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Amah, O. E. (2010). Family-Work Conflict and the Availability of Work-Family Friendly Policy Relationships in Married Employees: The Moderating Role of Work Centrality and Career Consequence, Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 18(2), 35-46.
Family-Work Conflict and the Availability of Work-Family Friendly Policy Relationships in Married Employees: The Moderating Role of Work Centrality and Career Consequence
Organisations invest in work-family friendly policies with the expectation the use of these policies will guarantee the effective management of the pressures from the work and family domains. However, empirical results aimed at confirming this belief have been disappointing hence, the call to determine the effects of supportive organisational culture, and personality disposition in the work-family friendly arrangement. The current study extends past studies by testing the joint effects of these additional variables and obtained results confirm that availability of work-family friendly policy has the potential to reduce the perception of family-work conflict. The interaction of career consequence and availability of work-family friendly policy resulted in a significant decrease in the level of family-work conflict when the former is low. The availability of work-family friendly policy and favourable organisational culture form necessary, and sufficient conditions for effectively managing family-work conflict. Consequently, the study findings provide an inference that organisations are encouraged to ensure not only the availability of work-family friendly policies, but also to create favourable environments for their use.
The increase in the number of women, and dual income earner families in the workforce pose challenges to employees in the management of their roles in the family and work domains (Kossek & Lambert 2005). When these challenges are not resolved, employees experience conflict from either the work or family domain (Galinsky & Bond 1998, Kossek & Ozeki 1998, Akerele, Osamwonyi & Amah 2007). Work-family conflict is a situation in which “… pressures from work and family domains are mutually incompatible in some respects.” (Greenhaus & Beutell 1985:77). The conflict operates in two dimensions namely; work-family conflict and family-work conflict to adversely affect employees’ attitude and behaviour in the work and family domains (Frone, Russell & Cooper 1992, Anderson, Coffey & Byerly 2002, Carr, Boyar & Gregory 2008). Organisations may benefit by installing work design to incorporate various work-family friendly policies aimed at helping employees to balance the pressures from the work and family domains (Groover 1991, Groover & Crooker 1995, Anderson, et al. 2002, Wang & Walumbwa 2007).
Past studies have not confirmed the expected benefits of work-family friendly policies (Christensen & Staines 1990, Osterman 1995, Chiu & Ng 1999, Halpern 2005, Kossek & Lambert 2005). The problem may be attributed to the absence of the effects of individual differences, and the role of organisational culture in encouraging or discouraging the use of the established work-family friendly policies (Carlson & Kacmar 2000, Anderson, et al. 2002). Even when these policies are included in the work setting confounding by other variables can occur (Thompson, Beauvais & Lyness 1999, Casper & Harris 2008). Hence, identifying the variables that affect the effectiveness of work-family friendly policies will help employers to justify the huge operating expenses involved in these policies.
In spite of a great deal of conceptual support for the relationship between work-family friendly policies and the conflict from work to family empirical evidence is less compelling (Kossek & Ozeki 1998, Thompson, et al. 1999, Carlson & Kacmar, 2000, Anderson, et al. 2002, Hammer, et al. 2005). However, there are anecdotal reasons for believing that work-family friendly policies will affect the conflict from family to work. For example, Thompson, et al. (1999) stated that work-family friendly policy and favourable organisational culture could possibly affect family-work conflict. Also the notion spouse and child support, offered by employers help employees manage the demands from spouse and children, may reduce possible reduction in the level of family-work conflict has been advanced by Frone, et al. (1992).
The current study expands conventional wisdom in two ways. Firstly, the study includes an individual difference concept, work centrality and a component of organisational culture, career consequence, which is postulated to be closely linked to the use of work-family friendly policies by employees. Secondly, interaction effects of these additional variables on the relationship between the availability of work family friendly policies and family-work conflict is tested in the study design. These two expansions were earlier recommended by Anderson, et al. (2002), Carlson and Kacmar (2000), and Wang and Walumbwa (2007). Hence, it is likely the current study has a more robust model of workfamily friendly policy (Thompson, et al. 1999, Carlson & Kacmar 2000, Lewis & Dyer 2002). Arguably, the study findings obtained give better justification for organisations’ continuous investment in providing work-family friendly policies for their employees, which agrees with the two fundamental conventions (a) employers provide work-family friendly policy to help their employees to effectively manage the pressures from the work and family domains, and (b) the career consequence of using these policies has potential to play a major role in institutional effectiveness (Bailyn 1993, Solomon 1994, Lewis & Taylor 1996, Thompson, et al. 1999, Casper & Harris 2008).
