Accueil » 23-1 ( 1968) » Le professionnel salarié dans la grande entreprise

Le professionnel salarié dans la grande entreprise

Roger Chartier


L'auteur décrit brièvement quelques-uns des cas de conflit que rencontre le professionnel salarié dans la grande entreprise. Il lui apparaît important pour bien poser un problème aussi complexe de suggérer quelques esquisses de solutions plutôt que d'aligner des recettes nombreuses à partir d'une maigre définition ou d'une fausse évaluation de la réalité conflictuelle de la profession et de l'entreprise.


The Salaried Professional Man in the Large Organization

It has always been Man's basic challenge to tame and dominate his material environment, and particularly his work situation, which is likely to be within the framework of the large-scale organization, whether industrial, commercial, governmental, etc. Man is increasingly a member of Peter Drucker's « employee society », working for wage or salary under the authority of others in a big, rather impersonal enterprise.

Professional people, especially, grow numerically more than any other group in the labour force, as befits a strongly industrialized society ; and most of them work for a salary in ever larger organizations. The contact between profession and enterprise may be painful, in view of the nature of both institutions ; flexible accommodation, however, will make their collaboration stable, efficient, and satisfactory to both.


Western Man is primarily what he does. This serves to explain why the newer professions like Engineering, Administration, Accounting, Industrial Relations, have shot for the ultimate in the range of occupations, namely for the traits and prestige of the full-fledged, traditional profession (e.g., Law, Medicine). It is true that the new salaried professionals possess, in common with their non-salaried colleagues, such characteristics as an extensive intellectual training, a high degree of specialization, a professional association, a legal framework, a code of ethics, a specialized literature, and so on. However, the nature of services rendered by the salaried professionals, as shall be demonstrated later, differs sharply from those dispensed by the traditional professions to a diversified clientele in exchange for fees ; such services were specific (rather exclusive, by professional X to client Y at time Z) and original ( personal, routineless and based on « ad hoc » judgment ) ; and the service relationship was usually discontinuous, direct, and immediate. The traditional profession, furthermore, enjoyed (almost) total autonomy, in the sense that its members could render their services in complete freedom with regard to choice of methods, type of conduct, and the « layman » ; needless to say, things are relatively different in the large-scale organization.


Ideally, the large-scale organization seeks maximum efficiency of means toward clear objectives set in an authoritarian fashion ; it seeks pragmatic results through rational means and according to detailed, compulsory norms, within a rigid hierarchy of positions and people. Each employee works with strictly defined limits of responsabilities, within the sphere of his specific competence ; he is subject to discipline, formalism, social and hierarchical distance.


Some traits of the traditional profession help define specific, potential areas of conflict between profession and enterprise. It must be kept in mind, however, that those two institutions are compatible, and that their intermingling and co-operation have produced new heights of efficiency for mankind while modifying them mutually so that organizations are more and more being governed by professional norms, and professions become increasingly aware of, and responsive to organizational demands.

Extensive intellectual training : the professional is a man of rationality who does not readily identify with the policies and procedures of management. He is very demanding in terms of communication, knowledge, creativeness, control, evaluation. His desire to increase knowledge may clash with the immediate interests of the enterprise. In the latter, science and the professions are regarded as instruments amongst other : high-caliber, often irreplaceable, but instruments nonetheless.

High degree of specialization; the professional in industry tends to aim at exclusive actions in given areas which often conflict with « managerial rights » to determine the nature and hierarchy of jobs, to set performance standards, to recruit, transfer and promote, and so on. To managers, the area of competence is not necessarily exclusive.

Service : the salaried professional in large-scale organization is quick to realize how far he is from the service ideal formed at a time when the economy was dominated by the activity of individuals as such, and how close he gets to the notion of a global service provided by large organizations which are, in the final analysis, the modern expression of the profession. The professional, then, will still serve the community, but in most cases as a salaried employee in an organization which will synthesize and coordinate all professional and non-professional efforts required ; the organization is the client of the salaried professional, whose services are likely to be less specific, less discontinuous and less personal than those provided in private practice.

Professional association : this would clash with the enterprise, should it demand an exclusive loyalty from its members ; for, the large organization also requires unreserved allegiance from all its personnel, professional or other. Dual loyalty, therefore, must be nurtured by the professional man in enterprise.

