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Topics: Work/Empowerment & Families/Gender (cross-referenced)
Re-Linking Work and Family
A Catalyst for Organizational Change
What are the barriers to work-family integration and the development of workplaces that are equitable for men and women? The Re-linking Work and Family project and case study challenges the notions that work and family obligations are adversarial and that success—organizational, individual, and societal—lies in keeping the work and family spheres separate and distinct. By re-linking these spheres at several work sites—Xerox Corporation, Corning, Inc., and Tandem Computers, Inc.—this project provides an alternative vision of an ideal worker, a successful organization, and a functional, equitable society. Case study plus.
Part I: Background and Historical Context
Part II: Linking of Work, Family & Community, & Gender Equity
Part III: Making and Sustaining Change
Notes, Suggested Readings, Appendix, Appendix Notes, Research Teams
Part I: Background and Historical Context
Part II: Linking of Work, Family & Community, & Gender Equity
Case Study Plus: Re-Linking Work and Family
Lotte Bailyn, Rhona Rapoport, Deborah Kolb, Joyce Fletcher, et al.
WP #3892-96 April 1996
The work reported here is part of a larger project supported by the Ford Foundation in three leading edge companies: An MIT-based research group worked with the Xerox Corpoation; a team from the Families and Work Institute worked with Corning, Inc.; and a team from Artemis Management Consultants worked with Tandem Computers, Inc. Members from all the teams contributed to this report. We are particularly grateful to Susan Eaton, Dana Friedman, Ellen Galinsky, Maureen Harvey, Robin Johnson, Barbara Miller, and June Zeitlin for their careful reading of earlier drafts. This report emphasizes the structure and culture of work, which was the central focus of the Xerox team. The Corning team emphasized more the relation between work-family concerns and diversity; and the Tandem team placed more emphasis on individuals and their relationships. Interested readers can contact the Families and Work Institute and Artemis Management Consultants for further information on their sites.
Part I: Background and Historical Context
Since the Industrial Revolution, work life and family life have been structured as separate, with work belonging to men and family to women. Though this conception has never coincided with the full reality of people's lives, workplaces, communities, and families have been organized as if only men go to work and only women stay at home. In the second half of this century, the variations from this presumed reality have increased, with more women entering the workplace and, recently, with more men doing somewhat more in families. Despite these changes, workplace structures, practices, and expectations are still based on the notion that employees should be willing and able to make work their main priority, over and above their family, community, or other concerns of their private lives. This situation implies that men's and women's opportunities and responsibilities—and so the constraints on them—are not equitably divided.
Concern about the consequences of this inequity—for business, people, families, and communities—prompted the project described in this report We show that the gendered separation of work and family can be bridged, and that it is possible to bring together the needs of these various constituencies by workplace changes anchored in a radically different conception of how these elements are linked.
The strict separation of work and family has not always prevailed. In primarily agrarian societies, women were important contributors to the economy. Once production moved to the factories and cities, men were the breadwinners while women who were economically able stayed at home, with primary responsibility for care in the family and the community. Along with this division of labor, came the sense that work and family are necessarily distinct. While this sense of separation became a societal norm, it was not true in practice for all women—particularly not for working class and minority women who had to work for financial reasons.
For a long time, it was primarily national emergencies that led to a blurring of the societal separation between work and family life.  When nations were in need of women's labor, it became possible to bridge this separation, though only to the extent of concern about the care of children. For instance, during the American Civil War and World War I some employers opened temporary child care centers to meet worker shortages. World War II gave rise to another round of employer sponsored centers, which had government support. In 1940, the US Congress passed legislation that encouraged the creation of community-based child care programs in defense plant areas to help the war effort.
After the war, many women returned home, the work force was replenished by returning servicemen, and work was again presumed to be the domain of men, and family that of women. This notion was brought to public attention in Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique in 1963. In the 1960s, with the entry of increasing numbers of white middle class women into paid employment, the participation of women in the labor force began once more to rise and the decade also saw the beginning of the Women's Movement. But serious attention by business to their employees' work-family concerns did not begin until the early 1980s.
