Introduction to Organizational Psychology

Psychology 360, The University of Michigan

Table of contents (TOC)

  1. Basic information
  2. Introduction
  3. Strategy for success
  4. Work for this course
  5. Grades: The bottom line
  6. Truth in advertising
  7. Class norms
  8. Course materials

Basic information

Lecture location:
1360 East Hall, MF 9 - 10 AM

Tom Finholt, Professor; Stéphane Côté, David Allison, GSIs

Contact information for Professor Finholt:
3030 East Engineering, 763-1466,



As the staff of Psychology 360 we're glad you've chosen Introduction to Organizational Psychology this term. This four credit course offers a survey of the field of organizational psychology and aims to help you understand and apply theory in a variety of areas, including: work attitudes and motivation; group dynamics; organizational communication; organizational structure and design; and organizational culture. Successful completion of Psychology 360 is a prerequisite for upper-level organizational psychology courses including: Psychology 361, Advanced Laboratory in Organizational Psychology; Psychology 464, Group Behavior in Organizations; Psychology 561, Special Topics in Organizational Psychology; and Psychology 565, Organizational Systems.

Our teaching philosophy

As much as possible we want to create a classroom environment that allows you to actively participate in learning about organizational psychology. Toward this end we want to encourage you to interact both formally and informally with the instructional staff and with your classmates. We welcome student initiative and look forward to hearing from you about things we do well and about areas where you think we could improve. In addition, we feel strongly that learning to write and speak effectively about organizational psychology is the key to learning to think effectively about organizational psychology. Learning to write and speak effectively also has pragmatic benefits in terms of making you a better communicator and therefore a stronger candidate for employment or graduate school admission.

How we run things

A typical week will start with a one hour survey lecture on Monday. This lecture will identify and develop major themes from that week's readings. The two hour discussion sections will build on the survey lecture by allowing you to explore issues in-depth with your section mates through participation in group exercises, viewing and discussion of videos, class debates, and other activities. The one hour lecture on Fridays will be reserved to expand areas of special interest related to the weekly topic. The lecture style will be informal, with an expectation of high participation on your part. Discussion sections will meet as follows:
Section 2, Wednesday, 10-noon, B114 MLB (Stéphane Côté)
Section 3, Tuesday, 9-11, 232 Dennison (David Allison)
Section 4, Wednesday, 3-5, 271 Dennison (David Allison)
Section 5, Thursday, noon-2, B239 East Hall (Stéphane Côté)


Strategy for success

What we think you need to do to succeed in this course

The staff of Psychology 360 will do everything possible to create conditions that will allow you to succeed. However, ultimately your success depends on the extent of your personal effort. To support high performance, the staff of Psychology 360 have outlined the following four guidelines:

Complete assignments in advance. You will be most comfortable in class when you have completed the weekly reading assignment in advance of the Monday lecture. An important part of class sessions will be the dialogue between you, your classmates, and the instructional staff. Although you may feel these conversations put you "on the spot," questions will be posed in a friendly and non-confrontational manner. Further, the staff will use these classroom conversations to help you discover new ways of thinking about the material you've studied, rather than as tests of whether you can recite a specific set of facts.

Write good papers. You will be happiest with our evaluation of your performance on papers and essays when your work is grammatically correct, free of spelling errors, logically organized, precise, concise, clear, and original. The teaching staff understand that scholarly writing is difficult. Therefore, written assignments will always be structured as two-stage exercises. You will do first drafts, receive feedback, revise, and then submit final versions. This gives you a second chance to do well on written assignments and it introduces you to important general writing practices of editing and revision that produce effective prose.

Contribute meaningful comments. You will be most satisfied with our evaluation of your class participation when your comments indicate a thorough reading of course materials, distinguish between facts and opinions, take into consideration contributions by your classmates, and indicate a willingness to test new ideas. The teaching staff appreciate that you may be hesitant to speak in class. Therefore, we will conduct discussions in a low-key and inclusive style designed to reduce anxiety about talking in front of others.

Attend class sessions regularly. You will get the greatest benefit out of this course when you make a commitment to attend every lecture and discussion section. The staff will aim to design lectures and sections that make your attendance worthwhile and interesting.

Work for this course

Helping you become an effective writer

Your term paper The staff of Psychology 360 feel that helping you improve your writing about organizational psychology is an essential part of learning how to think as an organizational psychologist. Further, the general lessons about good writing will be useful to you in any field or occupation. Therefore, the staff will guide you in the production of a fifteen to twenty page double-spaced paper in the Academy of Management style.

Your paper will evolve through stages. The first stage will be a series of introductory assignments during the first month of the course. These assignments will train you how to observe behavior in organizations, how to formulate research questions based on these observations, and how to use the scholarly literature to identify articles and books that are relevant to what you have observed. Details about these assignments will be discussed at the first section meetings during the week of January 13-17.

After completing the introductory exercises, you will move on to write the first draft of your term paper. Your term paper will combine elements of a research review with elements of a case study. To do this paper we want you to choose a familiar organization as a study site. For example, you may select a club, a business, a non-profit agency, a military unit -- or any other type of formal organization. Once you've selected an organization, details about how to write the paper will be provided through class handouts. Your first draft is due at section meetings during the week of March 10-14.

