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An analysis by Marc Loriol, CNRS research director and sociologist. And published by The conversation.
Classifying employees into “generation X, Y or Z” raises questions. We quickly realize that there is disagreeon it chronological boundaries or on the supposed qualities and faults of each generation: living at the same time is not enough to define one shared experience for a whole age group and surveys Empirical studies contradict clichés about a supposed specificity of the younger generations. “The Boomers” have e.g. seen to blame in the 1970s certain common features with those attributed today to Generations Y or Z.
Sociological studies have already tried to explain the conflicts between generations in a workplace, like Stéphane Beaud and Michel Pialoux in the Sochaux-Montbéliard factories. In industry, some of the workers born after the Second World War had in his time tried something else work experience and most did not want their children to become workers. The post-1968 cultural context and, locally, organizational changes and factory closures partly explain their disillusionment with work and difficult conditions with the younger generations, who are sometimes better qualified than their peers, with the creation of the vocational matriculation exam.
These works, after which we include our, also shows that conflicts between generations often stem from HR policies. Change phases without employment youthso unsafe recruitment, treating young and old differently, separating them or even working against them, believing that a diploma can replace experience and a host of other practices lead to mistrust, less transfer of the profession and an increase in discord.
If it can certainly be a practical management tool to enclose all young people under the same label, it does not reflect the diversity of situations or the complexity of the processes that shape the relationship with occupation. We must not forget to take into account individual backgrounds as well as the importance of passing on a job and integrating into the work collective to give meaning to daily efforts.
Path or generational effect?
The relationship to work is especially structured by social position. Young people with few qualifications from regions affected by unemployment stress more than others the importance of having a joband this also applies to generations X, Y or Z. The most qualified have more latitude to experiment and find the activity that suits them.
Longitudinal studies (following the same people over time) also show this priorities may change with the first meetings with the world of work. When looking for a first job, many people want to find a job that makes sense to them, that corresponds to a field that they are passionate about, or that pays well. After 3 to 5 years, they would rather put forward the good working environment or the search for a balance as the first criterion for a satisfactory job. This is more an effect of trajectory than of generation.
More or less successful professional socialization within a work group should make it possible to justify or not the efforts made and to build and then maintain interest in a particular activity. This is evidenced by two illustrations from informal interviews for a survey being prepared on the relationship to work in information and communication technology companies.
Moments of change
A young engineer UX designer (its mission is to reduce as much as possible the questions that the user of a website can ask) has been in several internships in start up. If he appreciated the atmosphere, he lamented the lack of contact with other people doing the same activity, as well as the lack of organization. Tenders that the team had worked on a lot are, for example, missed after a late pass.
For his first position, he then chose a company that offers digital services to comic book enthusiasts and collectors. Still, he himself is passionate about the ninth art, and he discovers that his work is once again little recognized. His projects are systematically criticized by the creator of the company, who ends up adopting them anyway, in the absence of viable technical alternatives. Other tasks (marketing, data entry) occupy an increasing part of his time. The lack of progress in his subject makes him doubt his career choices.
He then resigned to become part of the subsidiary specializing in UX design of a large group. Works on large projects, together with others UX designers having different experiences and training allows him to reconnect with his original interest in the specialty. He no longer plans to change jobs.
The second example is a Frenchman who left at 19 to study in a foreign capital. Due to the epidemic related to the coronavirus, he was unable to do an internship in his course. After his license, to learn the world of work and earn some money, he was hired by a food delivery platform to manage French couriers from abroad. Supported by an experienced colleague, he learns quickly and gets good grades.
The ability of his older colleagues to juggle multiple computer screens while maintaining a good atmosphere in the team and with the enthusiasm of the delivery people. He can give meaning to his work by finding ways to arrange the life and work of the delivery people he values.
But the time comes when the company must increase profitability, restructure the service and the algorithms. His most experienced colleagues find other jobs, and the leeway with the messengers disappears. Several employees in the service stop burn out. The resumption of a master then becomes a means of escape from this job, which has become uninteresting.
A transitional age
The youth who certain age between youth and adulthood is a more recent construct, as explained by the work of sociologist Olivier Galland. It first applied to the men of the bourgeoisie, who in the 19the century, left their families to study. This time of freedom, of experimenting with ideas, lifestyle, sexuality, hardly questioned the future work, determined by studies and family origin.
From the 1960s, this model gradually became more democratic with the expansion of higher education. The structural changes in the labor market (fewer workers, more intermediates and managers), the emergence of new sectors and new professions and, from the end of the 1970s, the increase in unemployment meant that the search for oneself and the question of the future is on the rise degree focused on the intended career. Most young employees have to go through a period, more or less long depending on the diploma, of precariousness.
The promise of a stable job and career path in return for docility and a strong initial investment is increasingly proving illusory. The situation for newcomers to the labor market is paradoxical: with fewer benchmarks than their elders, they have to find their way and find their place, although professional stability and work groups capable of mediating a profession more often do so. Standard.
In response, some young people may develop a paradoxical relationship with time. While they know from experience, especially the most modest ones, that a permanent contract remains essential for doing long-term projects (developing a job, starting a family), some are afraid of locking themselves too early into a path where they do not don’t see the interest.
Those who have the means can then multiply the experience of employment and education. Others, offered only uninteresting and poorly paid jobs, end up seeing temporary work as a way to earn a little more money and time for more rewarding activities. However, this period is still experienced as passinguntil the moment when we can finally find our place.
Categorizing and treating each age according to clichés that are not always validated by observation can thus antagonize employees, prevent cooperation between the ages, and ultimately make the integration of young people difficult. It seems that it is not table football or days of voluntary work offered to associations that will retain young participants, but the dissemination of a profession and the collective building of a positive attitude at work.
This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Readoriginal article.