The Worker Bee: Committed or Alienated?

Topic: Employee SatisfactionStrategic HR 
Publication: Research and Practice in Human Resource Management
Article: HRM: A Contributor to Employee Alienation.
Author: G.R. Tonks, L.G. Nelson
Featured by: Sarah Bowen

Alienated employees are typified by powerlessness, purposelessness, loneliness and self-estrangement. But what causes these symptoms of alienation? Has Human Resource Management (HRM) contributed to the increase in alienated, less-committed employees? Tonks and Nelson suggest multiple variables play a role in the increased existence of alienation in the workplace. Commitment to an organization declines when a company downsizes or implements a hiring freeze. Sometimes implementing cost-reducing technology can generate lower levels of employee commitment.

Casual (or part-time) workers may feel inferior compared to full-time workers in both benefits and value. A deficit in employee training and the  escalated use of out-sourcing fosters alienation as well. Each of these decreases employee trustas workers fear for their jobs, cope with monotony, or sense inequitable treatment.

How can HRM remedy the problem of employee alienation by satisfying both its obligations to the organization and employees?  While research cannot specifically answer this question, the model suggested requires that equal benefit should be derived for both the organization and employees.  Selection and training are two areas proposed to reform in order to instill allegiance and transform organizational culture. Selecting individuals that claim to be compatible with organizational goals, promoting the organization’s beliefs in orientation, and restructuring individual commitment are strategies to combat alienation and lack of commitment.  It is also important for HRM to recognize that there is not a solitary remedy for combating employee alienation; a diverse workforce requires individual solutions to such a problem.  Such solutions must be sought to retain committed workers that produce results.

Tonks, G. R. & Nelson, L. G. (2008). HRM: A Contributor to Employee Alienation?, Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 16(1), 1-17.