Human resource management at the negotiating table: Vocabularies of motive and the NHS hospital service



Bolton SC & Way R (2007) Human resource management at the negotiating table: Vocabularies of motive and the NHS hospital service. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 20 (4), pp. 304-313.

Purpose - The purpose of this research is to examine the role of various management functions within the complex multi-layered and multi-faceted history and structure that is the National Health Service (NHS) hospital service and explore the legitimacy of the role of human resource management (HRM). Design/methodology/approach - Semi-structured interviews with senior medical professionals and HR managers of one particular Hospital Trust are presented within a conceptual framework based upon an interpretivist notion of "vocabularies of motive". Findings - Qualitative research at an executive level demonstrates vocabularies of motives in action, where it appears that the role and status of HRM is potentially more dominant and influential than has previously been suggested. Research limitations/implications - Data are limited to a small group of senior managers and medical professionals and, therefore, does not represent generalisable knowledge. It does, however, offer insights from actors employed in senior roles in one particular hospital trust employing a conceptual framework that may have relevance for other studies concerned with the role of HRM and the dynamics of organisational change. Practical implications - The paper offers insights into the complexities of change in a complex bureaucracy such as the NHS hospital service. It suggests that government policy and management practice can benefit from an understanding of the various vocabularies of motive at play and how these may effect the successful interpretation of policy into practice. Originality/value - The paper offers original data and a useful conceptual framework which offers the potential for a more nuanced understanding of the implementation and interpretation of government policy in the NHS hospital service

National Health Service; Human resource management; Hospitals; United Kingdom

International Journal of Public Sector Management: Volume 20, Issue 4

Publication date31/12/2007

People (1)


Professor Sharon Bolton

Professor Sharon Bolton

Emeritus Professor, Management, Work and Organisation