Academic approaches to these issues were embedded in the same cultural view of separation. For example, there was a sociology of work and a sociology of the family, a psychology of occupations and a psychology of marital relations.  Each sub-discipline had its own specialists with their own theories and language, and there was little communication between them. In the '60s end '70s, a few scholars with interdisciplinary perspectives identified the separation as a problem and began to reconceptualize the relationship between the work and family spheres of life. Prompted by their findings in a study of couples simultaneously leaving college for their first jobs and getting married, and reported in their 1965 article "Work and Family in Contemporary Society," Rhona and Robert Rapoport began an intensive study of families in which both husbands and wives contributed regularly to the economy as well as sustaining a family life with at least one child. The results of this project were published in 1971 in Dual-Career Families and in the 1976 second edition entitled Dual-Career Families Re-examined. The project began at a time of societal concern about the loss to the labor force of highly qualified women who routinely left their work when they married and had children. The families studied were termed Dual Career Families and this term has since become part of the vernacular; it signified a type of family that self-consciously rejected the conventional pattern of separate and, often, subservient wife with husband as sole economic provider. The dual career families in this study were not primarily concerned with equality or equity. Yet, the choices they made constituted new ways of integrating work and family life. The working partnerships they evolved were associated with the tensions and stresses involved in societies with few social supports and few role models for the pattern; but they were perceived as preferable to the conventional pattern. This study was the forerunner of many studies on dual career and dual earner families. It also has direct links to the present study.
The couples the Rapoports studied were white and highly educated. A rethinking of the links between work and family among working class couples, primarily white, appeared in a 1978 book by Chaya Piotrkowski entitled Work and the Family System. Women in these families had always been in the labor force for economic reasons, but the institutional and cultural norm of separation functioned for them as well, despite, or perhaps because of their personal experience.
Some of this '70s writing attempted to reconceptualize the links between work and family, while other research centered on spillover problems from work to family, conflict between work and family life, and the ensuing stress. This latter approach usually assumed a trade-off or adversarial model between work and family. But the academic work did not reach into business, and employees' families were still largely ignored by their employers, who acted as if workers did not have lives outside of their employment. From the point of view of employment, the two areas were still presumed to be completely separate.
Nonetheless, when Rosabeth Moss Kanter provided the first full-scale review of work and family interactions in her 1977 monograph, Work and Family in the United States, she found a number of social forces giving rise to concern about work-family interactions. She traced the historical forces making for the gap between the two spheres and those forces that might reverse that trend. Kanter showed that family life suffered as work achieved primary importance in many people's lives, particularly among those who, while members both of a family system and an occupational system, often act as if they are only in one system. She argued that a better balance would be achieved if families "fought back" and women became more active in work as well as at home.
The work of the '70s began to raise issues about how society and work organizations, in particular, could better take into account the interface between the personal lives of people and their work. To do this requires understanding, according to Kanter, the varieties of "patterns of separateness and connectedness between working and loving, occupations and families...and examining the consequences of these patterns of work-family associations for the lives of American men, women and children." Also, during this time, Edgar H. Schein and associates began to link family issues to career dynamics, postulating a three way model of career, family, and self. 
In 1977, Joseph Pleck conceptualized the link between family and work as different for men and women: the boundary, he wrote in an article entitled "The Work-Family Role System," is differentially permeable for each sex. Though more recent empirical work has not always supported this view, whether men and women should be seen as the same or as different has been an academic theme throughout these years.  What is clearly true is that women still bear the greater burden of the "second shift"—aptly named by Arlie Hochschild in an influential1989 book of that name.
Ellen Galinsky's and Diane Hughes' early 1980s study of work-family issues in a corporation (one of the first), which was also supported by the Ford Foundation, showed that job characteristics were related both to the ability of workers to balance work with family and to the state of their marriage. In other words, what happens in the workplace matters for families. And, toward the end of the 1980s as more and more women from all classes began to enter the work force, Lotte Bailyn began to link the transformations that were going on in corporations—more participation and self-management, Total Quality Management, empowerment, reengineering—to the changes occurring in family patterns, and showed how certain assumptions and structures of work were systematically exacerbating the tensions arising from the pulls of these two areas. Her work, summarized in a 1993 book Breaking the Mold, is another specific precursor of the present project. It also reflects the concern with total working time (including housework) that Juliet Schor, in ha 1991 book The Overworked American, brought to public attention.
Though much of this academic work was ignored by public policy and by business, there were important developments also in those institutions. Toward the middle of the 1970s, some industrial countries introduced equal opportunity legislation. Also, economic and demographic analyses predicted a serious skills shortage by the end of the century. This combined, in the 1980s, with the more rapidly increasing participation of women in the labor force, particularly among mothers of young children.  At this point, some businesses began to be concerned about their employees' non-work lives—as for instance in the development of Employee Assistance Programs—but they did so without changing the underlying framework of the presumed separation between work and family.