Literature Review and Hypotheses
Work Family Friendly Policies and Family-work Conflict
Employees see work-family friendly policies as resources that can be used in solving problems and resolving challenging situations, so as to balance the pressures from work and family domains. Work-family friendly policies are offered to employees to help them take care of family related issues (Anderson, et al. 2002). For example, an employee who takes advantage of the company policy that allows time off to take care of a sick family member will be able to remove the pressure on work roles arising from taking care of the dependent relative. Kossek, Colquitt and Noe (2001) posit that the support obtained in the work place helps employees to achieve work-family balance, and thus, reduce the conflict between work and the family. Consequently, Hypothesis one is stated.
H1: Availability of work-family friendly policy is negatively related to family work conflict.
Direct and Moderating Role of Career Consequence
According to Lewis and Dyer (2002:304), work and family supportive culture is defined “… as shared assumptions, beliefs and values regarding the extent to which organisations value and support the integration of work and family lives for men and women.” An aspect of work and family supportive culture that has been widely studied is low career consequence of using work-family friendly policies (Bailyn 1993, Allen 2001, Frye & Breaugh 2004). Career consequence is the perception of employees that utilising the work-family friendly policies would hurt their career. It is a component of organisational culture that has direct bearing on the use and effectiveness of work-family friendly policies.
The Thompson, et al. (1999) study addressed three research questions, and two of these make a meaningful contribution to the current study. First was to determine if perception of work-family supportive culture is related to employees’ decision to utilise work-family friendly policies, and the second was to determine if availability of work-family friendly policies and work and family supportive culture affect work-family conflict. Work and family supportive culture was operationalised as having three dimensions namely; managerial support, organisational time expectation, and career consequence of using work-family friendly policy. Thompson, et al. (1999) reported that composite work and family supportive culture was positively related to work-family friendly policy use, however, when the components of the culture were assessed in a regression analysis only managerial support was positively related to work-family friendly policy use. A critical review of the items used in measuring career consequence, shows that most of the items are related to organisational support. Consequently, career consequence as measured in their study may be redundant in a model in which managerial support is also a variable. Availability of work-family friendly policy was negatively related to work-family conflict when it was the only variable in the regression analyses. Nevertheless, it was not related to work-family conflict when either the composite work and family supportive culture or career consequence was added in the analyses. Composite work and family supportive culture and career consequence were negatively related to work-family conflict. Thus, their study established that work and family supportive culture and availability of work-family friendly policies, each has a direct effect on work-family conflict, but did not probe further to ascertain if there is a joint effect of the variables on work-family conflict, and the process through which this might happen. The authors included only work-family conflict in their study, but recognised that “… it is possible that work-family policies and a supportive work and family culture may differentially affect the two types of conflicts usually studied.”(p. 402). Consequently, they recommended that future studies should include familywork conflict in the model.
