Organizational Psychology

open-for-businessOrganizational psychology—also called industrial psychology, employment psychology, occupational psychology, and business psychology—is the field of psychology dedicated to studying people’s behaviors within organizations, particularly in the workplace.

History and Professions

Psychologists have studied behavior in the workplace for decades, and some of the most famous psychological studies have occurred in this field. The Hawthorne studies found that employee behavior changes when employees are studied, partially because employees are treated differently as a result of the study. These studies provided some of the earliest insight into organizational behavior and workplace psychology.

Industrial psychologists typically obtain advanced degrees—usually a master’s followed by a doctoral degree. Some schools offer degrees designed to train future psychologists in industrial psychology, and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology is the organization within the American Psychological Association dedicated to studying workplace behavior.

Topics Studied in Organizational Psychology

Organizational psychologists study a wide variety of workplace-related behaviors, including:

  • Factors that contribute to workplace loyalty and employee satisfaction
  • Job burnout
  • Workplace bullying and sexual harassment
  • Workplace organization
  • How the workplace can affect the behavior of individual workers
  • Assessments of individual capabilities including standardized tests designed to help people pick appropriate careers
  • How best to structure organizations, build teams, and foster workplace harmony
  • How the workplace affects psychological and physical health
  • Factors that affect job performance
  • Effective employee training methods
  • How to choose effective managers

Some large corporations now employ organizational psychologists to help develop policies that ensure a productive, healthy workplace. Organizational psychologists may also be part of human resources departments, and may be involved in evaluating employees and making recommendations that improve the workplace environment.


  1. American Psychological Association. APA concise dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2009. Print.
  2. Colman, A. M. (2006). Oxford dictionary of psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  3. Organizational Psychology. (n.d.). Walden University. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 01-9-2018

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