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Meet Your Academic – Neill Thompson

We spoke to Neill Thompson, Senior Lecturer in Occupational and Organisational Psychology, about his background, the course and what he enjoys about teaching at Northumbria University.

Neill Thompson profile Northumbriauniversity255

How did you come to be a lecturer in Occupational and Organisational Psychology at Northumbria University? 

I’m a Chartered Occupational Psychologist with a specialism in workplace psychology. After completing my BSc (Hons) Social Psychology, I worked in Human Resources Management (HRM) for a number of years, during which time I completed a Human Resources Management MA. However, I never lost my interest in psychology and having the chance to work with occupational psychologists as part of my HRM role sparked my interest in continuing my education in the discipline.

While still working in HRM, I completed an online MSc in Occupational Psychology. After graduation, I moved into occupational psychology and applied researcher roles within the National Health Service. These roles enabled me to build on my HRM experience but also utilise the specialist knowledge and perspective I’d gained from studying occupational psychology to focus on areas such as personnel selection, workplace stress, workplace bullying and human factors.  

It was while working in practice that I was given the opportunity to teach as an associate lecturer and, over time, I transitioned to working as a full-time academic. I have been the programme leader on the on-campus Occupational and Organisational Psychology MSc at Northumbria University since 2014 and was instrumental in the design and development of the BPS accredited online course, which will welcome its first students in April2021. As well as this, I continue to research in my specialist areas and still enjoy working in practice. 

Why are you passionate about psychology?

I have observed the relevance and application of psychology across a range of workplace settings and seen how it can be a force for good. Being a psychologist influences the way you approach situations and problems and, as a result, we offer valuable insight into work and life. I am positive that psychology has the potential to contribute to our understanding of, and help find solutions to, the challenges we face in workplaces (and, more broadly, in the world).  

What is your particular area of academic expertise?

My expertise centres around workplace bullying and the negative experiences associated with its occurrence, in particular within the context of the NHS. In the past, I have examined the prevalence and experience of bullying, but I am now focused on strategies for the effective management of it. I have also begun to research workplace humour – how this can be a positive and negative behaviour in organisational settings – and I’m carrying out ongoing research into the use of job interviews as a selection method. As a researcher, I specialise in the use of qualitative research and employ methods such as semi-structured interviews and collecting video analysis data as a means of examining my research questions.  

What excites you most about teaching on the online MSc in Occupational and Organisational Psychology course? 

While designing the online course, we were able to build upon and refine the experience we have in delivering workplace psychology courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level on-campus. We have been able to develop content that is not possible on a traditional course and it was exciting to be involved with that. I am also looking forward to working with a diverse cohort of students, from a variety of backgrounds and living across the UK and beyond, in a dynamic distance learning environment.  

Why should people choose this programme over another Occupational and Organisational Psychology course?  

The course is suited for those who want to develop a specialist knowledge of occupational psychology, while continuing in their current role or work situation. Students will be able to use the programme to add value and depth of knowledge to the work that they are currently doing or as a vehicle to progress or change to a different career path. Our academic staff focus on contemporary occupational psychology as a discipline; there is a strong emphasis on how it can be applied in real world practice, and this offers real benefits to students even before they graduate. 

Aside from being able to meet the entry requirements, is there anything else that you would like to see in your students?  

For me, students must have a real interest in, and passion for, their own learning and development. They will join the course with different levels of work and life experience, all of which will help them to provide valuable, unique insights. We want students to be prepared to share their existing knowledge as well as what they are learning throughout their study, while constantly reflecting on how this relates to their real-life experiences. If we can develop a collaborative environment, where we share and learn from one another, students will gain an even better understanding than they would if they were to engage with more traditional course materials, such as readings, alone.

What is the best thing about your job?  

I work as part of a fantastic team. We are passionate about our work, our discipline and disseminating that to our new students. I am also extremely fortunate to work in a role that offers me the opportunity to research, practice and teach. As a very practice-orientated academic, I enjoy the diversity my role offers – in any given week, I could be teaching students, involved in my own research activities or engaged in consultancy and practice – all areas which inspire me. 


Find out more about our Occupational and Organisational MSc course.

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