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The politics of research; the Russian doll view of work and organisational psychology in society
Work and organisational psychology must be seen in context; employers and employees work in jobs in organisations and in society. Taking the issue of the balance of worker health and productivity as a focal point this keynote will explore the multilevel nature of influences on behaviour at work, and critically review the dominant focus on the individual in knowledge development in the discipline. Evidence supporting the expansion of theory and research to include national influences (e.g., culture, societal beliefs, legislation and regulation, corruption, welfare regimes, union representation, and the media) and other external influences (e.g. regional socio-demographics) will be explored.
The political and contextual nature of work and organisational psychology knowledge is particularly salient in applied research and trying to bridge the research – practice gap. Politics concerns who gets what power and resources, how much, and when. In whose interest does our research serve? The conflict between the imperatives of science and the requirements of end users requires a delicate balancing act from the formulation of the research question, methods and measures used, and interpretation and application of the results. These conflicts are redoubled when the tensions of end users interests are considered (managers, shareholders, employee representatives). Rethinking the goal of research and uncovering the driving values will help us to imagine and construct the kind of society we would like to live in.