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Revista Psicologia Organizações e Trabalho

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Rev. Psicol., Organ. Trab. vol.16 no.4 Brasília dez. 2016 

Origin, consolidation, and perspectives of Work and Organizational Psychology


Origem, consolidação e perspectivas da Psicologia das Organizações e do Trabalho


Origen, consolidación y perspectivas de la Psicología de las Organizaciones y del Trabajo



Sigmar Malvezzi

Universidade de São Paulo e Fundação Dom Cabral, São Paulo, SP, Brasil

Endereço para correspondência




This essay is a reflection on the trajectory of Work and Organizational Psychology (WOP). The content analyzes its growth and introduction into society. Along this path, WOP took on the phenomena and problems of the relationships between individual, work, and society. Today, WOP presents a set of scientific, technical, and cultural productions integrating the conceptual and instrumental patrimony of society. WOP has enriched the understanding of performance at work by applying the concepts of Psychology to explain the relation between behavior and subjectivity. Facing the re-institutionalization of work from a form of employment to one of precarious autonomous work, WOP will be challenged to understand new phenomena that will arise within its territory. Its solid experience and firmness in the search for efficacy and for existential conditions sustains the assurance with which it faces the evolution of economic production. WOP has become a specialization capable of responding to the re-institutionalization of work now in progress in society.

Keywords: Work and Organizational Psychology (WOP); performance; adaptation to tasks; applied science; work re-institutionalization.


Este ensaio consiste numa reflexão sobre a origem e trajetória da Psicologia das Organizações e do Trabalho (POT). Seu conteúdo analisa sua construção e inserção na sociedade. Nessa trajetória, a POT assumiu os fenômenos e problemas das relações entre a pessoa, o trabalho e a sociedade e ganhou confiança dos gestores e da sociedade. Hoje, a POT apresenta produção científica, técnica e cultural no patrimônio conceitual e instrumental da sociedade. A POT enriqueceu a compreensão do desempenho no trabalho aplicando conceitos da Psicologia na interface comportamentos e subjetividade. Diante da institucionalização do trabalho da forma dos empregos para o trabalho autônomo precário, a POT será desafiada pela compreensão de novos fenômenos. A solidez de sua experiência e sua firmeza na busca da eficácia e das condições existenciais alimentam sua segurança frente à evolução da produção econômica. A POT tornou-se capacitada para enfrentar a atual reinstitucionalização do trabalho, na sociedade.

Palavras-chave: Psicologia das Organizações e do Trabalho (POT); desempenho; adaptação às tarefas; ciência aplicada; reinstitucionalização do trabalho.


Este ensayo es un análisis de la trayectoria de la Psicología de las Organizaciones y del Trabajo (POT). Su contenido expone su origen e inserción en la sociedad asumiendo los fenómenos y problemas entre la persona, el trabajo y la sociedad. Hoy, la producción conceptual, técnica y cultural de la POT integra el patrimonio instrumental de la sociedad. La POT enriqueció la comprensión de la relación entre el desempeño y la subjetividad. Delante de la reinstitucionalización del trabajo como empleo para actividad autónoma precaria, nuevos fenómenos y problemas surgirán para los cuales la POT está capacitada y motivada. Su experiencia y firmeza en búsqueda de la efectividad del desempeño y de las condiciones de existencia la capacitan para enfrentar eses nuevos fenómenos y problemas en la evolución de la producción económica.

Palabras-clave: Psicología de las Organizaciones y del Trabajo; desempeño; adaptación a las tareas; ciencia aplicada; reinstitucionalización del trabajo.



In the language appropriate for some Power Point slide, the Work and Organizational Psychology (WOP) could be defined as "the specialization of Psychology which produces reliable knowledge about work performance and grounds the practice of various professions". That knowledge is consistent, useful and both integrated into other applied sciences and incorporated into society's cultural asset. Located within the territory of Psychology, this specialization arose from the demands for the understanding of behavior in the man-work relationship and for answers to the problems of work performance faced by workers and managers since the end of the XIX century (Carroy, Oayon, & Plas 2006; Malvezzi, 1988). The quest for replies to these two demands set out a trajectory of research the results of which have produced a mass of knowledge which has illuminated the understanding of the man-work relationship and, snow-ball like, has built up the identity of a new applied science in little more than two decades.

