Reflection and Reflexivity in Practice

Johns[1] argue that as we go about our everyday business we take the world for granted and act habitually, meaning is projected into events that enable us to take things into stride and therefore reinforce our sense of self. Because possibility is not explored, knowledge and experience remain defended. Jasper[2] argues that reflective practice is one of the most important ways we learn from our experiences in a professional context, especially as it enables us to make the link between theory and practice. Using the reflective process and thinking about our experiences in a purposeful way, we come to understand our experiences differently. This process enables us to consciously think about things and actively make decisions based on experience instead of habit. Therefore Jasper argues that reflective practice enables practitioners to bridge the gap between theory and practice by providing a strategy that helps us develop our understanding and learning.

Furthermore; Schön[3] called this process ‘reflection in action’ as he found that when practitioners were faced with a problem, the issue was resolved instinctively drawing on previous experience to achieve the best solution possible. Using a mix of knowing and doing to engage in the learning process. An example he uses to describe this action is that of riding a bike; he implied that those who ride the bike know what to do in the situation where they feel they would fall. But often in situations the wrong answer is given when certain questions are asked in a classroom because it is outside of the bike riding situation. In other words it is an illustration that practitioners usually know more than what they say[4].

Several critics have argued that Schön fails to clarify what the reflective process itself entails. Eraut[5] for example argues that he doesn’t have a simple coherent view of reflection, instead he has a set of overlapping attributes of which he selects the best one to fit the situation. Furthermore he argues that there is insufficient amount of discernment between his forms of reflection depicted, leading to over generalisation which causes confusion in his interpretations. Another aspect he argues is Schön’s inability to consider the element of time, an element which is relatable to all practitioners. When time is short decisions are rapidly made and the scope for reflection is limited.

I recognise this in my own situation as a student, in circumstances such as this reflection is a metacognitive process. When completing assignments we are alerted to a problem or question, to which we rapidly read the situation, decide on the best course of action and then continue onto the next focus element. There is limited time for reflection to take place, even when we have longer periods of time to complete said assignment. Nor is it always possible as the delay in reflection affects the potential for knowledge processing to happen. This in essence is linked to the theory of intentionality as suggested by Ekebergh[6]. She argued that reflecting in action is a natural occurrence, however when a person is in action they are intentional to their goals and therefore immersed completely in the activity. This means that it is not possible to distance oneself from the situation to achieve self-reflection that the attitude requires.

Richard Pascal[7] once argued that

It is easier to act your way into a better way of thinking than to think your way into a better way of acting”.

In other words it is easier to change behaviour and therefore change the taken for granted assumptions, than try to change assumptions as a way of changing behaviour. Unlike Narcissus who met his fate through doing nothing other than admiring his own reflection in water and perishing due to self-neglect. When completing the blogs I wanted to challenge the assumptions made in each topic and make it not only relatable to me as the writer but also the audience as well.  Each blog should not only be a reflection of what is evident in practice and literature but also a challenge to the basic assumptions of what HR should or shouldn’t be doing. But like most students we have to educate ourselves around a topic before we fully understand the depth of the knowledge we’re learning. As Schön’s example of riding a bike and being unable to answer questions when appropriate, I felt I was not able to put across the depth of my knowledge to the best of my abilities. This as a consequence led to me experiencing feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, curiosity, disorientation etc.

Generation Y are more susceptible to the use of technology in workplace related activities using it as a tool to facilitate communication and productivity in the workplace. The concept of personal branding has now evolved from beyond product and corporate origins with the increasing importance seen in social advertising. Harris and Rae[8] argue that one in five employers turned to social media to recruit new employees, studies showing that checking of a candidates online behaviour has risen from 11% in 2006 to 22% in recent years. 24% of employers said they were able to find candidates whom they thought would be an asset to the organisation because of their online presence. I believe that building a personal brand online is a great way of differentiating yourself from other potential candidates. Blogging becomes a platform in which individuals can openly challenge the taken for granted assumptions on specialist matters in industry, providing a foundation for continued professional development.

Wopereis, Sloep, and Poortman[9] argues that the awareness of having a large audience reading and commenting on the writer’s reflective thinking can affect reflection both positively and negatively. The large scale interconnectivity can lead to better thought out arguments, however it may deter the expression of personal experiences.

Furthermore Usher, Bryant, and Johnston[10] criticised Schön’s model on its neglection of the practitioner’s experience. My ability to write an informative blog post is dependent on the depth of my knowledge, the range of experience I have and my ability to utilise and implement the correct theory to practice. For example for the topic of emotional intelligence, I was clueless as to what it entailed. This meant that the quality of the blog depended on my ability to research the topic to the best of my abilities to achieve a holistic understanding of what emotional intelligence was.

