Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

The Effect of Supervisor Characteristics on Subordinates' Work-Life Balance: A Dyadic Analysis in Japan

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

The Effect of Supervisor Characteristics on Subordinates' Work-Life Balance: A Dyadic Analysis in Japan

Article excerpt


Since the change of economic situations and social norms drives diversification at the workplace, the needs for work style also become diverse. This changing situation makes it difficult to manage employees using traditional methods, which rely on male employees to work full-time as comprehensive workers. In response to this situation, work-life balance (hereafter, WLB), which comes from the civil rights and women's movements in the US in the 1960s, receives much attention in Japan. Given employees' needs and the governmental support for WLB, the number of WLB benefits, such as short-time work systems, flexible schedules, parental leave, and family care leave have been offered by organizations for decades. However, many work organizations have implemented WLB benefits, while these benefits are not fully utilized. For example, parental leave is granted to both women and men according to the Child Care and Family Care Leave Law, but according to the Basic Survey of Gender Equality in Employment Management of 2014, the acquisition rate of parental leave by men was only 2.30% in Japan compared to 86.6% for women. Against this background, there still remains a gender-specific attitude towards roles: a husband's job is to earn money, while a wife's job is to look after the home and family in Japanese society and the workplace (Nakazawa, 2007). Sato and Takeishi (2004) articulated that the low acquisition rate of men's parental leave cannot be explained through assuming that men do not prefer to take parental leave, and therefore there must be other factors that prevent men from taking parental leave. Though this example is specific to the case of parental leave, almost all the same issues can be found through other WLB benefits, specifically that individual preference is not the reason for underexploited WLB benefits.

WLB is currently widely known, and the interest of WLB studies has shifted from what kind of effect results from WLB to what is needed to achieve WLB. It is often pointed out that informal support from the organization is necessary to achieve WLB (Allen, 2001). More studies, especially quantitative researches, are necessary for revealing the relationship between WLB and the workplace to achieve employees' WLB as too few studies focus on the internal work environment in Japan. Previous studies have revealed that long working hours prohibit employees from achieving WLB, especially in Japan (Ogura, 2008; Sato, 2008). However, it is difficult for employees to manage their working hours to establish a healthy WLB. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate other factors that have effects on the achievement of WLB in the workplace.

In this study, I focus on the presence of supervisors in the workplace as supervisors are frequently the key gatekeepers for subordinates in setting organizational practices in the workplace (Carlson, Ferguson, Kacmar, Grzaywacz & Whitten, 2011). The effect of supervisor characteristics and the crossover effect of immediate supervisors' own practices of WLB on subordinates' WLB are investigated.


Supervisor characteristics

Allen (2001) contended that the implementation of WLB benefits can help employees manage multiple work and non-work responsibilities, while the availability of these benefits alone does not address the fundamental aspects of the organization that can inhibit employees from successfully balancing career and family. For example, WLB programs often do not affect original norms and values that dissuade employees from using benefits (Allen, 2001; Lobel & Kossek, 1996). Moreover, employees often perceive that the organization encourages workers to devote themselves to their work at the expense of other life domains (Allen, 2001; Lobel & Kossek, 1996). This belief causes employees to believe that the organization's environment does not change to facilitate WLB (Allen, 2001). Additionally, the use of WLB benefits is not enthusiastically embraced by employees because they perceive that utilizing such benefits may have a negative consequential effect on their career (Allen, 2001; Frye & Breaugh, 2004; Judiesch & Lyness, 1999). …

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