In its origin, WOP was associated with Personnel Management but evolved to comprise the study of all conditions of existence related to work. Today in its mature phase WOP investigates countless phenomena produced within the territory lying between the person, work and society (Harding, 2013). Reacting to the challenges of the rational organization of collective work at the moment of intense differentiation of occupational structure in organizations, WOP has learned to perceive the potentialities and needs present in that territory, appropriating them as objects of Psychology. To review the chains of reasons which have connected the events of WOP's history is the objective of this short essay. This purpose arose from the demand for the expanded understanding of the man-work relationship, at the present historical moment, in which work is being re-institutionalized from the form of jobs to the form of the so-called precarious autonomous work within the network of flows (Portnoff, 2015; Veltz, 2015).

The essay genre was deliberately chosen for this review, seeing that the events which created the WOP's history had already been clearly set out (Koppes & Pickren, 2007; Reuchelin, 1971), while the reasons for the connections between them, constituting its course as an applied science, are still often debated. Moreover, the historical essay is a valuable tool for the fertilization of the debate between (Buchelli & Wadhwani, 2015) sciences and practices which share common interfaces. As the essay is the literary genre which investigates by the exercise of the interpretation of the reasons which triggered events placed in distinct orders of phenomena, this essay sets out the "career" of WOP as an applied branch of Psychology dedicated to the investigation of the relationships between the person, work and society. Why and how did WOP become a field of reliable knowledge in this territory and developed its well-known trajectory? The reply to this question may contribute to the understanding of the re-institutionalization of work already underway (Sennett, 2007). This re-institutionalization is already dawning in the weakening of organizations as the predominant work context and in the strengthening of the networks of flows as the locus of work performance (Cousin, 2007). In these networks, the fragmentation of economic production grows in correlation with the empowerment of the individuals actions weakening the institutional power which has articulated and sustained the organizations (Touraine, 2013).

By means of the emerging institutionalization of precarious autonomous work, WOP faces new challenges as is the case with the understanding of the man-work relationship at its interface with system-tools (Sutherland, 2015). This interface has already taken over various work sectors, as happens in automatized bakeries in which bakers produce bread feeding system-tools without knowing how the bread is made and without constituting a face to face team.

Work is heading towards a form of organization "without an author" (McDonald & Hite, 2016) in which, minds that create and hands that execute the tasks become more distance, with direct impact on the stability of the links involved, on the understanding of the transformations brought about (Sartori, 2015) and on the development of virtual teams, coordinated by "intelligent" networks (Muller-Seitz, 2012) together with managers. Thus the strategy delineated for this essay is not to speculate on the next step in the evolution of work, nor to proceed to another historical review, but rather to reflect on the connections between already known historical facts to stimulate the reader's participation in the construction of the WOP identity in emerging conditions of work by the understanding of the reasons which led to the creation of its historical trajectory.


Origin of the WOP

WOP was born and consolidated as a specialization of Psychology investigating human work within the chain of economic production in the form of job. Work is an activity which reveals the ontological condition of the human being but it is studied under the guise of performance as a link in the chain of economic production within the constraints of the concrete conditions of time, space and technology. As expression of the human condition and a link in the productive chain, human work performance serves "two lords", the efficacy of the task and the quality of working life manifested under conditions such as the meeting of needs, health, self-fulfillment and emancipation. During millennia, the organization of work was based on the intuitive understanding derived from experience and evolved towards a systematic activity under the aegis of policies, theories and technologies which constituted management. If the intuitive approach to performance in pre-industrial economic production proved sufficient, even if in a precarious way, for the management of the efficacy of tasks and of the conditions of existence, the invention of the "factory system" at the beginning of the XVIII century changed the equation between potentialities, performance, technologies, time and space, it called into question the competence of intuition as a tool for the understanding and management of work performance. The serialized economic production created by the factory system reshaped performance and the involvement of the individual in work, imposing on tasks, rhythm and the demand for synergy with machines. The overcoming of the inefficacy of intuitive rationality became the unavoidable step for the articulation of serialized tasks by the rationality of engineering.

Even so, and in the face of increasing difficulties, the managers of industrial economic production applied intuitive rationality in their companies for more than a century until the implementation of electro-mechanical technology about 1880. Within this new technology, the speed of performance and the necessary occupational differentiation called for competencies and tasks beyond the reach of the use of intuition. Managers had to understand the performance and the personal involvement of the worker in serialized and automatized procedures to articulate rapid and tiring tasks that demanded synergy. Incompetence, low productivity, fatigue and various conflicts constituted the routine of the supervisors in their attempts to guarantee production and social peace. In the light of these difficulties, managers espied a window of hope in the advance of the empirical applied sciences and technologies. The applied sciences such as engineering and medicine opened their eyes to various technical possibilities thus indicating the path they could follow to support the administration, at the moment when the adaptation of people to their working tasks and conditions posed great challenges for managers. By means of their practice, the applied sciences came into their own as safe sources of knowledge in working environments dominated by technologies. WOP arose from the attempt to meet demands.

