New developments in the industrial relations and human resource management have moved management and employee bargaining down to the level of the firm. In doing so they have generated a growing level of interest in the conduct of employment relations, not just at the level of specialist managers, who have traditionally had the responsibility for dealing with issues in this area, but across management as a whole. There is thus a growing need for managers to place more emphasis on achieving a greater symmetry between commercial objectives and employment practices. This paper looks at the predicates of managerial authority and its legitimacy, and how personal assumptions and value systems (i.e., ‘frames of reference’) held by managers can predispose them to view the nature of work and workplace relations in particular ways. The paper also presents and aligns a range of contemporary theories within the province of such systems, with the aim being to show how judgements made about the worth or otherwise of a given range of theories are inevitably shaped by the type of value system and set of assumptions one holds towards the world of work. The paper concludes by offering a practical guide to managers on how to evaluate their own assumptions and value systems when applying the noted theories and concepts to real world circumstances. In doing so, the paper provides a tool kit of theories and concepts that should allow managers to avoid engaging in workforce management practices that are either illconceived or based on intuitive premises.
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