Under construction: The professional positioning of HR practitioners

Sara Lindström

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


The overall aim of this study is to increase the understanding of how municipal HR practitioners discursively construct professional positions for themselves. This study brings attention to how they relate to both other actors in the municipalities as well as institutionalized discourses of high performance and well-being at work in Finnish work life during the first decade of the 2000s. Theoretically, I contribute to the literature on HR practitioner roles by emphasizing the discursive, institutional context when exploring HR positioning. Also, I highlight the relational aspect of HR positioning and extend the scope of relevant HR practitioner relations to local policymakers and local residents. Furthermore, I show how well-being at work is deployed as a building block in the positioning of HR practitioners. Empirically, I ask how HR practitioners use discourses to strengthen their position in municipal organizations. In order to answer this question, I focus on different aspects of discursive positioning by analysing semi-structured interviews with municipal HR practitioners. First, I highlight the relational positioning of HR practitioners towards line managers, top managers and policy makers (Study 1), local residents (Study 2) and employees (Study 2 and 3). Second, I focus on their contextual positioning in relation to the institutionalized discourses of well-being at work (Study 3) and high performance (Studies 1,2 and 3). By adopting a discursive perspective to HR practitioner positioning, I offer a deep contextual understanding to the phenomenon. As a result, the ambiguous position of HR practitioners turns out to be an asset; it enables HR practitioners to adhere to the different discourses of high performance and well-being at work simultaneously. Still, well-being at work is constructed more as a bridge to performance than a result in itself.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Räsänen, Keijo, Supervisor
  • Vanhala, Sinikka, Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8784-9
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8785-6
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • discourse analysis
  • HR practitioners
  • HR work
  • performance
  • professional positioning
  • well-being at work

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