The History of Industrial Organizational Psychology

In the years following the war psychologists studied theories of motivation and continued support for the human relations movement. The Human Relations Movement based its model on the theory that employees are socially motivated and have needs for recognition and acceptance8. Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow contributed greatly to the movement and their research is still well known and documented today.

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In 1954 Peter Drucker came up with the Management by Objectives approach and John Flanigan came up with the Critical Incidents Technique. According to Drucker the purpose of management is to make people capable of performance by giving them a common goal or a common value. Also they must be given an environment and training in order to react to changing conditions1. In the 1960’s theories of motivation began to emerge.

There were many key figures that contributed to motivation theories including; Douglas McGregor, David McClelland, Frederick Herzberg, Edwin Locke, and Fred Fiedler. All of these figures contributed greatly to the field of I/0 Psychology with leadership models, achievement theories, different approaches and theories of motivation, and thoughts about relationships between employees and organizations. The 70’s brought B. F. Skinner who did much research on behavior modification strategies and how they motivate people in the workplace.

With his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity, Skinner argues that the problems of the world can be solved by dealing more directly with human behavior; Skinner feels that the world’s ideas of freedom and dignity must be sharply revised. As I/O psychology moved into the 1980’s and 90’s Attention was increased on quality circles, organizational climates, and participatory management techniques. The 90’s also brought the statistical technique of meta-analysis which was developed by Schmidt and Hunter.

Meta-analysis enabled the combining of data from previous studies and analyzed overall patterns. Direct evaluations of validity for recent studies were not felt to be necessary9. The attention also seemed to be focused on employment law. Court cases dealt with sexual harassment, Civil Rights, punitive damages, and many other important issues. In more recent times workplace violence has come up as a increasing topic of study and I/O psychology is growing and changing at a rapid pace.