Whilst reflection in action examines experiences and responses as they occur, reflection on action on the other hand reviews and analyses past practice in hindsight. Reflexive practitioners engage in critical self-reflection, a Meta theorizing process which scrutinises the first reflection more in depth[11]. Dallos and Steadman[12] argued that personal reflexivity is a conscious cognitive process where knowledge and theory are applied to the reflection in action. To ensure there were no weaknesses to my approach to reflexivity, Kolb’s ‘reflection on action’ model had to be used. Although like most students I found reflection in action to be far easier than reflection on action. However Dallos and Steadman[12] further argues that the difficulty in reflection is that in practice the differences aren’t quite as clear cut.

The most influential model on reflexivity is Kolb’s cycle of experiential learning, which uses the workplace as a place of education where different methods of learning can be tailored to resonate within a practitioner. The cycle shows the process of learning in 4 stages; Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualisation and Active Experimentation. Woods[13] implied that we feel happier in some parts of the cycle more than others, suggesting that the area we felt the happiest was our preferred learning style. It is suggested that for a complete learning experience students must go through all of the stages in the cycle. However a criticism of the model is that learning doesn’t take place in a chronological order, instead steps may overlap, nor does it take into account the type of learning taking place[14].

Alternatively Gibbs reflective cycle[15] can also be used to provide a deeper analysis of reflection. It is more descriptive than Kolb model in that it also includes the reflectors reaction to each stage. For example reflective observation and abstract conceptualisation are extended in Gibbs model so that reflective observation is split into feelings and evaluation; abstract conceptualisation into analysis and conclusion. Unlike Kolb’s model, this cycle can be readjusted for the purpose of reflection.

Reflection models

Through the process of writing blogs I tried to incorporate in the voice of HR. What are my opinions on the topic and what are the implications for HR managers? For some topics such as engagement and wellbeing; mentoring millennials; emotional intelligence for example I had to overcome the issue of what is it? To what can it do? Like Moon’s[16] observation of the characteristics of deeper critical thinking, when conducting research into each topic I was forced to ask myself if the findings in literature were really true. No topic can be just good there must also be an aspect of bad, this forced me to ask questions of why aren’t these characteristics dealt with? For example in the line manager’s competency and wellbeing post, it became evident that line managers played a vital role in the wellbeing of their staff. And yet nearly half the respondents in research replied that they weren’t a part of tackling issues in dealing with stress. Alternatively if there is a fine line between motivation and manipulation in emotional intelligence.

This process was a way for me to develop myself beyond what I can in the formal classroom type situations. Researching each topic and looking at the arguments on both side enabled me to develop my knowledge of the potential problems faced by HR in practice; assisting me to question my own beliefs of what HR is capable of. Grant and Stanton[17] as cited in Eraut[18] summarised that the key to effectiveness of CPD isn’t to be found in the adopted learning methods themselves, as there is no best learning method and no best approach to learning.



[1] Johns, C. (2005). Expanding the gates of perception. In C. Johns, & D. Freshwater, Transforming Nursing Through Reflective Practice (2nd ed., pp. 1 – 12). Oxford: Blackwell.

[2] Jasper, M. (2013). What is reflective practice? In M. Jasper, Beginning reflective practice (2nd ed., pp. 1 – 30). Andover: Cengage Learning.

[3] Schön, D. A. (1983). The Reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action. Temple Smith.

[4] Peterbuwert. (2012, December 18). The Reflective Practitioner by Donald Schon. Retrieved from Gray’s Research Reading Group:

[5] Eraut, M. (1994). Theories of professional expertise. In M. Eraut, Developing Professional Knowledge And Competence (pp. 123 – 158). London: RoutledgeFalmer.

[6] Ekebergh, M. (2007). Lifeworld‐based reflection and learning: a contribution to the reflective practice in nursing and nursing education. Reflective Practice, 8(3), 331 – 343.

[7] Johnson, G., Whittington, R., & Scholes, K. (2011). Strategy in action. In G. Johnson, R. Whittington, & K. Scholes, Exploring strategy: text and cases (9th ed., pp. 501 – 550). Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall.

[8] Harris, L., & Rae, A. (2011). Building a personal brand through social networking. Journal of Business Strategy, 32(5), 14 – 21.

[9] Wopereis, I. G., Sloep, P. B., & Poortman, S. H. (2010). Weblogs as Instruments for Reflection on Action in Teacher Education. Interactive Learning Environments, 18(3), 245 – 261.

[10] Usher, R., Bryant, I., & Johnston, R. (1997). Adult Education and the Postmodern Challenge Learning Beyond the Limits. London: Routledge.

