O Partner, Where Art Thou? A critical discursive analysis of HR managers’ struggle for legitimacy

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Journal Article
International Journal of Human Resource Management, 2017, pp. 1 - 23
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© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This study of HRM in an Australian insurance firm applies a critical discursive perspective to examine HR managers’ attempts to position themselves as Human Resources Business Partners. Analysing semi-structured interviews, we aim to provide a situated understanding of HR managers’ experiences as they sought to become accepted as co-equal partners by line management. Our findings draw attention to the gap between prescriptive accounts of HR Business Partnering and the tensions and legitimacy struggles HR managers face when adopting their new roles. We show the impact of line management’s resistance to HRM and the concomitant need for HR managers to legitimate their position in a new way. The introduction of an organizational culture survey, in particular, supplemented discursive attempts to promote the change amongst line managers and constituted a key driver in the process. Our study contributes to the study of HRM change by showing how the shift to an HRM business partnership model can be a precarious accomplishment: (1) enacted through the interweaving of discursive and socio-material practices, and (2) subject to the constraints of existing organisational power/knowledge relations.
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