This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 15 table of contents.

Personnel Psychology

Personnel psychology is the application of psychology to the hiring and care of employees. Borman, Hanson, and Hedge (1997) reviewed developments in the field of personnel selection and found three trends:

What are some trends in personnel psychology?

1) Increased attention to performance models and criteria

What exactly should a manager look for in an employee's on-the-job behavior? What is a "model worker" like, in a particular business?

2) More interest in personality measures

Personality has a clear relationship to job performance. For example, a person who is steady and reliable in personality will be steady and reliable on the job. Of the Big Five personality traits discussed in Chapter 11 (Personality Theories), conscientiousness is most highly correlated with good job performance. Conscientiousness includes such characteristics as being dependable, showing up on time, and completing a job correctly rather than taking short cuts that may produce a lower quality product.

3) More research on the goodness of fit between person and organization: so-called P-O fit

Why is P-O fit important?

A focus on P-O fit is good for both organizations and employees. Different types of organizations attract—and need—different types of employees. A company might attract youthful computer experts who routinely stay up all night debugging programs and systems. That might be just fine with some people, as long as they can bring their dogs to work and get some free pizza. At other types of companies, employees are given less freedom. The dog has to stay home, but the employee can always leave at the end of the business day.

What are work teams?

A big change in job organization at some companies, during the 1990s, was the emergence of work teams, in which members rotate from one activity to the next. Ilgen (1999) complained that not enough research was being done on positive and negative aspects of work teams, considering their increased popularity. The Saturn auto company made this concept of work teams famous in the United States, although they were not the first to use the idea. Volvo, for example, has been doing it for decades.

Work teams are a good example of modern workplace practices that require a flexible, educated workforce. Interpersonal skills are more important than before. Stevens and Campion (1994) found that the most important social skills for work teams were ability to work with others in solving problems, ability to communicate, and ability to manage and resolve conflicts. Work group members are also required to have good cognitive skills. They must be flexible and able to learn many different jobs, because frequently they take turns doing each other's jobs.

How are companies changing what they look for in employees?

Landy and colleagues (1994) suggested that, because of the emergence of work teams and similar arrangements, companies should look upon organizational citizenship as one of the most desirable characteristics in employees. Organizational citizenship in the 2000s appears to differ from the "Organization Man" concept of the 1950s, not just in the loosening of gender restrictions, but also in the description of the ideal employee. The Organization Man of the 1950s was a tight-lipped conformist who followed orders and did not rock the boat. The good Organizational Citizen of the 2000s is a flexible thinker and learner who knows how to cooperate with co-workers and communicate with leaders about suggested workplace, process, and product improvements.

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