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Work-life conflict is experienced when people or employees feel that their expectations of one domain of their life (work or family responsibilities) overwhelm the other or are totally incompatible. Research has identified two aspects of work-family conflict and they include; the situation where the activities or demands associated with work conflict with the family responsibilities and when family issues interfere with a person job performance.
The role theory explains that the expected relationship between work-family conflict and the feeling of job satisfaction should be in such a way that when there is so much work-family conflict, then the person going through this will experience very low job satisfaction.
Career Satisfaction Factor
Researchers purport that career satisfaction is just an attitude that is associated with the level to which people feel they can balance their work demands and family responsibilities.
This is what makes them like or hate their jobs and in most cases, the dislike of one’s job translates into negative attitude at work and therefore this culminates into such behaviours like absenteeism, low job performance, and external turnover (Taylor, 2001, p. 63; Pitt-Catsouphes et al, 2006, p. 78).
Considering the negative impact career dissatisfaction can have on the work performance, employers and managers have developed a keen interest in the factors that determining the level of job satisfaction (Clark, 2001, p. 351). These factors can be assessed and recommendations for improvements made so that the negative behaviour can be mitigated.
There are several factors that have been found to cause a lot of uproar in the workplace not only because of job dissatisfaction but also due to increased prevalence of work-family issues (Ford et al, 2007, p. 63). This factor has drawn substantial interest than other factors like religion.
Work-family conflict is becoming very prevalent in many organisations and employers have realised that this is a very undesirable situation because of the devastating negative impact it can have on their organisational performance (Premeaux et al, 2007, p. 707).
Besides job dissatisfaction, work-life conflict results in poor health and decreased performance (Clutterbuck, 2003, p, 67). In extreme cases, it can be the cause of broken families, and generally poor marriage or family relationships.
The causes of work-family conflicts include factors from the job and also from home especially time management problems (Kafetsios, 2007, p. 23). For instance, the work shifts could be very irregular hence affecting individual family duties, sudden job transfers can separate individual from their families abruptly, frequent need to work overtime could consume time that could otherwise have been used to handle family matters and change of working hour can affect the normal routines at home hence increasing the possibility of conflicts (Boyar et al, 2003, p. 176).
It is the responsibility of both the organisations or employers and the employees to ensure that there is a well balanced life where the possible causes of conflict are eliminated (Fiona, 2006, p. 105).There is growing evidence to support the claim that people who have high emotional intelligence are able to manage themselves well and have minimal work-life conflicts while the reverse is also true (Clutterbuck, 2003, p, 67).
The reason why work-family conflict is characterised by increased interference of works demands into family issues is that employers are often stringent and failure to adhere means punishment and these demands are inevitable (Premeaux et al, 2007, p. 709).
It is therefore pertinent that employers are made aware of such practises and then action taken to reduce their influence in their employee family matters by executing job tasks (Fiona, 2006, p. 105; Taylor, 2001, p. 69).
Over the previous years, there has been a widely shared work-family model that was developed from the conservative patriarchal community roles where workplaces were rigidly concerned with work and not family matters (Carlson & Kacmar, 2000, p. 1043). This tends to draw lines between gender roles whereby the role of men was strictly to work and the women were to strictly stay at home to take care of the family (Kinnunen et al, 2004, p. 9).
This saw male domination of workplaces and women were the minority group but today, workplaces have and are undergoing sea change of demographics (Kinnunen et al, 2004, p. 11). Many women are joining the workforce and there is even more acceptance of the people with disabilities, students, the elderly and single fathers.
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This transformation has not reached its peak and in many organisations, women are still the minorities in those places in terms of gender (Noor, 2004, p. 392). Even though there are several minority groups at workplaces like elderly and people with disability, this paper takes a selected look at women as minorities because when it comes to work and family issues, it’s the women who are in most cases caught up in the middle.
Traditionally, workplaces were designed to split work from family but this has been challenged as causing inefficiency among employees who are in reality workers and family men and women at the same time (Boyar et al, 2003, p. 178).
As employment shifts from the male dominated places to demographically diverse, such beliefs have to change, so as to lessen the negative processes that affect people who are different from the majority like the women who are mothers.
Women basically were judged unfairly and could not rise easily to management positions because of the association with more family responsibilities (Carlson & Kacmar, 2000, p. 1046; Ford et al, 2007, p. 63). Such issues are still important though and workplace performance and division of roles is still based on traditional concepts of gender responsibilities that require men to sacrifice more family responsibilities leaving them to women.
As more women got to the job market, the notion that working was for men disappeared. This societal change blurred the traditions of division of gender roles that had defined who was to handle family issues and who was to deal with work almost exclusively (Noor, 2004, p. 392).
Both men and women in the working environment are now required to handle the issues of family responsibilities and also breadwinning at the same time. These sometimes result in people being worried about family matters when they are supposed to be working. They also worry too much about work when they are attending family roles.
The issues of work-family conflict is of a major concern in many developing nations like the US and UK as more women are getting into the job market than ever before (Fine-Davis et al, 2004, p. 78). In the US, it’s estimated that over 60% of the working class are married and have at least one child who is below 18 years hence need their support all the time (Ilies et al, 2007, p. 1369).
Furthermore, the family norms have changed dramatically with more dual bread winner families being common than in the previous years (De Luis et al, 2004, p. 472). This fact together with the increasing single parent families implies that managing the work-family demands could be more difficult than it ever was.
Time restrictions and role performance makes employees to juggle their work and family duties hence making this a crucial organisational problem in the modern society (Boyar et al, 2003, p. 178).