[11] Finlay, L. (2008). Reflecting on ‘Reflective practice’. Practice based professional learning centre, 52, 1 – 27.

[12] Dallos, R., & Steadman, J. (2009). Flying over the swampy lowlands: Reflective and reflexive practice. In R. Dallos, & J. Steadman, Reflective practice in psychotherapy and counselling (pp. 1 – 16). New York: Open University Press. Retrieved from

[13] Woods, H. B. (2012). Know your RO from your AE? Learning styles in practice. Health information and libraries journal, 29(2), 172 – 176.

[14] Konak, A., Clark, T. K., & Nasereddin, M. (2014). Using Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle to improve student learning in virtual computer laboratories. Computers & Education, 72, 11- 22.

[15] Gibbs, G. (1988). Learning by doing: a guide to teaching and learning methods. Oxford: Further Education Unit, Oxford Polytechnic.

[16] Moon, J. A. (1999). Reflection in Learning and Professional Development. London: Kogan Page.

[17] Grant, M. J., & Stanton, F. (1998). The Effectiveness of Continuing Professional Development. A Report for the Chief Medical Officer’s Review of Continuing Professional Development in Practice. London: Joint Centre for Education in Medicine.

[18] Eraut, M. (2001). Do continuing professional development models promote one-dimensional learning? Medical Education, 35(1), 8 – 11.

Coaching and Mentoring Millennials

Should someone’s age dictate the way you manage them? Perhaps. A lot has been written about how generation Y differs from others, particularly the jobs they want, the skills they bring, what motivates them, etc. But by managing the generation differently aren’t HR stereotyping workers based on age? Or are they simply turning diversity into an advantage?[1] Poulsen[2] argues that in diversity mentoring the difference between the mentor and mentee will always be pronounced, but this difference should be seen as an opportunity for transformational learning to take place.

A New Generation of Employees: Mentoring Millennials[3]

The average age of the population is changing bringing about a tremendous change to the workforce. In the oncoming years they will account for nearly half the employees if they don’t constitute the majority already. This has meant that organisations are having to rethink the way they attract the attention of younger workers. For some it may seem daunting to think of not just attracting but also coaching a generation who clearly knows what they want[4].

Zimmerman[5] suggests that among millennials there is a collective shout to employers to develop and mentor them, to be given opportunities to lead. It is clear that for younger employees the ability to grow in an organisation is a vital aspect of job hunting. According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, up to 63% of millennials said that they weren’t developing their leadership skills. Millennials have a bad reputation of being spoiled and lazy with high expectations, but that’s not necessarily true. Moore[6] argues that they could play an important role in harnessing valuable talent, it is possibly due to high expectations that they are more interested than previous generations in having a mentor.

Coaching and Leading Millennials[7]:

Considering that millennials are the most highly educated and tech-savvy generation thus far, they are needed in the workplace but what they lack is experience. Meister and Willyerd[4] argue that millennials expect organisations to provide them with the opportunity to grow. As a way of attaining and engaging this generation there has been an evolvement in the traditional style of mentoring; reverse mentoring, micro mentoring, and group mentoring can now be commonly linked to millennials.

In reverse mentoring the mentor is usually younger than the mentee, providing the opportunity for older employees to learn from their younger counterparts, unlike traditional methods which distributed learning hierarchically. Presently seniors are mentored by younger employees in technology, social media and current trends[8]. However Harvey, McIntrye, Heames and Moeller[9] emphasises that whilst reverse mentoring can be cross generational, it isn’t always dependent on age. Those who are new to the organisation will have equal amounts of knowledge to share with more than just senior managers. Examples of organisations utilising reverse mentoring are: General Motors, Unilever, Marks and Spencer’s, Deloitte & Touche and Procter & Gamble. Furthermore Chaudhuri and Ghosh[8]  argues that in addition to gaining comprehension in technology, reverse mentoring has further advantages. For example it can help build sensitisation to issues in the workplace regarding diversity, work life balance and global perspective; each of which contributes towards increasing levels of engagement at work.

This trend can also have a double sided benefit as mentees will also gain information access; appreciation and professional respect; personal fulfilment; improved morale and reduced turnover. Altogether sharing expertise and increasing levels of involvement means that millennials are committed to the organisation and the seniors are engaged[4].

Moreover Emelo[10] suggests group mentoring as an attractive substitute to traditional coaching for 3 main reasons. Firstly it is a fast and reliable way of creating an informal curricula to address emerging needs. Internal experts and those with learning needs can be brought together for a short period of time instead the traditional 2 times a year approach. Secondly, it is a cost effective method as you are able to leverage and multiply internal expertise leading to an inexpensive approach that isn’t interfered with geographical boundaries. Lastly, it helps to foster relational learning, millennials would rather connect with individuals in a collaborative learning process rather than an impersonal databases.