During this time, companies slowly evolved work-family policies and programs and centered them in their human resource departments, which defined them as marginal to business concerns. These efforts, despite legal strictures to the contrary, were geared primarily to women, particularly those with children. This led employees who were single or not parents to worry about having to take over the work of those on leave, and also created a category of workers who were seen as not fully committed to their work ("the mommy track"). The belief continued to be that work and family were adversarial and that accommodations to employees' families or other private concerns were not of strategic importance for business.
With the current widespread downsizing of American corporations, work-family policies and programs have flourished, even though it looked as if they might be casualties of restructuring. (A 1991 benchmarking study by the Families and Work Institute found that the strongest predictor of corporate family friendliness was change—either a downsizing, merger, or replaced CEO.) Companies are concerned about the morale of those who survive a downsizing and on whom they have to depend to do more with less. The provision of inexpensive dependent care initiatives and flexibility are seen as ways to support the remaining work force. Companies also hoped that these programs might help them deal with a problem they were just beginning to be aware of: that though they were recruiting more women, they were not very successful in retaining them or in moving them up the organization.
So now, in 1996, many large companies have work-family initiatives underway, and work-family issues are the subject of numerous conferences by non-profit, government, academic, and business trade organizations. Many federal, state, and city agencies have created work-family task forces, clearing houses, or education campaigns. In addition, a work-family industry has formed and continues to grow. Major benefits consulting firms have developed a work-family practice area and there is a proliferation of work-family managers in companies. And, since passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993, the US is now somewhat closer to other industrialized countries in legislating at least some provision for dealing with pregnancy, parenting, adoption, and family illness.
This evolution can be described by some predictable patterns that companies follow as they begin to address work-family concerns at the workplace. The Families and Work Institute has discussed these patterns in terms of stages. Initially, companies are generally focused on child care. At this stage, they recognize the increase in the number of women employed by the company, and believe that by accommodating family needs they may reap greater commitment and loyalty, or fewer absences. Companies at this stage generally want proof of a return on investment in work-family programs in order to legitimize action.
Though there is often talk of child care centers at this stage, companies soon realize that a center is not necessarily the most practical or cost effective response, and settle on developing a referral service for finding child care, flexible benefits that offer pre-tax dollars to pay for child care, or parenting seminars to help reduce stress. A company at this stage is aware of the costs of not responding to the needs of employees' children, but once it has developed one or two initiatives, management assumes that it has "solved the problem" and looks forward to returning to "real" business issues.
In a second stage, companies begin to see the benefits of responding, and broaden the kinds of issues they address. The impetus now moves beyond the loss of productivity that child care appears to cause and includes also concerns about recruitment and retention. Flexible work arrangements are the hallmark of this stage. Policies are changed and more alternatives are offered. Training for managers often accompanies the roll-out of these more flexible work options because flexibility is permitted only at the discretion of the manager. Overall, companies at this stage have moved away from a fragmentary approach to work and family policies, and have adopted an expanded and more integrated constellation of policies and programs.
At a third stage, the emphasis is less on recruitment or retention per se, but rather on how to fully engage employees' potential for their jobs. At this stage, companies are forced to recognize that an innovative set of policies and programs will be effective only if they exist within a supportive culture. They begin to realize that even when a full range of flexible work options is offered, people are reluctant to use them because of perceived career sanctions for those who do. Mothers taking the full maternity leave, for instance, may not be promoted or may be passed over for challenging assignments. Similarly, men may be reluctant to ask for paternity leave, even if it is officially available. Trying to deal with this gap between the intent of the policies and their implementation is the critical challenge.
Companies at this stage also begin to broaden the concept of family to include those without children or elderly dependents. They begin to convey a stronger message about including men and non-traditional families, such as gay couples, domestic partners, and grandparents raising grandchildren. As a result, many companies at this stage change the terminology from "work-family" to "work-life" or "work-personal life."
Each of these developments enlarges the scope of assistance that companies provide to their employees in helping them integrate their work and private lives. None, however, deviates significantly from the underlying conception that these two spheres inherently compete with each other, and that companies must do something about the private sphere in order to ensure that their employees will contribute their all to the work for which they are paid. No longer conceived as entirely separate, the two areas are now seen to overlap. Companies acknowledge the overlap by providing special people or departments to deal with the issues so that the main work of the business can proceed without interference from employees' personal lives.
And so, work-family issues remain largely individual accommodations to be meted out by managers. This notion of work-family support as an individual accommodation leads to some of the problems with current practice. Managers generally grant employee requests for family support only for above average performers who have "given their all" in the past. In this sense, flexibility becomes a reward. Or, the company may expect payback in the future, in which case flexibility is a favor, with the expectation of a quid pro quo. Both ways of thinking lead to merit-based leaves, i.e. time off for family needs only to those who "deserve it." Such an approach inhibits use of flexible work arrangements and does not allow an employee who is seen as an average performer—perhaps because of work-family conflict—to receive the support he or she needs to contribute to both the job and the family. There is no collective purpose that is understood or articulated that would account for a more strategic view of these issues. Individuals do not demand such a response because of the potential threats to their jobs in a time of high job insecurity. So the subject of meeting family needs is not linked to strategic organizational goals.
Thus we see the business response to these issues moving from a view of employees' private lives as completely off the screen, to one where their concerns are taken care of on the margins by special groups designed to help individual people deal with family needs. Our vision, on which this project is based, is different. Rather than adversarial, we conceive of these areas of life experience as intrinsically, inherently, and inextricably linked. Our work shows a strategic linking of employee work-family concerns (family in its broadest meaning—see box) to work and business goals. But we are concerned that the linking be done in an equitable way, to the benefit of men and women, business, and also families and communities. Though our project did not focus directly on people's community involvements, this is an important area since the increased emphasis on paid employment by both men and women has decreased citizen participation in community life.
Our use of the word family goes well beyond the narrow definition of immediate kin. We intend it to apply to all those involvements and commitments that a person has outside of his or her employment. We use it, therefore, almost metaphorically, to stand for all aspects of an individual's personal life. One of the goals of this project—to further gender equity—is a challenge, particularly in today's socio-political climate. To many in business the term means pay equity between men and women, or getting women to the top, or numbers that need to be defended against internal or external critics. To them it means affirmative acdon and dealing with such sensitive issues as sexual harassment. These are all part of what we mean, but are not the essence of our conception of this term.
When we talk of gender equity, we refer to issues that concern women and men. This is not only a women's issue. Men have gender, just as women do; as whites have race just as blacks do. Men's over-identification with work and occupation as a source of self-esteem feeds gender inequity just as does the presumption that women alone are responsible for family and community. Our sense of an equitable society is one where each sex depends for its sense of worth and identity on both spheres; where people and families regard the distribution of opportunities and constraints as fair; and where all social institutions value and support both economic and domestic enterprise.
This is not easy to achieve. It requires looking at and questioning basic assumptions we all have about who we are, how we do our work, and how we participate in our families and communities. Though the workplace often inhibits the realization of such equity, we do believe that it has the potential to effect basic change. Our project reflects this belief.
The rest of this report focuses on our discoveries and the methods we used in our work. It should be remembered, however, that this is a study in progress. Most major changes in organizations take 8-10 years. We have made some important changes but making them stick requires further work. It is also important to remember that although we are concerned with work-family integration, the study so far has focused on the work side with some ideas about family. Future studies need to enlarge the scope to include families and communities.
Part II: Strategic Linking of Work, Family and Community, and Gender Equity
(Unless otherwise noted, all the examples and quotes in this section come from the work at the Xerox Corporation.)
Our project combines work—its structure and the culture surrounding it—with work-family issues and with gender equity. These links are not usually made in organizations. Work-family concerns and gender equity are typically seen as problems to be dealt with at the margins, by staff groups separate from line management, and not central to the structure of work or the culture surrounding it. Our key discovery is that the separation of these issues is detrimental to both business and employee goals. Reframing and re-linking these elements provide a strategic opportunity to achieve a more equitable and productive workplace. In this part of the report, we describe the findings that led to this central proposition.
The first section of this Part deals with the link between work, family, and gender equity. At each site we found that basic assumptions about work need to be questioned and changed in order to create the potential for real gender equity at work, in the family, and in the community. Though in reality it is impossible for either men or women to keep these domains strictly separate, our findings show that the cultural assumption of separation impairs both work efficiency and social stability. The difficulties that men and women encounter from this assumption are different, but in all cases they reflect the current structuring of work, which favors men in the workplace and women in the community and the family.
