Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods on Human Resource Management
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Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods on Human Resource Management

Innovative Techniques

Edited by Keith Townsend, Rebecca Loudoun and David Lewin

This Handbook explores the opportunities and challenges of new technologies for innovating data collection and data analysis in the context of human resource management. Written by some of the world’s leading researchers in their field, it comprehensively explores modern qualitative research methods from good project design, to innovations in data sources and data collection methods and, finally, to best-practice in data analysis.
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Chapter 4: Autoethnography: a novel way to study HRM

Sally Sambrook


This chapter explores the role of autoethnography (AE) in researching highly personal aspects of human resource management (HRM). I aim to demonstrate how AE is useful for students, practitioners and researchers, whose voices are often “lost” in research. My chapter offers a novel methodology in an attempt to address this deficit. It is novel in the sense of being a new way of researching HRM – I am proposing a contemporary, and somewhat contentious, form of ethnography that weaves together the researcher’s and participants’ experiences to illuminate the phenomenon of inquiry. It is also novel in that the chapter is written as a story of how I have used AE to research HRM. I tell and “show” (Ellis, 2000, p. 275) how this innovative approach might help us better understand HRM in general, and the psychological contract (PC) and employee engagement (EE) in particular. AE is a development of ethnography, an established form of qualitative research. HRM researchers are increasingly employing ethnographic methods to study EE (Arrowsmith and Parker, 2013; Jenkins and Delbridge, 2013), for example. However, there has been little consideration of the role of AE in HRM research. Perhaps due to its position “at the boundaries of accepted scholarly inquiry” (Foster et al., 2006), AE is only used sparingly. Cunliffe et al. (2009) warn that the more “‘sophisticated’ a qualitative methodology the more it courts a double marginalization . . . and risks telling its tales to itself” (p. 6). To address this, I wish to broaden our understanding of AE and tell my tales to others.

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