The New Employment Contract and the “At Risk” Worker

Journal of Business Ethics 58 (1-3):195-201 (2005)
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Employees of large blue chip corporations in the 1950s through the mid-1960s demonstrated great loyalty to their employers. In return, those employers provided cradle to grave job security and benefits for their workers. During the 1980s, however, this social contract between employees and employers seems to have undergone a change. The norms of the organization man of the earlier period passed from use and a new normative framework seems to have developed. The norm of loyalty on the part of both parties seems to have passed from practice. Employers would now terminate employees if it was in their short term interest to do so, while employees began to move from company to company, no longer making a career with one employer. Many writers have attributed this new employment relationship to the dynamics of the times, as we move from modern to late modern/early post-modern times. This paper reports the findings of a pilot qualitative study done with graduating seniors from an AACSB accredited business school. The subjects were asked to write self-reflective essays on the following themes: Given the nature of the new employment contract, are careers a vestige of the past? How do you feel about such concepts as career self reliance and career resiliency? Do you feel "at risk" in the new world of work? If so why, if not why not? If so, how do you plan to deal with it? The paper reports the critical response patterns of these graduating seniors and draws insights and conclusions from the literature illuminating the student reflections.



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