Person-Centric Work Psychology: An Overview
Weiss and Rupp (2011) brought to attention the person centric psychology to focus the attention on individuals at work. This approach focuses on individuals in terms of perception, motivation and emotion at work (Amabile & Kramer, 2011). Weiss and Rupp (2011) argue that there is a large amount of research in O/I psychology that focus primarily on organisational development and looking at how it benefits the organisation, such as, organisational growth, profits, and reputation, but not enough on employees as individuals. Traditional O/I psychology generally concentrate on employee performance, absenteeism and so on, as a whole rather than individually. Weiss and Rupp argue that people cannot be put in one ‘box’ but they need to be considered as individuals.
Additionally, they argue that the worker should be the subject rather than object and therefore seek individual’s lived through experiences. Lived through experiences is key to understanding the psychology of an individual at work. Furthermore, person centric work psychology focuses on individual experiences as subjective state which can be temporary (such as, fear, anger, arousal, or flow), longer frame of time (such as, boredom, anxiety, depression), or long term (such as, happiness and well being). It focuses on what work means to an individual, stories individuals make about work, and narrative people use to tell their stories. Additionally, in person centric approach individuals are ‘the active self’ in which the experience is personal (for example, ‘this has happened to me’). It focuses on understanding people’s experiences from their perspective.
This approach is primary to individuals as it preserves the person’s integrity by focusing on the individual experiences of work.
Strength and Weakness to Person- Centric Work Psychology
Although psychology has relied on introspective research to a large degree, it is still criticised by a number of psychologists over the years for its lack of scientific approach (e.g Skinner).
Amabile and Kramer (2011) argue that one of the main limitations is the quality of the data sources and data collection and analysis. For example, the lack of full disclosure from participants. Participants may be reluctant to disclosing information about their organisations for the reasons that they may fear potential consequences by the organisation if certain information was disclosed. Although participants are assured of confidentiality, they may fear how their information will be used. Self-report research is also prone to unconscious bias and faking.
Longitudinal research takes a great deal of time for researchers as well as participants. Employees may lose interest and may be less eager to take part if data is collected often. Furthermore, longitudinal research may lead to the material being repetitive and monotonous and participants may not be able to recall previous experiences and feelings which may lead to valuable information being missed (Bergman, 2011).
For example, in Amabiles and Kramer’s (2011) study, participants were asked to make a diary entry on daily basis, it was found that not all entries were rich in detail. This evidently affected the data analysis richness. Although, interviews may produce better data, this could take a great deal of time and resources.
Personality characteristics are changeable. For example, individual’s characteristics may change depending on the situation. Therefore, it is difficult to draw research solely on characteristics without taking to consideration other factors (Foti et al, 2011). Furthermore, people can feel differently about the same thing on different days (Bergman, 2011).
Weathington (2011) argued that person centric approach the focus is solely on the individual and ignores the organisation and individual interaction. There is a lack of focus on individual within the organisational context. For example, the employees …
Furthermore, there are other variable to consider in order to understand their lived through experience in a wider context, such as, age and gender.
Liu, Zhen, and Wang (2011) provided further insight into the tradition of person centric psychology in O/I psychology which outline the usefulness of the approach. For example, they explained that it has been widely used in occupational health psychology (OHP) in order to improve work quality for employees and improve their health, safety, and well being at work (Sauter et al, 1999). Particularly, in the last few years (2005-2009), over 70% of research in OHP has focused on individuals benefits, such as, stress, work and family life interference, physical health, and more, instead of focusing on benefits of the organisations, for instance, absenteeism and job preference (Liu, Zhen, & Wang, 2011). Furthermore Allen and Poteet (2011) propose that the approach of person centric can be useful to analyse the functioning of mentoring as subjectivity can capture the affective and behavioural information in a way that a survey study may not. Additionally, person centric approach allows practitioners to create policies at work, for instance, flexible working hours, policies for working mothers, and so on (Shockey & Allen, 2011).
It allows to see individuals at work as a ‘whole person’ as Rothbord (2011) explains that individual’s experiences outside work can interact with experiences at work and therefore, it brings value to the employee.
Although person centric approach is favourable in understanding indicial experiences at work the longiditiual studies can be time consuming and costly.
Person centric psychology provides a richer understanding of how people experience work which helps organisations with patterns of decisions making and enhance models (Truxillo and Fraccaroli, 2011). Furthermore, this can result in a win-win situation as workers feeling valued and subsequently will feel happier at work which can increase job performance (Zelenski et al, 2008).
Truxillo and Fraccaroli (2011) explain that person centric psychology is widely used in European countries but not in the US. They stress the idea that there is a need of ore international collaborations for the reasons that it provides a wider understanding of cross-cultural differences which could possibly enhance the visibility of the field. Also, it could influence the way practitioners and researchers think about the field.
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Although, Weiss and Rupp make a plausible argument about the usefulness of person centric approach, they do not propose a methodology. However, researchers such as Amabile and Kramer (2011) state that self-report methodologies such as daily diary inputs is a promising approach to capturing an insightful understanding of people’s experiences at work. With that being said, there are some downfalls to this as participants, may fear giving out any negative insight of their organisation because of their lack of confidence in confidentiality. Therefore, it is important for researchers to build a high level of trust in order to avoid this.
When considering methodologies, Amabile and Kramer (2011) found that quantitative methodologies allowed them to statistically analyse the associations between work life and events at work, along with the associations between work life and performance. However, it was the qualitative analyses that provided the richer understanding of work life and the interlink in-work events and performance. Therefore, although introspection is scrutinised in scientific research, it is useful to understand people’s experiences individually.
It appears that many organisations today use the person centric approach to enhance employee experience at work and well being. For example, Glassdoor reported Anglian Water to be one of the best organisations to work for. It was reported that employees have a positive outlook to the organisation due to organisation’s primary attention to their employees. The organisation offer a number of employee benefits including, career support, physical well being, financial well being, and more. Person centric psychology adds further insight to traditional O/I psychology (Weiss & Rupp, 2011).
It helps practicioners understand peoples experience at work from as early stage as personnel selection (Truxillo & Fraccalori, 2011), to retirement plans (Alder, 2011).
There are a number of advantages to person centric psychology. I agree with the statement of Weiss and Rupp that individuals cannot be put in on ‘box’ because not one person is the same as another and therefore, in order to maintain a healthy experience at work, we need to ensure that we understand these differences individually rather than as a whole. There are a number of factors to why people may have different experiences in a same organisation, including, gender, and race, mental and physical illness, personal experiences, and so on. Therefore it is important to take these into account. Why is it important? Because what may drive or motivate one person at work may not be the same for another, thus, it is important to have a wider understanding when making organisational changes or making policies. In today’s working life, we can say that we have enough research that bring to light the impact working life have on people’s well being in different ways.
Furthermore, I agree that we need into account the limitations to qualitative methodologies or even quantitative when conducting research, for example, taking to account those participants may not provide with rich data for a number of reasons. However, we can say that about any type of research as many studies cannot draw a conclusion without any limitations.
Additionally, person centric approach can be very useful in providing an equal
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