Autonomy : the freedom of the salaried professional with regard to choice of objectives, methods, and rhythm of work, and also to non-members, is limited by the imperatives of the organization itself. Management intends to determine urgency and importance, to be free from outside pressure if at all possible. It cannot accept willingly that professions claim to be sole judges of work performed within its framework. For in the eyes of management, authority originates from the position, assignments, and delegation, and not from the specialized competence of the job holder. For instance, the enterprise cannot easily allow the salaried professional to choose freely his own problems and field of activity : for where the professional may want to expand, management for equally good, but different, reasons may wish to cut down ; the « science-oriented » professional will frequently be shocked by the « profit-minded » entrepreneur ; when is essential to one will often be secondary to the other ; what is urgent to one will not always be so to the other ; and the professional in the large organization may easily be a harsh judge of administrative orders or procedures which are most warranted from another point of view. And yet, the salaried professional cannot scorn the need for punctuality, work standards, discipline, hierarchical levels, and modes of delegating authority. Though it is natural for him to want only a minimum of strict rules and interventions from higher up, he must understand that such elements cannot be completely eliminated if the organization is to maintain its cohesion and coherence. He must recognize that he cannot enjoy full autonomy in his professional work for the pure and simple reason that he does not possess all the skills and ability required to accomplish an extremely complex job, subdivided into many parts. He is only one part of a whole extending far beyond the realm of his specific professional competence ; thus, his share of the collective endeavour must hinge on that of others, coordinated with other activities, and tempered by rules geared to the overall objectives of the organization, which are too broad to be fulfilled by the efforts of one professional, and even of one profession, alone.


Beyond the frictions between profession (or the individual professional) and the enterprise over matters of autonomy, status, financial rewards and work environment, there is the obvious need for reconciling the two institutions through compromise, mutual respect, accommodation, and co-operation.

The Profession

The Profession (and the professional) cannot lay claim to total freedom in matters of work and discipline. It must integrate, with some loss of autonomy, its main function (that of protecting standards leading to creative activity) into the framework of the organization. The professional needs the powerful resources of the organization ; so must he help maintain a proper balance between professional liberty and administrative authority.

The Organization

The Organization, for its part, must successfully meet the challenge of making full use of science and the professions, not as enemies to subjugate, but as allies to liberate in all their potentialities. It must show imagination in order to see in its professionals people of a special type and training, who bring to the organization a complex body of knowledge, sentiments, and expectations which must be fully understood and utilized. Such an attitude is distinct from favouritism and paternalism, and must respect basic administrative rules of justice and equality. The firm should constantly revise its definitions of efficiency, profitability and the « best » way to perform professional work, re-examine its disciplinary standards for professional employees, and never hope for the total identification of the professional with corporate means of reaching ends. The organization must take into account the particularises of the professional labour market, place as much emphasis on the professional job holder as on the job itself, and sacrifice some tempting uniformities and conformities in favour of a genuine acceptance of opinion differences and non-conformity as essential elements of the organization. It must also improve communications with its professional employees, foster an atmosphere of creativity, which is essentially one of freedom, and respect the professional standards of excellence, disinterestedness, foresight, and prestige inasmuch as they do not go against basic corporate policy. In short, management must confidently utilize science and the professions as prodigious industrial resources.

Personnel administrators have a leading role to play in this process of accommodation between profession and enterprise. Personnel Research must constantly probe into the psycho-sociological and economic aspects of human adjustment to organization, and support long-range planning of professional manpower. Recruitment of professionals must be performed with special care, realism and a total absence of « buttering-up ».Development must be accomplished by use of all relevant resources, inside and out (courses, study sessions, trips, « refreshers », reorientation), on all pertinent matters (technical, administrative, economic, psycho-sociological), in order to victoriously fight obsolescence. Remuneration must be adequate and » fair », in terms of internal logic and market situations ; management should not be scared to experiment in terms of « career scales » and « dual ladders » of promotion (technical and administrative). Welfare must show flexibility in devising plans for specific groups, inasmuch as administratively feasible. And finally, Industrial Relations, whenever involved, must realistically accept the forms of association which the salaried professionals will want to establish, with due respect, of course, for sound administrative practices and clear lines of demarcation within the hierarchical structure.


Profession and organization are compatible ; their marriage, however, does not always go without frictions ; these may be alleviated, if not altogether eliminated, by a proper understanding of the nature of both institutions, by mutual respect and confidence, and by a joint effort to attain a compromise which will safeguard the basic needs of both the firm and the professionals. Such harmonious and realistic co-operation may only lead them both to new peaks of accomplishment.