Psychology’s role in the workplace

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Written by Jackie Carillo on 4 October 2019 in Features

Don't underestimate the power of psychology in the workplace, says Jackie Carillo.

Reading time: 3 minutes.

Everywhere people go, psychology has an impact. However, in no place is psychology more overtly important than the workplace.

Organisations want their workers to be productive, workers want to feel fulfilled, and everyone in a professional setting craves happiness and balance. This is how understanding and manipulating psychological principles comes in handy — to give everyone what they want with as few compromises and sacrifices as possible.

No matter where you work or what you do, you can benefit from learning about psychology and applying it to your workplace in these specific ways.


Recruitment is an expensive process, costing between $3,000 and $5,000 per hire at the average SMB, and recruitment is also an incredibly delicate process, one that you need to devote resources to getting right.

Expanding training to last the entire first three months of employment will create a more informed, effective and loyal employee.  

By skimping on hiring, you risk harming your company with a chaotic, unskilled or untrustworthy new hire, but even if you do everything right in recruitment, you could still bring on someone who isn’t the perfect fit for your corporate culture.

In understanding psychology, you can better identify the skills and personality mandatory for your open positions and draft suitable job descriptions to attract the best possible candidates. Psychology could also help you better organise your interviews, so you gain as much information from candidates as possible.

Training and development

For a new recruit, the first three months of employment are the most critical. It is during this period that new hires learn how to act within the workplace culture, develop the work habits they will maintain for much of their employment and otherwise establish their own expectations for their position.


Unfortunately, it is possible for this period to go drastically wrong, resulting in an unproductive employee who has a poor relationship with the firm. While it might seem like overkill, expanding training to last the entire first three months of employment will create a more informed, effective and loyal employee.  

Additionally, you should be willing to provide advanced training and career development to employees who have demonstrated commitment to the organisation — in fact, you might enroll in a graduate-level psychology program yourself to improve your application of psychology in the workplace.

Performance reviews

Performance reviews are mandatory. Not only do they help you communicate better with your staff, providing feedback essential to improved job performance, but they also help employees communicate better with you, so you know what you and your organisation can do better for your workforce.

However, not all performance reviews are equal; it is possible to get absolutely nothing out of scheduled reviews simply because you approach the meetings incorrectly with regards to your communication style, attitude or word choice.

Understanding psychological principles can help you maintain composure while you are delivering and receiving feedback. Even better, psychology might help you make effective goals for your employees and your organisation, so by the time of the next round of performance reviews, you will see marked improvement.

Motivation and productivity

Over time, a workforce will decrease in productivity and efficiency — unless it remains motivated. There are two types of motivation within a person: internal and external. Internal motivation comes, as you might expect, from within; it derives from a person’s unique passions or interests, and it tends to be the stronger driving force.

Conversely, examples of external motivation include pay, awards and punishments. As time goes on, external motivation typically becomes less effective.

Motivation is a complex psychological issue, one that organisations have long sought to understand, and it is a common problem for industrial-organisation psychologists, who study and improve various psychological issues around a workplace. Suffice it to say that you need to study psychology in depth to better understand how motivation works, or you need to hire someone who already does.

Understanding how people think and act is always a vital skill. When you are running an organisation, you should be supremely concerned with treating people respectfully while encouraging them to do their best work, and having a grasp on psychology can help with that.


About the author

Jackie Carillo is a content coordinator and contributor for Seek Visibility.


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