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Extending "Kahn's model of personal engagement and disengagement at work" with reference to existential attributes: A case study of HR managers in Pakistan

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Purpose ‐ This study seeks to explore the existential meaningfulness of HR managers' work. The purpose of this study is to investigate the influence of four existential attributes that are death, responsibility, alienation and meaningfulness, on the work of HR managers. The study also asserts that the work of HR managers has an existential dimension to it. It also argues that HR managers have human qualities. They react to human predicament and need emotional identification with their work and organization. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The study is based on the responses of HR managers developed on the basis of an interview guide specifically designed for this purpose. The data have been collected through extensive and in-depth field interactions with HR managers working in diverse organizations. The research approach taken here is to focus on the discrete moments of role performance of HR managers that represent microcosms of the larger complexity. Those moments are windows into the multiplicity of factors that are constantly relevant to person-role dynamics. Focusing on specific moments of work role performance of HR managers is like using the zoom lens of a camera: a distant stationary image is brought close and revealed as a series of innumerable leaps of engagement and falls of disengagement. Findings ‐ The study brings out the emotional and human dilemmas of HR managers working in public and private sector organizations. While discussing and linking Kahn's model with Sartrean thoughts can provide unique perspective within the strategic human resource management especially in Pakistani organizations which was missing not only in Kahn's model but also in management literature. Originality/value ‐ The study makes a fresh inquiry into the nature of HRM and the existential realities experienced by the HR managers at work place. The study is unique because of its extensive field interactions based on a well-designed interview guide hitherto unapplied in the organization studies.
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Keywords: Existentialism; HR managers; Kahn's model; Pakistan

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 7, 2014

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