HR Management – George Kelly’s Psychological Theories 2500 words degree level


                     AND GEORGE KELLY’S



                                                TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Introduction……………………………………………………………….3
  • George Kelly’s First Theory……………………………………………..3
  • George Kelly’s Second Theory…………………………………………..5
  • George Kelly’s Third Theory…………………………………………….9
  • George Kelly’s Fourth Theory……………………………………………9
  • Conclusion………………………………………………………………..11

















Briefly describe the nature of George Kelly’s psychological theories, and show in what ways these theories could be applied to the HRM workplace.



George Kelly’s four psychological theories (Victoria, 2005) are conceptional statements that relate the individual’s psychological processes to his predictions of events and to his peculiar approach to actualising his aspirations. These theories therefore proffer a principle for the appreciation of the individual’s tendency or predisposition to act in definite ways for the realisation of objectives, based on his or her prediction of future developments.  Because they seek to highlight what informs the individual’s anticipation of events (Thaddeus, 1999), which they associate with the course of action he or she chooses for the actualisation of goals, George Kelly’s psychological theories attempt to clarify the “why” of  certain observable aspirational behavioural patterns and tendencies. Therefore a conscious adoption of the theories will lead to a better understanding of human actions and will accordingly provide a means of managing them deliberately and beneficially.

Being directed primarily towards the promotion of cooperative workplace relations between management and employees (Fabian & Moses, 2004), Human Resource Management involves an appreciation not only of the outward but also the inward limitations and predisponents of the individual staff member.  Accordingly, a conscious application of George Kelly’s psychological theories to the workforce will facilitate the comprehensive appreciation of human assets demanded by Human Resource Management.


The first, his fundamental postulate (Thaddeus, 2006), reads: A person’s processes are psychologically channelized by the way in which he anticipates events (ibid). Obviously, the processes are psychological processes, while the psychological channelisation can be taken as a process of predisposition, of mental conditioning, a process through which an individual consciously or subconsciously “sets” his mind and “determines” his or her characteristic attitude and approach to challenges. Since anticipation naturally derives from  a (logical or  an illogical) deduction from current developments and conditions, Kelly’s postulate leads to the conclusion that current conditions at workplace play a cardinal role in influencing staff’s attitude to and involvement in organisational objectives and consequently in determining their attitude to formal tasks and assignments. Therefore, current workplace conditions strongly determine staff’s personal cooperativeness. This inference, a readily understandable everyday fact, has the special implication for the extent to which the individual worker would voluntarily (and therefore , consistently and dependably) employ his personal talents and potentialities, rather than his formally acquired skills and credentials, for the furtherance of an orgnisation.  Kelly’s first theory therefore offers a means of “enhancing” the suitability of their attitude to work and the cooperativeness of their approach to executing tasks— a means of profitably “manipulating” their psychological channelisation.  Towards effecting this desirable “manipulation”, Kelly’s  first theory imposes two imperatives upon the Management of an organisation:  the imperative of understanding the staff’s attitude to work, their inclinations as well as their points of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with existing working conditions; and the imperative of an optimal adjustment of workplace conditions to these attitudes and proclivities without compromising standards or jeopardizing realisation of objectives.

Being a function of their personal acceptance of organisational policies and regulations (Williams & Christopher, 2000), the cooperativeness of workers   is an indication of the correspondence  between  the generality of their personal approach to workplace and non-workplace challenges (the approach Kelly’s theory attributes to channelisation processes) and policies and regulations of their workplace organisation.

Consequently, in assessing and diagnosing staffs’ insufficient dedication to work, current workplace policies, regulations and conditions should be considered against the background of the generality of their attitude.  Where for instance, there are insufficient welfare packages and stringent or inexorable demands to comply with rules, or where cumbersome bureaucratic procedures are central to policies, unless really pacifying explanations and reassurances of demonstrable sincerity are offered workers, they should be expected to have gloomy anticipations of future conditions. For such workers, George Kelly’s “the way he anticipates events” depends largely on practical and credible reassurances.

However, there are other determinants of the individual’s psychological chanelisation processes which question the definitiveness of George Kelly’s first theory.  According to Cyril (2006), “A man’s …psychological processes are a product a dynamic, ever-changing interplay of innumerable physical, social and environmental factors…” Psychological channelisation being understandably a “psychological process”, physical health, family, educational and cultural background as well the domestic and workplace physical and social conditions all play a role, among other factors, in determining an individual’s psychological processes. This inference finds corroboration in Jude’s definition of psychology as “an ever-evolving state that is susceptible to every conceivable material and non-material predisponent” (Jude, 2005).

Therefore, an exclusive conformation with the George Kelly’s theory will not quite lead to the desired workers cooperativeness, because it will limit focus and consideration to anticipations of existing conditions (workplace and non-workplace), making the Management ignore  the wide range of  other innumerable factors that determine the individual’s psychological channelisation processes.


Kelly’s second theory indicates the process of these anticipations: A person anticipates events by construing their replications ( Victoria , 2005).

