“What does your role as an organisational psychologist consultant involve?"
HR Leader journalist, Jasmine Siljic, spoke with organisation psychologist, Dr Amanda Ferguson, about what her role entails and why it can be valuable to engage an external professional when seeking to solve conflict.
Ms Siljic: "What does your role as an organisational psychologist consultant involve?"
Dr Ferguson: "I used to do a broad range of what organisational psychologists typically do: training, workshops, seminars, keynotes, change management, strategic planning, mediation, team building, executive coaching, performance management, outplacement, job and career coaching.
"Its all about the relationship or fit between employee and job, team, organisation and industry. These days I no longer do the labour-intensive work – just coaching and keynotes." Ms Siljic: "How has your work been impacted by the current job climate and entering a ‘post-lockdown’ world?"
Dr Ferguson: "Like most workers, I’ve gone hybrid. I’ve done some panel appearances at conferences during the Covid [sic] years – some in person in convention centres, between lockdowns and some in webinars, during lockdowns. I presented an academic paper at the Australian International Organisational Psychology Conference this year via Zoom. I’ve provided Zoom key notes to some industry groups." Ms Siljic: "Why are external perspectives so important when resolving conflict in a workplace?"
Dr Ferguson: "Every workplace has its own culture and politics. Our personal issues can’t be separated from our work issues entirely.
"For these reasons and many more, mediation by an external, impartial, highly educated and skilled org psych brings the dispassionate perspective of the overall situation and that of each stakeholder. The lack of bias is usually crucial once an org psych is engaged. We are trained to do this work and most of us are driven to get the best outcomes for our job satisfaction." Ms Siljic: "How can employers encourage a more honest and healthy work environment amongst staff?"
Dr Ferguson: "See it as the relationship that it ultimately is – if it’s a good one, they’ll have good employee engagement, low turnover, good productivity and profits; if its not, they’ll have burnout, high turnover, reduced productivity and reduced profit." Ms Siljic: "What advice can you give to internal HR managers when managing work dynamics and relationships?"
Dr Ferguson: "This is a time of great change in workplaces and relationships and it can be a time when HR managers can become more involved in helping to make changes positive, informed and agile by helping to broker better dynamics and relationships such as job and career crafting, and hybrid working.
"Know the limits of what you can, can’t, should and shouldn’t do, and when to refer or outsource to org psychs, counsellors, lawyers etc. Keep updating procedures and polices and the world of work is changing fast."
For more from Dr Ferguson, you can listen to her podcast 'Psych for life'