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White Males in Transition: Describing the Experience of a Stalled Career Open Access

Conditions of the contemporary United States workplace have created a social phenomenon in which some middle age white males perceive they are experiencing a stalled career; they perceive they have plateaued in their career progression while at the same time perceive that women and minorities in their professional cohort continue advancing. This study uses phenomenological research methods to investigate the phenomenon by asking individuals who have experienced a stalled career to describe the experience and its impact. The primary finding from the phenomenological reduction is the description of the essence of the stalled career experience. Five conclusions emerge from the analysis. First, the contemporary environment plays a substantial role in precipitating the stalled career. Second, the stalled career is about some white males comparing their situation to women and minorities, while not blaming women and minorities for the situation. Third, the stalled career experience includes a substantial shift toward externality, both from the perceived lack of control over the situation and the white male's choice to relinquish control as a coping strategy. Fourth, the undiscussable nature of the experience impedes making sense of the situation. Fifth, the experience has a negative impact on the organization, as well as the white male having the experience. Secondary evidence to enhance understanding of the stalled career experience comes from analysis of the data using transitions theory. Three conclusions emerge. First, the data confirms that the nature of the stalled career is a non-event work transition. Second, while support systems are used as a coping resource, the primary form of support is other white males whose support tends to reinforce being in the transition rather than encouraging successful navigation through the transition. Third, the stalled career provides an example of a transition in which the duration may be sustained or the outcome uncertain due to the balance in coping assets and liabilities being in a state of equilibrium. The discussion includes implications for theory, practice, and further research.

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