The Application of Psychology to Workplace Behaviors

In a job environment, there are so many aspects to be aware of and deal with on a daily basis which can include stereotyping, bias behavior, a difference of opinion, conflict, and much more. From an employee’s perspective, these circumstances can become unbearable affecting their performance leaving them left with little drive nor motivation to push forward. However, conflict can be a tool to mold an employee to that of one filled with motivation to try harder and output more for the company. It is all a manner of how the situation is approached and understanding human behavior. With that, understanding how these issues within a workplace impact the employees can begin to understand how to resolve those issues.

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It takes a great deal of courage and awareness to react appropriately when it comes to people bringing their own intolerance into their public lives at work. Fearful of the outcomes like a lawsuit against the company, owners are doing more to prevent harassment and discrimination. From stereotyping to color jokes, this can make the workplace very troublesome. Stereotyping is the most common such behaviors, with 54% of African Americans, 52% of Latinos and 39% of whites say they have experienced this at work within a year’s time. According to the 2003 surveys by the Level Playing Field Institute, A San Francisco nonprofit suggests, nearly 30% of whites and about 45% African Americans and Hispanics have heard unwanted racial, ethnic, religious, or cultural jokes (Jackson, 2006). When people don’t know a given person’s reputation, their initial impressions are likely to be affected by the stereotypes, or biased perceptions that you might have about certain types or groups of people. If you assume that all blacks are lazy, dull, ignorant, but musical, you will tend to “see” these attributes even in an energetic, bright black doctor who perhaps couldn’t carry a tune in a handbag. If your attitude toward Jews is that they are intelligent, emotional, and penny-pinching, you may respond to each Jew as if she or he had to fit your stereotype. Any time you react to an individual primarily in terms of that person’s membership in some group or in terms of that person’s physical characteristics, race or religion-you are guilty of stereotyping. That is, you have let the reputation of the group influence your perception of the individual who belongs to that particular group, such as; whites, blacks, Latinos and so on (McConnell, 1989). University of Minnesota psychologist Mark Snyder points out that, once you form a stereotype of a given group, you tend to seek out information that confirms the stereotype and repress information that doesn’t. Furthermore, Snyder says, when you interact with people you’ve “stereotyped,” you tend to behave toward them in ways that will elicit responses that fit the stereotype (Snyder, 1983). To put into more cognitive terms, when you “stereotype” people, you are using what Piaget called the process of “assimilation.” That is, you are forcing your perception of the individual to fit your schema for remembering or classifying that type of person. When you change your perception to fit the facts, you are accommodating to the real world by altering your schema. When perceiving a person in a biased fashion often leads us to behave toward that individual in a stereotyped fashion, and, in response, the individual may react to us in a way that confirms our original perception. (Snyder, 1983).

Lou Holtz, the coach himself, once said, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it” (Holtz, n.d.). So, according to Holtz motivation is the mechanism that links the ability to actuality. Even more fundamental to this link is how the internal mechanisms of motivation, personal control, and conflict resolution, work in unison to promote actual occupational performance. Orpen (1994) concluded, after several studies, that personal control does indeed moderate the relationship between job satisfaction and job performance. In addition, Orpen found that personal control was also implicated in the development of work motivation, which is highly correlated with job performance. Conversely, if personal control is low in a work environment, then motivation and therefore, job performance suffers greatly. On the other hand, motivation can be hampered if conflicts are not resolved quickly and adequately (Behfar, Mannix, Peterson, Trochim, 2008). Behfar et al. found that conflicts can be resolved both quickly and adequately by focusing on interpersonal interactions rather than delivery style when communicating, discussing the reasons behind decisions, and assigning work to team members who have relevant experience in the area assigned. In the language of behaviorism, job performance must be negatively reinforced by the elimination of low personal control, and conflict resolution must be positively reinforced by the implementation of the aforementioned strategies.     

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The bonus system at my organization seems to be conducive to low job performance and job satisfaction. Employees get paid an hourly wage according to their position, but we also have the opportunity to receive a monthly bonus based on our net income at the store level. The problem is that the projections for our net income are hugely inflated and wholly unattainable. This situation fosters an attitude of apathy and poor job performance among employees because the bonus was so hyped when they were hired. The mechanism of operant conditioning has the ability to turn the situation around. The problem with implementing operant conditioning in this situation though is that it is only effective when the reward directly follows the behavior. Well, the monthly bonus is days off from the activities which usually facilitate net income growth. An alternative though would be to offer gas cards or gift cards to employees do the activities require for income growth as close to the activities as possible. That way a direct link between the benefits and the activity can be established and fostered. In this way, the reward would positively reinforce the activities that bring about increased income. Conversely, the withholding of the aforementioned rewards could also act as a negative reinforcer to those who choose not to be as productive.  

