9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN19 Sociology of Professions

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Professional Knowledge in Organizations Building I, Auditório 1

Human Resource Management: a professional field of "good people"

The increasing adherence of human resources professionals to the discourse and the values of managerial ideology contribute to their recognition in the business world. Since they assume themselves as partners in the fight for economic competitiveness and in the defence of financial results of the business, human resources professionals replaced the ideology of the welfare by the ideology of the management. Therefore, their role, particularly in the context of the societies of advanced capitalism, has been marked by the increasing sophistication of their means of symbolic action. Being so they are in charge of implementing practices of self-discipline of the workers in a society where the cult of performance has became the hegemonic social value

Confronted with the existence of interests that are in conflict and crossed by the mark of the heterogeneity, human resources professionals tend to use the implementation of practices based on self-discipline of the workers. These practices make sense through the mobilization of discursive resources that act as mechanisms of consented disciplining (Fournier, 1999) supporting the interests of dominant economic and cultural forces. To ensure the ideological conformity of the workers to the new forms of flexible work, human resources professionals are required to mobilize a number of competencies of a political nature that the good sense and emotional neutrality seem to be the most important ones.

Based on the issues outlined, this communication aims to report the preliminary results of a PhD research project in progress using five semi-direct interviews to the human resources directors of large Portuguese companies. Using the content analysis we discuss the role of political competencies in the course of their everyday professional practices.

The results confirm the centrality of social and political skills. Good sense is the central discursive element, because of the nature of the relational and symbolic role that human resources professionals are called to play. The emotional neutrality is another element that legitimises the everyday action which is guided by an abstract interest of the common good that the human resources professionals act as guardian.