Document Type

Conference Paper


This paper uses a discourse analytic perspective to examine attempts of a multinational coal mining company to change the work practices of its miners at an underground colliery in Australia through the imposition of a ratings-based performance appraisal scheme upon all underground workers. Using the discursive framework of analysis suggested by Grant and Shields (2002; 2006), we examine ‘traces’ (Ainsworth and Hardy, 2004:236) of the discursive concepts of managers found in the texts and structures that surround their construction of a performance appraisal system for miners. We examine, both from the larger discourse of the ‘performance imperative’ in the mining industry and locally situated contextual variables, discursive units of texts (Chalaby, 1996) that reveal managerial beliefs about the purpose of appraisal. We also examine objects of the appraisal concept brought into being through discourse (Grant and Hardy, 2003), namely the ways in which HRM practices such as appraisal and people-as-objects (Shields and Grant, 2002) were constituted by texts which emerged from managerial ideas, concepts and assumptions regarding change strategies. Implicit in managerial concepts of appraisal were notions of ‘rightness’ (Phillips and Hardy, 1997:167), carrying concepts of moral evaluation about what behaviour ‘should be’. Such concepts are, of course, open to ambiguity and contest. At this colliery managerial appraisal concepts were part of a political struggle over conflicting ideas and ideals among the multiple stakeholders in the change initiative (Grant and Shields, 2006).