Since “replications” of events are “evocative of the events” (Cyril, 2006), “replications” can be taken to mean “conceived similarities”.  Deducing from the word “their”, which implies something definitive and unquestionable, the “replications” are objectively and correctly conceived: they are given; they are not a matter of the individual’s opinions or standpoints, but are founded on conceptional fundaments or normative models.  On the other hand, “construing” being synonymous with “conceptualising” (Websters’ Thesaurus, 2003), the individual’s anticipating of events is a process of forming a conception of the definitive and given “replications”.

However, Kelly’s second theory neither specifies the unmistakable hallmarks of these replications of events nor defines their range or principle. The theory therefore makes the appreciation of the “replications” a matter of unsystematic conjecture and consequently limits the possibility of its application in the field of Human Resource Management. It leaves the practical fundamental question unanswered: “What are the replications of events?”

The possibility of a practical application of Kelly’s second theory is therefore conditional upon two fundamental presences: the presence of a workable definition of “replications”, and the presence of practicality in this definition. Only when the “replications”, which the individual is said to “construe”, are specified and can pass the test of a systematic and rational investigation and criticism, only then can Kelly’s second theory become applicable in the field of Human Resource Management.

With his third theory, George Kelly attempts to define the boundaries of the individual’s psychological processes:  “A person’s processes, psychologically speaking, slip into the grooves which are cut out by the mechanisms he adopts for realizing his objectives.” ( Victoria , 2005).

“The mechanism”, or approach, a man or woman adopts for realising their objectives consist in their mentality and their individual make-up (Paul & Holmes, 2001). This individual approach naturally derives from the individual’s background and disposition (Williams & Christopher, 2003).  Consequently, according to George Kelly’s third theory, a person’s psychological processes are subject to his background and disposition. In its substance, Abraham’s (2006) statement expresses this fact: “The key to the understanding of an individual’s psychology and psychological processes lies in a critical understanding of his nature, his social environment as well as his cultural and educational background”.

Abraham’s   mention of “critical understanding” provides some insight into George Kelly’s idea of the “slipping into grooves” of psychological processes. It suggests that a close and evaluative examination of an individual’s nature as well as his social, cultural and educational backgrounds will highlight how and when his or her psychological processes “slip into grooves”.  It thereby underlines a significant omission in George Kelly’s statement: the frequency and the conditionality of the “slip”.  The significance of this omission lies in the fact that a comprehensive appreciation of an individual’s psychology must necessarily include cognition of the nature of the “slip” , its plusses or minuses, and the possibility, if necessary, of deliberately influencing it for the realisation of set objectives. “Under what conditions do a person’s psychological processes ‘slip into grooves’ ”?  “What are the practical consequences of such ‘slipping’ ”?   These are two cardinal questions which George Kelly’s third theory does not (directly or indirectly) address.

If this theory is, however, married to other assertions, such as Abraham’s (2006), then perhaps it will become substantially  (though not entirely) applicable in the field of Human Resource Management. Such a marriage will lead to the inference from Kelly’s theory that:  A person’s psychological processes are subject to the principles he assumes for the realisation of his objectives, and may vary positively or negatively (“slip into grooves”) according to such assumption of principles.

The uncertainty created as to whether these principles vary positively or negatively according to the individual’s assumption is at this juncture imputable not only to the intellectual incompleteness of George’s Kelly’s third theory, but to a subtle but significant shortcoming of Abraham’s prescription:  The ascription of the variable psychology and psychological processes of the individual to the more or less rigid factors of his or her nature and background. This attribution implies that the individual’s psychology ranges between these practically rigid limits, contradicting Stone & Lambert’s ( 2003) penetrative and practical declaration: “ The fickleness of man’s psychology largely originates in the ever-changing influences, such as his mood and financial circumstances,  to which he is continually subjected” . Such necessary “ever-changing” influences certainly merit constant consideration.

Consequently, the Management of an organisation may practically influence the psychological processes of its workers by inviting each worker to indicate their approaches to the realisation of objectives.  Because the psychological processes of workers may vary (positively or negatively) according to their approaches to the realisation of personal objectives and according to the many influences of  their current and past social environment and circumstances,   subjecting such approaches to sound and systematic criticism, and counselling workers accordingly, will improve the workers’ personal involvement in the furtherance of the organisation— providing, of course, that the immediate and remote social limitations, the background and disposition as well the  current and past circumstances of the workers are religiously taken into consideration.

Workers must be encouraged to indicate their actual approaches to the realising their objectives because Kelly’s theory explicitly refers to the “mechanisms he [actually]” adopts”.  Because their actual approaches are connected to a wide range of visible and invisible factors, the knowledge of such approaches will facilitate the Management’s intervention in the complex system of the staff’s workplace predisponents. Well-designed, eliciting questionnaires as well as a cordial environment conducive to unrestrained freedom and confidence of self-expression are therefore necessary for discovering the individual worker’s actual approaches.


George Kelly’s third theory, conjoined to Abraham, Jude, Stone and Lambert’s statements, imposes a special humanitarian imperative on the constitution of the workplace Management: The Management  of an organisation must consist  of people  academically and personally competent to explore and manage the social, personal and circumstantial background and restrictions of the individual worker; men or women who are human enough to get personally involved in the individual worker’s physical and psychological well-being (since such well-being does directly affect workplace cooperativeness); prepared happily to exceed the limits prescribed by the briefs of their formal obligations.


