[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Na Fu of the Trinity Business School, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin; Professor Patrick Flood of Dublin City University; Professor Denise Rousseau of Carnegie Mellon University; and Professor Tim Morris of University of Oxford. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management entitled “Line Managers as Paradox Navigators in HRM Implementation: Balancing Consistency and Individual Responsiveness,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, the team reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]
What motivated you to pursue this research?
People do not leave companies, they leave their managers. A lot of research has found evidence for the importance of leadership. This study is not focusing on the leadership of teams but on the paradoxical role that line managers take in implementing varied human resource management practice. It was motivated by a friend of the first author who constantly got confused that why his manager treated everyone differently. In some cases, it is a good thing that team members receive individualized consideration. However, some consistency should be contained to ensure team members satisfaction.
In what ways is your research innovative?
This is the first study that explores how line manager’s HRM implementation influences individual and team outcomes using a paradox perspective. Head of Talent and a Senior consultant in a large consulting firm helped us with data collection from 60 project teams. In this consulting firm as well as in most of organizations, line managers now share increasing responsibilities for implementing HRM practices, such as selecting members into the team, providing mentoring, managing performance and promoting teamwork.
As paradox navigators, line managers have to be consistent with all team members but also need to consider individual difference when they implement HRM practices. Examples showing how line managers manage the consistency-individual responsiveness paradox are presented in the paper. One example is that when training programs are introduced, line managers can inform all members about such opportunities and their purpose, while considering individual contributions and likely benefits for each team member in attending such training. In the case of developmental feedback, line managers might communicate with each team member while varying the mode and nature of the feedback according to their abilities, relational orientation and past performance.
What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?
A key solution to building organizational competitive advantage is through the development of people. Our findings reveal the critical role of line managers in motivating team members’ effective job performance. In particular, line managers as paradox navigators need to be upskilled as to how they can balance consistency and individual responsiveness in their implementation of HRM practices. Future research is encouraged to explore what organizations can do to improve line managers’ abilities, motivation and opportunities to balance consistency and individual responsiveness and/or other paradoxes that they are facing, ultimately improving team and organizational outcomes.
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