17 Feb I’m not a Mind Reader!
Hello and welcome to my first piece for our new Blog. I have volunteered to be a regular contributor and I hope my pieces will give both an interesting and informative insight into some areas of Behavioural Safety and Occupational Psychology. I pondered hard as to what topic to start with as so many people ask me questions when I’m working with them about ‘what makes people do the things they do’, but I decided I should stick with protocol and start with an explanation of what Occupational Psychology actually is.
When I tell people I’m a psychologist they often shirk away in horror believing me to be a mystic with mind reading powers. ‘Oh I wish!’ I can see my self as the next Derren Brown. The other reaction I encounter is people who think I can offer them marriage guidance or advice on dealing with troubled teenagers and I have to tell them ‘I’m not that sort of psychologist’ to which they look strangely at me and say well what other sort is there?
The world of Psychology is not that old in comparison to the other science, about 120 years. There are now many areas a Psychologist can specialise in Clinical Psychology; looking at mental and physical health problems like anxiety, depression, addiction and schizophrenia, Neuro; looking at the functions of the brain like memory, sight, hearing especially to do with brain damage and illness like dementia, Developmental; how babies become adults and develop speech and learn to walk etc, Educational how children learn and develop socially, Forensic; what make people turn criminal, Health looking at peoples attitudes towards wellness and ill health, Sports; looking at improving performance in competitive sports and Occupational; how work affects people and how they affect it. It’s called Organisational in some other countries and sometimes Work or Business Psychology as well.
Occ Psych is the study of work and the effect it has on people. All interventions are based on rigorous scientific theory and are applied to the human resource of a business from selection of the right people, their training and development, their performance and job satisfaction. The primary focus is always to align this human resource with the business goals of the organisation. The people management side of the business is the hardest to get right as there are so many factors that are interacting with each other. Decisions made at the top of the organisation can have an effect else where that is not seen until damage has been done. A restructure for example may make financial sense, but split work teams who become disengaged and underperform which only becomes apparent when quality starts to drop off and customers go else where. The research done in the field of Occ Psyc is all about understanding these delicate interactions and the effect they can have and as part of my role at JOMC I use this knowledge to help management teams make more informed decisions and understand how to communicate this to their staff. The heart of JOMC is about Engagement of employees in any area of the business, be it safety, quality or production to ensure a positive culture with everyone pulling together and I get great satisfaction seeing this up close.
An area of that has crossed over into the Health & Safety world is that of Human factors and Human Machine Interaction. These are branches within Occ Psyc that look quite specifically at the interaction people have with their work environment and the equipment they use. This has helps design out many issues users have with machines like computers and the original work stemmed a lot from the 2nd world war where many people died in plane crashes from pushing the wrong button, not being shot down by the enemy. Many of the safety critical work environments today have been developed with input from Human factors and ergonomic specialist. Human Error is a contributory factor in the majority of accidents and often it’s down to the decision making process people go through when faced with a problem. When under pressure we resort to the way we are familiar with which might not have been the best method to use. This is why it’s very difficult to get people to adopt new ways of working without continuous reminders to break old habits. This leads us neatly into the world of Behavioural Change which I will do some pieces on in the coming months.