Gratton et al (1999) were convinced on the basis of their research that there was ‘a disjunction between rhetoric and reality in the area of human resource management between HRM theory and HRM practice, between what the HR function says it is doing and that practice as perceived by employers, and between what senior management believes to be the role of the HR function, and the role it actually plays’. In their conclusions they refer to the ‘hyperbole and rhetoric of human resource management’. Caldwell (2004) believed that HRM ‘is an unfinished project informed by a self-fulfilling vision of what it should be’. The above comments were based on the assumption that there is a single monolithic form of HRM. This is not the case. HRM comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Sometimes, as Armstrong (1987) commented, it is just new wine in old bottles – personnel management under another name. It has to be conceded that many organizations that think they are practising HRM as described earlier are not doing so, at least to the full extent. It is difficult, and it is best not to expect too much. For example, most of the managements who hurriedly adopted performance- related pay as an HRM device that would act as a lever for change have been sorely disappointed. However, the research conducted by Guest and Conway (1997) covering a stratifi -ed random sample of 1,000 workers established that a notably high level of HRM was found to be in place. This contradicts the view that management has tended to ‘talk up’ the adoption of HRM practices. The HRM characteristics covered by the survey included the opportunity to express grievances and raise personal concerns on such matters as opportunities for training and development, communication about business issues, single status, effective systems for dealing with bullying and harassment at work, making jobs interesting and varied, promotion from within, involvement programmes, no compulsory redundancies, performance-related pay, profit sharing and the use of attitude surveys. The morality of HRM HRM is accused by many academics of being manipulative if not positively immoral. Willmott (1993) remarked that HRM operates as a form of insidious ‘control by compliance’ when it emphasizes the need for employees to be committed to do what the organization wants them to do. It preaches mutuality but the reality is that behind the rhetoric it exploits workers. It is, as Keenoy (1990) asserted, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Scott (1994) thought that HRM was a form of deceit, ‘using subtle approaches to incorporate workers in an organizational way of thinking and in effect brainwashing them to become willing slaves’. Legge (1998) pointed out that: Sadly, in a world of intensified competition and scarce resources, it seems inevitable that, as employees are used as means to an end, there will be some who will lose out.
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