And there is need for more research to assess the situation and seek to promote knowledge and encourage research in gender concerns and work life balance by identifying policies that need to be investigated, facilitate sharing of information and findings (De Luis et al, 2004, p. 472);
Foster chances to enrich women professional lives and allow them to achieve their full capacity as workers or practitioners and enhance their increased participation in professional service (Carlson & Kacmar, 2000, p. 1046; De Luis et al, 2004, p. 472);
To offer forum where workers can have a discussion on the impact that increased involvement of women in professional practise has had on work-life balance and to enhance equitable treatments of workers in workplace and offer knowledge and sensitivity to gender and work-life balance concerns (Bruck et al, 2002, p. 343).
The goals will go a long way in increasing the knowledge of the policies that help professionals to effectively combine career demand and family responsibilities into a concept of common interest, work-family balance (Kossek & Ozeki, 1998, p. 142).
Workers expect that their employers will appreciate that they have other responsibilities besides the job and that they can have sufficient extra time to attend to these issues. A critical factor to this is the perceived organisational support which is a factor that defines the degree to which workers think their employer’s support their wellbeing including family support (Lapierre et al, 2008, p. 93).
The perceived employer support is a major factor in determining the worker commitment to the job hence performance and career satisfaction (Casper et al, 2002, p. 102). Studies show that a positive perception of worker support is directly correlated to quality of work and satisfaction.
To counter work-family conflict, employees need to have an understanding of the employers who will offer them a working environment that upholds their family welfare. Workers expect that their employers would offer them flexible working hours (Houston & Waumsley, 2003, p. 121), encourage like sharing job tasks, offers room to work from home, and compressed working hours so that the employers can better balance their work and family roles hence develop satisfying careers.
This is the concept of Work-life balance and its basis is that being paid to work and seeking to attend to personal life should not be seen as competing priorities but rather complementary aspects of real life. Many researchers are seeking to ensure employers are actively involved in developing this concept in workplaces (Anderson et al, 2002, p. 788; Kossek & Ozeki 1998, p. 142).
The workers are hence demonstrating the benefits of the concept on worker performance. Employees seek to ensure that the employers institute policies that support work-life balance as a way of mitigating the negative outcomes of conflict of the two domains.
Some nations for instance the US, Canada and UK introduced some fair policies for people with families to have limited working hours or demand that employers offer benefits to assist employers to attend their family responsibilities (Fine-Davis et al, 2004, p. 79).
This comes when there is increasing demographic shift as many baby boomers retire and workplaces get filled with younger workforce of both gender together with pressure from international forces to recruit and retain knowledgeable workers.
Employees expect that their employers will take the government initiatives seriously and work on the practises that will allow work-family balance (Anderson et al, 2002, p. 788); these initiatives include;
- Reducing working hours by job-sharing or part-time jobs
- Change working hours as in flexitime and compressed working hours weeks
- Changing place of work like working from home on the clock.
- Employer supported childcare programs (Houston & Waumsley, 2003, p. 121)
- Offering leaves like study leave, mothering leave and career breaks (Cromptom, 2005, p. 347).
It is widely accepted that negative perception of the workplace critically impacts on job satisfaction. This therefore has greatly called for change of work-family policies so as to minimise the conflict that exist between work and private lives of employees (Duncan & Pfau-Effinger, 2000, p. 132).
These policies are anticipated to go a long way in changing attitudes of employees and there are some measures that employers are required to take in order to ensure that this happens (Grandey et al, 2005, p. 312). However, the reaction to these changes by employers is a setback to workplace transformation.
Due to the need to make more profits and the increasing global competition, there is need to be more productive and introduce changes at workplace to encourage hard work (Duncan & Pfau-Effinger, 2000, p. 134). As a result, employers are setting up more working hours and paid overtime.
Even though on one hand workers are bound to earn more by working more hours, they use most of their time on job demands that the lack time to attend to family roles (Scandura A., & Lankau, 1997, p. 382).
Traditionally, employers have been advocating for more working hours, multiple shift working programs, and limited off and leaves so that production is maximal (Cromptom, 2005, p. 347).
This clearly shows that the employers perceive the changes to ensure work-family balance as a setback to their fast paced developments. Working is hence made hectic and exhausting as well hence leading to development of health problems among the employee (Dixon & Sagas, 2007, p. 239).
In order to compete aggressively in the modern liberal works, employers are required to employ and retain esteemed employees in the highly competitive job market etas a gesture of strong motivation and increased organisation awareness (Lapierre et al, 2008, p. 93; Rhoades & Eisenberger, 2002, p. 703). They are also to act with consideration of the human resource policy and traditions that deal with work – life balance.
Employers are looking for workers who have real commitment to their job and very productive and they always evaluate this by looking at the number of hours worked, number days an employee takes off duty, cases of absenteeism, and high possibility of time flexibility to work (Poelmans, 2001, p. 231).
However, it seems that employers have failed to assess how their effort to increase production like working long hours, overtime and not taking time off to be with family impact on their general performance of their employees (Boles et al, 2003,. P. 106).
Employers have been very reluctant in introducing Flexible working hours or programs working from home because this requires of high-level of self-discipline, something that employers do not want to leave to chance (Poelmans, 2001, p. 233).
It takes a lot of commitment for one to be able to work from home and be able to meet their job objectives and deadlines without falling being adversely affected by family needs and destructions.
Employers are beginning to accept the changes required at workplaces for work-family balance. Employers are now openly discussing their workers’ personal and family demands in order to be able to be able to come up with solutions that would enhance worker and organisational performance (Fu & Shaffer, 2001, p. 504; Rhoades & Eisenberger, 2002, p. 703).
There are many initiatives that are supported by the governments and which employees expect that their employers will offer them. Although initially it was greatly opposed by employers, global competition and dynamic corporate policies have been pushing these changes progressively.
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