Thunderbird International Business Review • November–December 2003
dardized HR practices can be imposed throughout their Europeanoperations without major consequences. Chris Brewster (1994a,1994b, 1995), a prolific academic writer on the subject, makes thepoint that while there are substantial differences between the way human resource management (HRM) is understood and opera-tionalized in each country, Europe as a whole has a differentapproach to HRM than the United States.Keeping in mind this tension between globalization/standardizationand localization/adaptation of HR practices as well as the existenceof a distinct European regional approach, this article focuses on sim-ilarities and differences of HRM in the EU and explores whether ornot there is a European model of HRM leading to greater homo-geneity of HRM across the EU region.
European authors have acknowledged that HRM originally devel-oped in the United States (Brewster & Bournois, 1991; Brewster &Hegewisch, 1994; Brewster & Larsen, 1992). After taking root inthe United States, it spread, first to other nations with cultural prox-imity, then to more culturally distant countries (Clark & Mallory,1996). The claim has been made that U.S. HR models have domi-nated HRM research and practice worldwide (Brewster & Harris,1999; Harris & Brewster, 1999). European writers (Albert, 1989;Bournois, 1991; Conrad & Pieper, 1988; Gaugler, 1988; Guest,1990; Hendry & Pettigrew, 1990; Legge, 1989) have been critical of applying American HRM views to other countries, especially Europe.Such criticism is entirely valid. A theoretical or practice HR modeldeveloped in the cultural context of one country should not indis-criminately be applied to another country without testing the cultur-al biases of its assumptions. While the hegemony of U.S. influence in HRM has been criticized,there is also a particular fondness among some European HRM aca-demic writers (at least those who publish in English) to compare andcontrast European with U.S. HRM (Brewster & Bournois, 1991;Brewster & Hegewisch, 1994; Hegewisch and Brewster, 1993;Pieper, 1990). Brewster and Bournois (1991) posed the followingquestion as a point of departure to justify such a comparison, “To what extent is there sufficient similarity in Europe to require us toquestion whether there may not be significant differences between
A theoretical or practice HR model developed in the cultural context of one country should not indiscrimi- nately be applied to another country ...