The last stage of the term paper process will be production of your final draft. Production of your final draft will start when your GSI grades your first draft and offers specific feedback about steps you should take to revise and improve your paper. To ensure the best possible feedback it will be important for you to submit a first draft that is as close as possible to the version that you will submit as your final draft. Your final draft is due at section meetings during the week of April 14-18.

Your essay exam answers The staff of Psychology 360 feel that the ability to produce a written argument under time pressure also represents a crucial writing and thinking skill. Therefore, the mid-term and final exams will both be essay exams. The mid-term exam, on Monday, February 24, will be a one hour essay exam covering material from readings, lectures, and sections through Friday, February 21. The final exam, on Monday, April 28, 4-6 pm in 1360 East Hall, will be a two hour essay exam covering material from readings, lectures, and sections for the entire semester. Practice questions will be distributed before each exam to give you a precise idea of what the tests will cover.

Participation Participating in lecture and section discussions is an important way for you to actively learn the material in this course. Talking about the issues raised in lectures, readings, and videos will help you develop your thinking about organizational psychology. In addition, honing your oral skills has general benefit beyond the scope of this course.

Grades: The bottom line

Your grade in Psychology 360 will follow this breakdown:
Paper, first draft                      10%                                     
Paper, final draft                      30%                                     
Participation & homework                10%                                     
Mid-term exam                           20%                                     
Final exam                              30%                                     


Truth in advertising

The staff of Psychology 360 recognize that this course is not for everyone. To avoid unpleasant surprises we want to be as honest as possible about the demands of this class. First, you will be doing an average of seventy pages of required reading each week. We think you will find much of this reading entertaining, but we know that you will find some readings long and dry. Second, your term paper will involve twelve weeks of sustained work amounting to approximately twenty to thirty pages of written material, including revisions. We have created deadlines that break this writing into sub-assignments over the term, but we know you will experience highs and lows in weekly activity. Finally, although we will discuss applications of organizational psychology, topics such as human resource management will not be a main focus of this course. If your primary goal is preparing yourself for a position in a human resource management department we feel you will be better served taking the specialized courses in the School of Business Administration.

Class norms

1) We will treat you and your fellow students with respect at all times. Similarly, we expect you to treat your classmates and the staff with respect at all times. In particular, you should not talk or whisper while others are speaking.
2) If you cheat or plagiarize you will be punished to the full extent of university regulations.
3) The staff of Psychology 360 discourage you from making unscheduled office visits. To ensure that you get the full benefit of our attention and time please make an appointment or attend the scheduled office hours. We will keep our office hours zealously. Further, we will respond promptly to phone calls and electronic mail messages.
4) The Organizational Psychology secretary and the Psychology Department secretaries are not available to do work for you.
5) You are responsible for notifying the teaching staff immediately about problems or complaints. Please do not assume that we know about something that is bothering you -- tell us.
6) To avoid wasting the time of your classmates and the teaching staff please make every effort to arrive at lecture and section sessions on time.
7) You will not be allowed to negotiate extensions to due dates for assignments, except under exceptional circumstances (e.g., family tragedy).
8) You may take a make-up exam only if you have a signed excuse from the University Health Service (or comparable excuse).
9) You are not allowed to wear headphones in lecture or section sessions.
10) Eating and drinking are not allowed in 1324 East Engineering. Check with your TA before eating and drinking in section.
11) Sometimes, despite the best efforts of the staff, papers get lost in the shuffle. To avoid problems please photocopy your work and save your computer files as protection against misplaced papers.

Course materials

Required texts

Your required readings will emphasize three texts. Rivethead, by Ben Hamper, is a first-person account of life at GM's Flint Truck and Bus plant. Hamper's style is sarcastic and, at times, offensive. However, his portrait of factory life is lively and compelling. Working for the Japanese, by Joseph and Suzy Fucini, is a story about the workers at Mazda's Flat Rock, MI plant. This facility was the first UAW organized transplant, and the Fucinis' do a good job of capturing the experiences of U.S. managers and workers as they come to terms with Japanese production practices. Finally, Behavior in organizations, by Greenberg and Baron, is a leading organizational psychology textbook. We think this text avoids many of the pitfalls of textbook writing, such as verbosity and pomposity, and provides an interesting reference source for interpreting lectures and exercises. You can obtain all required texts from the Michigan Union Bookstore, Ulrich's, and Michigan Book and Supply.

Fucini, J.J., & Fucini, S. (1990). Working for the Japanese: Inside Mazda's American auto plant. New York: The Free Press.

Hamper, B. (1991). Rivethead: Tales from the assembly line. New York: Warner Books.

Greenberg, J., & Baron, R.A. (1996). Behavior in organizations, Sixth edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Reserve policy

A limited number of copies of the required texts will be available in 3006 East Engineering for you to check out during the term. You may have one book at a time for up to four hours, 9 am - 5 pm M-F. If you would like to use a book overnight you should pick it up after 4 pm and return it the next morning by 9 am. You will be required to leave your student ID or driver license for overnight books. Please call the Organizational Psychology secretary, at 763-0264 if you have any questions or would like to check on the availability of a text.

Course notes

A number of services now offer weekly course notes on a fee basis. The staff of Psychology 360 do not endorse any of these services, we do not receive compensation from these services, and we do not advise these services on the selection of note takers. Therefore, as a staff, we cannot guarantee the quality or accuracy of the note services. Students subscribing to these services do so at their own risk.

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Copyright © 1996, The Regents of the University of Michigan, All rights reserved.
Revised - January 19, 1997