Expert of the Week: Brian Holtz, PhD

Brian Holtz, PhD

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management at Temple University

What is your professional background?

I earned my PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from George Mason University. Prior to accepting my first academic position I was worked as a research associate for a consulting firm in the Washington DC area. My work at that consulting firm largely focused on helping to develop/improve performance management systems for large public-sector clients. Subsequently, I have been a faculty member at several institutions including the University of Calgary, Purdue University, Rutgers-Camden, and most recently at Temple University.


What inspired you to choose this as your career path?

As an undergraduate student I learned about the field of industrial-organizational (I/O) psychology in one of my introductory psych classes. I was very interested in the potential of working in a field that attempts to use scientific research to better understand human behavior in the workplace. As an undergraduate student, the goal using psychological research to potentially improve organizational practices that seemed like a very interesting and challenging endeavor (and it still does!). I was fortunate that a professor at my undergraduate institution (Portland State University) allowed me to get involved with his research lab and those early research experiences got me hooked on this career path.


What’s your average day like?

My average day during the week involves meetings, teaching classes, answering e-mails and hopefully carving out a few hours to work on research projects. Depending on where I am at with a particular project, I might spend significant time reading journal articles, designing a new research study, analyzing data, or writing a manuscript. I enjoy that my job presents a significant amount of variety in the types of work tasks that I engage in on any particular day.  


What has been your greatest accomplishment in academia?

I feel that my greatest accomplishment to this point has been earning my PhD. Completing reputable doctoral program take a great deal of work (it is also a great deal of fun). I know many people who are a lot smarter than I am who entered a doctoral program, but for a variety of reasons dropped out, or were dismissed. My parents do not have college degrees and it was not necessarily expected that I would earn a college degree. In fact, shortly after high school, I was very close to dropping out of community college to accept a full-time job. With this in mind, I always feel that prioritizing my education and working hard to accomplish my educational goals has been my most important accomplishment.


How does trust between employee and employer impact business?

Many scholars have described trust as a critical “social lubricant”. I’ve always liked this phrase because trust is simply a necessary ingredient for efficient and effective interpersonal relationships in work settings. Without sufficient trust a lot of bad things happen. For instance, employees who don’t trust others in their workplace are unwilling to take risks, are skeptical of the motives of others, and are generally less cooperative.


What can students expect to learn from your courses?

Aside from gaining an understanding of the core concepts associated with any of my particular courses, I hope that students gain an appreciation for the complexity of human resource management issues. There is very seldom any simple “one-size fits all” solution to personnel-related problems (e.g., poor job performance, absenteeism, etc.) faced in organizations. Thinking critically and trying to get at the heart of why a particular problem is occurring is necessary to develop effective interventions. 


How can they apply lessons to their lives outside of school?

In my classes I frequently discuss principles of organizational justice. Simply put, organizational justice research demonstrates that treating people fairly, with respect and dignity, is a low cost way of fostering an effective workplace environment. I would suggest that these ideas extend to all areas of life – treating people fairly and respectfully is a great way to avoid problems and build fruitful relationships with others.


What trends in industrial psychology do you foresee in the near future? What about the long term?

In the near future, I foresee greater emphasis on trying to understand and deal with widespread feelings of insecurity that are associated with increased employment uncertainty. In the long term, I think our field will see increased emphasis on trying to understand the implications of technology, particularly artificial intelligence, for how people work in the future.


What books/blogs/materials about industrial psychology in business would you recommend?

The Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology ( is a great source of information.


What advice would you give to your students?

I would suggest that students cultivate their intellectual curiosity and strive to continue learning throughout their careers.


Find Brian Holtz at Temple University.