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A generation clash or organisational conflict ? “Two trains arunning - N. Flamant

Nicolas Flamant
Laboratoire d’anthropologie des institutions et des organisations sociales (LAIOS), UPR 9037, 54, boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris, France

Available online 21 December 2007 on ScienceDirect

In a railway marshaling yard, relations between the two principal age-groups (employees in their fifties and young, recent hires) are very tense. Various persons set this down to an obvious generation clash. By observing on-the-job situations, we come to see how these tensions tie in with a reorganization of work that occurred when the young people were hired. Members of these two groups interpret differently the organization of work and the rationale for cooperation between job stations. The explanation in terms of a “generation clash” overlooks the actual issues in an organizational conflict having to do with changes during the recent reorganization. It thus keeps us from noticing the threats against the personnel’s statuses and the social and symbolic hierarchies underlying them.

Keywords : Young people ; Intergenerational relations ; The organization of work ; Organizational conflict ; Railroads ; France

Article Outline

  • 1. In a railroad marshalling yard
  • 2. Omnipresent danger
  • 3. Senior workers concerned about competition from the young
  • 4. Younger workers concerned to protect themselves against negative rumors
  • 5. The “generation clash” interpretation of the situation
    • 5.1. Example 1
    • 5.2. Example 2
  • 6. A paradoxical feeling of job insecurity
    • 6.1. The impossibility of anticipating
    • 6.2. A feeling of distrust
    • 6.3. No exit
  • 7. A conflict around organization
    • 7.1. Risk-sharing
    • 7.2. The break : endangering equipment and men
  • 8. “Generation clash” : between reconstructing the coherence of the situation and assigning meaning
  • References

Sociologie du Travail
Volume 49, Supplement 2, December 2007, Pages e110–e128
Translation by Amy Jacob