Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Going beyond the Work Arrangement: The Crucial Role of Supervisor Support

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Going beyond the Work Arrangement: The Crucial Role of Supervisor Support

Article excerpt

Employees in North America are subjected to the daily pressures and challenges of trying to balance the often competing demands of work and personal life. Men and women play a multiplicity of roles including employee, spouse, friend, volunteer as well as caregiver to both their children and parents (that is, the sandwich generation). The result of not balancing work and life demands effectively manifests itself as work-life conflict and there is extensive support for the proposition that work-life conflict has negative consequences for both employee and employer. From the employee perspective, high levels of work-life conflict have been associated with poor physical health (e.g., Higgins, Duxbury, & Johnson, 2004; Madsen, 2003), a variety of psychological symptoms such as depression (e.g., Hammer, Cullen, Neal, Sinclair, & Shafiro, 2005; Roxburgh, 2004) and psychological distress (e.g., Burke & Greenglass, 1999; Grandey & Cropanzano, 1999) as well as marital dissatisfaction (e.g., MacEwen & Barling, 1994; Netemeyer, Boles, & McMurrian, 1996) and substance abuse (Frone, Russell, & Barnes, 1996; Frone, 2000).

Employers also have experienced negative repercussions of work-life conflict in the form of lower job satisfaction (e.g., Anderson, Coffey, & Byerly, 2002; Boles, Howard & Donofrio, 2001); lower organizational commitment (e.g., Netemeyer, et al., 1996; Thompson, Beauvais, & Lyness, 1999) and higher turnover intentions (e.g., Anderson, et al., 2002; Greenhaus, Parasuraman, & Collins, 2001).

A number of factors increase our confidence in the finding that work-life conflict is deleterious to both employees and employers. First, the studies were remarkably consistent in finding the associations between higher levels of work-family conflict and the aforementioned negative outcomes featured in this section (for example, poor physical health, lower levels of life satisfaction) despite the fact that the researchers used a variety of measures of work-family interference (e.g., Bohen & Viveros-Long, 1981; Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1992; Gutek, Searle & Klepa, 1991; Kopelman, Greenhaus & Connolly, 1983). Second, a number of the studies cited (e.g., Anderson et al., 2002; Burke, 1988; Frone, 2000; Frone, et al., 1996; Hammer et al., 2005) involved fairly large (that is, 450 respondents or more) samples which increase the generalizability of the findings.

Given the negative outcomes associated with work-life conflict, it is problematic for employees and employers that work-life conflict levels are on the rise in North America. A large sample Canadian study by Duxbury and Higgins (2001) noted that relative to their 1991 results, significant increases were reported in work-life conflict. These increases were experienced regardless of gender, job type or parental status. A rising trend in work-life conflict has also been reported in the United States. Whereas thirty percent of respondents in the late 1970s and early 1980s were claiming that their job interfered with family somewhat or a great deal (e.g., Galinsky, Ruopp, & Blum, 1983; General Mills, Inc., 1981; Quinn & Staines, 1979), more recent data indicate these numbers have climbed. The most recent National Study of the Changing Workforce (NSCW) indicates that employees with families report higher levels (45 per cent experienced 'some' or 'a lot') of interference between their jobs and their family lives compared to respondents in 1977 (34 per cent experiencing 'some' or 'a lot') (Bond, Thompson, Galinsky, & Prottas, 2003).

This paper will review the literature on alternative work arrangements and supervisor support and the impact of these constructs on work-life conflict. Hypotheses will be developed and tested using a representative sample of Canadian federal government employees. The findings will be presented and discussed along with the limitations of the study and future research directions. …

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