Its origin is widely recognized to lie in the activities of such professionals as L. Patrizi, E. Kraepelin and J. M. Lahy (Reuchelin, 1971) before the end of the XIX century, and of C.S. Myers and R. Yerkes (Malvezzi, 2000), at the beginning of the XX century. The activities of these pioneers explored the adjustment to tasks, by virtue of the understanding of fatigue, of skills and of professional apprenticeship. In Brazil, the work of Robert Mange followed the same path as did those pioneers, in the Teaching and Professional Training Service of the Sorocabana Railway Company (Serviço de Ensino e Formação Profissional na Estrada de Ferro Sorocabana). From its success at this starting point, WOP developed by constructing a consistent frame of reference of concepts which illuminated the understanding of performance in support of its management. The qualitative leaps made in this understanding revealed the potential of the technical and scientific knowledge which rapidly became established and broadened, thus culminating in the expansion of Psychology itself to understand the relation between behavior and subjectivity beyond the walls of the laboratories and clinical services.

These leaps stimulated the interchanges between Psychology and Administration, offering valuable knowledge and technologies for the shop-floor, as was observed in the sphere of professional education and training (Malvezzi, 2015), two crucial contributions to economic production, in the period after the first world war. Energized by this interdependence between Administration and Psychology, WOP grew by the inertial power of the multiplication of the questions and problems arising from the technological development and economic competitiveness implicit in the rational organization of work within organizations. This multiplication and growth were clearly guided by the paradigm of management of scientific administration, which was an engineering model efficacious for the chains of machines and of production processes, but without the ffcompetences' for the purpose of the engineering of work performance. Born in this context, WOP gained its identity as part of personnel management (Malvezzi, 2006).

In less than thirty years, WOP enriched its scientific and technical outcomes, became widely recognized for its immediate application and attracted the attention of many professionals related to work performance. WOP researchers and administrators became regular interlocutors in the search for and analysis and construction of management (Raelin, 2012). This dialogue increased the interactions between them, aligning their understanding and activities whose effects strengthened the alliance between academic and administrative participation (Koppes & Pickren, 2007) in the understanding of work performance. This involvement of Psychology with Administration led to questioning as to possible imperfections and ideological biases which have associated WOP with the difficult routine conditions of workers. Psychometry was an emblematic case involved in these questionings because it empowered managers with instruments which discriminated against and weakened the influence of workers' control of management. Its success as an instrument of management made the deeper questioning of side effects, present in workers' conditions of existence, such as social discrimination, mental illnesses, and job insecurity, more difficult. Freyd's (1923) article detailing the rationality of the proceedings of personnel selection based on theories of Differential Psychology expressed the recognition of the "hyphen" linking Psychology and Personnel Management and diminished the questioning of Psychometry when he endowed the incorporation of this technology into management with a scientific character.

Productivity was an almost unquestionable priority which clouded the dismissal of the existential questions related to work from the agendas of WOP and Management. Notwithstanding those criticisms, WOP's success attracted new demands from managers, thus galvanizing still further its growth and it's broadening as the applied branch of Psychology on the shop-floor where it investigated interpersonal relationships, team-work, communication, leadership, social competences and aspects of the quality of life in routines and in conflicts (Rousseau, 1997). Experiments like those undertaken in Western Electric, in the late 1920s, made management sensitive to social variables. This broadening of WOP confirmed its identity as a frontier specialization, at the interface between the person, work and society and sealed the understanding of collective work as a subjective and social fact, thus expanding the application of Psychometry. Arising as an opportunity for partnership between academic and professional personnel, WOP inspired scientific associations and university laboratories and appeared among the topics for discussion at meetings of managers and authorities. Its identity as a field of knowledge in support of management which could be activated in the routines of performance exercised its influence on the institutionalization of the profession of the "work psychologist". The integration of this professional figure in Administration taught managers to give value to the systematic knowledge of the Psychology of the worker and its participation in the management of performance. At that moment, Personnel Management was recognized as a technical activity, dependent on knowledge produced within the territory of WOP and focused on the person of the worker.

