Dr Will Thomas

Associate Professor in Business Management

+44 (0)1473 338631
School of Technology, Business and Arts
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Will is an Associate Professor in the School of Technology, Business and Arts. He is passionate about supporting the learning and development of students and in doing so, supporting the development of businesses locally and further afield.

He is a student of Politics and Moral Philosophy, subjects that intersect with the interdisciplinary world of management education.  In the School of TBA his main teaching interests are in Business Ethics and in Research Methods.  He also runs the final-year ‘Extended Project’ for undergraduate students.

As a researcher, Will works on a number of interrelated topics.  His main focus, for the last 5 years, has been on health and social care management, particularly focusing on responses to the ‘wicked’ problems caused by economic, demographic and social pressures.  He also works on the application of the ethics of care to management challenges and on the idea of leadership quality in social care.  Will is  keen to bring together research and teaching not just through introducing students to the research that he is involved in, but also through seeking to innovate and improve the delivery of his own teaching sessions.

Having worked in research management and development, Will has several years’ experience of managing research and consultancy projects, scoping and delivering contract research and in organising training and collaborative learning exercises.  He brings this experience to his work leading the University of Suffolk Leadership Academy – running short courses such as the ILM Certificates in Leadership and Management, seminars, workshop and bespoke consultancy, knowledge transfer and training.

  • Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy
  • PhD Philosophy (Essex)
  • MA Ethics, Politics and Public Policy
  • BA (Hons) Politics

  • Management and Managing: an introduction – Level 4, undergraduate
  • Business Ethics – Level 5, undergraduate
  • Designing and Running a Research Project – Level 5, undergraduate
  • Extended Project (coordinator) – Level 6, undergraduate
  • Investigating a Business Issue from a Human Resources Perspective – Level 7, postgraduate

Will’s research interests are in exploring two, frequently intersecting, areas: ethical leadership and the management of wicked or complex problems.

As a scholar of the ethics of care Will’s primary interest in respect to ethical leadership is in how we describe, promote and practice relationships within organisational settings.  Ideas from this perspective, originally focused on the practice of care and in education, are important and useful, especially in respect to work that involves multiple organisations or complexity.  His interests in this area extend to his teaching practice in which he works to employ these principles as part of a ‘pedagogy of care’.

Wicked problems – those that are hard to describe, and which have no direct solution – present specific challenges for leaders and managers.  Will’s work in this area engages with principles of leadership to highlight these challenges and to provide insights into strategies for successful work in complex areas.  Commonly, this engages with his interest in relational leadership in asking how effective collaborations between and within organisations can be facilitated to address complexity.

Dr Jana Patey - Workplace Friendship and Anxiety: Organisational Insight through the Psychodynamic Exploration of Interpersonal Relationships

In Progress:
William Mellamphy - Understanding Contemporary forms of ‘play’ a study of 5th generation video games
André Neville - How does employers and veterans making assumptions about the skills ex-military personnel bring to a civilian working environment affect their ability to transition successfully?
Lisa Peach – Working intentionally with wicked problems - An appreciative ethnographic study of senior leader’s intentional moves to delegate accountability and sharing of accountability in an NHS hospital Trust.
Warren Scott - What are the abilities, mindset and ‘ways of being’ needed to engage with wicked problems? What is the environment in which these are enabled, nurtured and developed?

New Projects:
Will is keen to hear from students with interests in working on projects relating to his research interests, particularly areas such as:

  • The management of wicked or complex problems
  • Ethical leadership – particularly relational leadership
  • Ethics of care

Will has worked on more than 30 pieces of contract research and consultancy including large research studies and smaller one-off projects.  He is an experienced workshop facilitator and trainer.

Some recent examples:

  • Entrepreneurs Forge – mini-MBA
  • Leadership Development workshops:
    • Wicked Problems in Healthcare
    • Supporting Values-Based Leadership
  • Evaluation of the Supply Chain Skills Development Fund
  • Market Research Report for the Net-Zero Leiston project
  • Evaluations of Stage 3 and Stage 4 Public Consultation Events for the Sizewell C project

Deemer, P., Ottley, E., and Thomas, W. (2021) Using positive action to create a fairer recruitment process, Available at: https://www.nhsemployers.org/articles/using-positive-action-create-fairer-recruitment-process

Mongan, C and Thomas, W (2021) ‘Understanding good leadership in the context of English care home inspection reports’, Leadership in Health Services 34, 2, 167-180 https://doi.org/10.1108/LHS-11-2020-0098

Thomas, W., 2020, September. A Framework for the Selection and Design of Serious Games. In European Conference on Games Based Learning (pp. 613-XIX). Academic Conferences International Limited.

Thomas, W., Hujala, A., Laulainen, S., And McMurray, R. (2019) (eds) The Management of Wicked Problems in Health and Social Care. London: Routledge

Thomas W and Hollinrake S. (2019) ‘The Politics of Care: wicked constituents in care reforms’, in Thomas et al. (eds) The Management of Wicked Problems in Health and Social Care. London: Routledge

Thomas W. (2019) ‘Unpacking Dependency; Managing ‘Becoming’’, in Thomas et al. (eds) The Management of Wicked Problems in Health and Social Care. London: Routledge

Thomas W & Southwell M (2017) Learning from Rejection – an autoethnography of contract research in Vine, T. Clarke, J. and Richards S. (eds) Ethnographic Encounters London: Routledge

Hollinrake, S. Thomas, W. Tocca, A. and Cavenagh, P. (2016) Food Shopping and Eating Habits in Later Life: Implications for Retailers and Public Health in Contributing to the Well-Being of Older People in Baho, S.M. and Katsas G.A. (eds) Making Sense of Food Inter-Disciplinary Press, London

Hollinrake, S. and Thomas, W. (2015) Caring Relationships and Efficient Social Care Provision: can an ethic of care provide a better foundation for responding to care needs in later life?,  International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 35:5:419-436

Thomas W. and Hollinrake S. (2014) Economic and demographic challenges for social care: A critical perspective on the management and delivery of care, Journal of Health Organisation and Management 28:5:653-673

Thomas W. and Hollinrake S. (2014) Creating an Enabling Culture in the delivery of Health and Social Care: addressing economic and demographic challenges, E-proceedings of ISL Symposium 2014

Thomas W. & Hollinrake S. (2014) Policymakers, researchers and service users – resolving the tensions and dilemmas of working together, Innovation, the European Journal of Social Science Research 27:1:31-45