Paul Thorne 1938-2019

A tribute from his wife and three sons.

Paul died on 7July 2019. He requested a private family farewell, no ceremony, and with the least possible fuss. And that is what we gave him, with music he loved, laughter and tears. But we would like to celebrate this special man through the voice of the profession that gave him so much. 

So this is our tribute, a combined effort from me, his wife, and our three sons, to a man who fell into psychology at the age of 19 with not the least idea of what he was letting himself in for, but who rose to the challenge of his Professor’s view that he was a lost cause. He finished his BSc (Hons) with a 2:1 and a commendation that would have been a First if he’d bothered to attend a few more lectures.

He found his milieu a few years later in corporate psychology. Always fascinated by how people behaved, he was a consummate observer of the way in which organisations managed and manipulated the behaviour of those they employed. As one colleague and friend recently observed, he was 'in to' organisation culture before the words had even been coined. 

The many, many, books in our house (Amazon was a daily visitor, we are only sorry that he did not live long enough to see their drone landing in our garden) are testament to his wide ranging knowledge. He was able to combine both scientific fact and human experience into developing tools to help people understand the workings of their organisations culture and how to manage themselves within it. One of his sons has now changed and modified those tools to help young people to adapt to the challenges of 21st century life.

Eventually Paul set up Psycom, a Corporate Psychology practice that gave him the vehicle for consulting within many prestigious organisations. The Wellcome Foundation, The Princes Trust, Amersham International, Merrill Lynch, Smith New Court, The Police Service, and many others. He had a fulfilling and exciting business life, and he loved it.

He was an amazing communicator. He could rattle off emails perfectly drafted, perfect tone, content and style, wryly observing that the recipient would probably earn a large bonus on the back of it, but then grinning as he billed a not quite so large amount himself. 

For several years he wrote a column on Executive Behaviour for International Management – 'The Imposter Phenomenon', and a 'Survival Guide to Suffering the Bad Boss' being just two examples. 

He wrote two books – The New General Manager, and Organising Genius. Neither were best sellers, but he was pleased that neither were they 'remaindered'. He also co-authored Workaholics with Mike Johnson, his Editor at International Management, based in part on the experiences of one of his other sons. He took delight in the fact that Workaholics was translated into Chinese.

And he has left us a gem. Sitting on his computer, awaiting editing and publishing is his autobiography '50 Years a Psychologist'.

As a wonderfully warm, benevolent man he listened, advised, and encouraged, and never criticised. He treated us all, whether family, a Nobel Laureate, truck driver, Lord of the Realm, or supermarket worker with humour and respect. The only exception was if you dared to take the last can of Coke from the fridge.

He remarked once, in a low key family conversation, that he had never expected much of life, but if he would like one thing, it was that he would be remembered as 'Good enough'.  At the time his observation was greeted with the ribald banter that is family life with three sons. 

But we say now, for us, and we hope for the many people out there who knew him, he was more than 'Good enough'. He was amazing. His true legacy is not his achievements, not his writing, but that he has given us the strength to carry on without him.

Anne, Nick, Jonathan & John Thorne

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber