June 07, 2009

Human Resource Management Lesson 5 Exercise

1.- To what extent do you think that the employment relationship is necessarily based on conflict between employers and employees who have competing interests?

In my opinion the relationship between them should be mutual agreement in which both parties have something to offer although the conflicts always appear when there are relations between two or more parties. It’s very complicated to find an equilibrium point where all parties win, in fact these conflict are minimized only in organization where there are only one party as are the associations of employees (cooperatives).

In a conventional organization each party try to increase its benefits, from the point of view of employees they want to find employment security, quality, motivation, satisfaction, and certain level of reward. From the point of view of employments the aspect more important is the performance which one is a function of motivation and ability according to the Vroom studies (1964). But these aspects aren’t the only because are influenced by the external context (political, economics …) and by the internal aspects (employee capabilities and needs, levels of rewards or benefits …) in several ways.

The state of the economy and the markets modifies the rates of unemployed hence decrease the feeling about the employment security and after the motivation and performance decreases. With these circumstances the employment tries to find solutions complying with legal aspects and with the approval of the trade unions. This argument can be a cycle infinitely and each step is a situation of conflict between parties.

I think that would be good avoid the conflicts but it would be in a imaginary world where every variable would be constant. In a real world is usually to have conflicts where the fighting and bargaining power of each side are focused to increase their own interest. If we see the classification or topologies of conflicts in inter-group relation that are: fight, game and debate (see Wilson. 1999, p 178), the best is to move towards the game or debate topologies and avoid the fight.

2.- What factors influence the extent to which the employment relationship is harmonious or conflictual?

There are several factors that influence in the relationship and the most important in my opinion can be grouped in internal factors and external factors, theses groups can be analyzed at individual level or group level.

As external factors the most important are the status of the economy and legal-political situation, the power of the trade unions and the type of sectors where the company operate. As internal factors some of the most notable are the influence of employee relation decisions, employment security and flexibility, level of benefits that the company hope to reach, grade of commitment of employees and alignment with the company goals.

Depending of the style of management (Purcell, 1986) of each organization the relationship can be more harmonious or conflictual, if the style is consultative the relation will be intensive but in harmony, in opposite will be with traditional style because the degree of relation is low this situation leads to more ups and downs in the relationship even interventions with the trade unions.


Marchington, M. and Wilkinson, A. (2008), 'Human Resource Management at Work' (4th edn), London: CIPD.

Helen Newell (2009), Human Resources Management Study Notes, Warwick Business School.

Corbett, M. (2007) Organisational Behaviour Lessons Notes, Warwick Business School. 2007

Robert H. Rosenfeld & David C. Wilson (1999), ‘Managing Organizations’ (2nd edn), Mc Graw Hill

Vroom, V.H., and P. Yetton (1973) Leadership and Decision Making, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh.

Purcell, J. (1986), "Employee Relations Autonomy Within a Corporate Culture", Personnel Management, February.

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Kim White


    This question really seeks an extension from your previous answer. I think the approach that you are describing is clearly an attempt to deal robustly with uncertain times. Insofar as the prosperity of the individual relies upon the prosperity of the firm so the performance of the firm relies on the performance of the individual. If times are hard the hard times are shared just as the prosperity in prosperous times is shared. In this sense the sophisticated human relations approach remains and prevails regardless of external circumstances.

    Incidentally, one consequence of dualism is that it deals with issues on a kind of Pareto Principle i.e. dealing with the biggest things first. Sometimes minor things get left without being dealt with properly. However, when circumstances change so the relative importance of issues changes. Something that was accepted as normal and of not great significance suddenly becomes a bone of contention. A recent strike by oil refinery workers in the UK was over the use of workers from overseas by contractors. The practice has continued for years without any concern but it suddenly became an organisational concern because of the context of the economy. A solution had to be found to a problem that was there all along but previously just not important enough to deal with.

    You need to be anchoring this piece to theory much more overtly – you know, Purcell, Storey etc. – and referencing fully.



    03 Jun 2009, 20:39

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