Original Research

Social constructionism and relational practices as a paradigm for organisational psychology in the South African context

Dirk J. Geldenhuys
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 41, No 1 | a1225 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v41i1.1225 | © 2015 Dirk J. Geldenhuys | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 June 2014 | Published: 07 August 2015

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Dirk J. Geldenhuys, Department of Industrial & Organisational Psychology, University of South Africa, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: This article is about introducing social constructionism and relational practices as a paradigm perspective to organisational psychology, especially as these are applied in organisation development. Research purpose: The aim of this study was to investigate the relevance of social constructionism and relational practices as a paradigm perspective for studying and practising organisational psychology in the South African context.

Motivation for the study: The relevance of the paradigm perspective that is currently used in studying and practising organisational psychology in South Africa seems to be biased towards an individual perspective of human behaviour that is incongruent with the African context, which asks for an Afro-centric approach with the emphasis on human relationships. It was argued that social constructionism and relational practices could provide a relevant perspective that can help to transform workplace relationships in the South African context.

Research approach, design and method: This study was based on a non-empirical, theoretical research design. Articles written in English and published between 2002 and 2013 using specific keywords relating to social constructionism and organisational psychology were retrieved. This was supplemented by other relevant electronic and hardcopy resources. The main findings are reported and discussed and recommendations made.

Main findings: Although the literature on social constructionism and relational practices is limited in organisational psychology, it does provide an additional perspective, not only on the mainstream theory, but also as a practice in organisation development for transforming workplace relationships in the South African context.

Practical/managerial implications: Organisational psychology should be cautious about the possibility of constructing a monologue at the expense of introducing new perspectives on behaviour in the workplace. Organisational psychologists should be trained in alternative approaches such as social constructionism in order to facilitate relationships and consider applying relational practices as practical philosophy in dealing with clients, thus changing their role from that of expert to that of relational practitioner, focusing on the relational processes and making use of local contextual knowledge.

Contributions/value add: This article contributes to the mainstream literature on organisational psychology, more specifically organisation development as an applied field of organisational psychology, by including social constructionism with its emphasis on relational practices as an alternative approach to the field.


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