Research Examines the Role of Human Resource Managers in Workplace Conflict

Published: November 2, 2021 | Last Updated: April 23, 2024by Elise Sanchez

Summary of:

Roper, I., & Higgins, P. (2020). Hidden in plain sight? The human resource management practitioner’s role in dealing with workplace conflict as a source of organisational–professional power. Hum Resour Manag Journal, 30. 508–524.

Background & Theory

In this research paper, researchers in England review the importance of human resources roles in organizations from both an organizational and national standpoint. With conflict being unpredictable in the workforce, the influence of HR practitioners is under question. The concept of whether the role of an HRM can be substituted by other existing roles in an organizations is questioned due to unpredictability of workplace conflict. This article seeks to better define the role of human resources managers and their role when workplace conflict arises.

Research Question(s)

In the article “Hidden in plain sight? The human resource management practitioner’s role in dealing with workplace conflict as a source of organisational–professional power”, authors Ian Roper and Paul Higgins seek to answer the following questions:

    1. What non‐substitutable activity defines HR as a profession?
    2. How is HR professionalization articulated at national and organizational levels?
    3. How might one reconcile resulting differences between the two positions?


Over a span of 24 months, participants were interviewed to gather both national and organizational data. The participants were asked questions based on the topic of HR positions and their understanding of the role. The one key question that was asked to each participant to explore the issue of resource dependency at an organizational level was: What HR activity is the least capable of being done by a non‐HR generalist or external consultant?

This question was thought to be crucial in comparing organization respondents’ perceptions to the national‐level narrative of “strategic business partner”.


From the interviews that were conducted for the research, it was found that Human Resources Management roles, when executed well, can be useful within an organization. However, there are not as many resources available to this department in terms of conflict resolution training and education for those that are learning to be in the role. It was concluded that the position is not fully equipped to mediate conflict and needs more education and resources in order to do so.

What This Means

  • HR Managers are certainly useful in organizations, but may not be well-equipped to handle workplace conflict. This can lead individuals in other roles outside of HR to play the part of the “mediator” in the office, whether for better or worse.
  • In order to improve the reliability of HR Managers when workplace conflict arises, conflict resolution training should be implemented for these leaders.

Final Takeaway

For consultants: Making sure that HR employees in an organization have all of their resources to make the role as effective and easy as possible will aid in an organization’s ability to execute the role effectively.

For everyone: For those who are in the role of a Human Resources Manager, it is helpful to understand that conflict mediation and dispute resolution are major aspects of the role. Knowing this, making sure that one is trained in this aspect of dispute resolution is critical for succeeding in the role. For those who are struggling with their HRM employees, making sure you are adequately prepared for employee conflict due to proper training and education is incredibly important.

Elise Sanchez

Élise Sanchez is a double alumnus from Pepperdine University where she holds a Masters in Dispute Resolution from the Caruso School of Law and a Bachelors in both International Relations and French from Seaver College. During her time in her studies she found her passion for being an advocate for those who need help amplifying their voices. After finishing her International Relations degree, she decided to go on for her MDR to learn how to be a better advocate and peacekeeper.