Moore[6] argues that despite their bad reputation millennials acknowledge the limitations they have which stops them from progressing forward. They view mentors as contributors to personal growth, considering them confidants who are willing to provide knowledge. The principle behind coaching and mentoring is simple; a relationship that is mutually beneficial to both parties involved. An openness to change and a willingness to learn thinking beyond technology and age gap. With sufficient coaching and mentoring their need for constant feedback will dissolve and employers will have valuable and productive employees[11].



[1] CIPD. (2014, March 4). Thinking strategically about age diversity. Retrieved from CIPD:

[2] Poulsen, K. (2013). Mentoring programmes: learning opportunities for mentees, for mentors, for organisations and for society. Industrial and Commercial Training, 45(5), 255 – 263.

[3] FoxCU. (2014, September 3). A New Generation of Employees: Mentoring Millennials. Retrieved from YouTube:

[4] Meister, J. C., & Willyerd, K. (2010, May). Mentoring Millennials. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review:

[5] Zimmerman, K. (2016, July 18). Modern Mentoring Is The Key To Retaining Millennials. Retrieved from Forbes:

[6] Moore, K. (2014, September 11). The Modern Mentor In A Millennial Workplace. Retrieved from Forbes:

[7] Ameritas. (2015, December 29). Coaching and Leading Millennials. Retrieved from YouTube:

[8] Chaudhuri, S., & Ghosh, R. (2012). Reverse Mentoring: A Social Exchange Tool for Keeping the Boomers Engaged and Millennials Committed. Human Resource Development Review, 11(1), 55 – 76.

[9] Harvey, M., McIntyre, N., Heames, J. T., & Moeller, M. (2009). Mentoring global female managers in the global marketplace: Traditional, reverse, and reciprocal mentoring. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 20(6), 1344-1361.

[10] Emelo, R. (2011). Group mentoring best practices. Industrial and Commercial Training, 43(4), 221 – 227.

[11] NeighthanWhite. (2017, February 27). Is Coaching & Mentoring Millennials So Important? Retrieved from Training Zone:

Line managers and Wellbeing – How far does it go?

The move towards a strategic HR approach for HR managers can be seen as freeing up the department to concentrate on the change agent and strategic partnership roles. Renwick[1] argues that this development has led to the concern that in search for legitimacy and status for the HR function, managers are neglecting the basics. Donaldson-Feilder and Lewis[2]  argued that good leadership is key to ensuring mental health and wellbeing are met in organisations. For many employees the way in which they are treated by their line manager makes a vast difference to how they feel at work. Having good support and feeling valued by the manager can help individuals to overcome difficulties including mental health problems. On the other hand, a negative or disorganised line manager can cause employees stress, anxiety and depression.

In addition to having an impact on employee mental health managers can also act as a ‘gatekeeper’. How can managers identify and tackle stress if they aren’t exposed to it? For managers this means they need to understand the behaviours they should display to their employees in ways to minimise stress[3]. However despite evidence demonstrating that line managers are one of the most important influencers in engagement and stress; recent research conducted by the CIPD has found that only 43% of respondents believed that line managers were brought into the importance of wellbeing[4].

Renwick[1] argues that HR managers can be seen to both engage and enhance employee wellbeing at work, whilst at the same time acting against it. His study showed that there were advantages to employee wellbeing through the devolution of HR to line managers and adoption of a strategic approach. But at the same time there are also potential costs, and if these aren’t addressed commitment in the organisation cannot be secured. Gagne[5] further argues that if commitment was nothing more than a state of mind that only happens through a positive exchange of relationship, it contributes nothing but the exchange of theories in motivation.

Positive change starts with the recognition of the need for change and a clear vision of its outcome, a healthy organisation cannot be made with immediate developments. Grawitch, Gottschalk and Munz[6] argues that the best way to improve the wellbeing of staff is to implement planned programs of health initiatives. However Donaldson-Feilder and Lewis[2]  argues that management development is not just about choosing a model and running a training event. Applying and sustaining new behaviour into the workplace is hard and needs a lot of support, the context in which manager’s work in particular will have a major impact on how they behave. But that is not to say that upward feedback and workshop inputs won’t have a positive outcome in employees.

Wellbeing initiatives are often standalone isolated from everyday business, it needs to be integrated into the organisation, embedded in the culture, leadership and people management. The following video’s by the CIPD[7] and Virgin[8] highlights the need to grow the health and wellbeing agenda:



The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)[9] has published a health guidance addressed to managers and employers on how to develop a positive and health aware culture. The report acknowledged the impact corporate culture has on employee health and recognises the value of giving employees control and flexibility in how they work. According to the report line managers need to be given training to improve their awareness of health and wellbeing issues.  HSE[10]  has also established management standards (shown below) which indicate high levels of health, well-being and organizational performance.