Issues that happen in a company that is called city plating is favoritism. There are over 20 people who are employed, and there are great deals of them who have worked there for many years and others that have been there for a year or so. My husband is one of them, he has been with this company for a year and has not yet received a pay raise, but all other employees received one. I find this to be very discriminating because I believe all employees should be treated equally especially if they work at the same level. None of them do more than anyone else, or knows more than someone else. Favoritism is going to be found in many companies because there is always going to be someone who always wants to come out on top. Another reason I say that city plating shows favoritism is because there are so many employees who think that they could show up at any time that they want.They are always coming in late and clocking out early, but the moment my husband comes in five minutes late they want to write him up. The other employees are coming is late does not get told anything and they do not get written up. I can go on and on about so many things that are discriminating within this company, but these are the few that I am going to share with you.

I work for an agency that specializes in working with children who have autism. My job title is a paraprofessional or we can also be referred to as skills trainers. Paraprofessional assists the professional by one on one service for the child, and in this case that would be the Special Education teacher. Therefore, they are our immediate supervisors but this can cause issues with the paraprofessionals. In one respect they have received extensive training to become a Special Education (SPED) teacher but from another perspective, they are not the ones spending hour after hour with the autistic child. This causes conflict when the paraprofessional is instructed to do something from the (SPED) teacher and clearly this instruction is not applicable to the case. An ideal situation for a paraprofessional would be that in which the instructor listens, supports, and agrees with their theories. I have found that the majority of the time the situation is not in the paraprofessional’s favor. Because of this, the paraprofessionals become discouraged being left feeling their methods, that they have found to work, are not supported and not looked upon as successful. Experimentation could be a method to change the issues that arise with countless paraprofessionals. If all parties involved listened to the ideas of the paraprofessional and experimented on what works, in the end, it will be beneficial for the most important candidate of all, the student. All parties involved are there to serve the student in order to achieve the goal of making their lives quality enriched. In my experienced opinion, I believe the person working with the child all day every day knows what is best and what works for their student, which just needs to be considered.

The issue that I choose to write about what happens in the workplace is sexism.  Sexism is the belief that one sex or gender is better or less valuable than the other.  Sexism is also known as female or male chauvinism promotes stereotypes of social roles. Sexism can affect females, males, and transgender and happens in the workplace every day. This form of discrimination is especially prone to workplaces that are predominately run by a specific gender. The way that people view gender roles that men and women play can be imposed by their upbringing and their cultural surroundings. Gender roles have been changing in recent decades and sexism continues to be more of a problem for females than for males. Many male corporate heads still have the thought process that I woman cannot do the job as well as a man and with that woman are not given as many opportunities or promotions as their male counterparts. When woman become dominant in their companies, they can sometimes reciprocate to behavior that they have observed for years, becoming sexist themselves. I was in the army for years and experienced sexism in countless ways. The military expects a woman to serve their country and put our lives on the line for our country just like the men do, however,I have served under several men who all though they expect us to leave our feminine ways at the door, we are not treated equally.

The number one issue in my place of work would have to be favoritism.  I work in a restaurant and there is no job security, and you could say in this kind of environment anything goes in any given day. There are always new rules being passed around according to how the owner feels for that given day, there is no such thing as seniority, and whoever my boss favors that day gets the best sections. In regard to“best sections” I mean the waitresses are constantly battling for the better sections, which means the seating in the restaurant. For example, section 1, 2, and 3 are where many of our regular customers like to sit, these sections are by the bay windows and this seating is popular. I work in the lounge area, and a great deal of the customers prefer to be in the main dining area, so low and behold whoever gets the lounge seating whines up a storm and of course, I am in there so I hear this all night. This is just a small topic compared to the problems that I deal with on a day to day basis with the women and or girls I work with. We also have a problem with not getting the appropriate schedule; I could not remember the last time someone did not complain about the nights they have been given. The main complaint is “The economy is doing badly,”and “We are not making the money we used to make.”So of course, everyone wants the best nights. In this business you must take the good with the bad, like for instance, I work Wednesday, and Thursday by myself so those two nights I do very well. But I also work Friday and Saturday nights but I work with my partner Brian and we split everything down the middle and sometimes we can be walking out of there with no more than 60 dollars on any given night. I take the good with the bad to tell you the truth; right now I am just grateful for having a job. This is what I try to explain to the girls I work with, but all they see is what they are not making instead of what they are making, so it seems senseless to talk because they are not hearing what I have to say in the matter. These girls have been spoiled by the good ole days when making 550 dollars a night for 5 hours was a walk in the park, and now they have to work harder to make 125 dollars on any given night. This decline in the economy alone has made my place of work a dog eat dog, the survival of the fittest, backstabbing, place of employment and makes for terrible surroundings for the customers also. 

