Towards practice-based studies of HRM: an actor-network and communities of practice informed approach

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Journal Article
International Journal Of Human Resource Management, 2010, 21 (6), pp. 899 - 914
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HRM may have become co-terminus with the new managerialism in the rhetorical orthodoxies of the HRM textbooks and other platforms for its professional claims. However, we have detailed case-study data showing that HR practices can be much more complicated, nuanced and indeed resistive toward management within organizational settings. Our study is based on ethnographic research, informed by actor-network theory and community of practice theory conducted by one of the authors over an 18-month period. Using actor-network theory in a descriptive and critical way, we analyse practices of managerial resistance, enrolment and counter-enrolment through which an unofficial network of managers used a formal HRM practice to successfully counteract the official strategy of the firm, which was to close parts of a production site. As a consequence, this network of middle managers effectively changed top management strategy and did so through official HRM practices, coupled with other actor-network building processes, arguably for the ultimate benefit of the organization, though against the initial views of the top management.
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