Once recognized as a piece in the managerial equation, WOP was galvanized by the challenges of the technological innovations in the articulation of tasks, expanded and became the cornerstone of economic production (Coovert & Thompson, 2014), in the years which preceded the Second World War, confirmed by the rise of other specializations such as the ergonomics. Although still controlled by the demands of management, the trajectory of WOP received encouragement from unions, from professional institutions, from academic personnel, from public administration, and especially from the outcomes of Psychological research. Following, for two decades, the inertia of the new demands for action, WOP deepened its understanding of the efficacy of tasks and advanced in its consideration of existential questions related to the quality of life. This advance was still insufficient explicitly to integrate into management the balance between the endeavor to efficacy of tasks and to existential demands of the ontological worker condition (Blackler & Brown, 1978). The power of economic values eclipsed criticism of the "mechanization" of individuals as mere links in the chain of economic production, in consonance with the paradigm of capitalism (Jameson, 2011). WOP studied fragmented problems, sought to understand them and created technical solutions without any profound questioning of the tension between the efficacy of performance and the demands of human wellbeing. Its action was focused on the offer of ways which led to solutions to the concrete demands which came into its hands, without touching critically on the meanings and impacts of the organization of work on society and on the human-being (Reichman & O'Berry, 2012).

This fragmentation of the WOP's view was the corollary of the horizon limited by the four walls of the company and of the focus on the adaptation of the worker to the efficacy of production. Despite these limitations, WOP continued to be sufficiently open to recognize and absorb, in the advances of Psychology, incorporating the complexity of the self-other relationship of Social Psychology, the advances in the complexity of the subjective structures of the Psychology of Intelligence and of the Psychology of Personality. These new incorporations showed that the relation between the worker, performance, efficacy and human existence were complex and challenging. This openness and ability to absorb, apply and test the knowledge produced in other specialized fields of Psychology enriched and deepened the view of WOP regarding the person of the worker, leading it to invest in exploring subjectivity within the understanding of work performance (Bevort & Suddaby, 2016). From this enrichment resulted the broadening of the topics on its agenda, such as the family, the workers social involvement, the careers, the group processes, the organizational culture of the company, the double career of couples, ergonomics and safety. The variables which affected performance were broader and transcended the limits of the shop-floor. Psychology became broader and WOP expanded together with it, enlarging its outreach uninterruptedly. Today, WOP embraces all the phenomena of the territory involving the person, work and society, such as teleworking, suicides, the dynamic of start-ups, the leadership within social networks and the worker's family, thus consolidating its territory beyond the organization boundaries (Schein, 2015).

This trajectory of WOP reveals its condition as an applied science without frontiers. The networks of interaction between the person, work and society constitute the frontier of its object, that is to say, everything which relates to human work. These three factors which delimit the outreach of WOP turn their focus of attention to the man-work relationship, whatever may be the context within which it is institutionalized. These three landmarks are not, in themselves, its object of study, but they are the determining factors of its object, in the inter-relationships that place them in mutual interdependence. WOP is, thus, a field of knowledge which does not study the person, or work, or society, but the interfaces between these three elements, constituting an applied science whose raison d'être lies in the hyphens of its interfaces, in the movements and properties of these relations and in their impacts on the person and on society. Although it is an applied science in the relations between them, WOP has contributed to the development of knowledge on each of them. Although establishing itself by means of its scientific, technical and cultural production, it is today present in job efficacy, the professional career, quality of life, justice, self-fulfillment and emancipation.


The broadening of the field of application for Psychology

In this stage of its trajectory, WOP has then been solidly confirmed as an applied branch of Psychology by the increasing presence of psychological concepts in the understanding of work. Its subsequent development has been galvanized by the hybrid activity which by integrating research and intervention sought the efficacy of performance and the management of the conditions of workers existence or, more precisely, of the quality of their lives. Researchers and professionals have under the inspiration of WOP acted in partnership, associating investigation and intervention. The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations has been an emblematic and pioneer example of this partnership ever since the 1940s. Rapidly thereafter, other projects were born in the Scandinavian countries, in France and in Brazil, creating a kind of virtuous circle which encouraged the quest for theoretical models which should support and stimulate the development of the management of performance with a view to economic production and the fulfillment of the existential demands of workers (Fleetwood & Hesketh, 2010; Pagès, Bonetti, Gaulejac, & Descendre 1987).

