In Spring 2018, the first EAWOP Small Group Meeting on the Future of Work and Organizational Psychology (FoWOP) was organized. In Breda, 50 work psychologists gathered for three days to discuss the future of our field. From this meeting, four major themes of interest emerged. The participants concluded that if we want a flourishing academic discipline, and if we ourselves want to be healthy and flourishing academics, we must work towards 4 objectives in the coming years:
1) promoting critical research in WOP,
2) promoting substantive – methodological synergy in WOP,
3) promoting healthy universities for healthy academics,
4) promoting equality in academia
These themes are at the heart of the FoWOP Movement. We continue to work on our objectives, through organising meetings, conducting research and writing (see our manifesto), and bringing people together to spur change in universities worldwide.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE FoWOP THEMES
PROMOTING CRITICAL RESEARCH IN WOP
Given that WOP as a discipline studies the human psyche and behavior within the social context of the workplace, WOP is part of social sciences. But while other social sciences, such as sociology or political science, are built on critical foundations, the critical tradition is nearly entirely missing from most work psychology research conducted today. While academics generally agree that the goal of universities is to train students for reflective and critical thinking, we as WOP psychologists often do not aim for the same objectives in our research. We believe that it is our responsibility as work psychologists to be critical of workplace affairs. Differences in power and resources define employees’ organizational experiences and trajectories, and workplace inequalities manifest in organizational structures and are reproduced by organizational practices. Individuals’ psychological experiences and behaviours are integral parts of these systemic processes. In our research, we must critically reflect on the individual’s role within these systemic processes and the effects of these processes on the individual. As WOP researchers, we have responsibility to respond to societal problems and normative concerns in the workplace, and to be able to do this, we need to be engaged in an ongoing dialogue with societal stakeholders, such as non-governmental organizations, policy makers, trade unions etc.
SUBSTANTIVE-METHODOLOGICAL SYNERGIES IN WOP RESEARCH
In an analysis of current research practices in the field of education and psychology, Marsh and Hau (2007) noted an increasing level of disconnection between theoretical developments and new methodological developments. This lead them to underline the need for substantive-methodological synergies to reconnect what we are looking to study with how we do this. Substantive-methodological synergies occur when studies are examining substantively and practically interesting and relevant issues, using state-of-the art methodological and statistical tools. Complex questions require complex methodologies and often lead to the development and refinement of cutting-edge methodologies, leading in turn to new and valuable substantive insight. In WOP this means we need to (re)assess our methodologies in terms of which ones show potential for answering the relevant and urgent research questions in our field. One such development that shows potential is the person-centred approach, the exploration of typologies, grouping individuals into unique and distinct profiles (or clusters, or configurations or classes) for which the relations with behavioural outcomes may differ (Magnusson, 1998). The variable-centred approach is the dominant approach in the analysis of data in WOP (regression-based models, SEM), nevertheless, the person-centred approach in forming profiles is emerging as a promising direction for future research (Meyer, Stanley, & Vandenberg, 2012).
PROMOTING HEALTHY UNIVERSITIES FOR HEALTHY ACADEMICS
Today’s university is in crisis: as a result of the increasing work pressure; scarce jobs, precarious contracts and job insecurity; a dysfunctional tenure track system; a publication system that exploits and exhausts academics; competitive organizing and the pressure to acquire competitive funding; and the lack of close-knit communities and associations that protect the rights and needs of academics, academics reportedly struggle with mental and physical health problems. At the same time, there’s a widespread agreement among WOP scholars that we need to increase our societal and practical impact. However, if we want to be societally relevant as a field, if we want to advise organizations on working conditions that benefit both employees and organizations, we need to first examine ourselves and the ways we organize work. If we are to advice practitioners about positive organizational practices, we need to become practitioners within our own organizations and implement our expertise to safeguard the well-being of academic employees. Achieving positive change is always the most feasible on the local level. If we strive for practical and societal relevance, we need to first improve the workplaces we inhibit: the universities. The goal is to use our collective intelligence and expertise in envisaging a university that provides its employees with stability, security, and a psychologically safe and supportive environment where health abounds and creative thinking and research can flourish.
PROMOTING EQUALITY IN ACADEMIA
At the Small Group Meeting in Breda, we have identified inequalities as a major concern of academic organizing. Ethnic minorities are underrepresented in our field and in academia in general. Our field is almost entirely white – it is enough to have a look around at the academic conferences we attend to gather evidence about this. Despite psychology and HR being traditionally feminine domains, and despite women being in large numbers present among our students, PhD students and as starting faculty members, higher up on the academic ladder, the gender ratio changes. Despite constituting the majority in the field, women still struggle with discriminatory practices in their academic lives and careers. Women and ethnic minorities receive lower chances for promotion than their white & male counterparts, they receive less funding, publish less and proceed slower in their careers. Furthermore, early career academics are especially vulnerable given their especially precarious positions.