With everything I know about the issues, I have just explained in my place of work I thought to be best to recommend a group meeting to talk over the reoccurring issues that are constantly arising. This sort of matter looking at it from a psychology point would perhaps fall under Social Psychology and how it relates to groups and social interacting with one another. There are four important issues in Social Psychology; the first is describing social relationships, should we look at how the individual affects the group, or how the group influences the individual? Second, when we attempt to study social variables, should we look primarily at internal processes such as attitudes; or at objective events such as the behaviors? Thirdly, are social responses learned or mostly determined by genes? In this particular situation, I think social responses have it hands down? Should we be more interested in relatively consistent features of individuals and social organizations (structures), or those aspects that change fairly readily? Now when applying these aspects to a place of work it would consist of sitting everyone down and talking out the issues at hand, for example, in the first issue should we look at this problem as a whole group or should we address only a few of the people who would be the everyday whiners? We should address the attitudes in general, there area given few that come in with very bad attitudes and this brings everyone down as a whole. Are these brought on by what is happening in the workplace or is it the attitudes of those in general?  Either way, we need to sit down as a whole group (team) and figure out what can be done to make this a better work environment not only for the employees but especially for the customer who pays our bills at the end of the day! There isa big need for a change and if a plan is not implemented, we as a whole group could be the next ones at the unemployment line.

Issues and problems are a way of life for us all to learn from. Finding new ways to deal with these issues gives us a chance to see all perspectives. In every job situation, there are always the same characters, the snobby one, the bossy one, the sweet one, the pushover, the loud one, and the lazy one. All these characters add spice to the mix and a company wouldn’t be complete without one or the other. As a result, conflict occurs because they are all so different and on a social outlook would not associate with each other. However, using psychology and further examining why each character acts the way they do and learning how to use certain methods to rise above conflict and find solutions, will, in turn, promote a healthy work environment.


Behfar, K. J., Mannix, E. A., Peterson, R. S., & Trochim, W. K. (2008). The critical role of conflict resolution in teams: A close look at the links between conflict type, conflict management strategies, and team outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(1), 170-188. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from EBSCOhost database.

Holtz, L., (n.d.). Retrieved December 4, 2008, from Quotations Page Web site:

Jackson, M. (2006). Confronting bias at work. The Boston Globe. Retrieved December 8, 2008, from Web site.

Kowalski, R., & Westen, D., (2005). Psychology (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Orpen, C. (1994). Interactive effects of work motivation and personal control on employee job performance and satisfaction. Journal of Social Psychology, 134(6), 855-856. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from EBSCOhost database.

Schein, V. E., (1978). Sex role stereotyping, ability and performance: Prior research and new directions. Personnel Psychology, 31(2), 259-268. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from EBSCOhost database.

Jackson, M. (2006). Confronting bias at work. The Boston Globe. Retrieved December 8, 2008, from Web site.

Understanding human behavior. (1989). McConnell 6th Edition.

Paper Topic

  • Prepare a 1,050 to 1,400-word paper in which you examine the application of psychology to workplace behaviors. As a part of this examination be sure to address following items:
    • Analyze the impact of the following on the work environment:
      • Human behavior
      • Perception and conflict
      • Bias and stereotyping
      • Describe the role of motivation in the work environment and determine who is responsible for fostering motivation in the work environment.
      • For each one of the learning team members’ organizations, describe at least one workplace issue (e.g., conflict between two employees, perceived biases in organizational polices) that exists in the organization and how psychological research findings, theories, or models can be used to improve the issue.

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