Work-Family Conflict : Balancing Act Required To Succeed

Laxmi Bilas Koirala

Problems related to work-family conflict are common in modern organisations. Stress, low performance, absenteeism, job quitting and committing suicide are the results of such conflict, which started right from the early days of human civilisation.

After the industrialisation, men started going to the city to eking out a livelihood, leaving the family behind in the village. The family began to divide for work and the door to conflict opened. The current sandwich generation, whose parents live in the village, spouse and the children are in the city; have to look after them from the working station.

Interdependent Relation

Work and family have an interdependent relationship and it interacts frequently with each other. Work-family relations between the two may buttress each other and may weaken each other. The relation between work and family is ever changing with time. Sometimes the factors related to work are significantly important over the family life while at the other times the family-related factors become more important than the work-life.

Work-family relation depends upon the working environment, flexible working hours, leaves, transparent distribution of career development opportunities, group dynamics, social connection, spouse cohesiveness, and financial freedom. The ability to maintain work-family balance, time and stress brings happiness within the family, increases job satisfaction and productivity of the organization. On the contrary, failing to maintain the balance creates work-family conflict and strain.

According to Greenhaus and Beutell, a work-family conflict is a form of inter-role conflict in which the role pressures from the work-family domains are mutually incompatible in some respect. Sometimes work responsibilities interface with family lives (known as work to family conflict) whereas at other times our family lives interface with our work (family to work conflict).
Many researchers have revealed three types of work-family conflicts. (a) Time-based conflict means the time spent in one role generally can not be given to the other role. If he or she is not able to manage, time for work and family then conflict occurs. (b) Strain-based conflict exists when the inner anxiety of an employee produced within one-role affects the functioning of another role. (c) Behavioural-based role pleads that sometimes behaviour that is effective in one role is simply inappropriate in another role. Therefore, if people fail to shift behaviour they are likely to experience conflict between these roles.

The subject of balancing work-family life is more beneficial to increase productivity, motivation, job satisfaction and decrease stress, absenteeism and turnover of employees in the organization. It also maintains a good relationship with the family. Work-family relation, work-family conflict and strain have a positive relationship. If the employee spends more time at work or
with the family, they likely face conflict. The employee who experiences more work-family conflict, or also feels a high level of strain.
Studies have identified some reasons, which escalate the work-family conflict. First, transfer or placement far from the house, working until late at night in the office and connect with the boss every time the employee has to stay for a long time away from the family. Second, insufficient income has compelled the spouse to work to earn money for household demand.
Third, when an employee is away from the house, the spouse has to manage to care for the children and elderly person alone. Fourth, when children do not get opportunities to stay with their parents they cannot read, write and play properly. Fifth, poor relationships with spouses and children of the employees develop a feeling that their loved one neglects them.

The employee who cannot manage their own time, job and behaviour cannot create a border between work and family priority and falls into conflict. When employees cannot manage work and family responsibilities, they lose their job satisfaction and productivity in the organization. Every employee always wants to contribute more to organizational success and maintain better health, education and quality of life.

However, satisfying the demand for work and family at a time is a stressful task, which may breed a situation of dissatisfaction, low productivity and low performance of the employees. The unlawful transfer, promotion and distribution of organizational facilities harm spouses and children in general.
Due to transfer, married personnel are more stressful and dissatisfied than unmarried ones. The employees who have children or parents in the house become more tense and unhappy than married ones. Newly married officers naturally live in bigger stress as compared to those unmarried.

Separation and extreme tiredness, fatigue, burnout and emotional conflicts lead to nuptial dissatisfaction, work-family conflict and end in a breakup. If family conflict heightens, employees may absent or quit the organisation to fulfil the demand of the family. Moreover, marital dissatisfaction, and depression, drive the employee beyond his or her limits, and he or she searches for an easy escape route, which may lead to an improper decision of suicide.

Increasing Work Performance

Work and family life balance does not mean spending 50 per cent time on family affairs and 50 per cent time on work. Work-family life balance means increasing work performance without compromising the happiness of family life and vice versa. Many academics have tried to develop theories to manage the work-family relation, conflict and balance.

The boundary, border and enrichment theories developed to explain relation, conflict and balance between work and family roles. According to boundary theory, people have different roles in their workplaces and their family life, they are frequently engaged in the role transformation, which means, they have to leave a role and play another.
The Border theory focuses on identifying the factors that create work and family conflict and tries to find ways to manage these two spheres and the border between them, to reach a balance between work-related roles and family-related roles.

The enrichment theory says work-family relations are not always at odds with one another. Work-family lives may indeed conflict with each other but they may be allies as well. Work-family allies can strengthen the family lives and family experiences can improve work lives. These beneficial effects of work and family can enrich one another. Work-family enrichment takes place when resources acquired in one role use to improve performance and satisfaction in the other role. Besides, the right to disconnect will be a solution to reduce the conflict.

As we know, the work-family conflict is an organizational issue. Balancing work and family is becoming a vital subject of the modern age. Relationships between work and family are always on the edge of conflict and balance. Work-family conflict is not only a managerial problem but also it is a problem of employees and his or her family. With internalizing the issues and principles, the leader of the organization, the employee, supervisor and peer of the employee and the family can play a vital role in managing family conflict properly.

(Koirala is a former joint-secretary at the government of Nepal)

The Rising Nepal

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