During this stage, the trajectory of WOP was not free of controversy, seeing that the deepening and the enrichment of the understanding of performance was insufficient to overcome the chronic problems of the shop-floor, or to satisfy the various epistemological and ideological paradigms which characterized the understanding of work (Steffy & Grimes, 1992). The criticisms questioned everything from the authenticity to the limitations of the projects of organizational change (Dunnette, 1998). Although capable of creating plausible, generally accepted, explanations for the broad spectrum of problems at work, WOP was a science, but was frequently adopted as an instrument of intervention. Its scientific and technical production was applied by managers and could be directed by different ideologies and different political interests. WOP showed itself to be ambidextrous. The control of the application of and the direction given to its publications escaped its grasp even though recognizing that its knowledge could be applied to serve the "two lords". Areas such as those of leadership, career, professional training and health were full of projects which revealed the WOP ambidexterity. It is today easy to verify how the use of cultural artefacts produced within WOP inspired the definition of public policies, fed the recognition of workers as subjects, just as much as their performances as just another tooth in the cogwheels of production had done. The management of performance and of working conditions is conducted by administrators who take WOP as their basis and apply it within their distinct rationalities. This gap between the understanding of the phenomenon and the solution of the problems posed by it reflects WOP's difficulties in the face of economic turbulence, the impact of the qualitative leaps in technology and of the orphan-systems created by the development of society according to the logic of financial capitalism.

Ever since its first involvement with shop-floor questions, WOP has offered knowledge capable of explaining the performance, which was widely registered in academic publications, the arts, the media, in legislation and institutions of education and of professional training. Beyond this integration with culture and the routine of society, WOP was driven by scientific societies such as the SBPOT, the SIOP and the EAWOP which motivated it and contributed to the dynamic of its interfaces and alliances with other sciences, especially with Administration and public policies. This contribution broadened still further WOP's object and methodology. Within the reach of these societies, the application of WOP to the "two lords" did not suffer any pressure towards the bias of the quest for competitiveness in the production of production targets or of the struggle between representative class entities, and was able to dedicate itself more to the debate between economic efficacy and workers existential issues. Apart from that, these institutions acted as WOP agents, showing its developments and the difficulties involved in its application in the fields of management and public policies. An illustration of this activity appears in the qualitative leap of French researchers in denouncing the impact of speed, of the pressure for the accomplishment of production targets and of the conflicts and uncertainties deriving from financial capitalism. This leap gave expression to the maturity of WOP with new concepts such as those of the "forgotten dimensions" and of the clinic of work (Chanlat, 1990; Lhuilier, 2006; Lyth, 1960; Pagès et al., 1987) which weakened the rigidity of the boundaries between the quest for economic efficacy and the imperative of emancipated existence and of quality of life.


The maturing of WOP

The maturing of WOP emerged as a result of the strength of some theories which grew within Psychology in which workers were presented in their psychological complexity, in their condition as subjects and the protagonists of their existence. Within the perspective of these theories, the management of performance became more complex because the understanding of the man-work relationship implied the participation of workers in the tasks they performed, by judging, choosing, producing meaning and thus growing. Maslow's (1954) theory of the hierarchy of needs, Argyris (1957) theory of the interface between performance and personality, McGregor (1960) theory of the difference between mechanistic rationality and humanistic rationality and De Charms's (1968) theory of the metaphysical vision of motivation, to quote just those more widely publicized, brought out workers as the result of their self-production, implying their mastery of their own subjectivity. This more profound differentiation of the worker had already been foreshadowed in the work of Lewin, Homans, Rogers and Erikson who were not absorbed by management because of difficulties of access to the understanding of its content and its application.

The integration of these approaches to the person in WOP's theoretical repertory changed the replies to the recurrent questions such as, "Who is the worker?" and "In what way does work contribute to his existence?" These theories expounded, made explicit and deepened the understanding of the existence of subjective structures and the need for their integration into the management of work performance. The mechanistic approach to performance by external control was weakened by these theories. The management of workers implied greater dialogue and the consideration of their subjectivity. These approaches clarified the frontiers between the recognition of workers as resources of production or as "resourceful humans" endowed with potentialities and capable of growing (Legge, 1995). These differences were not just alternative options, but conveyed distinct paradigms as to who the worker is. Decades later, this distinction was deepened by means of epistemological analyses which synthesized the view of the regulatory activity and the view of creative action (Cooper, 1976).

These analyses differentiated the paradigmatic root of the service rendered to efficacy from that rendered to workers existential dimensions, the former directed to forecasting and control has no need of recourse to debate with the worker, while the other directed to the exploration of potentialities and the construction of the worker's participation, sees debate as its principal resource for action. Thus Maslow, in his theory of personality, distinguishes needs related to the functional demands of the person from needs related to his existential demands. By placing self-fulfillment at the highest level of motivation, to which the individual directs his/her performance, he makes explicit demands which had not previously been perceived, even though they exercised their influence on the efficacy of his functions. Maslow understands that in the human-being there exist both demands for control as also demands for creativity and for meaning in life, and that efficient management takes these different motives into consideration. Another author who enriched this interface between efficacy and care with existence was De Charms when he placed self-knowledge as a source of the sense of purpose in life and of this as a condition for efficacy. Offering the concept of ontological strength in the chain of the motives leading to efficacy, De Charms sees the strength of one's own activities in the impact of identity as a crucial element in the quality of performance because it brings out its double possibility, that of being hetero- and self-productive.

