Rob Robson on Organisational Change and Employee Engagement

By Amanda Lopes Pacca

Reflections, insights, questions, and mainly the reality of the practical world in the approach of complex issues is what emerged from the interview with Rob Robson about change, employee engagement, and feedback, ending with a question about leadership: after all, what makes a good leader in the 21st century?

Rob Robson’s work areas include employee feedback and engagement, with deep experience in change and significant business experience. He has the most experience in leadership, engagement, and motivation.

Shall we reflect together, or rather, with Rob, on essential aspects of the career of an occupational psychologist? Read the blog all the way through to see the interview’s highlights, which are also available on our YouTube channel.

To start with the theme of organizational change, so recurrent in a complex and ambiguous world in constant alteration, we can ask: Would changing situations in the organization be an illusion? Should we talk about what to do in non-change cases instead? How to materialize, sustain and carry out effective changes?

We know that there are no magic solutions, rules, or tips for complex questions, not least because it all depends on the context and which individuals one should consider. Rob clarified that focusing on change alone can be misguided, as the focus should be on what you really want, on what is the target, behaviour, process, and not necessarily described in terms of change. In his opinion, people know that things change all the time, but why should you do it, how involved you are in the process, and the importance of letting people figure out and understand the importance of the change in their lives.

Rob was involved with extensive transformation processes in companies during his career. In his experience, he saw people with deep concerns about it, as they are involved in situations, which makes them see issues and things – and understand that working with people in Rob’s view really helps. The focus has to be where you want to go and how people get there, rather than focusing on the mechanics—building the interaction with people! “Get practical, with the models in the back of your mind”- as he said.

About the theme of engagement mixing with change, Rob pointed to the challenge object of engagement. He said that it requires interpretation, the data you have, and what you will do in practical terms. Interpretation in this sense is to ask the implications of the theories, surveys, questionnaires, and what it is tried to achieve in the real world and for people’s strategies. He said that it is an advantage if you have an engaged force to achieve change. However, on the flip side, changing badly is relatively easy to disengage and disempower people. Engagement is a process, in his view, getting people interested, removing fear, creating conditions, and going beyond traditional engagement!

Getting to people, allowing them to express themselves, and contributing to the design, all aspects of self-determination theory are crucial in Rob’s view. He also showed with these reflections that getting in touch with people as human beings, listening to them in the most profound ways. Still, dealing with people also has challenges and big ones. 

Talking about employee feedback, Rob showed others and exciting perspectives. He pointed out that no matter what kind of feedback, no one finds that an easy task, there is the giving part and the accepting partboth being challenged. He talked about reversal theory (dealing with what is motivating us right now) and the importance of feedback: doing with fear of the person not liking you or what you have to say, and whether or not this helps the other person. Self-questioning is essential. For him, if it’s not going to help, why say it? If it’s to make the person feel free to ‘get rid of it,’ that’s not really what giving feedback is about. 

Feedback in his view is not about “getting rid of it” in an individual logic of who gives the feedback, but about how much it helps who is receiving it. 

He also emphasized the difference between master and sympathy. Master is the want for improvement, and sympathy is the want to feel cared for and friendly. In his words, knowing that you will receive feedback could make you think: “what can I learn from this?” Considering more the master perspective, that no feedback could do any harm– or is to improve, or if you don’t think that way, it is also necessary to filter it. 

But Rob also showed that sometimes it is easy to say and difficult to do

We know that, right? When we talk about emotions, we know that we can control them (sometimes yes/no), but we cannot make them not occur. They come and happen, even though we don’t want to feel it. 

To write one more reflection that Rob introduced about feedback is the overplayed importance of it. And I ask you: Do you think that also happens? Or do human beings give the proper attention to the topic? 

With a tip for that, Rob showed that sometimes information is more valuable than feedback, and it is possible to get them everywhere. In the “unspoken,” many things are said and likely to be understood. Rob pointed out that sometimes feedback can only be a saying that is already in progress in the information available even before it is reported. 

To not give you more spoilers, as I can imagine, you will want to see the whole interview. Rob finalized with essential reflections about the leader’s role. In his own words “Being a leader is working in a discomfort area and accepting it”. 

But I will end on this point, with a not saying of the rest. So I leave you with the curiosity, reader, to see in full this interview with many crucial issues, sayings, and non-sayings of professional practice. 

Interview link on YouTube:

About the Author

Amanda is a final year student of the WOP-P Master in Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychology. Brazilian by birth, her journey into psychology began before she graduated, at the age of 17, when she came into contact with Psychoanalysis. From then on, her passion for understanding the human mind expanded, and she graduated in Psychological Sciences at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. In her last year to become an occupational psychologist, her topics of interest cross all human nature, including leadership, psychological empowerment, emotional health, and mental problems. Her hope of contributing to the blog is that this vast universe of psychology could be accessible to as many people as possible through writing. Psychology has a long past but a short history. In this sense, psychology professionals owe it to the world of psychology and its precious knowledge to expand that so more people can think better about themselves, the world, and their desires.