The second section addresses this issue by stressing the necessity to reframe work-family issues as systemic concerns requiring systemic solutions rather than individual issues requiring individual accommodadons. This is a necessary condition for productive linking of business goals with private lives. As long as work-family issues are constructed as only individual problems, to be dealt with idiosyncratically by each manager, the synergy we discovered will not be forthcoming. Without a collective understanding that personal issues affect all employees—often in different ways—it will not be possible systematically to relate them to the work systems and practices in the work environment.
The third and final section shows the double advantage of linking work-family needs to work. Initially we hoped to show that changing work to help people lead more integrated lives would not unduly interfere with business goals; we found, however, that these same changes actually further the aims of the business. The way this takes place differs by site, depending on tasks, types of employees, and occupational and organizational culture. Though we realize that to achieve true gender equity there must be changes within the family as well as within the workplace, our project did not specifically deal with this connection.
In summary, our work shows that when work-family issues are framed systemically, they can lead to innovations in work practices that help organizations meet their goals and at the same time contribute to the private lives of workers in more equitable ways.
Linking Work, Family, and Gender Equity
What are the barriers to work-family integration and the development of workplaces that are equitable for men and women, even in those companies with leading edge work-family policies and programs? The cultural assumption that separates work from family underlies organizational practices and norms that are problematic for workers—male and female—who want to integrate their work and personal lives. As one engineer put it, "The problem isn't for those who have decided to put work first and family second. They can do that just fine here. And it isn't for those who have decided to put family first. They won't go far here but that's okay because that's what they've decided is important. The problem is for people like me who want both—a good family and a good career."
This situation arises from work practices and norms organized around an image of an ideal worker who is "career primary," able and willing to put work first, and for whom time at work is infinitely expandable. At several sites, this translates into work practices that include early morning meetings, planning sessions that run after hours, often ending with the suggestion to "continue this discussion over dinner," and training and development programs that require long absences from home. Moreover, organizational commitment is measured not only by one's ability to meet these work norms, but also through repeated demonstration of a willingness to put work ahead of personal concerns. Thus, at professional levels it is commonplace to be called into work on weekends or evenings to handle emergencies that often could wait till the next day. Informal pressure to delay vacations or schedule them in project "down times" is sometimes intense and commitment is measured by what one manager proudly declared as his definition of a star engineer: "someone who doesn't know enough to go home at night." Indeed, at one site, teams who pulled all-nighters were routinely given standing ovations in the morning by their (presumably less committed) co-workers. At lower levels in the organization this belief in the need to have "career primary" workers translates into tight controls on people's time and flexibility to make sure work will not be sacrificed for personal life.
In situations where "ideal workers" are assumed to be those whose first allegiance is to work, people with career aspirations go to great lengths to hide their practical commitments to families. Some people give false reasons for leaving work in the middle of the day; they feel that attending a community board or other civic meeting is not likely to brand them as uncommitted, but taking a child for a physical might. Some secretly take children on business trips with them but make sure no one ever knows. Others leave their computers on in their offices while they pick up children from sports events so people walking by will think they are in a meeting. Still others send sick children to child care centers and hope they won't get calls to come get them, or on the night shift will lock sleeping children in their cars and use coffee breaks to go check on them. Both men and women with career aspirations strive to present this image of a "career primary" worker who can keep family under control and not let personal issues interfere with work.
While the difficulty of integrating work and family appears to be gender neutral, we found that, because of gender roles and expectations, its effects on men and women are often different. For example, requests for ad hoc, emergency flexibility have few career implications for those - mostly men—whose family needs are temporary and short-term. On the other hand, reward systems that value "face time" and perfect attendance have significant career consequences for those—often women—who have routine, on-going family responsibilities and must end work at regular hours or use sick days to care for others. Care givers who try to negotiate long-term special arrangements run a greater risk of being branded as less committed or less dependable workers even though many of these arrangements are described in personnel manuals as readily available to all workes.
In the same vein, expectations that women are, or should be, "family primary" tend to taint women as unfit for the demands of organizational life. As a result, some women—especially those in professional or managerial positions—feel they have to hide their families altogether. Thus, while men have family pictures on their desks, these women keep their desks clear of all family reminders. While some high level men may be congratulated for occasionally being late for early meetings because they are driving their children to school, many women at these same levels feel pressure to keep their families off the organizational screen, a phenomenon one woman described as "operating under the radar." Indeed, one of the compliments frequently paid high-achieving women is that "you'd never even know she had a child."