These theories innovated the concept of management by associating performance with profound structures, with the meaning of life and self-regulation. These explanations transcended the functional aspects of workers adaptation to their tasks which had hitherto been the predominant investment of management supported by WOP. By means of these theories, the human-being is not presented simply as a performer of tasks, but as the subject of his/her own existence by reason of the link between the hetero- and auto-productive effects of performance, seeing that the conditions of existence are implicated in internal subjective structures such as the meaning of work as well as in the external ones such as the working conditions. This sensitivity fueled the opening of WOP to the deepening of the investigation of performance at its interface with subjectivity, understood as a complex and deep structure. This ferment culminated with the opening of WOP to the contribution of approaches such as Psycho-analysis which had still not been explored in the analysis of performance. This opening revealed the importance of the diversity of the paradigms offered by Psychology and of ideological criticism for the identification of the values which WOP could be serving.

The expansion of the limits of WOP has been powerfully legitimated and confirmed by empirical research projects which have since arisen in laboratories. One of the pioneering studies related to this expansion was the investigation undertaken by Lyth (1960) into the relation between nurses' tasks and their unconscious anxieties, which had a direct impact on the efficacy of their tasks. This study investigated the causes in the underlying subjective structures which exercised an influence on the efficacy of the performance by the regulating of anxiety and the involvement of the worker. In France this advance was stimulated by the empirical research into the suffering involved in work, bringing out even more clearly the porosity of the frontiers in the relationship between the grammar created by the rational organization of work and the grammar of human subjectivity. The studies of Dejours (1988) and of Enriquez (1992) consolidated the advance in the understanding of the links between subjectivity and management.

Beyond the expansion due to the inclusion of deep subjective structures, WOP was equally impelled by analyses of a political character arising from the explicit expression and criticism of predominant values. The work of Montmollin (1972), unveiling the routine of selection as an instrument of discrimination and power, revealed the ingenuousness of management when it ignored the impact of its activities on the political aspects of the candidates' lives. This development of the theoretical frame of reference of WOP revealed its distance from the management of performance as an isolated phenomenon of existence, coming to consider the articulation of the man-work relationship in the insertion of the person in the broader time and space of society and its relations with power-structures. This distancing created new predicates of identity for the WOP which can be clearly seen in its involvement in the projects of organizational change which flourished in the 1970s (Cherns & Davies, 1975; European Association for Personnel Management [EAPM] 1979; Greiner, 1977; Hill 1971) with the demands for industrial democracy and the quest for the humanization of work.

The articulation of these projects reinforced and expanded the recognition of subjectivity as a crucial factor in efficacy, in human existence and in work performance, analyzed in the light of injustice and suffering. This flank stretched the frontiers of WOP even further within Psychology itself where it sought not only concepts which corresponded to the problems but also explained the deepest subjective structures. In this stage of the trajectory of WOP, the limitation of the approach of the demands for the efficacy of performance, which had been the practical path adjusted to the culture of management, was recognized in its reductionist character in the balancing of the relationship between workers and their tasks (Chanlat, 1990). The new balancing of the relationship between the workers and their tasks by the recognition of the existential dimension and the subjective structures within the actual object of management was the result of this surge of projects dedicated to the quality of life at work.

The consolidation of this opening to the existential dimension of the worker made viable by the conception of the adaptation to tasks by the mediation of subjective structures, placed on the WOP's agenda themes which had previously been distant from it, such as identities, recognition, psychological contracts, commitment, self-determination, health, quality of life, the clinic of work, among dozens of others (Costas & Karreman, 2016). As from that point it became more difficult to maintain the vision of WOP as being a specialization limited to personnel management, by virtue of the magnitude of the existential questions falling within its territory. Its object transcended definitively the limits of the understanding of efficacy to focus now on the understanding of the man-work relationship seen as the interface between efficacy and existential questions, that is to say, the integration of both the regulatory processes of performance and the emancipatory processes in the existential dimension. The problems falling within its territory multiplied and the relations between them became visibly interdependent with the link with subjectivity and with the relationship of this latter to quality of life.

