Occupational Psychologists specialise in human behaviour in the workplace and are increasingly sort after by Australian employers to help to improve the efficiency of the organisations by developing a specific set of skills and behaviours among employees.

The US Bureau of Labour Statistics recently ranked industrial Occupational Psychologists as the fastest growing occupation in the US. The BLS is expecting a growth rate of 53 per cent in companies engaging organisational psychologists in the US between now and 2022 to help with the increasing demands placed on employees in the workforce today.

Macquarie University senior lecturer and organisational psychologist Ben Searle says organisational psychologists typically work in planning, policy and HR departments and are often valued members of senior management teams. Listing the top workplace stresses, he says “the issues that cause the most stress include juggling demands with inadequate resources, heavy workloads and time pressures, having to tackle multiple tasks, bureaucracy and red tape, no clear guidelines and ambiguity about a person’s role, conflict between work and home, office interpersonal issues, and physical danger.

“All workers handle stress differently and a good organisational psychologist will look not just at how a company is functioning but how each individual reacts to different situations.”

Unlike other consultants, organisational psychologists can show causality between their contribution in an organisation and the improvement among employees. Their effects are tangible, immediate and long term which benefits both the organisation and the worker and helps build competence and proficiency among the team as a whole as well as on an individual level.

Performance Strategies director and performance psychologist Rupert Bryce says the key is for employers and workplaces to recognise when outside expertise is needed and act on it in a timely manner.

“Increasingly, I work with clients who approach me at the crisis stage of the issue in their organisation, when the stakes are high and so are the emotions among employees. Leaders and managers are lacking the skills that enable them to recognise early warning signs, those key indicators that tell us that stress, change, communication barriers and wellbeing is reaching a point where outside help is needed to get things back on track”.

So what are the early warning signs?

  • Changes to communication style or behaviours such as withdrawing or declining invitations or requests.
  • Shifting patterns, for example a person who is usually early or on time for work is now showing up late.
  • Disproportionate emotions, for example significant negativity around small events or changes.
  • Perspective and judgement, for example a person regularly loses perspective of a situation or is making the wrong decisions.

ACTION: What warning signs have you recently observed in your workplace or amongst your employees? How long have these warning signs been happening?