Although it is less politically correct than it used to be to suggest that women belong in the home and men belong at work, we found these attitudes and beliefs are still alive and seriously influence organizational practices. One high level male sales representative voiced the attitude of many in explaining: "The problem is greed. If people were content to live on just one income, there would be no problem. What I see is that younger families expect a lavish lifestyle and that means that wives have to work and so we here at the company are trying to accommodate that and, don't get me wrong, I think we should...but on the other hand, it's not really our fault."
This deeply held, but not often expressed, belief that society works best when women stay at home and men go to work, creates real problems for people who step out of gender roles. For example, when women do make the choice to focus primarily on work, there may actually be negative career consequences. One divisional manager, in explaining why one woman had failed a management review process, said: "She probably thought it would be seen as positive that she was willing to sacrifice her family for work. But she has gone through two divorces and who knows who is taking care of those kids...that's not the kind of person we admire." These women are caught in a classic double bind: the work culture mandates subordinating caring for family but punishes them for doing it.
Men experience a similar reaction when they try to step out of gender roles. Although it is possible for them to achieve near hero status for taking on some short-term family responsibility, it is far more difficult for them to use the family policies for any long term arrangements. Managers who decide what requests for flexibility can be accommodated, often make these decisions based on need. Assumptions about gender roles make it very difficult for men to make a strong case based on need and many told us that they don't even try because they believe these long term accommodations are, in reality, available only to women. As one technical supervisor notes: "Men here are seen as wimps by senior management if they talk about their desire to spend time with their families." Thus, men who want to be more involved in family and community and to share more of the responsibility for private sphere experience face significant organizational constraints in achieving this goal. Integrating work and family, then, is a different experience for women and men, presenting different challenges and different organizational obstacles. Thus, the cultural separation of work and family by gender and the narrow organizational definition of what constitutes a work-family need unfairly hinder women while purporting to support them, and do not legitimate men's concerns while maintaining a myth of their ideal worker status. The inequity is in the way work-family accommodations are tied to gender even though on paper, at least, work-family benefits are available to all.
Although both men and women spoke poignantly of the pain and unfairness of having to choose between career and family, we found most do not challenge the gender roles that encourage men to be career primary and women to be family primary. Indeed, these gender roles tend to be accepted at a very deep, often unconscious level. One young man who is on the fast track spoke of how he wants to spend more time with his two young children but fears that if he is ever going to provide for them he will have to make the same choice his father did and sacrifice time with them to focus on his career. His sense of the appropriate masculine role seems to dictate that if forced to make a choice it will have to be career. And one young woman who had just passed up a promotion spoke of how "unreasonable" it was for her to even think of taking the job. As she put it, "I chose to have three kids. I couldn't possibly do that job and stay sane. I chose to have these kids and now I have to take care of them. It's just not reasonable to take on a job like that with kids this age." Her view of herself, her sense of femininity, and the current options open to her seem to mean that she has to choose family. Thus women are unfairly constrained in their ability to achieve in the workplace and men are unfairly constrained in their ability to achieve in the family.
Our project challenges these deeply held assumptions that success—organizational, individual, and societal—lies in keeping the work and family spheres separate and distinct. By re-linking these spheres, it provides an alternative vision of an ideal worker, a successful organization, and a functional, equitable society. For example, at one of our sites we challenged the image of the ideal worker by documenting the work practices of "integrated" individuals—people who are able, despite the cultural imperative to the contrary, to 1ink these two arenas. Our documentation of these people's work practices (many of whom were women) found that they used skills more often associated with the private, domestic sphere of life, such as sharing, nurturing, collaborating, and attending to the emotional context of situations. Since these are less valued and often invisible in the workplace or considered inappropriate to it, we created a language of competence to talk about these activities and the relational skills they required. We called the people "lead users"  and described their behavior in terms of goal achievement. We showed that introducing these skills into those more strongly associated with, and more valued by, the public sphere of economic activity, such as rationality, linear thinking, autonomy, and independence, offers a new vision of an ideal worker as one who combines these characteristics. Moreover, it is clearly in the organization's best interest not only to hire individuals who are fully involved in both spheres but to foster and encourage this full involvement. Such a way of thinking, however, challenges organizational assumptions about success by recasting the personal sphere as beneficial rather than detrimental to organizational goals.
Though society seems to be based on a gendered separation of work and personal life, in fact, at every site, men and women recounted the ways in which their lives are interdependent blends of work and family, and emphasized their desire to have good careers and good families. Some workers—because of their position, their financial resources, or their being defined as valuable employees—are able, at times, to manage this boundary on their own. The rest, including many working class women and men and people of color, simmer with discontent. In all cases, energy and loyalty are diverted unnecessarily from the organization because of the culture's adversarial framing of work and family and its effect on existing work practices.
