Accueil » 54-4 ( 1999) » Facteurs explicatifs de la démobilisation chez les diplômés universitaires récemment embauchés

Facteurs explicatifs de la démobilisation chez les diplômés universitaires récemment embauchés

Gilles Guérin, Jules Carrière et Thierry Wils


Dans cette recherche, nous tentons d'expliquer le phénomène de démobilisation chez les diplômés universitaires récemment embauchés à partir de leurs attentes et des possibilités de réalisation de ces attentes offertes par l'organisation. Différents modèles explicatifs sont testés et celui qui considère les attentes et les possibilités de réalisation comme des effets indépendants se révèle bien plus significatif que le modèle classique des attentes insatisfaites. L'effet des attentes initiales sur la démobilisation s'avère très réduit, remettant ainsi en cause l'hypothèse des attentes excessives qui augmenteraient les risques de démobilisation. Par contre, le défaut par l'organisation de responsabiliser, d'utiliser les compétences et d'informer est beaucoup plus préjudiciable.


The integration of university graduates into organizational life is a particularly painful experience during the first few months of employment (Richards 1984a, 1984b; Nicholson and Arnold 1991; Tapia 1994). Confronted by the demands of professional life, graduates frequently feel what the specialized literature on the subject has named "reality shock" (Dean 1983,1984; Dean, Ferris and Konstans 1985). When reality shock sets in, there can be many repercussions for the attitudes and behaviour of university graduates. They frequently become discouraged, disillusioned, indifferent and even frustrated or "delinquent" (Raelin 1984; Keenan and Newton 1984). It is this general phenomenon of detachment and disengagement which we have called demobilization.

The unmet expectations hypothesis is frequently used in the specialized literature to explain demobilization. The strength of reality shock and demobilization are generally linked to two factors: the level of initial expectations (high or unrealistic expectations increase the risk of demobilization), and the quality of actual work experiences (the more these diverge from the graduate's initial expectations, the higherthe demobilization). Although the unmet expectations hypothesis has long been abundantly used, it is subject to important methodological criticism in the literature (Johns 1981; Edwards 1991,1994). Moreover, there is no consensus about the actual effects of initial expectations. Even in terms of organizational factors, there are those who believe that intrinsic factors are the key to avoiding demobilization, whereas others believe that extrinsic factors work best.

Specific job content expectations held by university graduates include the desire to hold a significant job, to be challenged, to have responsibilities, to feel useful, to use and develop knowledge and abilities, etc. The expectations regarding their supervision appear to be somewhat ambivalent. For example, graduates expect the organization to take care of them but simultaneously want to be autonomous. Graduates also hold high expectations in terms of recognition and ethics (respectful and dignified treatment).

Finally, graduates expect regular promotions, mobility, salary increases and career counseling. The question as to the true determinants of demobilization remains unanswered. We must therefore seek to identify the best explanatory model: the unmet expectations model, the independent effects model (Irving and Meyer 1994) or the general model (Edwards 1994). In order to assess these different models, a survey was designed and distributed during the winter of 1996 to 2,500 graduates of the University of Montreal who had accumulated between six and thirty-six months of work experience. Among the surveys returned, 441 were deemed to be useable. In terms of measurement of variables, the concept of demobilization was evaluated by a scale of nine items (a = 0,92) reflecting how human resource professionals actually perceive the phenomenon (Wils et al. 1998). To measure determinants, 44 individual expectations (with as many corresponding experiences and unmet expectations) were derived from the literature pertaining to university graduates. A "principal components analysis" was performed on these expectations and extracted 12 factors. Results indicate that the unmet expectations model (R2 = 18,7%) explains a far lesser amount of variance than the independent effects model (R2 -28,8%) and the general model (R2 = 31,9%). In reality, the unmet expectations model masks the crucial fact that graduates are not demobilized by their high initial expectations but by a lack of opportunity provided by their organizations.

Why is the variance explained by expectations so weak? Is this the result of a social environment (i.e., family, university experiences) which does not understand the realities of organizational life? Or is it rather a reflection of graduates' needs which can affect demobilization either negatively (if they have excessive expectations from the organization's point of view) or positively (if they express a higher degree of motivation)?

Nevertheless, managers should not focus their efforts on meeting university graduates' expectations, but rather on improving the quality of their actual work experience. Notwithstanding the initial level of their expectations, graduates will feel lost and abandoned, and will easily be demobilized if they: (1) hold a job without any responsibilities, (2) do not get the chance to use their knowledge and abilities, (3) are not informed, (4) do not receive any feedback, (5) do not have the opportunity to develop their abilities and to progress, and (6) are treated without any consideration. Not only will these negative experiences keep graduates from positioning themselves in their jobs (to develop "perspective"), they will leave them with the impression that they are not trusted, that they are treated unfairly, and that they have no future in the organization.


En este estudio, intentamos explicar el fenòmeno de la desmovilizaciòn de los universitarios recientemente empleados a partir de lo que ellos se esperan y de las posibilidades de realizaciòn de esas perspectivas que se ofrecen en las organizaciones donde encontraron trabajo. Varios modelos explicativos son aplicados y el que considéra las perspectivas y su realizaciòn como fenòmenos independientes se muestra mas significativa que el modelo clàsico de perspectivas no adquiridas. El efecto de las perspectivas iniciales sobre la desmovilizaciòn se muestra muy pequeno, poniendo en duda la hipòtesis de perspectivas excesivas que aumentarìan el riesgo de desmovilizaciòn. Por otro lado la falta de responsabilidad por parte de la organizaciòn, de utilizar las competencias y de informar se muestran como mas prejudiciales.