A recent study into the NHS found that there were high levels of stress and burnout in staff due to 5 themes. Lack of support and advocacy from managers; rise of aggression, verbal abuse and incivility (indirect effect from lack of support); interconnectivity and social support providing a buffering effect; occupational health support seen as punishment (belief that extra support meant staff were incompetent) and inadequate support in general. The HCAs and nurses highlighted that despite the frontline nature of their role, which meant increased levels of support, they received the least. This lack of support from line managers to staff as a consequence led to a lack of emotional wellbeing[12].

As such line managers should ensure that stress is identified early; take an active role in absence management; maintain regular contact with the concerned employee and provide support options to maximise the opportunity for employees to return to work and be actively productive in a reasonable amount of time[11]. The following document showcases some of the competencies needed by line managers to prevent and reduce stress at work[3] .

Line manager competency – preventing and reducing stress at work



[1] Renwick, D. (2003). HR managers: Guardians of employee wellbeing? Personnel Review, 32(3), 341 – 359.

[2] Donaldson-Feilder, E., & Lewis, R. (2016). Taking the lead on mental health: the role of leaders and line managers. Occupational Health & Wellbeing, 68(7), 16 – 17.

[3] Donaldson‐Feilder, E., Yarker, J., & Lewis, R. (2008). Line management competence: the key to preventing and reducing stress at. Strategic HR Review, 7(2), 11 – 16.

[4] Lewis, R., & Donaldson-Feilder, E. (2017, March 22). New tools to help you develop managers to support employee well-being and engagement. Retrieved from CIPD Community:

[5] Gagne, M. (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Work Engagement, Motivation, and Self-Determination Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[6] GRAWITCH, M., GOTTSCHALK, M., & MUNZ, D. (2006). The path to a healthy workplace: A critical review linking healthy workplace practices, employee well-being, and organizational improvements. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 58(3), 129 – 147.

[7] CIPD. (2016, January 20). CIPD – Growing the Health and Well-being Agenda. Retrieved from YouTube:

[8] Virgin. (2015, April 29). Virgin Disruptors: Your Workplace Wellbeing, At What Cost? Highlights. Retrieved from Youtube:

[9] Anonymous. (2015, August). Management style linked to employee wellbeing. Occupational Health, 67(8), 5.

[10] HSE. (2017). What are the Management Standards. Retrieved from Health and Safety Executive:

[11] Paton, N. (2016). Line manager is key to a return to work after sickness absence. Occupational Health & Wellbeing, 68(4), 4.

[12] George, M. S. (2016). Stress in NHS staff triggers defensive inward-focussing and an associated loss of connection with colleagues: this is reversed by Schwartz Rounds. Journal of Compassionate Health Care, 3(1).

Determining the levels of engagement

Researchers in mainstream HRM field have long since been concerned with the question of how management can improve an organisation’s performance. Certainly this quest for understanding the link between engagement and performance has led to the overriding purpose of strategic HRM[1]. Perhaps engagement has gathered so much attention because of its promise of enhancing employee well-being and organisational performance. But despite the length of research into the topic, its meaning is susceptible to constant change. It is perhaps due to this that there is a growing disconnect between how engagement is perceived by academics (a psychological state) and that of practitioners (workforce strategy)[2].

The Institute of Employment Studies (IES)[3] defines employee engagement as:

“A positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context, and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employer and employee.”

The CIPD[4]  identified 3 main dimensions to engagement in the workplace:

  • Emotional engagement: feeling positively about the job and being emotionally engaged;
  • Cognitive engagement: thinking hard about the job and looking at ways in which to do it better;
  • Social engagement: actively taking opportunities to discuss work related improvements with others at work.

Employers want employees who will work hard and be willing to ‘go the extra mile’, whilst employees want to be inspired, feel worthwhile, have an increased sense of value and wellbeing. Purcell[5]  argued that positive engagement is linked to the employee’s ability to participate in workplace decisions and achieve a sense of accomplishment when the work is done. Negative on the other hand, results in increased organisational costs through absenteeism, presenteeism and lower levels of performance and productivity. There is a significant difference between those that do their job because they enjoy it and those that do it for rewards. The notion of employee engagement linked to that of both individual and organisational wellbeing is what drives the research agenda in this topic.

Organisations may pay lip service to the importance of their people but not many follow through on it. Bishop[6] argues that part of the problem is seeing the link between numbers and words; on one hand you have the hard measures like retention, productivity, profit and turnover. On the other hand you have engagement, motivation, wellbeing and satisfaction, so how can you connect the two?

