Psychology And HR - Hr Knowledge - CiteHR
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Hi all
How does knowledge of Psychology help an HR person?
and Is it necessary that an HR person be a psychologist as well?
What are the major areas of psychology that an HR person be aware of?
Expecting your responses

Hello CV,

Since we deal with Human beings, their perceptions. attitudes, personality, motivation, group dynamics, conflict resolution, comunication all become vital issues.

If HR professionals get a good grounding in Behavioural sciences, it would certainly equip them for the greater challenges they have in a complex business environment.

I am giving below what James, an HR Manager in New York, with a background in Psychology said about his work which will provide you some insights into the HR Managers world.

James- Human Resources Manager in New York

What I Do

I am responsible for human resource management at a 600-employee facility in the New York City area. My goal is to create a community within the four walls of this building and serve as the go-to person for the multitude of "people needs" that arise in a business. My responsibilities span departmental restructuring; performance management, including training and rollout for how employees and management are going to use this tool for people development, as well as for managing the whole performance review process and its documentation; headcount, hiring, and terminations (determining when we need to reduce, add, retrain, or transfer resources); and training of all sorts, including diversity initiatives, management of all employee records, mediation and communication between employees and management, and coaching for union avoidance.

Regardless of the daily plan, my day is [shaped] by the employees and whatever is concerning them that might interfere with their quality of work life.

What I Enjoy Most

HR management has really changed over the years from purely a support function to where it is now, truly managed as a business partnership with other key business leaders. I enjoy taking an idea in its infancy stage and asking myself, "What are the people implications, the headcount and retraining, the culture and climate, the legal ramifications?" Then I like going step by step to create the infrastructure that helps that idea actually work—and work well within the legal environment.

What I Enjoy Least

Like within about every other sizeable company’s HR organization in the past year, I’ve had to orchestrate layoffs—three in 12 months. When someone I know and respect makes that long walk to my office, I feel it; when all the damage has been done, I’m the Grim Reaper there to save jobs at the expense of others so that the business can remain healthy. Yet, these people are my friends and colleagues, and I know I’m invariably changing their lives by sending them into a job market that’s grim.

Why I Chose This Career

My internships at Allstate Insurance Company during college were part of a scholarship program that introduced me to the business world—a program I was very eager to do. I didn’t specifically choose HR at first, but the company assessed my likes and dislikes and thought that I would be best suited to the HR department. I didn't even know what HR was at the time, but I knew from then on that I loved the human resources field.

So, as an undergraduate, I chose to combine psychology and business to support my emerging HR career goals. I also had a strong interest in the international aspects of communicating and working effectively in diverse work settings, so I went abroad to Spain and focused on my Spanish language skills while I took business courses taught in Spanish.

During college, as a resident director, it became apparent that I have an ability to help people get along well. This role was parallel to helping employees get along.

Desirable Traits to Be Successful in This Career

Listening skills and empathy are the primary skills, coupled with the business knowledge and discipline to know how to maximize value for both the company and its people.

You have to have organizational skills. I deal with emergencies every day, and that is all that is predictable about the day. I prioritize what I need to do, so that the top priorities in my Palm Pilot have a good chance of getting done.

You need the flexibility to be able to finish something important but still respond to the emergency that comes in the door. This goes along with maintaining approachability and being the type of person who people feel like they’d come back to for help; the one time I appear too rushed or preoccupied to pay full attention is the day that an employee will never give me another chance. There are things I disagree with that I must deal with, but I still must have the flexibility and ability to reserve judgment to see things from the other person’s view.

In HR today, you must be strategic and forward-thinking. I find that HR professionals can get caught up in putting bandaids on issues that really need to be addressed and fixed in a lasting way.

Words of Advice If You Are Considering This Career Path

Develop true interpersonal skills by working frequently with diverse groups of people. Learn how to say what you need in an effective, concise manner, but also learn to recognize when you need to just listen.

Having the psychology degree coupled with the MBA was very useful for a career in human resources, because it does combine two very distinct areas of people dynamics and business strategy.

Having cultural and language skills is helpful, too. You need to be prepared with backup skills in this world where companies are changing rapidly. As companies are increasingly global and buying and selling into businesses all over the world, you can’t predict what’s on the horizon. But, if companies need to be integrated, the cultural and language integration will be your job in HR. I believe that any language skills help you become more sensitive to all forms of communication with other people—from verbal to body language, you learn to look for anything that helps convey or interpret meaning.

Goal orientation is the key within any career. You must be able to set goals that fulfill your likes and needs, and put steps in place to achieve them at some level.

What I Did Before This (Including Pre-MBA and Post-MBA Jobs)

From high school, I was awarded a fabulous Allstate Insurance Company scholarship that included four years of internships with the company. Allstate put me in their human resource department that first summer. This helped me determine early on that I wanted a business degree and a career in human resource management. In all, I worked four college internships (winter and summer, full time) at Allstate.

I later did an internship at BFGoodrich and then one at Keithley Instruments (when I was in graduate school).

I was also a resident assistant part time, then the resident director full time for four years at Case Western Reserve University.

Educational Background (Undergraduate, MBA, Other)

* MBA, Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management, accelerated MBA program, human resources and international management, 1997

* Bachelor of science and bachelor of arts, Case Western Reserve University, management (human resources and organization behavior), and psychology (minor in Spanish; semester abroad at University Seville, Spain), 1995 and 1996



The main job of a HR Manager is to deal with people. Just think for a second on why did we choose to enter this field of HR? My answer is- because we love to interact with people. Now, lets take our line of thought a bit further.When we interact with different people , we should remember that they are different because of the difference in thought processes. and thought processes are an insght into pschyology. Thus in a way , an HR manager has to be a pschylogist.
Now,it is not necessary to have a degree in pschylogy to be a pschyologist.During our careers and throughout our life we meet different people and have infinte number of transactions with them. To understand th pschyology of a person we simply have to be alert and observant. We have to keep on reflecting . This helps us understand individuals better.
With the mind of a pschylogist, a HR manager is in a better position to carry out his duites.
Wish you Luck

Psychology helps HR person to comprehend others in a faster way and able to make a better decision, to handle different people in terms of organizational behavior, motivation, learning, appraisals. Also helps to provide a better work culture for the employees.
Its not necessary for a HR Person to be a psychologist. We will learn by our own as we come across various people through our experience.
Motivation & Attitude are the major areas of Psychology that every HR should be aware of. Apart from this, organizational culture, learning, performance would help.

Hi CV,

I have a different argument altogether on this issue. I some how am not convinced with the argument “ take HR if you love interacting with people”.

Also I would like to highlight the following from the post by Prof Lakshman

“Listening skills and empathy are the primary skills, coupled with the business knowledge and discipline to know how to maximize value for both the company and its people”.

I think it’s the people in the Line and the Filed who have to have this special interest in working with the people. My belief in taking HR as a career was to achieve business goals using the people function. This is always a back end job and requires excellent analytical skills to understand the gaps in skills by looking at the business performance.

I see HR as more of a “Facilitator” rather than a “Developer”. This distinction has to be understood clearly. Human Development is a very specialized area my belief is that the specialists have to handle this else this would cause damage than benefit.

As a HR professional , facilitation is crucial and it has to benefit in business results.

You always have the developers in this specialized field.

One more important observation I would like to make is that all adults in this competitive world are enough aware of the competition. They know how to equip themselves with the survival skills. We have to help them with equipping them with skills to be successful and this can best be done with the consultants.

A HR professional with a knowledge of psychology may help. Its not essential or a necessary factor.


Srikanth Ch

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