Intra-organizational opportunities and career paths for managers : case studies in the UK automotive industry
This thesis examines intra-organizational opportunities and career paths for managers in the context of a general trend of downsizing. The thesis presents new evidence on the impact of the trend on the traditional career and aims to produce an analysis that moves beyond the optimistic and pessimistic accounts. The strength of an in-depth investigation was sought in companies within the same industrial environment and labour market. All the research sites are in the automotive sector and geographically located in the Midlands, England. Field work was carried out at Rover Group Ltd., LucasVarity Aerospace Ltd., GKN Automotive Driveline Division UK Operations Plc., and Valeo (UK) Wipers Systems Ltd., and covered also Mayflower Vehicle Systems Plc. and Peugeot Motor Company Plc. as ancillary sources of information. This is a long-established sector of the economy where change may have a more dramatic impact. The case-study was the format chosen as the best suited for my predominantly exploratory endeavour. The main tools of data collection were a questionnaire and semi- structured interviews directed at managers. The former concentrated on core matters such as the managers' education and past career paths. The latter enabled deep-probing so as to explore detail and perceptions. Primarily with a qualitative orientation, collected data were sorted and analysed within categories that emerged from inside this same material. A quantitative element was incorporated with a complementary controlling function. This joint approach elicited findings which answered some important questions. In face of a pessimistic literature on managers in the downsized organization, Dopson and Stewart (1990) suggested that there might still be some hope. Other optimistic authors came to emphasize managerial empowerment to an extreme, notably Heckscher (1995) with the vision of a `professional' manager in a post-corporate era. My results can be linked, instead, to existing studies that adopt a middle ground between optimism and pessimism, such as Watson's (1994) and, more recently, Gratton et al. 's (1999). My own distinctive contribution is two-fold. The boundaries of current knowledge are expanded at an empirical level with fresh evidence on the management career, revealing how managers are making sense of, and living with, a situation of career uncertainty and pressure. At an analytical level, the thesis develops a theoretical model which condenses the key conclusions of the present research study and depicts the emerging structure of a spiral career, with limited upward movement for many and further spiralling upwards for the minority. The former is for `the majority of us'; the latter is for the `high flyers' and the `shining stars'. Optimism applies to this group while for the rest there is not uniform reluctance but realistic acceptance of the situation by many combined with cynicism expressed by some.