Wellbeing, a Bottom Line Issue – Steelcase[7]:

The World Health Organisation[8] defines health as:

“a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Given the desirability of having highly engaged employee’s Crawford, Lepine, & Rich[9] have argued that psychological conditions of meaningfulness, safety and availability determine levels of engagement. This in essence is linked to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs whose theory puts forward that meeting basic needs results in personal growth and development.  Recognition of an employees work shows them that they matter, helping to build an emotional connection between employee and employer. When employees feel valued and important they are more willing to take an ownership of their role, their enthusiasm and
engagement can actually inspire others to perform to their level[10].


Stress at work is a major issue affecting wellbeing, so why isn’t more attention given to tackling it? In 2015/16 the total number of days lost as a consequence of stress related issues was 11.7 million days. Workload; role uncertainty; lack of control; lack of support and changes at work are some of the factors which cause the most amount of stress[11]. Aon Hewitts[12] research found employees in high engagement companies experienced 28% of job related stress, compared to the 39% in those of low engagement. However despite these figures there is still the danger of being ‘too engaged’, as job demands can lead to burnout without the right supporting resources[8].

So how can you link numbers with words? Healthy workplace practices such as work life balance; employee growth and development opportunities; recognition; a healthy working environment and employee involvement can result in increased employee wellbeing. Reduced levels of stress and increased levels of motivation, job satisfaction and commitment will result in a happier workforce. And of course a happier workforce means an improved organisation leading to lower absenteeism and turnover, and increased competitive advantage, higher productivity levels and cost savings[13].




[1] Truss, C., Shantz, A., Soane, E., Alfes, K., & Delbridge, R. (2014). Employee engagement, organisational performance and individual well-being: exploring the evidence, developing the theory. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 24(14), 2657 – 2669.

[2] Truss, C., Delbridge, R., Alfes, K., Shantz, A., & Soane, E. (2014). Employee engagement in theory and practice. London: Routledge.

[3] IES. (2017). Report Summary: The drivers of employee engagement. Retrieved from Institute for Employment Studies:

[4] CIPD. (2015, December 1). Employee engagement: an introduction. Retrieved from CIPD:

[5] Purcell, J. (2008). Building employee engagement: Acas policy discussion paper. London: Acas.

[6] Bishop, P. (2017, March 7). The missing link for motivation at work. Retrieved from WeThrive:

[7] Steelcase. (2014, February 10). Wellbeing, a Bottom Line Issue – Steelcase. Retrieved from YouTube:

[8] WHO. (2014, August). Mental health: a state of well-being. Retrieved from World Health Organisation:

[9] Crawford, E. R., Lepine, J. A., & Rich, B. L. (2010). Linking Job Demands and Resources to Employee Engagement and Burnout: A Theoretical Extension and Meta-Analytic Test. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(5), 834 – 848.

[10]Loyaltyworks. (2015). MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS AND EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT. Retrieved from Loyaltyworks:

[11] HSE. (2016, November Work related Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics in Great Britain 2016. Retrieved from Health and Safety Executive:

[12] Hewitt, A. (2012). Global employee engagement database. Aon Hewitt: London.

[13] Grawitch, M. J., Gottschalk, M., & Munz, D. C. (2006). The Path to a Healthy Workplace A Critical Review Linking Healthy Workplace Practices, Employee Well-being, and Organizational Improvements. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 58(3), 129 – 147.

Is Green the way to go?

Scarcity of natural resources; climate change; corporate fraud; financial crisis; poor labour standards; mental health; unfair payment and gender discrimination may be some of the examples you have heard of under the topic of sustainability or social corporate responsibility (CSR)[1]. But what really is it? According to Johnson and Scholes[2] it is:

“The ways in which an organization exceeds the minimum obligations to stakeholders specified through regulation and corporate governance.”

The task of CSR is to prevent immoral practices from happening, which weakens society, damages the company and hurts employees.

Preventative measures are often labelled as ‘risk management’ a term usually linked with that of financial risks[1]. After all who wants bad press? CSR isn’t just about preventing bad practices like corruption and fraud, the real question is how a company can contribute towards a ‘good society’ with ‘good practices’. But of course like in any area there’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. Fleming and Jones argue that often in organisations we can see a distinct effort being made to be more corporately responsible, but often it is simply ‘window dressing’[3]  rather than a aspect of strategic management as it should be. The CIPD[4] identified 4 areas of CSR: community, employee or labour, environment and market practice. Shown below are the drivers of responsible management in theory and practice[5]:


What does it all mean for HR? Many believe that HR doesn’t play a central role in CSR, a presumption that may not be entirely wrong. HR employees themselves think that at times they have to compromise their principles to meet business needs. It’s vital to ensure that there is an alignment between organisational values, culture and business activity. On the contrary to these beliefs, I believe that HR does have a central role to play in CSR. As HR practitioners we are the “people’s people”, it is our job to ensure that there is fair employment practices in our organisations. This includes fair recruitment practices, a healthy working environment, fair treatment, diversity, confidentiality in the workplace, etc.

