I/O psych prof's research focuses on students' anxieties, work-family balance

November 4, 2019 | UHCL Staff

Lisa Sublett
Assistant Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology Lisa Sublett

Those studying industrial/organizational psychology tend either to begin careers in which they apply their skills directly in the field or to join a college or university to teach. Assistant Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology Lisa Sublett decided that education was her calling after a rewarding experience as a teaching assistant during her last year of graduate school.

“I loved seeing students learn,” said Sublett, who is in her fourth year teaching in the College of Human Sciences and Humanities at University of Houston-Clear Lake. “I think it’s because one of the classes I teach is statistics. There’s a lot of anxiety about statistics, and students have often had a negative experience with a quantitative-heavy class where there’s a lot of math. I start the first day trying to ease that anxiety, and I talk to students about ‘imposter phenomenon,’ which is the focus of some of my research.”

Imposter phenomenon, Sublett explained, is rampant among high-achieving, high-performing students, especially those in graduate programs. “People in this category have misconceived notions that others are so much smarter and better prepared than they are, and they feel that in comparison, they have no business being in a class with students whom they perceive to be superior,” she said. “Students tell me they never knew there was a name for what they’ve been feeling, and they’re relieved to know that they’re not the only ones who feel that anxiety.”

Sublett reassures students that they are not frauds or fakes, and that they actually do belong in the class. “My interest in researching this comes from observing some of the most capable students suffering from this anxiety,” she said.

In addition to her research on imposter phenomenon, Sublett said that she also focuses on work-family balance and conflicts, and how imposter phenomenon is related to increased work-family conflict. “Imposter phenomenon exacerbates emotional exhaustion, burnout and many other detrimental consequences for employees,” she said. “It’s strongly, negatively related to our health and overall well-being.”

Industrial/organizational psychology was an ideal fit for her, she said, because it brings together psychological theories as they apply to a business setting.

“In my undergraduate studies, I earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in business administration. I then went on to earn my Ph.D. in. I/O psychology because it was the perfect marriage of both; it helps employees in the workplace but also helps businesses thrive by getting the right people into the right jobs,” she said.

She is now working with graduate students in the I/O psychology master’s program at the newly-opened Center for Workplace Consulting at UHCL Pearland. “The CWC handles projects that are all student-led and faculty supervised,” she said. “Students will work as consultants for business clients on projects addressing a variety of needs, including employee surveys, business data analysis, employee selection, performance appraisals, and more.”

Sublett said the center offers an excellent training opportunity for students and was also great for local business. “Business owners can work with students who are truly excited and motivated to work on their projects,” she said. She added that she believed there was a great calling to be in higher education. “I’m in a really interesting position, because now that I’ve been here four years, I’m beginning to see some of my students graduate with their master’s degree in I/O psychology and get into really interesting careers, like business consulting and data analytics,” she said. “It’s my favorite part of the day, preparing future I/O psychologists and seeing them start their careers. It’s very rewarding to me.”

Learn more about UHCL’s Industrial/Organizational Psychology program.

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