Problematizing employee engagement research : positivist vs practice-based paradigm

Wei, Qi and Yu, Ai (2015) Problematizing employee engagement research : positivist vs practice-based paradigm. In: 2015 Academy of Management (AOM) Annual Meeting : Opening Governance; 07 - 11 August 2015, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


This paper problematizes the positivist research paradigm within employee engagement research, which treats employee engagement as an established arrangement in need of measuring or controlling. As an alternative, we submit employee engagement and its development to the ‘practice turn’ to enable a novel conceptualization, i.e. employee engagement as practice. The positivist and practice-based paradigm in the real world of employee engagement research is critically reviewed and compared. We conclude that it is possible to develop research that aims to understand employee engagement as practice so as to break free from a positivist paradigm underpinned by a unitarist and managerialist agenda. We suggest that ‘a becoming practice’ approach would make employee engagement an integral part of organizational life. An implication is that research in employee engagement can take up new forms of inquiry that will complement and extend currently available approaches. Key words: employee engagement, positivist paradigm, practice-based paradigm, becoming practice, critical human resource management

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