Unions, workers and developing human capability: A social psychological perspective

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


The concerns of human capability development have ostensibly been claimed by human resource management (HRM) discourse and practice that depoliticises (and individualises) the employment relationship, providing top-down approaches where the focus is on policies and practices that are aimed at the agentic and motivated worker, but designed in the interests of the employer (Cornelissen et al, 2007). The psychologically informed research that evaluates these practices for the most part also depoliticises and individualises the employment relationship. This may reflect what Zickar (2004) describes as the historical indifference of industrial and organisational psychology to unions and to the power dynamics between employers and workers. Investigation of workers’ responses to HRM practice is limited to evidence of commitment and satisfaction (and their opposite) and to individual-level psychological explanations that atomise workers (Ellemers, DeGilder and Haslam, 2004). Although the existence of competing sets of values and interests that are shared by groups of workers is acknowledged, the emphasis is on intra-organisational solutions that can manage any ensuing tensions. The political achievement of linking the development of capable workers to productivity, and not to social justice outcomes, has consequences both for practice and for research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeyond Skill
Subtitle of host publicationInstitutions, Organisations and Human Capability
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780230291270
ISBN (Print)9780230230576
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)


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