Three related studies bear investigation. The Anderson, et al. (2002) study was designed to explore the possibility that work-family conflict and family-work conflict are affected by formal and informal work-family friendly policies. The study findings showed that schedule flexibility, and managerial support are negatively related to work-family conflict, while career consequence is positively related to work-family conflict. The operational definitions of managerial support and career consequence constructs in the Anderson, et al. (2002) framework are distinct. There is no redundant variable when the two variables appear in same regression analysis. Also their study discovered that the dependent care benefit, a form of work-family friendly policy, was not related to family-work conflict as hypothesised. The study tested neither the direct relationship between career consequence and family-work conflict, nor the interactive role of career consequence and dependent care benefit to predict family-work conflict. Gordon, Whelan-Berry and Hamilton (2007) examined the relationship between work and family supportive culture and the two dimensions of conflict and enhancement. Their definition of culture only includes managerial and organisational support. The results of their study indicated that favourable work and family culture has negative effects on the two dimensions of conflict, and a positive effect on work to family enrichment. However, work-family friendly policy and career consequence of using were not in their model. Consequently, the model they tested is different from the model proposed in the current study. But, the negative relationship obtained between favourable work and family culture and family-work conflict points to the possibility that low career consequence may also have a negative effect on family-work conflict. A study by Wang and Walumbwa (2007) indicated that the interaction of transformational leadership and childcarerelated work-family friendly programmes predicted organisational commitment. In justifying this result, the authors explained that transformational leaders attend to the needs of their followers, show appreciation and support, and encourage followers to try new ways of doing things. These create environments in which followers are “… able to use work-family friendly benefits to integrate their work and family lives.” (Wang & Walumbwa 2007: 404-405). This assertion implies that favourable culture enhances the effectiveness of work-family friendly policies in managing work-family balance. Thus, career consequence, a dimension of culture, may play a role in the effectiveness of work-family friendly policies. Overall, researchers have advocated that work-family friendly policies are effective in a favourable work and family supportive culture.Work-family friendly policies are important because they are supposed to help employees balance work and family roles, and ultimately can lead to high commitment to the organisation (Groover & Crooker 1995). This assertion is based on the premise that employees will utilise these policies, because there is no negative effect on their career as a result of their utilising them. For example, Blair-Loy and Wharton (2002) state that a work and family supportive environment is needed for the use of work-family friendly policies, while Butts, Ng, Vandenberg, Dejoy and Wilson (2007) state that employees, particularly men, may face stigmatisation due to the use of workfamily friendly policies. Thus, a work environment that punishes employees for utilising the existing work-family friendly policies may result in less use of the policies, and possibly more perception of family-work conflict. This observation implies that the relationship between availability of work-family friendly policy and family-work conflict will vary depending on the level of career consequence of using the policies. The results obtained by Anderson, et al. (2002), Gordon, et al. (2007), and Thompson, et al. (1999) are pointers to a possible direct positive relationship between career consequence and family-work conflict. Collectively, the relevant literature provides foundation for Hypothesis two and Hypothesis three.
H2: Career consequence has positive relationship with family-work conflict.
H3: Career consequence moderates the relationship between the availability of work-family friendly policies and family work conflict.
Direct and Moderating Role of work Centrality
Work centrality is an individual value measure defined as “… the belief that individuals have regarding the degree of importance that work plays in life.” (Paullay, Alliger & Stone-Romero 1994:225). This construct determines the needs that are salient in the family and work, and“… cognitions that lead to attitude, beliefs and actions regarding these values.” (Carr, et al. 2008: 247).When Carlson and Kacmar (2000) tested a model which included individual value difference, work centrality, as a moderator variable, they discovered that work centrality moderated the relationship between variables and the conflicts arising from the work and family domains. Specifically, the study concluded that when work is central to an employee’s self identity, such employee experiences greater conflict from the family domain. The authors concluded that the reduction in satisfaction experienced by employees with high work centrality is due to their spending“… time and effort in an area where they are not as focused…” (Carlson & Kacmar 2000:1050).
Carr, et al. (2008) studied the moderating effect of work centrality on the relationship between workfamily conflict and employee attitudes. Their finding that individuals react differently to work-family conflict based on their levels of work centrality may have wide application in work-family balance research. These researchers, however, did not measure work-family friendly policies, but were of the opinion that a way to make employees effective in the work role is to reduce stress from the family through the provision of work-family friendly policies. The use of these policies may be beneficial to employees with high work centrality as they seek to manage the time and energy they spend in the less valued family domain. Consequently, it is likely that when such employees work in a favourable work and family supportive culture, they will take advantage of any organisationally provided policy to manage the conflict arising from the family, to have the time to function effectively in the preferred work roles. Thus, there is need to understand how work centrality and work and family supportive culture affect the relationship between work-family friendly policy and family-work conflict.
Personality characteristics affect how individuals’react to stressful situations (Invancevich & Matterson 1993). A commonly held perspective is individual reactions to family-work conflict, a form of stress, is likely to be moderated by personality disposition, such as work centrality. Individuals with high work centrality see work as central to the definition of their identity (Braithwaite & Scott 1991), and anything that will negatively affect their effectiveness in the work place is to be avoided by them.When work is central to an individual’s life, he/she tends to exonerate the work domain of any problem arising from involvement in work role, and are more likely to blame the family domain for such problems (Carlson & Kacmar 2000). Thus, there is likely to be a positive relationship between work centrality and family work conflict, and this association is presented as Hypothesis four.
