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Exploring the Boundaries of Human Resource Managers’ Responsibilities

  • David Guest


  • Christopher Woodrow


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    This article addresses two longstanding challenges for human resource (HR) managers; how far they can and should represent the interests of both management and workers and how they can gain the power to do so. Adopting a Kantian perspective, it is argued that to pursue an ethical human resource management (HRM), HR managers need to go some way to resolving both. Three possible avenues are considered. Contemporary approaches to organisation of the HR role associated with the work of Ulrich are explored as a means of enhancing power, but rejected on the basis of research evidence as unlikely to succeed. Promotion of worker outcomes in the context of developing the link between HRM and performance offers the potential for a more ethical HRM but has not been seized by most HR managers. Finally, implementation of legislative and moral requirements to promote quality of working life is explored through the case of bullying at work. This highlights the boundaries of the HR role in a context of limited power and leads to the conclusion that it is unrealistic to look to HR managers, or at least HR managers alone, to achieve an ethical HRM. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

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    Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Business Ethics.

    Volume (Year): 111 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 1 (November)
    Pages: 109-119

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    Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:111:y:2012:i:1:p:109-119
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    1. Raymond Caldwell, 2003. "The Changing Roles of Personnel Managers: Old Ambiguities, New Uncertainties," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(4), pages 983-1004, 06.
    2. John Godard, 2001. "Beyond the High-Performance Paradigm? An Analysis of Variation in Canadian Managerial Perceptions of Reform Programme Effectiveness," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 39(1), pages 25-52, 03.
    3. David Guest & Zella King, 2004. "Power, Innovation and Problem-Solving: The Personnel Managers' Three Steps to Heaven?," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(3), pages 401-423, 05.
    4. Harvie Ramsay & Dora Scholarios & Bill Harley, 2000. "Employees and High-Performance Work Systems: Testing inside the Black Box," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 38(4), pages 501-531, December.
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