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Discourse 2006: Dealing with egos


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Presentation from 2006 Discourse Conference - organizational context and data removed.

Dealing with "egos" the size of planets: An examination of HRs construction of difficult clients

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Discourse 2006: Dealing with egos

  1. 1. Dealing with “egos the size of planets” An examination of HR professionals’ construction of difficult clients Katrina Pritchard and Gillian Symon Department of Organizational Psychology Birkbeck College, University of London 7 th International Conference on Organizational Discourse Amsterdam, July 2006
  2. 2. Human Resources (HR) Professionals <ul><li>HR involves “a set of distinct but interrelated activities, functions and processes that are directed at attracting, developing and maintaining (or disposing of) a firms human resources” (Lado and Wilson, 1994, p699) </li></ul><ul><li>HR professionals somewhat neglected in both the literature on HRM and on professionals more broadly </li></ul><ul><li>Labelled the unhappiest profession in the UK in a 2005 survey (Source: CiPD Personnel Today Magazine 14 June 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Role typologies promote ‘best way’ for profession to achieve HRM goals e.g. Ulrich (1997) notion of ‘strategic partner’ </li></ul>
  3. 3. Research Approach <ul><li>Year long ethnographic study in an HR department of a UK financial institution with data collected via documents, emails, interviews, attending meetings and informal conversations </li></ul><ul><li>Focus here on identity work specifically defining self by defining others (Alvesson and Willmott 2002) </li></ul><ul><li>The others: Business Clients as a present-absence </li></ul><ul><li>Analytical ring-fencing of discourse as text and talk and approach characterised as ‘mid-range’ though seeking to establish links in both directions </li></ul>
  4. 4. Organizational Context
  5. 5. Organizational Context
  6. 6. Analytic framework We know what they are like They need us because we are different This is how we make it work
  7. 7. We know what they are like <ul><li>Business clients as knowable subjects reinforced through use of the language of personality assessment </li></ul><ul><li>Notion of ‘partner’ suggests intimate knowledge of the other </li></ul><ul><li>Construction of ‘recognising’ as an inherent ability of the HRP (a professional attribute) </li></ul><ul><li>Variable blends of the good, the bad and the ugly </li></ul>
  8. 8. We know what they are like
  9. 9. Because they are like that they need us <ul><li>HRPs are different and therefore can provide what the clients lack </li></ul><ul><li>Avoids need for further justification or substantive account of HR </li></ul><ul><li>Reliance on stable personality as rationale presents problems for other aspects of HR work (e.g. culture change and management development) </li></ul><ul><li>Alternative construction draws on broader discourse of ethics and fairness </li></ul>
  10. 10. Because they are like that they need us
  11. 11. This is how we make it work <ul><li>HRP as heroic, work as a battle </li></ul><ul><li>HRP as parent, work as managing a difficult child </li></ul><ul><li>Difficult to demonstrate value of HR work therefore some of these constructions may provide alternative means of justifying their role </li></ul>
  12. 12. This is how we make it work
  13. 13. Analytic framework HRM Discourse Financial Services Culture Professional Discourse Model of partnership HR Departmental Context We know what they are like They need us because we are different This is how we make it work