Organizational Psychology Theory

Organizational psychology is one of the branches of psychology that applies psychological principles and theories to organizations. Often referred to as industrial-organizational psychology, it is a branch of psychology that focuses on increasing organizational productivity and addressing mental and physical issues affecting everything of the employees (Boyatzis et al., 2015). Therefore, organizational psychologists study employees’ behaviors and attitudes, conduct leadership training, and assess organizational performance (Chmiel et al., 2017). The overall goal is to understand human behavior in an organization context (Kour et al., 2019). Increasing recognition of human capital as an essential asset for a modern organization necessitates a critical analysis of organizational psychology to highlight its contribution to staff well-being.

Application to Real-World Situation

            Understanding the two major aspects of organizational psychology is a prerequisite to applying the theoretical concepts to a real-world situation in a modern organization (Lee & Raschke, 2016). The first aspect of industrial-organizational psychology is the industrial side, which focuses on matching talents with specific job roles (Jex & Britt, 2014). This side of organizational psychology is often referred to as personnel psychology as the focus is on improving organizational performance by matching the right talent to the right job roles. As the global population becomes increasingly culturally diverse, the workplace has experienced similar demographic changes (Kour et al., 2019). As a result, modern organizations are depending on culturally diverse workforces to meet the needs of customers. Therefore, organizational psychology’s industrial aspect evaluates staff characteristics to provide appropriate recommendations for matching talents with the right job roles (Oreg et al., 2013). Apple is one of the leading technology companies that have embraced organizational psychology, particularly the industrial aspect of improving employee performance (Chmiel et al., 2017). The company’s hiring and recruitment strategy include a standardized personality test administered to map out successful candidates’ innate characteristics.

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The personality test yields an outcome that is within reach of the 16 known personalities. The results of the personality test are used by the human resource department to match employees with specific job roles that match their talents and personality (Bakker, 2013). For instance, employees who exhibit a logician personality are assigned roles in the research and development department to leverage their intuitive thinking and prospecting instincts that drive their creativity (Boyatzis et al., 2015). The employees contribute to Apple’s expanding brand portfolio by seeking out unlikely paths in technology coupled with their willingness to experiment.

Another important function of the industrial aspect of organizational psychology is workforce training and development. Continuous employee training is consistent with the rapidly changing consumer tastes and preferences (Lee & Raschke, 2016). According to Kamarulzaman et al. (2011), advancement in communication technologies has improved the sharing of information and experiences with significant implications for modern organizations. Consumers can access and share information and compare brand experiences leading to a drastic change in consumer tastes and preferences (Coovert & Thompson, 2013). Keeping up with the rapidly changing consumer tastes and preferences requires a competent workforce that is knowledgeable and skilled to address emerging consumer needs.

Therefore, organizational psychology encourages the training and development of the workforce to address inherent weaknesses. A continuous training and development program helps employees acquire new knowledge and skills that match the changing roles and responsibilities (Chmiel et al., 2017). Apple has a continuous training and development program that ensures employees across all the organizational levels receive appropriate training that commensurates their roles and responsibilities (Kamarulzaman et al., 2011). At the beginning of every fiscal year, Apple’s employees undergo performance appraisal to identify weaknesses that can be addressed through training and exposure to new experiences (Jex & Britt, 2014). Continuous training and development of the workforce have helped the company develop a competent workforce that can address unmet consumer needs to establish a sustainable competitive advantage.

            The industrial aspect of organizational psychology also encourages developing job performance standards. Job performance standards refer to observable actions and behaviors about how specific roles and responsibilities are performed (Bakker, 2013). They provide a benchmark for the employee to gauge their performance by stipulating the expected outcome. Also, creating job performance standards enables the leadership of the organization to objectively evaluate employees’ contribution to the organizational goals and objectives (Jex & Britt, 2014). Not only is it possible to assess employee performance based on the set standards, but other influences on performance, too, such as personal feelings. Apple understands the importance of establishing job performance standards, as evidenced by its commitment to facilitate employee participation in performance appraisal (Kour et al., 2019). The employees are informed of the standards expected in delivering their mandate to create awareness of how their contribution to the organization is measured (Boyatzis et al., 2015). The job performance standards enable Apple to accurately evaluate employees’ effectiveness regarding their participation in achieving its goals and objectives.

            Meanwhile, the organizational side of psychology focuses on understanding how organizations influence employees’ behavior. Management styles, organizational structures, organizational culture, and role expectations are organizational factors that influence how employees behave in the workplace (Coovert & Thompson, 2013). Organizational structures define the relationship between the leadership and the subordinate staff by encouraging or prohibiting participation in the decision-making process (Chmiel et al., 2017). A hierarchical organizational structure promotes a one-way communication strategy that limits the subordinate staff’s opportunities to provide feedback on the leadership (Kour et al., 2019). A hierarchical organizational structure is often accompanied by an authoritarian leadership style supported by an organizational culture that encourages adherence to leadership control and coordination to achieve efficiency and stability (Kour et al., 2019).

On the contrary, a matrix organizational structure encourages reporting and communication, both vertically and horizontally, through a two-way communication strategy. Employees can be part of a functional group such as the engineering team, while also serving in a different team that supports the development of new products (Bakker, 2013). This organizational structure demands a democratic approach to leadership supported by a clan culture that encourages the monitoring, nurturing, and participation of the subordinate staff.

            Apple has a matrix organizational structure that supports employee participation, both vertically and horizontally. Employees’ participation in the decision-making process is considered essential to developing organizational goals and objectives that reflect the subordinate staff’s views and opinions (Chmiel et al., 2017). Therefore, the employees are not limited to their reporting level within the organizational structure. They are allowed freedom and autonomy to communicate and share information across teams (Kamarulzaman et al., 2011). The matrix organizational structure is supported by a clan organizational culture that considers the subordinate staff part of an extended family. Therefore, participation and engagement are considered an important aspect of the management process (Coovert & Thompson, 2013). Besides active participation and engagement in the decision-making process, the company invests in its workforce by establishing mentorship and career development programs to nurture talent (Oreg et al., 2013). In-house job training is provided to employees who demonstrate unique skills and talent to prepare them for leadership.

Contribution of Organizational Psychology to Human Well-being

            Many scholars and authors consider well-being in the workplace as an outcome of the interaction between employee characteristics and those of the organizational or working environment (Kamarulzaman et al., 2011). The emergence of well-being as a theme in the working environment is based on increasing recognition of the interaction between the working environment and individual characteristics (Chmiel et al., 2017). Individual characteristics play a critical role in the development of well-being in the workplace. The generation of well-being through interaction between the characteristics of the workplace and subjective factors is informed by interactional theories which consider individual-organization fit as being essential to generating and sustaining well-being in the workplace (Coovert & Thompson, 2013). Research studies indicate that organizational psychology contributes to human well-being by influencing positive emotions, job satisfaction, and relational interactions.

            According to Bakker (2013), the relationship between job satisfaction and well-being in the workplace is characterized by two distinct approaches. The first approach is based on the theory of the person-environment fit, which suggests that well-being is related to the existence of appropriate organization requests to the individual (Boyatzis et al., 2015). The second approach correlates employee performance and the quality of life with satisfying relationships and positive emotional states within the work environment.

            Organizational psychology contributes to a feeling of well-being in the workplace by stimulating positive emotions. It is based on the assumption that the interaction between the organization and the individual’s subjective aspects generates positive outcomes (Oreg et al., 2013). In this context, improving or enhancing employees’ self-confidence becomes a resource for the well-being of the organization and the individual. Moreover,  Lee and Raschke (2016) assert that employee participation in the organization’s mission, emotional climate, positive emotion, and the sense of belonging are interdependent. The theory of control of emotion emphasizes on how emotional control based on a sense of optimism, coherence, and self-esteem plays a critical developmental role by influencing social interactions in the workplace (Kour et al., 2019). In addition, positive emotions experienced throughout adolescence have a beneficial effect on scholarly achievement and subsequent workplace integration. Therefore, positive emotions in the workplace play a significant motivational role in the unconscious disposition towards the passwords of organizational goals and objectives, thereby contributing to establishing a positive working and environment.

            Organizational psychology also highlights that social exchange anchored on sociability generates organizational citizenship effects by enhancing employees’ performance on tasks (Jex & Britt, 2014). Apparently, fulfilling the innate psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and openness in relationships generates greater self-motivation. If the process of fulfilling these psychological needs is obstructed, it leads to a significant decline in motivation and the overall well-being of the workforce (Coovert & Thompson, 2013). To improve performance, create satisfaction, and enhance organizational ability requires articulating the relational dimensions, namely interpersonal facilitation, influence leadership, relational creativity, and team participation. According to Bakker (2013), extroverted individuals in the workplace experience less fatigue and stress. This is because individual psychological well-being positively enhances the organization’s welfare by creating a conducive working environment and improving job performance (Boyatzis et al., 2015). Employees in the United States workforce spend much of their waking hours working than in other industrialized countries. On average, employees in the United States commit 7.6 hours on weekdays and 5.6 hours on weekends. Given the higher amount of time the U.S. workforce spends working, it is not surprising that the working environment significantly influences life satisfaction and well-being (Kamarulzaman et al., 2011). Besides influencing employee well-being, experiences artwork influence organizational and social productivity and the well-being of the communities. Given the high amount of time workers in the United States spend in their working environment and the emotional and financial consequences of employment, there is no doubt that the working environment has a significant impact on employees’ well-being (Jex & Britt, 2014). Spending long hours in the working environment, coupled with their financial and emotional consequences, a growing number of workers in the United States are reporting stress attributed to their work. Over 60% of American workers experience stress related to their daily routines in the working environment. 

Failure to address work-related anxiety, stress, and depression produces a wide range of problems for organizations, individuals, and society (Lee & Raschke, 2016). A growing body of literature on organizational psychology suggests that stress attributed to the work environment has consequences for their employee’s health. Chronic work-related stress is attributed to clinical depression, alcohol abuse, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal problems, smoking, and obesity. In addition, work-related stress is linked to at least 120,000 deaths per year (Lee & Raschke, 2016). This number is greater than death caused by influenza, diabetes, or Alzheimer’s. Therefore, irrefutable evidence exists that long working hours increase mortality, particularly highly demanding jobs (Chmiel et al., 2017). While there is evidence that the working environment contributes to employee stress and depression, there is also emerging evidence that the working environment can improve their employees’ well-being if structured in a particular way.

A person’s well-being improves significantly if they are employed as compared to being unemployed. Employment generates feelings of higher life satisfaction, family/ marital satisfaction, lower anxiety and depression, and better objective and subjective physical health (Coovert & Thompson, 2013). It is worth noting that these positive effects are related to working and not simply due to the work’s financial benefits. Working in an inclusive and supportive environment has benefits for those that do not need to work for financial gains (Jex & Britt, 2014). The employees’ potential well-being gains satisfy psychological needs such as a sense of purpose, social contact, sense of identity, directed activity, an opportunity to achieve, and learn (Kour et al., 2019). A necessary condition for enhanced employee performance is the frequent occurrence of positive experiences, not just a lack of negative ones. The positive experiences translate into organizational and individual benefits through increased happiness associated with higher productivity (Oreg et al., 2013). Therefore, it is essential to ensure that the working environment provides opportunities to experience happiness. A happy workforce is highly motivated to achieve the organizational goal that it is important to encourage frequent positive emotional experiences in the workplace.



Bakker, A. B., 2013. Advances in positive organizational psychology. Bingley [England]: Emerald Insight.

Boyatzis, R. E., Rochford, K. & Taylor, S. N., 2015. The Impact of Shared Vision on Leadership, Engagement, Organizational Citizenship, and Coaching. Cape Town: Frontiers Media SA.

Chmiel, N., Fraccaroli, F. & Sverke, M., 2017. An introduction to work and organizational psychology: an international perspective. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell.

Coovert, M. D. & Thompson, L. F., 2013. The Psychology of Workplace Technology. New Jersey: Routledge.

Jex, S. M. & Britt, T. W., 2014. Organizational psychology: a scientist-practitioner approach. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.

Kamarulzaman, N. et al., 2011. An Overview of the Influence of Physical Office Environments towards Employees. Procedia Engineering, Volume 20, p. 262 – 268.

Kour, J., El-Den, J. & Sriratanaviriyakul, N., 2019. The Role of Positive Psychology in Improving Employees’ Performance and Organizational Productivity: An Experimental Study. Procedia Computer Science, Volume 161, p. 226–232.

Lee, M. T. & Raschke, R. L., 2016. Understanding employee motivation and organizational performance: Arguments for a set-theoretic approach. Journal of Innovation & Knowledge, 1(3), pp. 162-169.

Oreg, S., Michel, A. & Todnem, R., 2013. The psychology of organizational change: viewing change from the employee’s perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.