Employees Feel Penalized for Integrating Work and Family

Study finds gap between what managers believe and how they behave

By SHRM Online staff September 15, 2011

A global survey reveals a growing disconnect between what employers say about work/life integration and what they do.

“We set out to study men and work/life integration but instead uncovered workplace trends showing employees suffer a variety of job repercussions for participating in work/life programs, even when their leaders insist they support the business value,” said Kathie Lingle, executive director of WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress, which sponsored the study. “This conundrum can be so oppressive that some employees go underground, resorting to ‘stealth maneuvers’ for managing their personal responsibilities.

The good news is that 80 percent of employers around the globe avow support for family-friendly workplaces. The bad news is they are simultaneously penalizing those who actively strive to integrate work with their lives,” said Lingle.

Repercussions Reported

Employees reported repercussions (or their perception of repercussions) that included:

  • Discouraged overtly or subtly from using flexible work and other work/life programs.
  • Received unfavorable job assignments.
  • Received negative performance reviews.
  • Received negative comments from supervisor.
  • Were denied a promotion. A percentage of the surveyed managers think that the ideal employee is one that is available to meet business needs regardless of business hours.
  • 40 percent believe that the most productive employees are those without many personal commitments.
  • Nearly one in three think that employees who use flexible work arrangements will not advance very far in their organization.

The same leadership attitudes prevailed in emerging countries (Brazil, China and India) but on a larger scale.

“While the HR department designs and administers work/life programs, it’s the managers who have to implement it,” added Rose Stanley, work/life practice leader for WorldatWork. "Our studies find that a culture of flexibility correlates with lower employee turnover. Specifically, those with training and experience managing employees on flexible work arrangements are much more supportive of work/life than those without that training and experience. Closing the gap between what managers believe and how they behave will make every workplace a better place to work.”

Quick Links:

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SHRM Online ​Workplace Flexibility Resource Page

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