H4: Work centrality is positively related to family-work conflict.
Employees who value work more than family will be affected by family interfering with work (Carlson & Kacmar 2000). Consequently, to manage this conflict and remain effective in their preferred domain, the employee may make use of the work-family friendly policies provided by his/her organisation to reduce the effect of family-work conflict. Employees, who value work more than family are likely to exercise the availability of work-family friendly policies to reduce family-work conflict. Based on this literature Hypothesis five is postulated.
H5: Work centrality moderates the relationship between availability of work-family friendly policy and family-work conflict.
Participants and Site
Participants were drawn from many organisations located in Lagos, Nigeria. The organisations are in the financial, manufacturing, service and oil industries. The snowball sampling technique was utilised for the study. A total of 50 part time MBA students of a Nigerian university, who agreed to participate in the study, were each given 20 questionnaires, and instructed to randomly distribute them to their fellow employees. The participants were assured of the confidentiality of the data provided, and were told not to complete any part of the questionnaire with which they were uncomfortable.
A total of 450 questionnaires were received, and after removing those with substantial missing data only 400 usable questionnaires were used for the study. From these questionnaires data for 224 married participants was available. The demographic data for the married participants are; junior and senior staff 134 (60 per cent), male 101 (45 per cent), average tenure is 14 years; each participant has two or more children living with him/her. The average age of the participants is 43.5 years.
This survey utilised cross sectional data acquired through self report. The questionnaire has two parts. Part one contains nine items that capture the demographic data of each participant, while part two contains 23 items that measure the four study variables.
The measures used in this study were adapted from past studies. All the variables except availability of work-family friendly policies are acquired on a six point interval scale ranging from disagree strongly (1) to agree strongly (6). Higher overall score indicates a higher tendency on each construct.
The study controlled for the following demographic variables known to affect relationships involving the study variables: Gender is measured as 1 for male and 2 for female. Organisational tenure (1. Less than 5 years; 2. 5-10 years; 3. 11-15 years; 4. 16-20 years; 5. Above 20 years), age (1. under 30 years; 2. 31-40 years; 3. 41-50 years; 4. 51-60 years; 5. Above 60 years), organisational status (1. Junior; 2. Senior; 3. Supervisor; 4. Manager; 5. Senior Manager), and number of children (1. None; 2: 1-2; 3: 3-4; 4: 5-6; 5: Above 6).
Family – Work Conflict
The four item scale for family work conflict was taken from the work of Wayne, Musisca and Fleeson (2004). This instrument measures an individual’s perception that involvement in family role affects effectiveness in the work role. An item in the scale is ‘Responsibilities at home reduce the efforts you can devote to your job’. Cronbach alpha obtained by Wayne, et al. (2004) was 0.80, compared to 0.72 obtained in the current study.
Availability of Work–Family Friendly Policies
The list of the work-family friendly policies was derived from the study by Hammer, et al. (2005). The items used by the authors that do not apply to employees in Nigeria were removed, while others were modified to reflect what they are in Nigeria. For example, the family health insurance was modified to family health programme, elder care was modified to spouse care, while unpaid leave, on site child care, and on site support groups were removed because they do not apply in Nigeria. The final list contains one alternate job arrangement (job sharing), and six dependent care benefits (personal time off/paid leave, family health programme, pretax income for child care, pretax income care for spouse, resource/referral for child care, work and family seminars). Using the procedure adopted by Anderson, et al. (2002), participants were asked to indicate (1: yes or 2: no) the availability of the listed policies. A coding system was developed from zero for no benefits to seven for all the benefits. All the participants indicated at least one benefit.
This is a five item scale taken from the work of Carr, et al. (2008). This instrument measures the degree to which work is important to employees. An item in the scale is ‘In my view, an individual’s personal life goals should be work-oriented rather than family-oriented’ Cronbach alpha obtained by Carr, et al. (2008) was 0.93, compared to 0.79 obtained in the current study.
