Career progression and the first line manager
This study focuses on career progression and the first line manager (flm). There is an
acknowledged lack of literature on the contemporary flm (Hirsh, 2000; Owen, 2001),
which this research helps to address. The main aim of the study is 'to reach a greater
understanding of the factors involved in an individual's ability to progress into,
through and from the first level of management' .
The study offers a meta-analysis of the literature on first line management throughout
the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, identifying five contemporary issues
affecting the role. These are organisational changes; team-working; management
styles and skills; the impact of new technology; changing employment patterns and
managing diversity. These and associated issues have also affected the modem career,
which is examined from a flm perspective. Pertinent factors are highlighted as career
responsibility; career motivation; pro-activity and entrepreneurial careers; career
competence; and career resilience and adaptability. Issues of choice, luck and timing
in careers are also examined. The lack of qualitative research into careers has been
recognised by many writers in this field (Young & Collin, 1992; Bimrose, 2001).
The concept of energy suffuses this research. The consideration of energy in
organisations has become more prevalent in the literature on both management and
careers (Tosey, 1994, 1999; Wheatley, 1992; Arthur et ai, 1999). This study adopts,
with amendments, Tosey's (1994) model, based on seven energy centres and their
associated meanings, as an analytical framework. The framework supports an
examination of aspects of the flm role and career, to enhance understanding of an
individual's ability to progress into, through and from the first level of management.
A qualitative approach has been taken to the study, based on Lincoln and Guba's
(1985) Naturalistic Inquiry. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were undertaken
with 23 participants. These were selected across sectors, private and public, and
across a broad range of characteristics. Some were working at the flm level at the time
of interview, some had moved from the level, either to middle management or to nonmanagement
roles. The interviews made use of Critical Incident Technique (Flanagan,
1954; Chell, 1998), to explore critical junctures in a flm career. The analysis allowed
a clear delineation between progression into the flm level, and progression through
and from the flm level and into middle management. A model of career progression is
presented, incorporating three contextual levels, together with the salient themes of
connectivity and timing.
The study'S contribution to knowledge surrounds four key areas: (1) the identification
and examination of five contemporary issues for the modem flm; (2) the contribution
to the understanding of career progression, through the use of qualitative research, at
the flm level; (3) the development of a new model relating to career progression, and
(4) the recognition of the importance of energy in examining career progression,
together with the use of the Tosey (1994) model of energy centres. Implications of the
findings from this study are presented at societal, organisational and individual levels.