Psychology can often seem like a somewhat abstract concept that doesn’t hold much relevance to professionals outside the mental health sector and academia. It’s also frequently dismissed as unscientific and without credibility.
However, psychology is a discipline that focuses heavily on interpersonal relations and what environment has a more diverse mix of personalities and interactions than your workplace? Colleagues don’t necessarily have to have personal interests and hobbies in common; they didn’t choose to work together and their relationships aren’t based on a mutual affection for each other in the way friendships are (not to suggest that colleagues can’t be friends, of course). As such, motivations differ and competition is stronger, producing an interesting array of psychological processes.
For example, in a work environment where accountability for failed business deals, missed targets and poor performance is demanded, diffusion of responsibility is common. It can become very easy for individuals to shy away from being accountable for their actions if there are ten other members of their team who can be just as liable.
The introvert/extrovert scale is a popular construct in psychology and it holds particular relevance in the workplace. For those individuals who fall closer to the introvert end of the spectrum, spending eight hours a day in an office filled with people can be quite draining. As such, your introverted colleagues may appear standoffish and anti-social, when in reality the overload of human interaction may be tiring them.
Many work environments, particularly sales-oriented ones, are driven by competition. Promotions, bonuses and commissions are scarce and only high-performing workers succeed in what is often a “survival of the fittest”-style arena. As a result, people are highly motivated to outperform their colleagues which can cause problems in work contexts where teamwork is necessary. Team dynamics are heavily researched in psychology and a plethora of research exists on what makes effective teamwork. Many companies employ organisational psychology to maximise the productivity of its employees by improving interpersonal relations among co-workers, a strong example of the relevance of psychology in the workplace.
As previously mentioned, psychology is most often associated with the study of mental health and needless to say a person’s work environment can have considerable impact on their mental wellbeing. Work is notorious for being a cause of stress for many people and its impact becomes even more powerful when you consider just how much of your life you spend in the workplace. The efforts made by organisations to reduce stress in its employees (wellness programmes, in-house counselling services, etc.) are excellent examples of proactive psychology at work.
Psychology is a multifaceted discipline with a wide range of applications, the workplace being one of particular importance and interest. An awareness of ourselves and our interactions with other people is valuable in any instance but especially at work where interpersonal relations play an important role in our professional success.