Powerful Essays
Journal of Management Studies 34:1 January 1997

Kingston Business School
London Business School
Cran®eld School of Management
London School of Economics
London Business School


Two of the most widely adopted models of human resource management are the hard and soft versions. These are based on opposing views of human nature and managerial control strategies. The hard model is based on notions of tight strategic control, and an economic model of man according to
Theory X, while the soft model is based on control through commitment and
Theory Y. We argue that because these assumptions are so divergent, they cannot both properly be incorporated within a single model of human resource management. Eight in-depth case studies were carried out, involving questionnaires, interviews and focus groups in order to ®nd out whether organizations were practising either form of HRM. We found that no pure examples of either form existed. The paper concludes that the rhetoric adopted by the companies frequently embraces the tenets of the soft, commitment model, while the reality experienced by employees is more concerned with strategic control, similar to the hard model. This distinction between rhetoric and reality needs to be taken into account in conceptualizations of human resource management.

Address for reprints: Catherine Truss, Kingston Business School, Kingston University, Kingston Hill,
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT2 7LD, UK.
# Blackwell Publishers Ltd 1997. Published by Blackwell Publishers, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 238 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.



Human resource management (HRM) has frequently been described as a concept with two distinct forms: soft and hard.

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