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The Employee as ‘Dish of the Day’: The Ethics of the Consuming/Consumed Self in Human Resource Management

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  • Karen Dale

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Abstract

This article examines the ethical implications of the growing integration of consumption into the heart of the employment relationship. Human resource management (HRM) practices increasingly draw upon the values and practices of consumption, constructing employees as the ‘consumers’ of ‘cafeteria-style’ benefits and development opportunities. However, at the same time employees are expected to market themselves as items to be consumed on a corporate menu. In relation to this simultaneous position of consumer/consumed, the employee is expected to actively engage in the commodification of themselves, performing an appropriate organizational identity as a necessary part of being a successful employee. This article argues that the relationship between HRM and the simultaneously consuming/consumed employee affects the conditions of possibility for ethical relations within organizational life. It is argued that the underlying ‘ethos’ for the integration of consumption values into HRM practices encourages a self-reflecting, self-absorbed subject, drawing upon a narrow view of individualised autonomy and choice. Referring to Levinas’ perspective that the primary ethical relation is that of responsibility and openness to the Other, it is concluded that these HRM practices affect the possibility for ethical being. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Karen Dale, 2012. "The Employee as ‘Dish of the Day’: The Ethics of the Consuming/Consumed Self in Human Resource Management," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 111(1), pages 13-24, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:111:y:2012:i:1:p:13-24
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-012-1437-9
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10551-012-1437-9
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Roberts, John, 2001. "Corporate Governance and the Ethics of Narcissus," Business Ethics Quarterly, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(01), pages 109-127, January.
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    1. repec:kap:jbuset:v:143:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10551-015-2802-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. 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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