After spending over a decade in the banking industry, Phil Thompson has found success, and happiness, in his work as assistant professor in the Department of Management. Photo courtesy of Phil Thompson.

As the oft-repeated adage states, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Though the word “work” does a lot of heavy lifting in that phrase, the spirit of the statement remains: if you care about what you are doing, your work will never feel like just another job.

Phil Thompson is the embodiment of that sentiment.

“I do love it. I do love my job,” said Thompson, assistant professor in the Department of Management. “I mean, it's Monday morning and I'm fired up to be in my office.”

The passion Thompson shows for his work—specifically, his research in the field of micro-organizational behavior—is apparent in the accolades he has recently received. Thompson was presented with the Western Academy of Management Ascendant Scholar Award, which, according to the award’s call for nominations, seeks to “acknowledge ‘ascendant’ international scholars as evidenced by the quality of their published scholarship in top-tier publications,” and, perhaps more importantly, seeks to award “scholars with an overall research trajectory that looks promising for future continued productive endeavors.”

Thompson also received an editorial fellowship with the Journal of Applied Psychology, a Pamplin College of Business elite journal. As an editorial fellow, Thompson will work closely with the journal’s editor and associate editors to “develop editorial leadership skills.” He will also work with an associate editor on screening manuscripts for appropriateness, identifying reviewers, making editorial decisions based on reviews, and shepherding the manuscript through to publication.

While he is no stranger to success, that success was not always accompanied by the happiness that Thompson feels today.

When he finished his undergraduate degree, Thompson began his career in the banking industry. Beginning as an intern, he worked his way up to the senior management level at multiple Fortune 500 companies. However, after over a decade in the banking industry, though he was quite successful, Thompson realized he wasn’t happy.

“I did not want to spend the rest of my working life, which would be the majority of the rest of my life, doing something I didn't love,” he explained. “So, I decided to go back to school.”

Based on his interests as well as experiences in the workplace, Thompson eventually decided to concentrate on the field of industrial and organizational psychology after trying counseling psychology.

“I'm interested in researching subjects that, when I talk to my friends who work in industry or I think about my time working in industry, I find interesting,” he said.

I’ll watch a show like ‘The Office’ or ‘Game of Thrones’ and I’ll begin to wonder how a phenomenon would manifest in a modern workplace.”

Thompson explained that his research focuses on subjects that have an impact on industry at the micro level rather than the macro level, examining topics that can influence, motivate, and/or discourage individual employees, collectively influencing the organization these individuals work for or industries they work in.

“I look at a topic such as curiosity, and ask, ‘How does that manifest itself in the workplace? What are the pros and cons of somebody being curious in the workplace,’” he said. “I look at these types of subjects, oftentimes looking at factors such as race, gender, or social class. How do people perceive their managers? Do they perceive female managers versus male managers differently? Do they perceive them the same under certain situations, differently in other situations?”

While Thompson may wish to research how curiosity impacts individuals in other industries, in academia, Thompson’s curiosity has manifested in some impressive honors, including the Western Academy of Management Ascendant Scholar Award.

“I was thrilled to find out I got selected,” he said. “The other three recipients of the award are rock stars in their respective research areas within the management field. They're doing awesome work, meaningful work. They are performing research that is helping employees and organizations be more successful, and do better for themselves, their environment, and their society. That's what I hope my work does too.”

As an editorial fellow with the Journal of Applied Psychology, Thompson will certainly be performing some of his own impactful work.

“The fellowship allows me to learn from one of the top scholars in my area, Associate Editor Christopher Porter of the University of Indiana, in terms of how he evaluates research and how he goes through the review process,” Thompson explained. “This is a great opportunity for me to get an on-the-job preview of what journal editors do.”

Thompson stated that his success would not be possible without the encouragement and support that he has received from the Department of Management.

“Our department head, Devi Gnyawali, is always very supportive of his faculty,” he said. “The Management Department has helped me make this opportunity possible.

“Pamplin has an environment here that has helped me be successful.”