Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 111, Issue 1, pp 109–119 | Cite as

Exploring the Boundaries of Human Resource Managers’ Responsibilities



This article addresses two longstanding challenges for human resource (HR) managers; how far they can and should represent the interests of both management and workers and how they can gain the power to do so. Adopting a Kantian perspective, it is argued that to pursue an ethical human resource management (HRM), HR managers need to go some way to resolving both. Three possible avenues are considered. Contemporary approaches to organisation of the HR role associated with the work of Ulrich are explored as a means of enhancing power, but rejected on the basis of research evidence as unlikely to succeed. Promotion of worker outcomes in the context of developing the link between HRM and performance offers the potential for a more ethical HRM but has not been seized by most HR managers. Finally, implementation of legislative and moral requirements to promote quality of working life is explored through the case of bullying at work. This highlights the boundaries of the HR role in a context of limited power and leads to the conclusion that it is unrealistic to look to HR managers, or at least HR managers alone, to achieve an ethical HRM.


HR policy and practice HR roles HR implementation Kantian ethics Worker well-being Organisational performance Bullying at work 



We would like to thank the editors and the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback and guidance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ManagementKing’s College LondonLondonUK

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