Friday, 8 January 2016

Truth and Work

Gormley at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (Peter Johnson)
This may be a somewhat naive position, but I am among those who believe that academic pursuit should aim towards truth. That truth may indeed be relative, but I hold to the view that the goal must be to seek a universal a truth as possible. This is certainly not an unusual idea; it is normally expected that the work of (quantitative at least) researchers is guided by the search for generalisability. This epistemology holds that - as far possible - good findings are applicable to individuals, groups, societies and even humankind. Indeed, like natural scientists everywhere, work psychologists should also be aiming for truths that apply across the universe!

From the sublime to the mundane. That is, from work psychology as a quest for universals to work psychology as tool of corporate management. It has occasionally been suggested, that within this subject area the pursuit of scientific truth can be deflected by the interests of industry. The effect of this would plainly be that some work psychology research is weighted towards the realpolitik of the enterprise (profit, productivity, efficiency) rather than the greater human truth of the people (staff) within it. Therefore, in such instances teleological assumptions would not resemble, for example 'well being at work as important human end in itself', but rather 'well being at work as a psychological device to enable greater end product'. If work psychology is underpinned by the latter then perhaps the discipline should be conceptualised on a rather more vocational basis; i.e. all the best courses and great research programmes in the grandest universities are no more than training for the next generation of managers and consultants:

Enrol on a work psychology course and learn how to make staff work better, longer, harder.