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Exploring performance management in four UK trade unions

Thursfield, Denise; Grayley, Katy


Denise Thursfield

Katy Grayley


Purpose This article explores performance management in four UK trade unions. Specifically, the extent to which managers in the four unions accept or dismiss the unitarist, disciplinary and performative values that arguably characterise performance management practices. Design/methodology/approach A qualitative research design was adopted to investigate trade union managers’ interpretations of performance management. Managers were targeted because they hold the power to shape performance management practices in their specific areas. The research employed qualitative semi-structured interviews. Findings Performance management in trade unions is linked to the structure, purpose and orientation of different types of trade union. It is also linked to the wider environmental context. The trade union managers’ interpretations of performance management are linked to disciplinary and performative values. As such they are comparable to the unitarist forms of performance management described in the literature. There are moreover, similarities and differences between the approaches to performance management between trade unions and for profit or public sector organisations. Originality/Value The article adds to the emerging literature on internal trade union management by highlighting a particular aspect of human resource management.


Thursfield, D., & Grayley, K. (2016). Exploring performance management in four UK trade unions. Employee relations, 38(5), 789-804.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 11, 2016
Publication Date Jul 6, 2016
Deposit Date Apr 13, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jul 6, 2016
Journal Employee relations
Print ISSN 0142-5455
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 38
Issue 5
Pages 789-804
Keywords Trade unions; Democracy; Performance management; Pluralism; Unitarism
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the author's accepted version of the article: Denise Thursfield, Katy Grayley, (2016) "Exploring performance management in four UK trade unions", Employee Relations, Vol. 38 Issue: 5, pp.789-804,


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