Unraveling HRM: Identity, Ceremony, and Control in a Management Consulting Firm

Alvesson, Mats; Kärreman, Dan
July 2007
Organization Science;Jul/Aug2007, Vol. 18 Issue 4, p711
Academic Journal
This paper addresses human resources management (HRM) systems and practices in a large multinational management consultancy firm. The firm invests considerable resources in HRM, and is frequently praised by employees for its accomplishments in hiring, developing, and promotion. However, this general faith in HRM does not align particularly well with employees' experiences and perceptions of the specific HRM practices in the firm. The paper critically interprets the meaning and the functions of the HRM system and the beliefs supporting it. The paper suggests a reinterpretation of HRM systems and practices based on a cultural-symbolic perspective. It introduces the concepts of excess ceremonialism, identity projects, and aspirational control to highlight and interpret the significance of organizational symbolism in accounting for the role of HRM systems and practices, and the various effects of HRM systems and practices on employee identity and compliance.


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