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Dr. Matt Grawitch: September 2011 Archives

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I read many great and insightful articles every week. But, sometimes, I come across something that just makes me shake my head. For example, take a recent WorldatWork survey. This survey was conducted worldwide and solicited the perceptions of managers regarding various work-life interface issues.

Here’s a sample of some of the results:

Over 50% of managers believe the best employees are those who will complete their work regardless of the number of hours they are forced to put in;

40% of managers believe that employees who do not have personal commitments outside of work are more productive;

30% of managers believe that workers use of flextime will difficulty obtaining a promotion.

But the same study also reported that 80% of the managers surveyed stated that they support work-life balance. Really? How can you “support work-life balance” when you are toting assumptions that are antithetical to the very concept?

Let’s follow the logic of the three results stated above through to their conclusions:

  1. Employees should put in as many hours as is necessary to accomplish all the work they have to do, regardless of the previous research showing that work overload can produce poor quality results, job burnout, higher turnover, and increased healthcare costs. With this assumption running amok, it is no wonder employers in a down economy use downsizing as a primary means of cutting costs.
  2. Looking at the second result, we can infer that workers without personal commitments have no need for time off and can simply work any amount of hours that managers desire – because they don’t have a life outside of work. However, there aren’t many people who have absolutely no “personal commitments.” And what is this supposed to mean anyway? Does it mean that workers shouldn’t have a life outside of work? This completely disregards the “life” portion of “work-life balance,” which can also be hazardous to an employee’s health.
  3. Finally, for the third result, organizationally-sanctioned policies and practices – such as flextime – can be used against you when it comes to moving up the hierarchy. That means that if you flex your time so that you can optimize your work engagement (and not be stressed because of competing demands), we’re going to punish you. That sounds fairly logical to me.

Kathy Lingle, the Executive Director for WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress called the results a “conundrum.” However, I would call it what it is: Hypocrisy! An organization cannot effectively create a positive work-life interface for employees if management is walking around harboring conscious or unconscious biases toward those who wish to effectively manage their personal resources. Until those assumptions are made explicit and unlearned, the work-life issue will continue to be a problem for employees.

Photo Credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/navonod / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0