 2012). Occupational Stress In a recent Gallup poll, 33% of American respondents said that they were totally dissatisfied with the amount of stress they experienced in their jobs (Saad, 2012). Examples of common stressors include role ambiguity, role conflict, workload, social stressors (e.g., conflicts), organizational politics, lack of control in one’s job, and machine pacing. Employers that recognize the issues associated with stress in the workplace are increasingly incorporating interventions. Some interventions address the stressors head-on; removing or dealing with unnecessary aspects of the job or working relationships that lead to stress. Other interventions aim to empower employees with the skills and resources needed to cope with occupational stress. For example, cognitive-behavioral approaches help employees to recognize how they view stress, and to regulate their own thoughts and feelings when approaching stressful situations. It helps them to see negative attitudes that they may hold, which may lead to the experience of stress, and teaches them to change how they respond. Research suggests that this particular type of program is effective. While other programs help employees to deal effectively with a stressful event, such as the death of a co-worker (Sidle, 2008). These interventions can help to prevent burnout, which refers to the distressed state that many employees experience, which is often accompanied by absence, fatige, hostility, lack of care towards others, low motivation, and poor performance (Spector, 2012). These are just a few of the areas that are covered under occupational health and safety. Another area that I/O psychologists consider is the social and interdependent nature of work, including work teams. Work teams provide an opportunity for organizations to accomplish goals, often better than they could otherwise, while providing employees an opportunity to develop strong, cohesive bonds and to experience heightened satisfaction at work.

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Work Teams, Job Satisfaction, and Performance Many organizations use work teams to accomplish goals. A work team is a group of two or more people who are working on the same goals, in which “the actions of individuals must be interdependent and coordinated; each member must have a particular, specified role; there must be common task goals and objectives,” (Spector, 2012, p. 303). They differ from work groups which simply interact together and have at least some task goals that are interrelated (Spector, 2012). Teams benefit the organization by allowing them to combine the different knowledge, skills, and abilities that each member has in order to accomplish goals (Peeters, Van Tuijl, Rutte, & Reymen, 2006). Much research has been done to investigate factors such as this, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of teams, for employees and organizations. Teams differ greatly, making it difficult to determine how to assign employees to teams in a way that will most likely lead to success and prevent negative effects. One area that I/O psychologists and other researchers have explored is the impact of personality on team performance. For example, one meta-analysis explored the impact of the Big Five personality traits (extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience) on team performance. They considered personality in two ways. First, they considered the extent to which all team members are generally high, versus low, on that trait (e.g. if four out of five members of the team are very extraverted, they would have a high “elevation” of this trait). Second, they considered the degree to which team members differed on each trait (variability). They found that certain traits really do matter when it comes to team performance. For example, teams that are composed of many members who are highly agreeable are more likely to perform well. They found similar results with respect to conscientiousness. That is, the more team members who exhibit these traits, and the stronger these traits are within each team member, the more likely they will perform well as a team (Peeters et al., 2006). Having the right combination of team members can also help to ensure that team members enjoy the experience and that personal conflicts are kept to a minimum. Conflict Numerous studies have shown that teams that are marred with conflicts that are personal in nature are more likely to perform worse than those who do not have personal conflicts, and they are also less likely to be satisfied working within the group. Neither the employees nor the organization benefits from these team settings (De Dreu & Weingart, 2003). To the contrary, other studies show that employees are more likely to experience higher job satisfaction when they trust the manager and their teammates. Employees who trust their teammates are also free to disclose more information and to engage in activities that benefit the team and can increase its effectiveness (Gockel, Robertson, & Brauner, 2013). Group Cohesion Work teams that are highly cohesive appear to have a significant impact on employee performance. Employees who value their membership in the team report higher levels of job satisfaction (Steinhardt, Dolbier, Gottlieb, & McCalister, 2003). In a study of military personnel, cohesion was associated with high job satisfaction, and it also appears to help mitigate job distress (Ahronson, 2007). That is, simply being on a team that is cohesive, and trusting can help employees to buffer some of the occupational stress that so many Americans experience in the workplace. While group cohesion appears to present a lot of benefits to employees, and is linked to performance, some also suggest that it can make the team less effective in certain situations, particularly when groupthink arises. Groupthink occurs when members of the group value being accepted so much that they may not think critically about issues or offer disagreements, which could cause others to disapprove of them (Spector, 2012). Rather than benefiting from the different opinions of team members, the decisions in these settings are often based on the desires of one or two leaders or strong people within the group. This can be even more problematic when considering its impact on ethical decision-making. Groupthink often prevents team members from fully considering the ethical implications of decision options. Members who do see issues may refrain from speaking up out of fear of disapproval, or they may rationalize the issues and avoid recognizing the impact that certain decisions could have (Sims, 1992).

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Summary I/O psychologists are increasingly interested in the factors that make the workplace a safer, healthier, and an overall better place for employees. They explore ways to reduce death, injury, and illness, along with ways to make time spent at work a more satisfying experience through trusting, social interactions and effective teamwork. These are all areas that benefit not just the employee, but the organization as well because accidents are costly, and healthy, satisfied employees are much more likely to perform well on the job.

References Ahronson, A. E. (2007). The nature and consequences of group cohesion in a military sample. Military

Psychology, 19(1), 9-25. Brewer, P. C., Gallo, A., & Smith, M. R. (2010). Getting fit with corporate wellness programs. Strategic

Finance, 91(11), 27-33. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012a). Occupational injuries and illnesses news release. Retrieved from

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/osh_10252012.htm Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012b). Table 3. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/news.release/osh2.t03.htm De Dreu, C. W., & Weingart, L. R. (2003). Task versus relationship conflict, team performance, and team

member satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Journal Of Applied Psychology, 88(4), 741-749. Gockel, C., Robertson, R., & Brauner, E. (2013). Trust your teammates or bosses? Differential effects of trust

on transactive memory, job satisfaction, and performance. Employee Relations, 35(2), 222-242. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (2012). Commonly used statistics. Retrieved from

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/osh_10252012.htm Peeters, M. J. (2006). Personality and team performance: a meta-analysis. European Journal Of Personality,

20(5), 377-396. Saad, L. (2012). U.S. workers least happy with their work stress and pay. Gallup Economy. Retrieved from

http://www.gallup.com/poll/158723/workers-least-happy-work-stress-pay.aspx Sidle, S. D. (2008). Workplace stress management interventions: What works best? Academy Of

Management Perspectives, 22(3), 111-112. D. Sims, R. R. (1992). Linking groupthink to unethical behavior in organizations. Journal Of Business Ethics,

11(9), 651-662. Steinhardt, M. A., Dolbier, C. L., Gottlieb, N. H., & McCalister, K. T. (2003). The relationship between

hardiness, supervisor support, group cohesion, and job stress as predictors of job satisfaction. American Journal Of Health Promotion, 17(6), 382-389.

Suggested Reading Panari, C., Guglielmi, D., Ricci, A., Tabanelli, M. C., & Violante, F. S. (2012). Assessing and improving health

in the workplace: an integration of subjective and objective measures with the STress Assessment and Research Toolkit (St.A.R.T.) method. Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology [London], 7, 18.

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Learning Activities (Non-Graded) Check out this article on the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology website, which describes how I/O psychologists approach occupational health: http://www.siop.org/tip/backissues/tipapr02/24fox.aspx Non-Graded Learning Activities are provided to aid students in their course of study. You do not have to submit them. If you have questions contact your instructor for further guidance and information.http://www.siop.org/tip/backissues/tipapr02/24fox.aspx

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