A perfect example of bad organisational practice is that of Sports Direct[6]. After investigations were conducted last year over staff being paid below minimum wage, other appalling practices also came to light. Despite the company’s policy on treating people with ‘dignity and respect’, an employee was forced to give birth in a toilet in the company’s Shirebrook warehouse because she feared for the security of her job. Within the 21st century the working practices of Sports Direct resembled that of a Victorian workhouse. Mike Ashley turned a blind eye to the bad practices in his organisation in the interest of maximising profits.

Gligor-Cimpoieru argued that treating social initiatives as companies treat core business choices will enable businesses to gain competitive advantage. The ethical profile of a company is becoming a key element in attracting and retaining employees[7]. Evaluations have been done to assess the fairness of procedures in recruitment, promotion and dismissal of employees and found them to be only average[8]. Zhang[9] argued that the growth of technology and the increased use of social media in recruitment may be a cause for this. Particularly as it can be challenged as discrimination on the basis that the minority are underrepresented. HR is unable to ensure that everyone regardless of race, age and gender has equal employment opportunities through sites like LinkedIn.

However Ehnert, Harry, and Zink[10] argues that HR can help in achieving sustainability by developing a sustainable HRM system, by attending to the needs of employees to achieve a sustainable and ethical workplace. Maintaining employees health and safety; investing in the skills of the workforce through developing competencies; supporting work life balance; green business systems and being recognised as an ’employer of choice’ are all results of a sustainable system. Take e.on for example, they tried to align employee goals with that of the organisations by reducing non-operational carbon footprint. Car-sharing, public transport and bicycle use are all encouraged, as is home working, energy efficiency and learning & development.[11] The notion of CSR is transforming from being a social concept to that of strategic intent, an investment into the organisations intangible assets[12].



[1] Beschorner, T. (2012, September 30). What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? Retrieved from YouTube:

[2] Johnson, G., & Scholes, K. (2002). Exploring Corporate Strategy (6th ed.). Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall.

[3] FLEMING, P., & JONES, M. (2013). The end of corporate social responsibility: crisis and critique. London: Sage.

[4] CIPD. (2016, December 20). Corporate responsibility: an introduction. Retrieved from CIPD:

[5] Laasch, O., & Conaway, R. (2014). Principles of responsible management: glocal sustainability, responsibility, and ethics. Stamford: Cengage Learning.

[6] BBC. (2016, July 22). Sports Direct staff ‘not treated as humans’, says MPs’ report. Retrieved from BBC News:

[7] Gligor-Cimpoieru, D. C. (2015). Evaluating the HR Dimension of CSR in a Strategic Approach. Theory, Methodology, Practice, 11(2), 3 – 12.

[8] Gond, J.-P., Igalens, J., Swaen, V., & El Akremi, A. (2011). The Human Resources Contribution to Responsible Leadership: An Exploration of the CSR–HR Interface. Journal of Business Ethics, 98(1), 115 – 132.

[9] Zhang, L. (2014). LEGAL AND ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS OF USING SOCIAL MEDIA IN HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT. International Journal of Innovation, 2(1), 65 – 76.

[10] Ehnert, I., Harry, W., & Zink, K. J. (2013). Sustainability and Human Resource Management. London: Springer.

[11] Johnson, R. (2008, February 7). E.ON’s Ahead. Retrieved from People Management:

[12] Isaksson, L., Kiessling, T., & Harvey, M. (2014). Corporate social responsibility: Why bother? Organizational Dynamics, 43(1), 64 – 72.

Does leadership need Emotional Intelligence?

Over the past 30 years there’s been a growth in competency models which sought to understand the theory behind competencies that drove superior work performance to develop managerial practice[1]. Gallwey says that each of us has the potential to improve our performance but our own negative thoughts, beliefs or habits stops us[2]. Goleman’s framework of Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the leading model for the development of superior management and leadership[1].

Goleman[3] defined EI as:

“the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and others”.

Inside Out and Emotional Health[4]:

Richard Pascal[5] once argued that:

‘It is easier to act your way into a better way of thinking than to think your way into a better way of acting’.

In other words it is easier to change behavior and therefore change the taken for granted assumptions, than try to change assumptions as a way of changing behavior. Our sense of self is tied largely to the way we express ourselves, our feelings and attitudes; going beyond basic thoughts and ideas[2]. So why use EI? Well research indicates that the level of emotional intelligence can determine up to 85% of leadership success[6].

