Purpose – The discourse of human resource management (HRM) is increasingly dominated by a normative, consensus‐oriented perspective on managing the employment relationship. This paper aims to explore the potential of critical discourse analysis (CDA) to provide new and different understandings of HRM and processes of organisational change, and which highlights the creative role of language in the shaping of organisation and management practice. Design/methodology/approach – A case study analysis of managers' experiences of introducing change in a large catering firm is drawn upon to highlight the inherent tensions in people management, which stem from the need for employers to motivate and control labour in order to remain profitable. This is illustrated in a change programme aimed at increasing organisational efficiency and achieving a “results driven culture” that exhorted managers to think and behave as “entrepreneurs” and to “comply” with stringent new rules on managing their staff. Findings – It is concluded that conflict and resistance is an inevitable feature of HRM‐based initiatives and that CDA offers a powerful lens for exploring this dynamic. Importantly, it provides a less restrictive view of management decision making than that found in conventional understandings of HRM, which tend to treat management as a more or less culturally unified body, and ignores the subjectivity of managers. In contrast, the empirical evidence presented here provides an example of how the deployment of CDA can provide rich insights into the dynamics of HRM‐based change rooted in a complex shifting network of alliances (and related discourses). Originality/value – Focus is placed on how concepts, objects and subject positions are constituted through language and embedded in power relations.
Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 1, 2006
Keywords: Case studies; Line management; Human resource management
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