Career Consequences of Using Work – Family Friendly Policy
This is a five item scale taken from the work of Anderson, et al. (2002). The instrument captures an employee’s perception that utilising work-family friendly policies provided by the organisation will have negative consequences on career. An item in the scale is‘At my place of employment, employees have to choose between advancing in their jobs and devoting attention to their family or personal lives’. Cronbach alpha obtained by Anderson, et al. (2002) was 0.75, compared to 0.68 obtained in the current study.
The hypotheses were tested using hierarchical multiple regression analyses. The control variables were entered in step 1, availability of work family friendly policies in step 2, career consequences and work centrality were entered in step 3, and the interaction terms involving work-family friendly policies, work centrality, and career consequences were entered in step 4. Prior to calculating the interaction terms, the variables involved were centred in line with the work of Aiken and West (1991), to avoid multicollinearity. The rejection rate for assessing all statistics is p = 0.05.
All the variables have acceptable Cronbach alpha of 0.7 and above (Cronbach 1951). Unrotated principal factor analysis was performed using data for three of the study variables excluding the utilisation of the family-friendly policy. The first factor in the analysis extracted 14 per cent variance, compared to 52 per cent extracted by the other two factors. The evidence is common method variance is not very serious (Koufteros, Vonderembse & Doll 2002). Similarly, the square of the bivariate correlation between two variables was less than the variance extracted by each of the variable, confirming discriminant validity (Koufteros, et al. 2002). Table 1 highlights the bivariate correlation between the study variables. Family-work conflict is significantly correlated with the availability of work-family friendly policies (-.18), and career consequence (.17). The correlation with work centrality (.05) is non significant. Thus, hypothesis 1 and hypothesis 2 are supported, while hypothesis 4 is unsupported.
Notes: N = 224.
*p < 0.05, and ** p < 0.01.
FWC = Family-work conflict, AWFFP = Availability of Work-family friendly policies, REL = Cronbach alpha, CC = Career consequences, WC = Work centrality, and CHILD = Number of children.
As shown in Table 2, after controlling for the demographic variables, family-work conflict is negatively related to the availability of work-family friendly policy (-.20), and accounts for 4.1 per cent variance in family-work conflict. Career consequence is positively related to family-work conflict (.17), and accounts for 2.6 per cent variance in family-work conflict.The relationships with work centrality (-.06) are non significant.These results support hypotheses 1 and hypothesis 2, but failed to support hypothesis 4. After controlling for the main effects of the study variables, the interaction terms AWFFP*WC is non significant (.13), while WFFP*CC is significant (-.23), and accounts for additional 4.7 per cent variance in the family-work conflict. Thus, hypothesis 3 is supported, while hypothesis 5 is unsupported.
|Step 1||Step 2||Step 3||Step 4||Step 5|
Notes: N = 224.
*p < 0.05.
AWFFP = Availability of work-family friendly policies, MS = Management support, CC = Career consequences, WC = Work centrality, STA = Organisational status, and CHILD = Number of children.
The method recommended by Aiken and West (1991) was utilised in interpreting the significant interaction term. The participants were divided into two groups based on their scores in career consequence. Using the mean of career consequence as reference point, two groups were created having one standard deviation above and below the mean. These groups were labelled as low and high career consequence groups, respectively. A regression analysis involving family-work conflict, and the availability of work-family friendly policy was run separately for each group. The slope of the graphs for low and high career consequence participants are -.39 and -.28, respectively; and both slopes are significant. The graphs in Figure 1 show that the participants who felt that their participation in the work-family friendly policies would hurt their career experienced more family-work conflict than their counterparts who reported low career consequence.
Family-work conflict relationship with availability of work-family friendly policies for high and low career consequence
Past studies had queried the effectiveness of organisationally provided work-family friendly policies in helping employees achieve work-family balance (Goff, Mount & Jamison 1990, Solomon 1994). This led to the call for more studies aimed at determining the conditions necessary for the effectiveness of these policies (Thomas & Ganster 1995, Kossek & Ozeki 1998). Carlson and Kacmar (2000), and Carr, et al. (2008) had suggested that the interaction of work-family friendly policies, and organisational work and family supportive culture could explain the poor relationships between work-family friendly policies and workfamily conflict. In line with these suggestions, this study tested the direct and interactive roles of work centrality and career consequence in the work-family friendly policies and family-work conflict model.
