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Challenging the Training and Development Rhetoric: The 'new' Labour Process of Middle Managers in the Hong Kong Public Sector

O'Neil, Jennifer



The focus of this paper is on middle managers (MM) ability to overcome the public sector challenges associated with work intensification; control and skills adaption via learning and development initiatives. Whilst much has been written about the challenges of the ‘squeezed middle’ and the new labour process of front line and middle managers generally (McCann, Hassard & Morris 2008, 2010; Bolton & Houlihan 2010), there is a gap in the literature connecting orthodox HRM rhetoric and more critical accounts relating to both individual and organisational attempts to overcome the difficulties through skills development.
This exploratory research, set in the Hong Kong public sector, comprises of a set of qualitative interviews (16) and a survey. It explores MM’s accounts of attempting to capture both pre-determined skills (such as confidence building, oratory, presentation and negotiation skills) with emergent skills (such as political and networked skills). Whilst there is evidence of some beneficial up-skilling, structural impediments relating to; access to [power] and support from senior management; divisions between political and operational staff and the on-going effects of stream lining/outsourcing and a ‘doing more with less’ mentality, limit the effectiveness of training and development initiatives. This has resulted in an overworked, stressed-out, squeezed middle management cadre. The findings of this research are that despite organisational attempts to present training as the answer to the challenges of a changing work environment, the employment bargain is still one characterised by degraded experiences and conditions of work and that this in turn has implications for public service delivery.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name 3rd ISA Forum of Sociology - The Future We Want: global sociology and the struggles for a better world
Start Date Jul 10, 2016
End Date Jul 14, 2016
Publication Date 2016
Deposit Date Feb 16, 2016
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Middle managers; public sector; skills development; Hong Kong;
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