Year

2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Management and Marketing - Faculty of Commerce

Abstract

This thesis examines the reasons for negative employee responses to performance appraisal at an underground coal mine in Australia. Through analysis of processes of identity construction and defence among coal miners, the thesis advances understanding of how blue-collar employees react to receiving comparative performance ratings. Using an extended case study method over a five year period, the fieldwork investigated the discursive resources that miners used to make sense of this orthodox human resource management practice. By combining insights from critical discourse analysis and critical management studies approaches, the thesis analyses the effects of appraisal upon miners’ occupational identity and provides empirical evidence of the inventive powers of such workers to prise open spaces for workplace resistance through identity (re)construction processes. A synthesis of conceptual frameworks pertaining to performance appraisal, discursive concepts, subjects and objects, and identity regulation and identity work, provides a more comprehensive understanding of employee responses to managerial initiatives such as performance appraisal. Miners used a palette of discursive resources, including storytelling and dissonance tropes to make sense of, and subvert, the negative effects of individuating performance appraisals on their occupational identity. The thesis questions the power neutral assumptions of mainstream human resource management practice, and suggests that managers who ignore the subjective effects of disciplining technologies such as appraisal may experience unintended consequences as workers resist identity disruptions in the workplace.

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