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What exactly is a business psychologist anyway? by Bob Vecchiotti

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In 1990, I begin my first commentary on current business issues in a 90-second message on the airways of St. Louis. It was about a taekwondo expert who broke thick boards with his bare hands. In the commentary I had asked him how he can do that. His answer was simple; his goal was the be on the other side. I continued to explore having goals on the other side of challenge and conflict. Since then, I’ve written many commentaries on business from the perspective of psychology.

I write this column largely from the perspective of applied psychology and its application in these challenging times. It is mostly drawn from research, but I admit that research on occasion can substantiate common sense.

For the first time since I began in 1990, I’ll provide the specialty I draw from. It is the psychology of organizations and people at work. They are business psychologists, also known as industrial and organizational psychologists.

Business psychologists generally study the behavior of people in work organizations and teams. It may also include business management and business practices from work experience. It’s interesting and informative to see other psychological specialties, which you can find by visiting the American Psychological Association’s website

For business psychologists, the applications are varied. The focus is on creating an organization that successfully meets or exceeds its goals. Some specific applications include:

Coaching CEOs to greater impact and success within their organizations;

Bringing the latest research to business applications as best practices;

Leadership development for individuals and teams;

Developing contemporary performance assessments;

Designing an effective culture aligned with business goals;

Raising employee engagement in their work with others;

Applying psychometric tests and surveys to generate relevant data;

Designing and applying effective organizational change practices.

Business psychology is an applied science focused on sustainable behavior for individual and organizational success. Making a profit is a goal for both psychologist and executive. It’s important to remain impartial and detached to provide objective information and feedback. This can include information an executive may not like to hear but must hear. As appropriate other areas where assistance may be needed is offered to cover any contingency that arises.

Business experience for the psychologist is important and can include managing people, responsibility for the bottom line, business planning, and marketing and sales. An understanding of how the various functions of a business work together to influence the bottom line is a must.

So now you know the background, and maybe I won’t face, quite so often, the question: “What does a business psychologist do?”

Bob Vecchiotti is a business psychologist. He can be reached at

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