Work-Family Conflict: White vs Blue Collar


Topic: Work-Life Balance
Publication: Journal of Organizational and Occupational Psychology
Article: The roles of context and everyday experience in understanding work-non work relationships: A qualitative diary study of white- and blue-collar workers.
Blogger: Rob Stilson

This study focused on work-family conflict as observed in two organizations, one that encouraged work-family integration (Organization I) and one that fostered segmentation of work-family life (Organization S). Participants were asked to fill out diaries for 14 consecutive days.

Five goals of the study included:

·      Explore both positive and negative aspects of work-family conflict

·      Present an event-based view of work-family conflict

·      Explore work-family conflict in a phenomenological (subjective) way

·      Capture the work-family conflict of both blue and white collar workers

·      Examine day-to-day experiences of specific work family events in a context sensitive way

It turned out that there was no significant difference between positive and negative work-family events reported by workers at either organization.  However, in Organization I, work affected family about twice as much as family affected work. This relationship was also found among workers from Organization S but not to the same degree.

A specific finding was that work to family negative spillover tends to happen in episodes spread across several days and clustering around a common theme (e.g., a conflict with a particular line manager over a week causing emotional duress at home from such a bad day at work).

Also of interest was that flex time, while helping many at Organization I, made some workers feel guilty or anxious when they took advantage of not having a rigid schedule to tend to their personal matters.

Additionally, the diary entries indicated that work-family relationships can be simultaneously depleting and enriching.

Lastly, it appears that only those who had children felt negatively affected by the rigid schedule of organizations, and those without children got into a routine and fit their outside life around work.

Overall, this is a good read, especially for those interested in work-family conflict.  The diaries presented a novel way of data collection and may have yielded some new areas to look at and new theories to test.  If you are not interested in work-family conflict, you may still want to check out this article, if only for the amusing anecdotes.

S., Briner, R. B., and Kiefer, T. (2008) The roles of context and everyday
in understanding work-non work relationships: A qualitative diary study of
and blue-collar workers. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology,