Where Is the Divide: I vs O vs HR vs OB
A recent myriad of discussions across the I/O blogosphere on the status of I/O psychology as a science had led me to notice something peculiar about people in these discussions – the tendency of some to self-identify as only a single part of the larger I/O-OBHRM community.
In this post on the SIOP Exchange, Herman Aguinis discusses the need within I/O psychology to bridge the scientist-practitioner divide. In the comments, however, this is reinterpreted by a few people. Tom Baker, for example, comments “It’s good to hear of I-O’s continued interest in staying relevant to HR.” Aren’t they essentially the same thing?
In this post at In the Jungle, George Guajardo posts on the reasons that I/O psychology should be considered a science (which is definitely worth a read in and of itself), and uses the term “organizational science” to refer to I/O-OBHRM research in general, which is probably a much better term than I/O-OBHRM. But a comment from Frank Z. once again draws a line: “I/O Psychologists” are somehow altogether different from HR professionals practicing “psychology.”
And finally, in this post at iOrgPsych, Eva includes the line, “Industrial/Organizational Psychologists (Practitioners).” Didn’t Tom Baker just say those were different people?
All of this made me wonder – what’s the difference? Early in my graduate education, I thought of myself as an industrial psychologist – I tended and still tend to focus on the topics more often thought of as “I-Psych,” like training, performance appraisal, and testing, although recently virtual teamwork and stress related to technology (more O-ish topics) have been on my radar. Now heading to graduation in two weeks, I think of myself as an industrial-organizational psychologist, mostly through the nudging of my adviser, Paul Sackett. To the faculty at Minnesota, though a single I/O psychologist might lean toward I or O, that person still has a responsibility to be an expert in both. It helps that the line between them and the topics that inspire them are often not very different, as might be inferred from my recent article in TIP.
But what about the larger business community? Is HR really all that different from I-Psych? Is OB really all that different from O-Psych? Aren’t they all really the same field, just with slight differences in focus and methods? We all ask questions about the people in our organizations. We all seek to learn what they want, what they feel, and how to help them be the best employees they can be, whether for their own sake or the organization’s.
Wouldn’t time be better spent integrating them all than describing the differences? Shouldn’t the issue shift from “It’s good to hear of I-O’s continued interest in staying relevant to HR” to “How can we best combine the efforts of I/O and OBHRM for the good of organizations?”
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