Chris Clegg, 1948-2015

One of Britain’s leading organisational psychologists has died

January 21, 2016
Obituary: Chris Clegg, 1948-2015

Chris Clegg was born on 27 June 1948 and educated at St Peter’s School in York before studying psychology at what was then the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (1967-70), followed by an MSc in business administration at the University of Bradford (1970-71).

He worked briefly as a mathematics teacher at a comprehensive school (1971-72) and in management positions at the National Freight Corporation (1972-75). He then moved to the Medical Research Council for close to two decades, first as a research fellow in the Social and Applied Psychology Unit (1975-82) and then on the permanent scientific staff (1982-94).

In 1994, however, Professor Clegg was appointed deputy director of the Institute of Work Psychology at the University of Sheffield (1994-2006), which came with a personal professorship.

He ended his career at Leeds University Business School, where he served as professor of organisational psychology from 2006, going on to become both the director of the Centre for Socio-Technical Systems Design and the Management Division’s director of research from 2009.

A prolific, wide-ranging and much-cited researcher, Professor Clegg was well known for his contributions to many different areas of organisational psychology, although he also had a high level of expertise in both computer science and engineering.

Three of his own favourite papers well illustrate his development. While still at the MRC, he published a major study of the “psychology of employee lateness, absence and turnover”, a central topic in mainstream organisational psychology. He later became much more interdisciplinary and produced a celebrated analysis of “sociotechnical principles for system design”. This in turn led to a jointly authored longitudinal study of “the impact of human resource and operational management practices on company productivity”, demonstrating how people-focused organisational processes are more significant for productivity than purely operational factors.

Despite these major theoretical papers, Professor Clegg was always deeply committed to bridging the academic-practitioner divide and in bringing research to bear on policymaking.

He had a long-standing research partnership with Rolls-Royce and secured £15 million from organisations ranging from Jaguar Land Rover and John Lewis, to the National Health Service and Yorkshire Water, to produce important applied psychological research.

He also helped establish the Behavioural Research Network with the Department for Communities and Local Government and personally carried out research for both the Cabinet Office and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

Professor Clegg died of cancer on 28 December 2015 and is survived by his wife Sally, two sons and two stepdaughters.

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