The development of the new models of management weakened the hierarchical structure and the engineering of tasks placed the involvement of the individual and of teams as the fundamental condition of the quality of work performance reinforcing the perception of the worker as a being difficult to control except within the practices which imply debate with him as subject. The impact of this leap became visible in the practices of professional training which were related to the understanding of subjectivity, of self-regulation, of the emotions and of responsible autonomy. Two decades ago, the implementation of the system-tools such as the SAP have been accompanied by training seminars generically denominated "change management" which are predominantly dedicated to the participation of the individual in the context of flexible work coupled to system-tools. WOP will expand its object, transcending the limits of personnel management to embrace the participating worker. This concept is not free of risk because it has stimulated the development of precarious autonomous work.

To conclude this summary of the chains of causes which explain the origin and the process of the maturing of WOP, one may, in what has been set out above, observe the trajectory by means of which it constructed its identity as an applied Science and cultural patrimony of society made viable by its mediation in the offer of Psychology as a crucial path for the understanding and management of the man-work relationship. As it is a part of the rational organization of work, personnel management sought support in Psychology, recognized since the beginning of the XX century as a Science necessary for the understanding and construction of work performance. WOP arose and grew as a tool of Psychology in the understanding of the man-work relationship. Its contribution was initially limited by the concentration of its focus on the instrumentality of the management of performance.

The functional vision of this focus limited the interface between subjectivity, work performance, the human condition and the macro structures of society such as the leap of the economy to financial capitalism, the pressure of commercial competitiveness on workers tasks and the weakening and migration of formal employment. The perception of the workers separated from their existential dimension facilitated their reduction to resource of production. The unavoidable expansion of the problems of management and the continual maturing of Psychology as a Science as it overcame the barriers which hindered dialogue between its various epistemological paradigms shook the pragmatic focus of WOP. Reaffirming its mediation between the management of the man-work relationship and Psychology, in its maturity, WOP presented Administration with a more detailed and totalizing understanding of workers and their performance, bringing to light the complexity of their ontological condition and their subjective structures (Zanelli, Borges-Andrade, & Bastos, 2014).

Over the last fifty years, since the appearance of the circles of quality control and of the semi-autonomous groups in the mid-1960s, to the self-managed teams and management by the networks of companies in the XXI century, tasks have developed as artisanal actions integrated into collective activities in synergy with system-tools. In the inertial movement of this development, management and adaptation to tasks have migrated to the participation of the worker himself. This condition is clearly expressed in the popular jargon which is found in the beliefs about careers among workers: "If you want a job, invent it!" Management and the adaptation of the artisanal condition of performance have complicated the traditional methods of external regulation, such as psychometry and job analysis.

The rational organization of work faces the metamorphosis of engineered activity into the action of workers as protagonists rather than operators. This metamorphosis is visible to the naked eye in workers' training. Today, to train is to invest in competences for the workers participation with regard to tasks which make artisanal demands, to their involvement and their careers. Participation means acting as subject and this, in its turn, implies knowledge of the structures which empower the subject. This recognition of subjective structures has been institutionalized by the popularization of the name "organizational behavior" for WOP in administration, as observed in its presence in the curricula of MBA courses (Porter & Schneider, 2014). The insertion of WOP is still distant from its optimization, seeing that the development of economic production under the technology of the Watsons,robots and ubers will still further differentiate the demand for the knowledge produced by Psychology.


What are the object and prospects of WOP?

To bring this limited examination of the trajectory of WOP to a close, it is not difficult to infer that its territory is a defined space of easy identification within the field of Psychology and is delineated by porous frontiers because it is always open to the development of work (see Futurible, 1995, the issue Aôut-Sept), of the complexity of society and the deepening of the understanding of the human-being. Its trajectory reveals its identity as a frontier science situated between the broadening and the renewal of work by virtue of the dynamics of society on one hand and the expansion of Psychology which offers it ever greater resources for research and reflection on the other. As a corollary, WOP will always be an innovating specialization seeking to expanding beyond its functional borders imposed by the insertion of the man-work relationship in time and space. Thus, WOP develops and faces new phenomena and problems such as the understanding of peri-urban workers (Donzelot & Mongin, 2013), which has only arisen in this present millennium. Research on this worker is already present in the management of work. By analogy, some 60 years ago, job tenure, which was a condition and crucial value which characterized the relation of reciprocity existing between people and companies, lost relevance before the reality of the scene of networks of flows, and is today an almost contingent expectation, by reason of the strength of the fluidity and the outsourcing of free-lance work, in management by projects.

