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Exploring the Boundaries of Human Resource Managers’ Responsibilities

Author

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  • David Guest

    ()

  • Christopher Woodrow

    ()

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

  • David Guest & Christopher Woodrow, 2012. "Exploring the Boundaries of Human Resource Managers’ Responsibilities," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 111(1), pages 109-119, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:111:y:2012:i:1:p:109-119
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-012-1438-8
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10551-012-1438-8
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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, March.
    2. Alex Bryson, 2008. "From Industrial Relations to Human Resource Management: The Changing Role of the Personnel Function," National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) Discussion Papers 315, National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
    3. 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.
    4. 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, June.
    5. 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, May.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Heung-Jun Jung & Dong-One Kim, 2016. "Good Neighbors but Bad Employers: Two Faces of Corporate Social Responsibility Programs," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 138(2), pages 295-310, October.
    2. Stéphanie Arnaud & David Wasieleski, 2014. "Corporate Humanistic Responsibility: Social Performance Through Managerial Discretion of the HRM," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 120(3), pages 313-334, March.
    3. Carol Linehan & Elaine O’Brien, 2017. "From Tell-Tale Signs to Irreconcilable Struggles: The Value of Emotion in Exploring the Ethical Dilemmas of Human Resource Professionals," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 141(4), pages 763-777, April.

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