There are certain boundary conditions in this study that should be considered while interpreting the obtained results. Cross sectional methodology was used in acquiring the data, and so causal inference cannot be made. Common method variance cannot be ignored. However, the results of the unrotated principal factor analyses indicated that the level of common method variance was not an issue.
The hypothesised finding relationship between work centrality and family-work conflict is non significant. This agrees with the non significant correlation obtained by Carlson and Kacmar (2000). The interaction between work centrality and work-family friendly policies did not affect the work-family friendly policy and family-work conflict relationship. A possible explanation of these results is that employees high in work centrality do not care about events in the family domain which is not central to their self identity. Further study is required to test this assumption.
The regression results indicate that availability of work-family friendly policy has a negative effect on family-work conflict. This is justified by the fact that instrumental and social support help individuals to balance work and family roles, and thus, act as buffers to the conflicts arising from the work and family domains (Carlson & Kacmar 2000, Anderson, et al. 2002).The direct effect of career consequence on family-work conflict is positive and significant. Gordon, et al. (2007) obtained significant direct effect between career consequence and work-family conflict, while Thompson, et al. (1999) obtained a significant direct effect between work and family supportive culture and work-family conflict. The result presented in this study shows that career consequence, a dimension of work and family supportive culture, plays a similar role in a family-work conflict model. Employees who perceive high career consequence are likely to avoid using work-family friendly policies in managing family demands. Such employees are likely to be able to manage the conflict arising from their roles in the family hence, the high perception of family-work conflict. The interaction between career consequence and availability of work-family friendly policy to predict family-work conflict is significant. Further exploration of this significant interaction term reveals that when career consequence of using work-family friendly policies is high, the reduction of family-work conflict associated with availability of work-family friendly policies is low.This will arise when employees avoid the use of the policies an observation that confirms the proposition made by Groover and Crooker (1995) that career consequence is likely to interact with work-family friendly policy to predict work-family conflicts; and the anecdotal stories that when workfamily friendly policies are available, but not used, individuals may not achieve work-family balance (Hammonds 1997). As a fact, the fear of negative consequence on career is often cited as the main reason for the lack of use of work-family friendly policies (Bailyn 1993, Solomon 1994).
The main contribution of this study is the expansion of the work-family friendly availability and family-work conflict model to include the direct and interactive roles of work centrality and career consequence. The inclusion of these roles improved the predictive capability of work-family friendly policy. The understanding of family-work conflict, its antecedents and consequences is beneficial to employers and employees. The negative relationship between the availability of work-family friendly policies and family-work conflict is an indication that there is potential benefit when employers invest in such policies. However, the significant moderation effect of career consequence shows that the benefit accruable to employers who invest in work-family friendly policies may not be fully realised, if the organisational culture does not support the use of the policies. In arriving at the decision to use or not use the organisationally provided work-family friendly policies, employees consider what may happen when they take advantage of the policies. For example, an organisational policy that takes employee’s presence at work as an indicator of the employee’s contribution will not be supportive of employee taking time off to handle family issues.
Organisations that provide work-family friendly policies, and favourable culture for their use are likely to achieve two important objectives, simultaneously. The first objective is that their employees will be productive when they achieve work-family balance.The second is that the organisation is likely to gain a competitive advantage (because of superior human resources) over those who do not provide the policies or favourable culture. Work centrality had neither a direct effect on family-work conflict, nor did it interact with work-family friendly policies to predict family-work conflict. However, employees high in work centrality are highly involved in their job, and thus, may generate a great deal of stress arising from the conflict between their work and family life. The results obtained in this study may be an indication that employees with high work centrality interpret events in the work and family domains differently. Further investigation in other settings is warranted.
is an employee of Chevron Nigeria Limited and has worked for the organisation for twenty five years. He obtained his PhD from the University of Benin, Benin City in Nigeria. He is a part time lecturer in Business Administration, at Lagos State University in Lagos, Nigeria. His research interests include work-family conflict, organisational behaviour and training.
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