Santa and the Industrial Psychologist

December 11th, 2009 by jpassen Leave a reply »

Porter Hall

Porter Hall

by Gary Kustis, Ph.D.

Probably your first introduction to an “industrial psychologist” was in the 1947 version of A Miracle on 34th Street when poor Santa Claus is subjected to a psychological assessment by Macy’s duplicitous Dr. Granville Sawyer.  Dr. Sawyer tries hard to get him committed after Kris Kringle whaps him upside the head with his cane.  It doesn’t bode well for your profession when even Santa wants to open a can of whoop-ass on you.  That may be why at this very moment thousands of “industrial-organizational psychologists” (which is what they’ve been calling themselves since 1987) are voting electronically on whether to drop the term “industrial” from the name of their professional organization, The Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology.

In fact, the issue at hand is not the annual holiday vilification portrayed by the character actor Porter Hall (who, incidentally, played all kind of cretins in the movies, including the guy who shot Wild Bill Hickock in the back) but the fact that the term “industrial” seems a bit archaic to today’s businesses.  Moreover, it doesn’t really capture what psychologists in this line of work these days.  Sure, these are still the same “scientist-practitioners” who are out there building tests to help screen job applicants, but they’re also busy doing team building, analyzing survey data, and helping to put together solid developmental plans for your employees.  Finally, as you can imagine, trying to brand your profession when it has fourteen syllables also isn’t very easy.

So, I’m off to go vote “Yes” to change the by-laws of the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology (aka, SIOP—pronounced “SY-op”) to the slightly more syllable friendly, The Society for Organizational Psychology (TSOP—“TEE-sop”?).  We’ll see which way it turns out after the first of the year.  In the meantime, if you go to Macy’s and happen to see St. Nick, chances are he took a test developed by your friendly, neighborhood “organizational psychologist” before he was allowed to hoist that first kid up on his lap.  Old Mr. Macy may have fired Dr. Sawyer at the end of the movie, but I’ll bet he hired a replacement organizational psychologist right after New Year’s.

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