This year, WHU launches its pioneering Bachelor in Business Psychology program. We speak to Assistant Professor Julia de Groote to learn more about psychology's crucial role in today's working world.
"I was always fascinated by people and how they behave, and the reasons behind why they act the way they do. But I was also interested in management, and I wanted to explore the connection between economics and psychology. I had the impression that the importance of people is often underestimated in a business and the impact they can have."
Julia teaches in the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs at WHU, with a degree (Diplom) in psychology and a Ph.D. in management. She is also part of the WHU Institute of Family Business and Mittelstand. This research group is dedicated to understanding innovation, leadership, and ethics within family businesses and small and medium-sized enterprises. "WHU is home to the top scholars in the field, and I always enjoyed the drive people have here. I want to work closely with experts and companies and maintain a practical aspect of my work rather than sitting in a lab. WHU is the perfect place to connect such research with practice."
The importance of people
At WHU, Julia connects with real business owners and family-run companies, research that also impacts the local community. Julia balances this research with teaching, including the new Bachelor in Business Psychology, which starts in September 2022. This unique program offers students the chance to combine organizational psychology with a broader understanding of management. Students can explore topics such as social psychology, motivational theory, and ethics.
"Through business psychology, you start to understand that the most important resource all companies have, is people. The war for talent is important for all businesses, even more so for family business owners. The biggest problem they face is finding qualified people who fit their values and the environment. For many companies that have employees working from home, HR managers need to consider not only the structural fit of a job but also how to keep their staff happy. The implications and impact of the people and the psychology within an organization are extensive."
Resilience and connection
Aside from teaching, Julia is involved in several different research projects. These include examining how top management teams collaborate and make strategic decisions and the importance of resilience within the family business. "We focus on resilience because family businesses often 'live' longer than non-family businesses. Often, they have a sense of handing over the business to the next generation, which provides them with a long-term vision. They are more likely to offer personal resources in times of crisis – for example, extra hours or monetary. Family members support each other in the business, but conflicts can also be detrimental. We look at how this research can benefit other companies too."
In the new Bachelor of Business Psychology, Julia will teach the module "Introduction to Psychology" and the very first lecture in the program. "This lecture is a general introduction to the study of psychology and its various subfields. My goal is to motivate the students to be as excited about psychology as I am!" The module covers various aspects of psychology, including sensation and perception, genetics and evolutionary foundations of behavior, and psychological disorders.
"Understanding psychology helps you to understand others but also reflect on your own actions. This is important for future leaders, as it helps them to understand how their own behavior can impact others, the foundation for successful leadership."