+27 (0) 72 285 1964 why@the4oxen.co.za
South Africa Cape Town

One of my biggest struggles in the professional world of an Industrial Psychologist is the general acceptance of classifying the skills and knowledge of a Human Resources Professional equal, both in value and quantity, to those of an Industrial Psychology. For both professions, I believe this is a huge injustice.

Occupants of both professions have very unique and special skill sets to offer and the danger of pretending that these skill sets are in any way equal to one another cannot be emphasized enough. For one, and a point I personally feel very passionate about, is the career decisive responsibility an Industrial Psychologist has to the broader profession of Psychology and the Health Professions Board of Psychology.

For the untrained eye in the field of Psychology and Human Resources the point of interest might, however, be in the discipline of Organizational Behavior. At the heart of management is the art of managing people. Increasing attention is focused on good people skills as a basis of organizational effectiveness. Organizational behavior is, thus, broadly concerned with the study of the behavior of people within an organizational setting and has increasingly become an even greater significance to those organizations who wish to future proof themselves against challenges that might face us in the future.

In that case it is, however, necessary to recognize a multidisciplinary approach. Organizational behavior can be viewed in terms of interrelated aspects of the individual, the group, the organization and the environment.  The difference that clients of The Four Oxen would likely be most interest in is that Human Resources Practitioners are not necessarily trained and / or focused on understanding the behavior found in organizations. Yet, in the aim of future proofing organizations it is crucial to understand that people differ in the manner and extent of their involvement with, and concern for, work. Different situations influence the individual’s orientation to work and the work ethic. Thus, the importance of the psychological contract comes into place.

The psychological contract implies a series of informal mutual expectations and satisfaction of needs arising from the people-organizations relationship. The two most important observations and theories thereof are known as the “Peter Principle” and “Parkinson’s Law”.

Apart from understanding and accepting that there are major differences between the skills of a Human Resources Practitioner and an Industrial Psychologist, South African organizations also face a major challenge arising from an increasingly international or global business environment that also impacts on social responsibilities and ethics.  This highlights the need for a cross-cultural approach to the study of organizational behavior and understanding the impact of national culture. Again, an area a Human Resources Practitioner might not be specialized in.

Clearly there are implications for organizational behavior in accommodating dimensions of cultural differences and the study and understanding of workplace behavior. Since there are only few absolute principles that explain organizational behavior, the field requires the attention of an Industrial Psychologist who specializes in people behavior unlike a Human Resources Professional.

The need to understand human behavior in the workplace has never been this crucial and thus, although the two fields are defiantly mutually beneficial, they should be treated and considered as separate sources of information and assistance to organizations who want to assure that they become future proof.