Although some people may view the application of psychological principles in the workplace as "brainwashing," nothing could be further from the truth. No one is manipulated or coerced by an organizational psychologist into working harder. In fact, the opposite is true. You should be happy if your company has hired an organizational psychologist, because she will focus her efforts on getting the boss to listen to you, reporting what factors make you happy at work and encouraging your company to do more things to make your workplace inherently motivating.
As scientist-practictioners, there's no getting around it -- organizational psychologists are "squints" who read a lot. As members of the American Psychological Association, organizational psychologists are bound by ethics to advocate strategies based on valid research principles. According to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, or SIOP, organizational psychologists are "experts in understanding and developing systems for hiring, motivating, training, and understanding people at work." So, calm down -- an organizational psychologist won't institute any "crazy" motivational programs just to cajole your boss.
Shortly after she arrives at your workplace, you'll see the organizational psychologist with a clipboard, pestering you with a ton of questions. Organizational psychologists use their grounding in scientific literature to develop tests and surveys. One of the chief duties of organizational psychologists is to ask you questions about what motivates you in the workplace, because even though she knows what the research says, every workplace has nuances that make it unique. Investigating these differences thoroughly will enable the organizational psychologist to develop an effective motivational program for that will work at your job.
Once she has collected a mountain of data, expect the organizational psychologist to lock herself away from the group and analyze her findings up, down and sideways. Organizational psychologists are experts at data analysis so they can make sense of the huge pile of disparate observations, surveys and job analyses they have collected. If followed, the program she develops will work. According to SIOP, "the products and programs ... will often have a significant impact on the people in an organization and may even impact the performance of the organization."
A program is only as good as those who implement it, so an organizational psychologist focuses much of her energy after she develops a workplace motivational program on training management on how to effectively use what she has created. Teaching, observation, modeling and shaping are essential to guarantee the success of any employee motivational program. After the initial program is instituted, expect the organizational psychologist to do a follow-up after about six months to make sure the program sticks and to make modifications in areas that aren't working so well.
Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.