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« SIOP Name Change FAQS 2-What Is Involved In A Name Change? | Main | From the Executive Board: Should SIOP Change Its Name? »

April 30, 2009


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Any name change which removes the term "industrial" will result in my resigning my membership.

When I came into this field, we did it all: consumer opinion, selection, training, forensic, copyright, safety, job attitudes, job design, aviation, etc. Our work was based on experimental, differential, and social psychology. Many members do work concerned with selection, assessment, etc. based on differential psychology. Others do work based on findings from experimental psychology: training, development, perceptual issues, design, etc.

I am concerned that the use of organizational psychology will focus our work and worse, our training, on issues relating to social psychology while drifting from those related to the other roots of our field. That is not something to brush aside, as names do have an impact on where we go.

My recent experience with representatives of business, government, the military, etc. shows that most recognize I-O and what we do. We could lose something if we give up our present identity.

On the other hand, the tide seems immense toward a name change. If we must change, let's refer to ourselves those concerned with WORK. We are concerned with the people who work, with the organizations in which they work, and with the consumers of the products and services they provide. So why not join the Europeans in using that term?

How about Psychology of Work Society (POWS)? Or, POWA? Or, you rearrange the letters.

I am deeply concerned that limiting our scope to organizational psychology will have a long term negative effect on the growth of our field. Let's make sure we have all the room in the world to swing our cat. POWS!!

Paul W. Thayer

If we really want our field's name to move out of the mid 20th century and into the 21st, we should also consider adding the term "international" to it to better reflect the continued globalization of the workplace. Perhaps, then, we should change our name to: The International Society for Organizational Psychology (ISOP), which has the added hip and contemporary benefit of having the letter “I” at the beginning (e.g., iPhone, iPod, iReport). If we wanted to embrace internationalism even more, we could consider putting the noun before the adjective as they do in many non-English languages and using a fancy French spelling, thereby making it: The Society Internationale for Organizational Psychology or -- SIOP -- ☺

There's little question in my mind that the name of our organization/field needs to change. I have in the past coordinated an I-O master's program and we've had to compete for students with a growing proliferation of "organizational management" graduate programs emanating from for-profit schools or small liberal arts colleges. The appeal of these programs to students reflects some interest on their part in a common domain of content with our field. But the term "industrial" is off-putting to today's recent graduates and to working adults considering a return to school for a graduate degree. In my own institution where I serve as an academic dean, we offer graduate programs in corporate communications, business management, health care management, and educational leadership, all of which represent more appealing applied degree titles to students. The reality seems to be that if a prospective graduate student was not exposed to I-O psychology as an undergraduate, he/she is less likely to consider enrolling in a graduate program with the word “industrial” in the title. While it is true that our faculty could change the name of our program to organizational psychology or personnel and organizational psychology (as I once proposed), there is an understandable allegiance to SIOP as the professional organization whose name establishes the name for the field. A name change for SIOP would give faculty permission to change our program name and thereby help the program to attract more students to our field.

In my experience, it is not uncommon for faculty in psychology departments, and some undergraduate students perhaps taking their cues from faculty, to question the placement of industrial-organizational psychology in psychology departments. I think the word “industrial” contributes to this lack-of-fit perception. It inappropriately suggests to some faculty the venue (a for-profit manufacturing business) wherein we exclusively do our work. (This is reinforced by their memories of a History and Systems of Psychology course they may have taken where the only mention of I-O psychology centered on factory research.) Perhaps eliminating the word “industrial” from our name will enable us to better connect with our colleagues in psychology departments and better position our field within our parent discipline of psychology.

It seems to me that the term Organizational Psychology retains the majority of what we intend to convey, eliminates the antiquated feel of the name, and is more readily comprehensible than the Industrial label.

Once we have people's attention with a recognizable name, an explanation with an Industrial perspective can still be given, I believe, without conceptual conflict.

Perhaps the Organizational Psychology Society (as either OPS or TOPS) could serve as a smoother name and acronym.

I think Dr. Ann Marie Ryan, SIOP's former president, framed this name change issue best. She wrote that I-O psychology is involved in a continuing identity quest; that the greatest challenges are related to our identity as a field; and that "[t]hese challenges occur because we haven’t clarified what our identity is, we haven’t been able to convey our identity well, and because we don’t have a clear sense of what direction we would like our identity to evolve in" (Ryan, 2003, p.21).

Ryan proposed FOUR things:

(1) Create solidarity around a set of distinctive, core attributes. We need to clearly state what our identity is.

"[W]e cannot be defining ourselves through just a reference to the types of practice we engage in, but we must be referring back to our knowledge
base and our disciplinary core. It isn’t being a test developer, or a change
agent, or a trainer, or a survey designer that defines our identity—other people do these things. Our identity derives from how we do it, how we approach it, what we base it on. Our identity isn’t from our practice; our practice flows from our identity" (Ryan, 2003, p.25).

(2) Work so that our external image matches our identity, not to craft an external image that fits what “they” are looking for.

We need to ask ourselves “who are we” AND we need to ask “who do we want to be?”

(3) Consider who we want to be known to.

We need to embrace a wider group than just business decision makers. We should educate students about our field and we should educate the public about who we are "because anyone who works can and will be affected by what we do" (Ryan, 2003, p. 28).

(4) Choose our comparators and dimensions of comparison thoughtfully.

We're not SHRM (HR Association) nor are we the Academy of Management. We're rooted in science and research but we also engage in practical applications.

Finally, Ryan advised us to remember that "while a name can be very helpful in conveying identity, it will not serve as a pancea for all that faces us regarding our identity. We will need to do much more to address our challenges" (Ryan, 2003, p. 29).

After considering the things that Dr. Ryan shared, it is my opinion that our new identity and name should be: Society for Organizational Psychology.

Name: "Society for Organizational Psychology" (SOP)

Tag: "Psychology Applied to the Workplace - Understanding and Predicting How People Think, Act and Feel in Work Settings" (via email from Dr. Ryan)

Respectfully Submitted,

Steve Nguyen
Senior Diversity Specialist
University of North Texas


Ryan, A.M. (2003). Defining ourselves: I/O Psychology’s identity quest. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 41(1), 21-33.

Is there a non-applied side to organizational psychology? Even Org Psychologists in academia do their research for applied implications.

FWIW I think we should keep it. If for nothing else other then its already our established brand

I am happy to see that the Exec Board is considering this name change. As a practitioner in the field for more than 15 yrs, I agree w/the reasons listed for the change. Not long ago at a SIOP conference, I suggested dropping the "I" from our name and received dead stares from prominent members. This effort as a sign that we are open to evolving as a profession. I am in favor of the name, Society for Organizational Psychology. As a society, we will likely struggle w/the change which I believe is a good opportunity for us to better understand what our subjects in organizations often experience.

I am an "I" side practitioner and would welcome a name change to Applied Organizational Psychology. Potential clients would more readily understand our scope of services.

Applied Organizational Psychology has a nice ring to it. Acronym is a bit unwieldy if you keep the Society tho.

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