Today, the conditions of time and space are undergoing alteration, creating the co-existence of the worker with ambiguous identities, with multiple links and pragmatic contracts which characterize precarious work. Unemployment is increasingly part of the scene of high technological society (Bejá, 2014). Today, the weakening of organizations as the context of work and of their replacement by networks of flows linking freelance workers, within which the spatial dimension no longer defines frontiers as it did some decades ago, affect the equation of the relation between the person, work and society considerably. Placement within some organization is becoming a contingent condition and is even the kind of link which many workers avoid (Lantz, 2012). Within this context, it is the WOP's horizon to develop together with society, to expose the human condition and to face the challenges of the understanding and of the effects of new conditions of time and space in the man-work relationship. Its development will go on as the route of the specialization of Psychology focused on the phenomena and problems situated in the relationships between the person, work and society, but broadening its interfaces and differentiating phenomena in correlation with the dynamics of the context within which it is set.

It is difficult to know which phenomena will still exist within this space in two decades' time, which new phenomena will emerge and which phenomena will lose their relevance within it. It is clear that the tendency towards the virtualization of work is confirmed anew with each passing day (Cousin, 2007) and that the processes of production will migrate to electronic flows, as mentioned above, with regard to the production of bread. During this development, the transcendent factor in the object of WOP will continue to be the network of interrelationships between the person, work and society. The phenomena present in this network will be redefined by the strength of the development of the context but the delimitation of its territory by reason of these three landmarks makes its ontological condition clear. WOP will face variations in its insertion in time and space, but will continue firmly within the demarcation of the frontiers which have characterized it for more than a century.

How might WOP's name change? Any name which expresses its object will be an adequate one. The name WOP still expresses the three landmarks which delimit its field, as they refer to the interfaces between them. Of them, the word work indicates the activity studied, the word person indicates the participant and the word organization indicates the macro-structure which houses the persons and their work. This macro-structure is developing into networks of flows. Since the 1930s, Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy, Anthropology and Administration have defined the configuration of work integrating the complex structures which house it, as a part of them. In his historical analysis of this placing of work within complex structures, Heyck (2014) recognizes a certain (technological, economic and political) determinism in them, the impact of which on the understanding of performance deserves the nickname of revolution by the singularity of their power. The lessening of the perception of this determinism hinders the understanding of the man-work relationship. In accordance with his analysis, the organization represents society at the tripartite boundary, even when it develops in the form of flow on networks. The future is still an enigma and organizations, although weakened, continue in the collective imagination as the locus of work, whether in the form of regular structures or in the form of networks. The work organization is a contingency of this historical moment, but in high-technological environments, the relationship between work and its surrounding structure will always be a close one.

Without further drawing out this question and as a conclusion to this brief essay, a brief word on the future of WOP and the professionals and researchers who have constructed it. In a certain way, the future of work began some years ago and has been characterized by the flexibilization of contracts, by multiple artisanal tasks, by high-speed performance coupled to system-tools, by highly technical trajectories and by networks of flows. This grammar which houses work has made space unnecessary, accelerated time and increased the dependency on participation (Ginsbourger, Lichtenberger, & Padis, 2011). These conditions show that performance will continue to be artisanal and coupled to systems which demand creativity and synergy, that is to say, will constitute a kind of paradox involving participation and submission. The protagonists will be involved in continuous movements of adaptation in a great number of aspects in the construction of their condition as subject.

Topics such as apprenticeship, psychological contracts, training, understanding, identity, the quest for meaning, self-managed teams, self-production, emancipation, health and quality of life will continue to be routine and meaningful demands. All are related to the individual protagonism in both instrumental production and self-production, whether it be in the context of the regularity of structures, of the system-tools or of flows on networks. WOP already has experience of these demands, but may be challenged by the temptation and seduction of the reductionism that marked its years of consolidation. In the face of this challenge, reflection and debate arise as an antidote to reductionist visions. The habit of reflection together with dialogue will scarcely lead to failure. WOP may hold its future in its own hands, if it reflects on and enters into dialogue in facing up to these challenges, conscious that the sustainability of society and of people's quality of life depends on the way in which the man-work relationship is understood and managed. WOP's trajectory reveals the potential to make the difference in the shaping of these two tasks.



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Endereço para correspondência:
Sigmar Malvezzi
Instituto de Psicologia. Universidade de São Paulo
Avenida Prof. Mello Moraes, 1721
São Paulo, 05508-030. Brasil

Recebido em: 18/07/2016
Primeira decisão editorial em: 20/08/2016
Versão final em: 16/09/2016
Aceito em: 16/09/2016

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