Magazine article Management Review

The Multiple-Role BALANCING Act

Magazine article Management Review

The Multiple-Role BALANCING Act

Article excerpt

During the past decade, an increasing number of articles and books have promoted the importance of work/life balance. Both scholars and business practitioners seem determined to identify what work/life balance is and offer individual and organizational prescriptions for achieving that end.

The reality, unfortunately, is not as simple as the theories suggest because the way we view our lives and our personal status is usually based on how we view our jobs. At the same time, our perception of the benefits and drawbacks of a career often determines how we feel about our lives.

Researchers like myself systematically argue that there is a basic incompatibility between employees who have families and corporations. This incompatibility stems from the conflicting needs of the family and the employer. Many employees who must balance these needs become frustrated and either leave the company or adapt in artificial ways.

Some simply become apathetic. But in most cases, the balancing act leads to a phenomenon called multiple-role conflict.

With multiple-role conflict, the more positions a person acquires and the more roles in which he or she is expected to engage, the more complex it becomes to meet the responsibility of each role. This form of conflict has taken on new significance in the 1990s as the roles and expectations of men and women have changed. It has important implications in predicting an individual's longevity in a company, especially for single women who are preparing for the challenges they will face in combining marriage and a full-time career.

By realistically assessing the time and energy needed to fulfill multiple roles, single women can be better prepared to make strategic decisions about their careers and effectively solve problems when faced with the conflicting demands of work and home in the future.

The meaning of "realistic" isn't always obvious, however. For example, simply taking on more roles may not cause role conflict, and part-time employment may not reduce it.

In addition, women who work in nontraditional occupations will face multiple-role conflicts even if the jobs themselves don't call for multiple roles because the positions are structured around society's expectations for working men rather than working women.

For women who fill multiple roles, earning the status of "superwoman" may serve as both an incentive and a reward. …

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