Accueil » 58-2 ( 2003) » Le plafonnement de carrière : étude dans une municipalité au Québec

Le plafonnement de carrière : étude dans une municipalité au Québec

Louise Lemire et Christian Rouillard


La littérature en études managérielles et en gestion des ressources humaines avance depuis plusieurs années que le sentiment de plafonnement de carrière que connaissent de plus en plus d’individus serait l’un des principaux effets pervers des nombreux changements survenus dans l’environnement des organisations. Menace réelle à l’accroissement de l’efficacité et de l’efficience des organisations, le plafonnement de carrière subjectif nécessiterait d’être combattu par des stratégies de gestion des ressources humaines. Cette recherche s’intéresse aux variations du sentiment de plafonnement de carrière chez les fonctionnaires d’une grande ville du Québec, suite à une restructuration organisationnelle qu’elle a subie au milieu des années 1990. Construite à partir d’un questionnaire complété par 515 cadres et professionnels, cette recherche suggère que les pratiques de gestion des ressources humaines privilégiées dans cette organisation publique n’expliquent que faiblement la variation du sentiment de plafonnement ressenti par les fonctionnaires municipaux.


Career Plateauing: A Case Study in a Quebec Municipality

This paper refers to original empirical data to deal with the issue of career plateauing in a large Quebec civic administration following a major reorganization in the mid-1990s. According to several studies on organizational downsizing, subjective career plateauing has major consequences: it can entail physical and psychological health problems as well as behavioural disorders which, in turn, can hinder organizational efficiency and effectiveness.

While career plateauing is a major managerial challenge of the twenty-first century, individuals within the same organization may not experience it to the same extent. Many factors are at play that may or may not cause individuals to perceive that their careers have reached a ceiling, including formal organizational support provided through appropriate human resources management practices. Briefly stated, the purpose of this paper is to analyze variations in perceptions of career plateauing among civil servants within a major Quebec civic administration, on the basis of individual and organizational traits such as human resources management practices implemented to curb or even eliminate such perceptions.

The authors compare career plateauing perceptions among individuals who benefit from particular human resources management practices in relation to others who do not enjoy such measures. Subjective career plateauing is, therefore, the dependent variable, whereas human resources management practices are the independent variables. Individual variables, such as age and seniority in the position, are deemed to be factors requiring statistical control. Data were compiled in the Spring of 1997 based on a pre-tested, structured instrument made up of 240 questions. These questions describe perceptions of career plateauing approximately one year after a significant reorganization exercise. All managers and professionals within the civic administration, 1,278 individuals all tolled, were invited to participate in the study. The city’s human resources department was responsible for distributing the questionnaire, which was accompanied by both an explanatory letter setting out research objectives and providing assurance that data collected would remain confidential, as well as a prepaid, pre-addressed envelope. Five hundred and fifteen (515) questionnaires were returned and found to be usable, for a 40.3% response rate.

Bivariate and multivariate analyses as well as hierarchical regression of empirical data suggest that alternative solutions to traditional career pathing do not have an impact on perceptions of plateauing among municipal civil servants taking part in our research. These results are particularly noteworthy in that they are contrary to statements made by numerous authors, who maintain that individuals are willing to accept advancement that is not vertically directed, for example, additional responsibilities in a team environment.

Our results also suggest that career management practices have little effect on subjective career plateauing and that only professional development practices are able to partially explain the variation in perceptions of career plateauing. Such findings demonstrate the need to revisit these practices on a different basis: implementation of career management practices, the efficiency of which is doubtful at best in view of subjective career plateauing, should call into question and give rise to a critical review of their intrinsic value. Progressive public and private organizations of the twenty-first century will be those that emphasize their employees’ career paths, including those that avail themselves of all means at their disposal to attract, develop and retain the best individuals.

That being said, our efforts are similar to all empirical research in that they are subject to certain limitations. It is therefore suggested that the validity of future research in the field be validated through the development of projections involving every level of government (federal, provincial, local and networked), as well as private sector organizations, and that the results obtained be compared. It would also be of some interest to suggest more efficient managerial actions based on the characteristics of individuals within organizations under study. It is also recommended that longitudinal studies be undertaken, and that they include other relevant variables likely to shed light on subjective career plateauing. Lastly, qualitative research should be performed in addition to quantitative studies, to demonstrate the prevailing significance of the organizational environment.


El estancamiento de la carrera: estudio en una municipalidad de Quebec

La literatura de estudios de administración de empresas y de gestión de recursos humanos afirma desde hace muchos años que el sentimiento de estancamiento de carrera que conocen una cantidad cada vez más grande de individuos, sería uno de los principales efectos perversos de numerosos cambios acontecidos en el entorno de las organizaciones. Considerado como una menaza real al incremento de la eficacia y la eficiencia de las organizaciones, el estancamiento subjetivo de carrera debería ser combatido por medio de estrategias de gestión de recursos humanos. Esta investigación se interesa a las variaciones del sentimiento de estancamiento de carrera de parte de los funcionarios de una gran ciudad de Quebec, consecutivo a una reestructuración organizacional llevada a cabo a mediados de los anos 1990. Esta investigación se basa en un cuestionario completado por 515 cuadros y profesionales. Se sugiere que las practicas de gestión de recursos humanos privilegiados en esta organización pública explican solo timidamente la variación del sentimiento de estancamiento experimentado por los funcionarios municipales.