The Work of First-Line Management (supervisor): A Managerial Function or a Profession ?
These professionals are “first-line managers”, or “supervisors”. This terminology refers to the first level of supervision in work organizations, those exercising a responsibility between the second-level manager (with associate status) and the technician or operator. In permanent contact with the field and in direct relationship with higher management, their functions are at the operational centre of the business. In proximity with the workers and other managers, the role of the supervisors is to guarantee the smooth daily running of the workplace at the social, organizational and technical levels. In France and in most countries, the supervisors are often neglected in social and professional current events and are rarely the focus of in-depth scientific research. Complex sociological variables reveal the different action logics used by supervisors, and their professional dynamics, drawn from a diversity of professional activities, modalities to accomplish the work and representations of work. We have constructed an analysis with different theoretical bases: sociology, sociology of work and organization (Becker, 1963; Goffmann, 1968; Sainsaulieu, 1977; Sainsaulieu et al., 1995; Dubar, 1991; Alter, 2000;). To analyze the work and socioprofessional transformations of first-line management, we also used the theories of the sociology of the occupations professions (Elliott, 1972; Chapoulie, 1973, 1984; Dubar, Tripier 1998…) and the theories of the sociology interactionnists which participates in the research work on professional groups (“career of an occupation” Hughes, 1996; Bucher, Strauss, 1992; Strauss, 1992). We also used part of the managerial literature and we participate in the construction of a sociology of management.