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Niels Christian M Nickelsen

Five currents of organizational psychology: from group norms to enforced change

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Organizational psychology may be seen as consisting of a number of mutually conflictual currents developed over several decades. This article discusses five currents in organizational psychology that have both been dominant in Scandinavia and have had particular significance in relation to the field of organizational development: The social psychological, the socio-technical, the humanistic, the work psychological and the social constructionist currents. Central arguments and works from leading scholars are discussed. It is argued that although treated differently the notions of the small group, group dynamics, resistance to change and process consultation constitute pivotal and through going tenets in all the currents. These notions, it is argued, link the discipline of organizational psychology together into a mutually discordant, but anyway relatively consistent research area. The discussion in the article illustrates that while the early contributions to organizational psychology were explicitly focused on interpersonal process based on egalitarian dialogue in the small group for the sake of democracy, satisfaction and efficiency; the latter rather focus on involving organizational participants in reflection and movement as a goal in itself. Moreover, the analysis exposes a decrease over time of strict analytical interest in group norms and contextualized tasks and also an increasing general socio-cognitive focus on providing flexible mindsets and reversing ready bodies for the sake of continual organizational change. It is argued that this latest budding in organizational psychology has negative implications both for the fineness of the scientific discipline and for the credibility in practice. A firmer ethics is demanded.
Keywords: Organizational psychology, group dynamics, resistance to change, basic assumptions, relations, currents
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordic Journal of Working Life Studies
Pages (from-to)87 - 106
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2017

    Research areas

  • Organisationsudvikling, Organisatorisk læring, Arbejdsliv, Organiationspsykologi

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