Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Maternity Leave as a Role Negotiation Process

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Maternity Leave as a Role Negotiation Process

Article excerpt

Few personnel issues are as difficult to manage as the negotiation of the maternity leave. Problems associated with maternity leaves stem from major demographic changes in the United States, disparate attitudes among individuals toward working women, and the ways in which organizations and workgroups adjust to maternity leaves. Approximately 58% of all women in the United States are labor force participants, representing a consistent growth pattern for about the last three decades in women's employment that is expected to continue to increase (though less dramatically) into the next century (Spiers, 1994; U.S. Department of Labor, 1993a). Relatedly, about 55% of all mothers with children less than three years of age are now employed outside the home (U.S. Department of Labor, 1993a). In addition, a considerable number of employed women who delayed motherhood are expected within the next few years to give birth (birth rate projections for the 1990s have recently been increased from 1.85 to 2.1 per women (Bernstein, 1994)), and remain in the workforce (Harris, 1992; Kuchner and Porcino, 1988; Magid, 1986). Statistics also indicate that close to 60% of mothers return to their jobs after the birth of their first child (Bernstein, 1994).

The prospect of women taking maternity leaves in increasing numbers raises a variety, of economic and social concerns. Organizations face additional costs in insuring newborns and their mothers, finding and training temporary replacements, and at times, developing childcare facilities (Miller, 1992; Trzcinski and Finn-Stevenson, 1991). In turn, workgroups' accomplishments may be hindered by the periodic loss of key members' knowledge, abilities, and contacts. At the same time, many women associate a maternity leave with plateaued careers and the loss of positions of influence (Bernstein, 1992; Hardest3' and Jacobs, 1986; Murray, 1995; Noble, 199:3). Unfortunately these concerns persist despite numerous legislative acts outlining minimum guarantees to maternity leavetakers (Clymer, 1993; Marzollo, 1989; Women's Legal Defense Fund, 1992; 9 to 5, National Association for Working Women, 1994).

We posit that the maternity leave will remain problematic regardless of federal or state legislative mandates because the leave is both a contractual and interpersonal process. Contractually, legislation requires organizations to adhere to minimum provisions of pay, absence from work, and replacement of leavetakers into their organizations. Where companies offer options for leavetakers and/or where their leave policies are perceived to be inadequate, the process of establishing a contractual agreement varies and is a source of anxiety for participants (Hardesty and Jacobs, 1986; Kamerman et al., 1983). Concomitantly, the nature and quality of leavetakers' interactions with members of their role set (others in the organization with whom individuals must work closely, e.g., Katz and Kahn, 1978) during the process of negotiating their leaves may influence their productivity and attitudes toward work (Zigler et al., 1988), as well as the actions of others toward them (Marzollo, 1989).

In brief, regardless of an organization's policies with respect to maternity leaves, women seeking such leaves experience some form of role negotiation since almost all leavetakers face common dilemmas, including how to convince others that they will return following the leave and that their contributions to the work unit before and after the leave will not dissipate. This is particularly true for women who will soon be mothers for the first time, as opposed to working women who already have children. The physical and occupational circumstances of women who are preparing for the birth of their first child are more complex and ambiguous than the situations experienced mothers face (Hees-Stauthamer, 1985: Mercer, 1986). For instance, they often have greater uncertainty about their physiological and emotional states, the reactions of others, and their capacity to handle work and family commitments than women who have already experienced these predicaments. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.