Dr. Kasia Fuiks, PhD shares her optimism about the future of the workplace.
“What each one of us brings may be replaced with something else but not the person. That’s why I am hopeful.”
Dr. Kasia Fuiks, PhD has spent her career building schools and rehabilitation centers in East Africa, being an organizational psychology consultant at various companies throughout San Diego, and has worked to develop and test assessments for the U.S. Navy. But the one constant in her life has been her association with Alliant International University.
An alumna herself, Kasia brings a deep appreciation of Alliant to her role as an assistant professor and program director of organizational psychology for their San Diego campus and online programs. Long before that, Kasia earned her bachelor’s degree in 1997 while working in Nairobi. At that time, Alliant was known as the United States International University or USIU Africa. “It’s been 25 years, and this is very much my home. I went to other places, but I always came back to Alliant. The culture of Alliant has always had that international component and it values international competency and understands people from other cultures.”
It was also during her bachelor’s program that she first learned about industrial organization (IO) psychology. While taking elective courses in this field, she discovered three topics that sparked her interest to pursue this career: leadership, motivation, and satisfaction.
- Leadership: “I had worked with so many leaders and I could never figure out why everybody is different; what is that formula? I learned that leaders have all kinds of behavior styles which make them effective in one setting but not in another one. Discovering this and learning that leaders need to adapt to the needs and desires of the people who they were leading, gave me the answers I needed."
- Motivation: Kasia already knew that people are motivated by different things. However, learning that employees are less motivated if they do not have control or autonomy over what they do deepened her understanding of this topic. “If employees cannot find people to relate to or a peer that they can learn from, or if they always feel like they're a failure or what they do is never enough, then their motivation decreases significantly. I realized that if leaders or the organization itself could provide employees with that control and autonomy, then the employees would be more engaged and perform better.”
- Satisfaction: Kasia still recalls sitting in a classroom when a professor shared a finding about identical twins participating in a study about satisfaction. She was fascinated to learn that because of their shared genes, identical twins also shared an almost identical level of satisfaction (90-95%) even if they didn’t grow up together or held different jobs. “I found this so interesting because it revealed that we might not have as much impact on one’s satisfaction as we believe.” Despite the lessened impact, she believes this information is still invaluable to organizational psychologists when developing projects to assist with job satisfaction.
On the topic of employee mental health and well-being, Kasia is seeing improvements as we move forward in restructuring the workplace. When asked how she sees her role changing and how companies are creating better environments for their employees, Kasia is optimistic. “It's one of our basic needs to have the opportunity to relate with others. I think managers will be required to be more engaged leaders, especially with remote employees who have less opportunity to create relationships at work.”
Kasia has seen first-hand that individuals who can create psychological detachment from their job recover much faster from work-related stress than those who don’t. She also believes that there will be more leaders who reward employees who take time off for their well-being. “There is a strong association between leaders who take time off for their well-being and their direct reports taking time off as well. Leaders should not only lead by example but also be more encouraging toward people taking time off to take care of their family, their interests, or their overall mental health. It’s becoming more common which is a positive change.”
With artificial intelligence (AI) dominating many headlines surrounding work, and the pros and cons of this new technology, it was inevitable that this topic would come up. “I inspire our students to always apply ethics when working with AI. I always remind them that there's no one watching you. You need to know that and always act with ethics. Would you tell your mom, dad, or significant other what you have done? Always remember that because, at the end of the day, that's all that matters.” Kasia shared her main concern behind AI which is that most people writing the programs and algorithms are men. “Women and people from diverse backgrounds should contribute their knowledge, too. If there are only a few individuals who decide how we think and lead, or how we program AI, then I think that is where the danger lies. Having more diversity involved in that work will be better for all of us.”
New technology aside, for Kasia, the field of IO is always going to be about the human aspect of the industry because we are always working with people in the organization and that is not going away. “What each one of us brings may be replaced with something else but not the person. That’s why I am hopeful.”