Some of our best leaders and moments in history have been driven by EI. For example when Martin Luther King Jr. presented his dream he chose to deliver his message through stirring the heart of his audience. He had the ability to recognize, understand and manage emotions to a level that enabled him to create a spark of emotion that led his audience to take action. Since Goleman’s first publication on the subject of EI, it has snowballed into being advertised by leaders, educators and policy makers as the solution to solving social problems. They argued that promoting EI among leaders will lead to a more companionate workplace and community[7]. But does it? You can’t have the good without the bad!


EI is defined in terms of 5 social competencies: self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, empathy and social skill[3]. But inherently how can emotions be measured? It can’t. Self-report questionnaires are open to faking, they judge knowledge not ability. Intelligence and the correct personality characteristics like high extraversion, openness, and low neuroticism make a good leader.

However recent research highlights the dark side of EI, when people perfect their emotional skills they become better at hiding their true emotions. As a result they become better at manipulating others; if you are good enough at hiding your true self, what is to stop you from manipulating others to act in your best interests? Obviously people don’t always use EI for immoral ends, typically it is a tool for goal accomplishment. But it is becoming evident that there is a fine line between motivation and manipulation, so walking the fine line will be no easy task for anyone. The corporate psychopath can display many of the competencies Goleman described and still act unethically. Empathy for example can be used to influence and engage others to corrupt and engage in unethical practices[1]. Grant argues that when trying to implement it in the workplace we need to consider the values that comes as a result of it, and where it will be useful[6]. So what does it mean for HR?

In Jennifer George’s article she emphasizes the connection between emotional ability and leadership behavior, identifying 5 essential elements. She explained that leaders with high EI are better at achieving these outcomes[8]:

  • Developing collective goals and objectives;
  • Instilling in others a sense of appreciation and importance of work;
  • Generating and maintaining confidence, enthusiasm, cooperation, optimism, trust;
  • Encouraging flexibility in decision making and change;
  • Establishing and maintaining meaningful identity for the organization

Quick, Little and Nelson[9] highlight the link between employee well-being and the recognition and management of emotionally healthy workplaces. Furthermore Gardner and Stough[10] found that EI correlated highly with components of transformational leadership (and presumably charismatic leadership too[11]), in particular how leaders observe and respond to employees and how this in turn makes employees feel at work.

Essentially HR employees are ‘people’s people’ that seek to have a positive influence on employee’s lives in the workplace whilst maintaining a commercial relationship. So HR must excel at both soft and hard interpersonal aspects of EI. HR is under increased pressure to be smarter, more analytical, efficient, strategic and innovative. This can have a toll on the confidence of the function as a whole so if leaders with high EI can boost morale, then yes we need emotional intelligence[12].

Shown below are some of the CIPD’s recommended ways of developing EI into the workplace[13]:



[1] Segon, M., & Booth, C. (2015). Virtue: The Missing Ethics Element in Emotional Intelligence. Journal of Business Ethics, 128(4), 789 – 802.

[2] Sparrow, T., & Knight, A. (2006). Applied EI the importance of attitudes in developing emotional intelligence. Chichester: Jossey-Bass .

[3] Goleman, D. (1998). Working with emotional intelligence. London: Bloomsbury.

[4] Mind, T. C. (2016, March 4). Inside Out and Emotional Health. Retrieved from YouTube:

[5] Johnson, G., Whittington, R., & Scholes, K. (2011). Strategy in action. In G. Johnson, R. Whittington, & K. Scholes, Exploring strategy: text and cases (9th ed., pp. 501 – 550). Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall.

[6] Jacobs, S. (2010, September 24). Emotional intelligence centre stage. Retrieved from Chartered Institute of Personnel Development:

[7]  Grant, A. (2014, January 2). The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

[8] George, J. (2000). Emotions and leadership: The role of emotional intelligence. Human Relations, 53(8), 1027-1055.

[9] Quick, J., Little, L., & Nelson, D. (2009). Positive Emotions, Attitudes and Health. In S. Cartwright, & C. L. Cooper, The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Well-Being (pp. 214 – 235). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[10] Gardner, L., & Stough, C. (2002). Examining the relationship between leadership and emotional intelligence in senior level managers. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 23(2), 68 – 78.

[11] Antonakisa, J., Ashkanasyb, N. M., & Dasborough, M. T. (2009). Does leadership need emotional intelligence? The Leadership Quarterly, 20(2), 247 – 261.

[12] Arnstein, V. (2015, June 12). HR’s emotional intelligence levels ‘going backwards’. Retrieved from People Management:

[13] CIPD. (2008, May 1). How to… develop emotional intelligence. Retrieved from Chartered Institute of Personnel Development: