Professor Chris W. Clegg (1948–2015)

An appreciation by his colleagues at the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield.

In a distinguished 40 year career, Professor Chris Clegg established himself as one of the UK’s most influential and respected organizational psychologists. His career started at the renowned Institute of Work Psychology at the University of Sheffield (formerly the MRC Social and Applied Psychology Unit), before moving to Leeds University Business School in 2006 where he established the Socio-Technical Centre in 2009.

Chris’s impact on academic organizational psychology and related disciplines has been considerable. He published well over 100 journal articles, books, and chapters, in leading outlets  including Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, Academy of Management Journal, and Journal of Organizational Behavior. Collectively, this work has been cited over 8,000 times. Chris is best known for his world-leading research on job design, socio-technical systems theory, organizational change, and the human aspects of information technology. Unusually for an organizational psychologist, his work also bridged several other academic fields, notably engineering and computer science, reflecting a pioneering and visionary multi-disciplinary focus.

A passionate believer in applying psychology practically, Chris established and led ongoing research partnerships with numerous leading companies, most notably with Rolls-Royce in 1998 with whom his colleagues continue to work today. An Impact Case Study based on this research was highly commended by the 2014 National REF Panel in their official feedback to Leeds University Business School. Chris’s work also influenced policy at the highest levels of UK Government, with recent influential projects for the Cabinet Office and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. During his career, he was awarded £15 million of research funding from leading organizations and research councils, further testimony to the immense impact his research had on wider society.

Throughout his career, Chris played a major role in the recruitment and training of future organizational psychologists, many of whom are now leading names in their own right. He helped establish and deliver MSc courses at the Universities of Sheffield and Leeds, supervised numerous PhD students, and mentored many other young researchers. So many of his colleagues would not be where they are now in their careers and lives without the guidance, support, and opportunities he so generously provided.

Chris is survived by his wife Sally, his sons Daniel and Simon, his step-daughters Louise and Rachel, and his mother Margaret. He adored his family and was never happier than when spending time with them in his garden, playing croquet and bird watching. A very keen sportsman, Chris played competitive rugby and greatly enjoyed sailing his boat in Norfolk and the Caribbean. Among his colleagues, Chris was known as an incredibly generous, warm, and wise man with a lightning wit and mischievous sense of fun. The immense sadness we all feel for his untimely passing is tempered by a tremendous sense of privilege that we knew Chris and an enormous gratitude for everything he did for us. He continues to inspire us and he will never be forgotten.

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Chris was someone who seems to have been admired and loved in equal measure. That's so rare in senior academics that he should have left us an instruction manual. I'm sure I'm not the only one left without the manual just hoping and trying to follow his example. He made me think again about how to enjoy work, what to value, and what is important. Thanks Chris

I am one of those academics who would not be where they are today with out Chris. He gave me my first job in academia, was my phd supervisor and supported me in my research career. But more than that he was a friend who could always be relied on for a positive take on any issue, no matter how apparently disastrous, and an expert in the art of teasing. I will remember him for all his amazing and inspirational qualities and can only hope to try to follow his example.