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The gift in shared HRM ethics in SMEs

Ludivine Adla (iaelyon School of Management, Universite Jean Moulin Lyon 3, Lyon, France)
Virginie Gallego-Roquelaure (iaelyon School of Management, Universite Jean Moulin Lyon 3, Lyon, France)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 14 June 2019

Issue publication date: 24 July 2019




The purpose of this paper is to understand how the relationship of gifts/counter-gifts between actors enables us to build an HRM policy that we call “shared and ethical”. It is shared because it is co-constructed by both owner-manager and employees, and ethical because it is deemed desirable by the players and meets their expectations. This approach aims to make HRM more responsible in view of the commitments made by stakeholders.


Drawing upon the Maussian theory of gift/counter-gift, a longitudinal and retrospective study was conducted over a period of three years with a French SME.


The authors highlight two key stages in the gift process: the initial gift of the owner-manager, which is reflected in the establishment of a social pact, and the gap in perception between employees’ contribution and the counter-gift expected of the owner-manager. The authors show the complexity of the gift-chain by building a shared and ethical HRM and highlight the tensions identified between the existence of tools and mutual adjustments in HRM through gifts and counter-gifts.


Usual HRM in SMEs is centred on the owner-manager. On the contrary this research highlights how an SME can develop an alternative HRM. A longitudinal and retrospective study, carried out with a French SME, led to the construction of a process modelling of a shared HRM ethics.



Adla, L. and Gallego-Roquelaure, V. (2019), "The gift in shared HRM ethics in SMEs", Employee Relations, Vol. 41 No. 5, pp. 997-1014.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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