Life Balance and Work Addiction among African Americans

By Balkin, Richard S.; Reiner, Summer M. et al. | Career Development Quarterly, March 2018 | Go to article overview

Life Balance and Work Addiction among African Americans


Balkin, Richard S., Reiner, Summer M., Hendricks, LaVelle, Washington, Ahmad, McNeary, Sian, Juhnke, Gerald A., Hunter, Quentin, Career Development Quarterly


There is a general scarcity of research explicating the life balance of racial and ethnic minorities (Casper, Eby, Bordeaux, Lockwood, & Lambert, 2007). Life balance may be viewed as "a satisfying pattern of daily activity that is healthful, meaningful, and sustainable to an individual within the context of his or her current life circumstances" (Matuska & Christiansen, 2008, p. 11) and differs from the more common term of work-life balance by emphasizing a broader context of wellness-related issues and lifestyles, as opposed to specific focus on work. Davis, Balkin, and Juhnke (2014) operationally defined life balance based on essential domains related to optimism, relationships, stress/anxiety, career satisfaction, and health. Conceptual manuscripts and empirical data generated on life balance and career counseling have focused, primarily, on the realities of European American men and, to a much lesser degree, European American women (Casper et al., 2007). Consequently, the understanding of life balance and career issues is narrow and largely rooted in the historical and contemporary experiences of groups possessing an unequal share of socioeconomic and political power, and racial and class privileges (Özbilgin, Beauregard, Tatli, & Bell, 2011). The implication, then, is that the experiences of people of color, including African American women and men, in relation to life balance and career remain largely ignored and sorely undertheorized.

African Americans face myriad employment obstacles related to life balance. Data indicate that wage disparities between African American workers and their European American counterparts are worse today than in 1979, and these gulfs cannot be attributed to a decrease in educational attainment among African Americans. Forty-six percent of African American women and 42% of African American men believe that the American economic system is fundamentally biased and unfair toward Black people (Wilson & Rogers, 2016). In addition to wage inequality, workplace discrimination remains a salient reality for countless African American and other minority employees (Triana, Jayasinghe, & Pieper, 2015), with African Americans accounting for 46% of all employment discrimination suits filed (Goldman, Gutek, Stein, & Lewis, 2006). Exacerbating this situation are pervasive stereotypes in the workplace that characterize African Americans-and African American men in particular-as frivolous, incompetent, lacking work ethic, careless, resentful, and aggressive (Gilbert, Carr-Ruffino, Ivancevich, & Lownes-Jackson, 2003). In addition, African American women, when compared with European American women, are fired from employment at a higher rate and promoted less often (Ortiz & Roscigno, 2009).

Increased pressures at work can create problems related to life balance. Pressures to increase productivity-particularly in a hostile work environment-can affect the prevalence of workaholism, also referred to as work addiction (Aziz, Adkins, Walker, & Wuensch, 2010). Work addiction may be viewed as obsessive work thoughts and compulsive work behaviors (Oates, 1971), but may also include overinvolvement and excessive drive (Spence & Robbins, 1992). Health (e.g., heart disease, sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, suicidality, substance dependence), social (e.g., familial conflict), and work-related issues (e.g., conflict with colleagues, burnout) are associated with work addiction (Reiner, 2015). The propensity of career obstacles and workplace discrimination for African Americans highlights the need to investigate life balance and work habits. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship of life balance and work addiction among African Americans. We sought to address the following research question: What is the extent of the relationship between life-balance domains and work addiction among African Americans in the workforce?

Method

Participants

We recruited 115 African Americans (47 men, 68 women) from Chambers of Commerce and the Urban League in two states in the southeastern United States. …

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