Training engineers to be managers: a transition tension model

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Prior research on transitioning from engineer to manager has focused largely on the content or mix of managerial skills required to make the transition. The current research proposes that this transition be viewed as part of a complex process occurring within the context of social exchange theory. A simple conceptual model is proposed which suggests that the transition involves three parties: the engineer-student, the employer-organization, and the university-college offering formal management degree curriculum. Termed a dynamic tension model, the process perspective clarifies the costs, benefits, and expectations for each of these parties; identifies many of the tensions and dysfunctions likely to emerge between the parties; and suggests actions each party should initiate to facilitate a smoother, more effective transition. Overall, the findings indicate that the engineer-students perceive their employers could do substantially more to facilitate the former's transition from engineer to manager.