Accueil » 51-1 ( 1996) » Le malaise professionnel : nature et mesure du concept

Le malaise professionnel : nature et mesure du concept

Gilles Guérin, Thierry Wils et Louise Lemire


Le malaise professionnel — vu comme un conflit entre les valeurs professionnelles et les exigences organisationnelles — a donné lieu à une abondante littérature au cours des quarante dernières années. Le concept est ici repris dans le but d'élaborer un construit qui s'appuie sur les huit principaux points de tension entre les cadres et les professionnels, soit la nature du travail, l'autonomie, la participation à la prise de décision, le style de gestion du supérieur, les conditions de travail, le développement de carrière, la reconnaissance et l'éthique. Construit à partir de questions mesurant tant les attentes professionnelles que les perceptions de réalisation de 2497 professionnels syndiqués du Québec, le construit de 16 indicateurs se révèle cohérent et valide puisqu'il est significativement corrélé avec les attitudes et comportements généralement associés au malaise par les auteurs.


The number of salaried professionals in Canada is steadily growing and their contribution to organizational performance is crucial. Unfortunately, professional values are often in conflict with organizational norms and rules, especially in large organizations or mechanistic bureaucracies, and this frequently results in deviant behaviour and low commitment. Is the problem one of excessive expectations on the part of the high-talent manpower or of an incapacity of organizations to implement innovative management practices? Whatever the answer, the golden collar "malaise" or professional-organizational conflict — first put forward during the 1950s and the 1960s — is still a problem today. The goal of this research is to focus on the clash of values, to highlight their incompatibilities and to build a construct whose validity and reliability will open the door to an examination of the key determinants of the malaise and the analysis of its effects.

In the first part of this paper, the authors briefly review the roots of managerial and professional cultures. They then examine the complaints that each side makes of the other. From the managerial point of view, professionals wish to remain overprofessionalized, demand excessive autonomy, resist close supervision by insisting on professional standards of evaluation, disregard organizational procedures and display little regard for real-world practices. From the professional point of view, managers are reluctant to share information, maintain excessive and formalized control, set unchallenging and useless tasks, are unable to create an egalitarian atmosphere, do not provide an environment favourable to intellectual work and override their ethical responsibilities. Based on these grievances, well documented by Raelin (1986a) and confirmed by the authors' exploratory interviews, the eight following dimensions of professionals' dissatisfaction (or professional malaise) have been recognized : task content ; autonomy ; involvement ; leadership from superior ; physical settings ; career development ; recognition ; and ethics.

In the second part of the paper, the research methodology is described. A questionnaire — consisting of 20 pages and 388 questions — was sent to 8,801 professionals who where members of 13 associations or unions, most of which were affiliated to the Quebec Council of Managers and Professionals. A total of 2,497 usable questionnaires were returned. In this study, professional dissatisfaction is measured by the difference between expectations and the associated possibilities of achievement. In the third part of the paper, the authors note that the highest areas of professional dissatisfaction are career development, involvement, and recognition.

The first is caused by the high expectations of the respondents and the latter two by their low possibilities of achievement. The lowest areas of professional dissatisfaction are related to ethics and — surprisingly — to autonomy, a subject that is extensively covered in the literature.

In the fourth part of the paper, factor analysis supports the theoretical structure of the professional malaise and reveals — among the 56 initial indicators — those that are most highly correlated with latent dimensions. In the fifth and last part of the paper, two scales are constructed using respectively the 16 and the 8 most significant indicators. The reliability of these scales is good (Cronbach alphas equal respectively 0,93 and 0,87) and construct validity is confirmed by strong associations with scales of professional deviance (such as indifference and boredom, conflict involvement, outside interests, refusais to implement, unethical practices) and mental and physical illness. Convergent validity is also proved with significant correlations involving connected concepts such as professionalism, cosmopolitan/local orientation and bureaucratization. Finally, discriminant validity is weakly asserted by a lower correlation of the scales with (general) work dissatisfaction indicators than with professional dissatisfaction indicators.