Soft and hard models of human resource management: a reappraisal

Catherine Truss, Lynda Gratton, Veronica Hope Hailey, Patrick McGovern, Philip Stiles

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222 Citations (SciVal)


Two of the most widely adopted models of human resource management are the hard and soft versions. These are based on opposing views of human nature and managerial control strategies. The hard model is based on notions of tight strategic control, and an economic model of man according to Theory X, while the soft model is based on control through commitment and Theory Y. We argue that because these assumptions are so divergent, they cannot both properly be incorporated within a single model of human resource management.

Eight in-depth case-studies were carried out, involving questionnaires, interviews and focus groups in order to find out whether organizations were practising either form of HRM. We found that no pure examples of either form existed. The paper concludes that the rhetoric adopted by the companies frequently embraces the tenets of the soft, commitment model, while the reality experienced by employees is more concerned with strategic control, similar to the hard model. This distinction between rhetoric and reality needs to be taken into account in conceptualizations of human resource management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-73
JournalJournal of management studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1997


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