The Ethics of Engagement in an Age of Austerity: A Paradox Perspective

Published on Aug 13, 2018in Journal of Business Ethics3.796
· DOI :10.1007/s10551-018-3976-1
Helen Francis12
Estimated H-index: 12
(Edinburgh Napier University),
Anne Keegan20
Estimated H-index: 20
(UCD: University College Dublin)
Our contribution in this paper is to highlight the ethical implications of workforce engagement strategies in an age of austerity. Hard or instrumentalist approaches to workforce engagement create the potential for situations where engaged employees are expected to work ever longer and harder with negative outcomes for their well-being. Our study explores these issues in an investigation of the enactment of an engagement strategy within a UK Health charity, where managers and workers face paradoxical demands to raise service quality and cut costs. We integrate insights from engagement, paradox, and ethic of care literatures, to explore these paradoxical demands—illustrating ways in which engagement experiences become infused with tensions when the workforce faces competing requirements to do ‘more with less’ resources. We argue that those targeted by these paradoxical engagement strategies need to be supported and cared for, embedded in an ethic of care that provides explicit workplace resources for helping workers and managers cope with and work through corresponding tensions. Our study points to the critical importance of support from senior and frontline managers for open communications and dialogue practices.
  • References (86)
  • Citations (1)
📖 Papers frequently viewed together
1 Citations
1 Author (Oliver Escobar)
1 Citations
1 Author (Ruth Evans)
21 Citations
78% of Scinapse members use related papers. After signing in, all features are FREE.
#1Gabriele Belschak-Jacobs (EUR: Erasmus University Rotterdam)H-Index: 14
#2Anne Keegan (UvA: University of Amsterdam)H-Index: 20
An implicit assumption in most works on change recipient reactions is that employees are self-centred and driven by a utilitarian perspective. According to large parts of the organizational change literature, employees’ reactions to organizational change are mainly driven by observations around the question ‘what will happen to me?’ We analysed change recipients’ reactions to 26 large-scale planned change projects in a policing context on the basis of 23 in-depth interviews. Our data show that c...
4 CitationsSource
#1Anne Keegan (UCD: University College Dublin)H-Index: 20
#2Ilja Bitterling (KPMG)H-Index: 1
Last. Ludwig Hoeksema (VU: VU University Amsterdam)H-Index: 1
view all 4 authors...
We develop empirically based insights from five case studies and argue that how actors respond to paradoxical tensions helps to explain variety and dynamism in how the HRM function is organized. It also helps to clarify why widely popular models with clearly prescribed structures take on a variety of forms in practice and are dynamic. We contribute to theorizing on the HRM function by introducing a dynamic, tension-centered perspective, based on paradox theory, that builds on previous research o...
3 CitationsSource
#1Paula Jarzabkowski (City University London)H-Index: 36
#2Jane Kirsten Le (USYD: University of Sydney)H-Index: 1
This paper adopts a practice approach to paradox, examining the role of micro-practices in shaping constructions of and responses to paradox. Our approach is inductively motivated. During an ethnographic study of an organization implementing paradoxical goals we noticed a strong incidence of humor, joking, and laughter. Examining this practice closely, we realized that humor was used to surface, bring attention to, and make communicable experience of paradox in the moment by drawing out some spe...
37 CitationsSource
#1Timothy J. Hargrave (CWU: Central Washington University)H-Index: 1
#2Andrew H. Van de Ven (UMN: University of Minnesota)H-Index: 53
We present a typology and process model that integrate dialectical and paradox perspectives on managing contradictions in organizations. Whereas paradox research depicts tensions between contradictory elements as irreconcilable and best managed through acceptance and synergy, the dialectical perspective portrays the relationship of such elements as adversarial and transformed through conflict. Our integrated typology and process model account for both dialectical and paradox approaches to managi...
39 CitationsSource
#1Catherine Bailey (University of Sussex)H-Index: 7
#2Adrian Madden (University of Greenwich)H-Index: 5
Last. Luke Fletcher (University of Brighton)H-Index: 5
view all 4 authors...
The claim that high levels of engagement can enhance organizational performance and individual well-being has not previously been tested through a systematic review of the evidence. To bring coherence to the diffuse body of literature on engagement, the authors conducted a systematic synthesis of narrative evidence involving 214 studies focused on the meaning, antecedents and outcomes of engagement. The authors identified six distinct conceptualizations of engagement, with the field dominated by...
102 CitationsSource
#1Linda L. Putnam (UCSB: University of California, Santa Barbara)H-Index: 43
#2Gail T. Fairhurst (UC: University of Cincinnati)H-Index: 32
Last. Scott Banghart (UCSB: University of California, Santa Barbara)H-Index: 4
view all 3 authors...
This article presents a constitutive approach to the study of organizational contradictions, dialectics, paradoxes, and tensions. In particular, it highlights five constitutive dimensions (i.e., discourse, developmental actions, socio-historical conditions, presence in multiples, and praxis) that appear across the literature in five metatheoretical traditions—process-based systems, structuration, critical, postmodern, and relational dialectics. In exploring these dimensions, it defines and disti...
158 CitationsSource
HRM scholarship is increasingly dominated by ‘scientific’ research characterised by a positivist methodology, complex statistical techniques, correlational theorising and incremental advances in knowledge. While this approach has long been prominent in HRM research, what is new is the almost total dominance of this kind of research, which has largely crowded out alternative approaches, particularly those that are overtly critical in orientation. A variety of institutional factors has contributed...
24 CitationsSource
#1Ina AustH-Index: 2
#2Julia BrandlH-Index: 9
Last. Anne KeeganH-Index: 20
view all 3 authors...
Managing HRM related tensions is a matter of practical and theoretical significance. Despite increasing interest among HRM scholars in understanding the nature of tensions in managing the employment relationship, attempts to explore these tensions that go beyond the mapping of dualities or naming of the negative aspects of tensions are somewhat rare. Furthermore, discussions on managing HRM tensions tend to be of limited value for practitioners due to their overly abstract nature contributing to...
11 CitationsSource
#1Simon L. Albrecht (Deakin University)H-Index: 14
#2Arnold B. Bakker (EUR: Erasmus University Rotterdam)H-Index: 105
Last. Alan M. Saks (U of T: University of Toronto)H-Index: 42
view all 5 authors...
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to argue in support of a model that shows how four key HRM practices focused on engagement influence organizational climate, job demands and job resources, the psychological experiences of safety, meaningfulness and availability at work, employee engagement, and individual, group and organizational performance and competitive advantage. Design/methodology/approach – This conceptual review focuses on the research evidence showing interrelationships between o...
116 CitationsSource
#1Megan ReitzH-Index: 1
7 CitationsSource
Cited By1
#1Thomas G. Plante (Santa Clara University)H-Index: 32
#2Anna McCreadie (Santa Clara University)H-Index: 1
Ethics and ethical decision-making are critically important for high-functioning communities, including those on college campuses. This brief paper provides further research support for the Santa Clara Ethics Questionnaire, a brief and no-cost 10-item questionnaire assessing general ethics. The questionnaire was administered to 329 university students along with several other measures to assess convergent and divergent validity. Results suggest that compassion, hope, and self-esteem predict abou...