George Kelly’s fourth theory will facilitate the fulfilment of this special imperative as it attempts to elucidate what informs an individual’s perception of his material and non-material environments, and, consequently, what determines his anticipations:    “Man looks at his world through transparent templates which he creates and then attempts to fit over the realities of which the world is composed. Constructs are used for predictions of things to come, and the world keeps on rolling on and revealing these predictions to be either correct or misleading…”(Victoria, 2005)

The terms “transparent templates” and “constructs” attempt to clarify the bases of an individual’s perceptions and anticipations.   Templates are “… ready-made perspectives of evaluation, criticism and assessment…” (Johnson, 2003).  According to George Kelly’s theory, then, there are as many templates are there are men (human beings), since each “man” “creates” his (own individual) templates. “Constructs, on the other hand, are “images or objects of thoughts made of a number of sensory impressions or images (of sight, hearing, feeling, touch and taste)” ( Victoria , 2005).  George Kelly’s fourth theory, therefore, suggests that a person consciously or subconsciously forms his own distinctive sensory impressions into established personal conceptions through which he makes predictions.

The term “transparent”, however, suggests a correspondence of appreciation and perception among men which every observable fact contradicts. A questionable correspondence in objectivity.  For it is axiomatic that all men are not equally transparent and objective in their conduct or evaluations. To suggest, as did Kelly’s fourth theory, that each man “creates” transparent templates which he actually and customarily employs, is to deny this simple, everyday axiom.

Again, the definition of “templates” quoted above suggests that the individual always has preconceived perspectives or standards of evaluation which he tends not to review or set aside in the making serious personal predictions. This suggestion does not quite correspond to reality which is well-known to, among other groups of clear-thinkers, consist of scrupulously objective scientists who are ever-ready to review the bases of their hypothesis and theories for current extrapolations and future predictions.

However, the suggestion that the individual possesses a perspective of assessing and viewing events  which is peculiar to him or her, coincides with the practical assertion of  Williams and Christopher (2000): “Judgement  and  assessment are functions of individuality; therefore, whereas there exit schools of thought, which imply uniformity or similarity in thinking, a person’s assessments will always reflect his nature, which determined in the first place his tendency to unite with particular schools of thoughts”

Therefore, the necessity to pay closer attention to and to positively influence the thinking of individual members of an organisation becomes an urgent necessity for every progressive Human Resource Management personnel. This necessity implies the institution of organisational systems that accords the individual worker the right to express his or her opinions—specifically, the right to freely express his or her predictions of workplace future welfare and prosperity. Such predictions, closely inspected, will reveal the individual’s “templates”, which can be so positively influenced or enhanced that they become directed towards the furtherance of the organisation. Understandably, the individual’s predictions of the welfare of his or her workplace will significantly influence his motivation for personal commitment and devotion to work.

George Kelly’s revelation that the individual’s disposition, rather than the opinions and mentality of the generality of workforce, determines his thinking and anticipations, is, therefore, significantly valuable for maximising employees’ cooperativeness.


     George Kelly’s psychological theories embody a wealth of partly complete, partly incomplete fundamental principles which have great applicability to the successful management of human resources of all times and ages. Being psychological, they are primarily concerned with the motivational factors through which the reasons for the extent of staff cooperativeness or uncooperativeness can be clearly appreciated. As was attempted, every management would do well to recognise and identify complementing principles in the theories of other renowned psychologists, philosopher, or ideologist. With such recognition and identification, George Kelly’s theories will become practically indispensable to the growth, sustenance and continuity of HRM-based organisations.










Abraham, B (2006) The Psychological Subtleties of Human Resource Management . . New York: Harper Perennial

Boddy, J. (2000) “Negotiating the Psychological contract”, Training Journal, p 11- 12

Cyril, C.C (2006) Organisational Human Resource Management. New York: Harper Perennial

“Employee Suggestion Schemes” GLOBAL SURVEY on Business Improvement & Strategy <> Accessed 11th July, 2008

Encarta Encyclopaedia Deluxe, Microsoft (2004).

Fabian, J & Moses,  L( 2004)Managing the Human Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Introduction to PCP. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2008,

from http://

Jackson, M.M (1975). Psychology of Personality: Personal Construct. Igbegunrin: K&K

Johnson, M (2003) The Psychology of Human Thinking . Cambridge : Cambridge University Press

Paul, J & Holmes, A.A (2001) Managing the Psychological Contract. Boston : Addison-Wesley

Thaddeus, K. (1999)  Human Resource Management . New York: Harper Perennial,

Stone, A.H & Lambert, Q ( 2003) Organisatonal Psychological Theories.   London : HEINEMANN

Victoria, F.G (2005) Practical Psychological Theories . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Webster’s New Thesaurus  of  the English Language (2003). POPULAR PUBLISHING, New York

Williams, K & Christopher, O.Z (2000) The Theories of Human Resource Management. Boston : Addison-Wesley