As the next section shows, our project challenges the assumption that work and family are separate spheres by re-linking these issues at the systemic level. We do this by questioning individuals who cast these as issues of personal choice and by suggesdng ways in which they are interdependent and connected. For example, with one management team we indicated that by selecting as "top employees" only those who had skills in the public domain of employment—mostly male—they were inadvertently undermining the kind of skills and kind of team-oriented worker their corporate vision statement professed to need. With the manager who criticized the female employee for sacrificing family for her career, we suggested that it is the organizational definition of commitment and the image of the "ideal worker" that is the problem. Expecting someone in a management review process to represent herself as someone other than this type of worker is unrealistic. Furthermore, to the extent that this definition of commitment has negative consequences for society—i.e. divorce, neglected children—managers and organizations have some responsibility to bear.
Reframing Work-Family Issues as Systemic Concerns Requiring Systemic Solutions
In order to affect these inequitable practices, it is necessary to redefine the relation between work and family as systemic rather than as strictly individual. Indeed, we found that the traditional framing of work-family issues as individual concerns requiring individual accommodations actually had several unintended negative consequences not only for worker's personal lives and the goal of a gender equitable workplace, but also for business goals related to work practice redesign and process reengineering. For example, the traditional view that work-family concerns result from strictly individual choices means that people often keep these concerns private. Since discussing one's experience of work practices that make work-family integration difficult might brand one as someone with a problem, people tend to keep this experience—and related innovative solutions—hidden. As a result, not only do people feel very alone in dealing with these concerns, but certain work-related issues remain undiscussible at the collective level, where real systemic change might yield significant business results. Change that does occur is often limited to the scope of an individual's job responsibilities.
What is perhaps more problematic—and somewhat puzzling—is that even when individuals go against these cultural norms and use their personal situations to suggest innovations, and even when such individual changes are highly successful and result in collective gains, they are often viewed by management as negative and their systemic implications are ignored. One team leader, for example, arranged a four-day schedule to cut down on a long commute and to spend more time with her children. Not only was she served by this arrangement, but because she rotated her group members to take her place on the fifth days, she trained them in self-management. By all measures, including productivity and satisfaction, the group was highly successful. But the arrangement did not last long, and in the end she was stripped of her supervisory duties and moved to the bottom category of performance. Despite the success of her team and the leadership development she was doing, her unusual work arrangement was perceived not as an opportunity to extend this innovative practice to all managers regardless of their family situation, or even to re-think criteria for effective management. Rather, it was perceived as a negative reflection on her future potential and management capability.
Similarly, a full-time sales technician who negotiated coming in early and leaving early was forced to give the arrangement up because her managers were unwilling to adjust their daily demands to conform to the schedule they had approved. From the beginning, the "exceptions" that managers required became so numerous that she was putting in extra hours and much of the time was unable to pick up her child at school. In the end, she reverted to her old schedule and became very disillusioned, and management missed the opportunity to rethink the way they used their own and their employees' time. We also find that some employees arrange for reduced pay in order to cut their hours to 35 or 40 per week. Such requests could lead to a productive rethinking of the need for long and rigid hours of work. Instead, because they are seen as resulting from strictly individual anomalies, they tend to reinforce old organizational practices and norms about time, which continue to go unquestioned.
In another case, two workers, one in sales and one in management, requested a job-sharing arrangement that would allow each of them to spend more time with their families. The extensive proposal they devised, outlining the specific ways to meet business needs under the new arrangement, had the added benefit of suggesting a way to revamp the sales management development process. The outlined proposal included an apprenticeship model of training whereby the sales representative took on limited management responsibilities under the tutelage of the sales manager. Such an apprenticeship would have improved on the current organizational practice of "throwing sales people into management" with little training, which was generally accepted as detrimental to organizational goals. Despite this potential advantage, the proposal was rejected. Because the motivation for the proposal was viewed as stemming from a private concern (wanting to have more personal time) rather than a work concern (wanting to increase organizational effectiveness) it was narrowly interpreted. The innovative, apprenticeship approach to training and developing sales managers got lost in this narrow interpretation and an opportunity for re-thinking standard operating procedures and capturing the synergy in crossing the work-family boundary was missed.
The important point here is that the construction of work-family issues as individual concerns that can be addressed through flexible work practices, sensitive managers, and individual accommodations is quite problematic. As the examples above indicate, not only may this approach fail the individuals (often women) involved, in some cases it leads to severe career repercussions. Nor, despite their potential to do so, did any of these requests for flexibility raise systemic questions about work. If they had, we believe this questioning might have led to creative, core innovations in work practices. Instead, we find that flexibility at the margins undermines flexibility at the core.(Dana Friedman contributed this formulation.) Because these requests were dealt with at the margins as strictly individual issues, they ultimately neither helped the person's needs nor provided the impetus for creative change in core business practice. Instead, they further reinforced the view that employees' personal lives are idiosyncratic, private affairs that are best kept hidden. It is this view, our work has shown, that needs revision.
What our method did was to surface individual work-family concems and re-frame them as systemic problems in the way work is done rather than as individual liabilities. At one site, where long hours were the norm, we found that time was not so much an individual problem, but was systematically badly used by the whole product development team. At another site, we noted that requests for flexibility floundered not because they were poorly conceived by the people making them, but because they became mired in the general culture of control of individual behavior. At yet another site, we saw that requests for part time work were due not to unusually demanding family situations but to routine work practices that seemingly require 50-, 60-, and even 70-hour work weeks.
Legitimating these issues as discussable in the workplace, both on an individual level in interviews and collectively during roundtables and group feedback, tums out to be quite liberating for all concerned. First, it makes people realize they are not alone in having to deal with the effect of work demands on their lives outside of work, and it shows them that their individual needs for change are actually the result of problems with the system of work. Further, the realization of joint concerns leads to a new, more creative, more collective way of thinking about work practices. In fact, we found that some of the most innovative ideas underlying successful interventions come out of the process of bringing personal issues from the individual to the collective level. Since this reframing makes work and family mutually reinforcing rather than adversarial, it engages people's energy to make innovative changes in existing work practices. This is the strategic business opportunity that can lead to bottom line results. As the next section will describe in more detail, capturing the synergy in this approach means normalizing work-family issues as part of the routines of work and specifically including them in reengineering or work process redesign.
Capturing the Synergy: Re-Linking Work and Family
Our project demonstrates that linking work and work-family issues is a strategic opportunity to redesign work in fundamentally creative, innovative, and equitable ways that benefit business objectives and people's personal lives. Furthermore, it shows that failure to make this link has negative consequences for workers, the business, and the goals of an equitable workplace for women and men.
Despite the potential benefits, we found that making this link in the current business context is not easy. On the contrary, there are significant organizational constraints—in the form of attitudes, assumptions about gender roles, informal work practices, as well as formal organizational policies and structures—that resist this linkage. At each of the companies, we found that work-family benefits are designed and administered by the human resource function and implemented by line managers. The fact that strategic initiatives are associated with line managers and work-family concerns with human resources reinforces perceptions that business issues are separate, conceptually and functionally, from individuals' personal lives. Work-family issues are seen as relevant only to worker satisfaction and unrelated to business outcomes.
In this context, the request for a work-family benefit—such as family leave, flextime, part-time work, compressed work week—is seen by managers as a possible problem and therefore risky to grant. Even though managers may sympathize and want to grant the request, especially for their most valued employees, they are uncomfortable with the potential negative consequences of these arrangements. Not only might productivity suffer, but their own workload in negotiating and monitoring these special arrangements is likely to increase. In addition, it is felt, these "merit-based" accommodations run the risk of opening the floot gates and generating similar requests from seemingly less worthy employees which, if not granted, might lead to backlash and charges of favoritism. And so managers often end up sending signals that using these benefits presents problems for them and for the business. The result of these informal practices is that work and family continue to be seen not only as separate concerns but as adversarial—gains in one are assumed to lead to a loss in the other. With this framing of work-family concerns as problems rather than as opportunities, it is no wonder that organizational practices—even in companies with "leading edge" policies—are slow to change.
The interventions described below will show how our project reframes these perceptions and helps people see that accommodating employees' personal issues presents unique opportunities for companies to change the way they organize and structure work. Though the general principle is the same—finding the key link between work-family concerns and patterns of working—the details of the link and the interventions necessary to produce productive change vary by site. It matters whether tasks are professional or routine, whether work-family benefits are easily available or not-- and to whom, what the demographic composition of the work force is, etc. The following are examples of how this linking was effected at various sites which differed according to these dimensions.
At one site, an administrative center, work was mainly routine. The work force was primarily female, hours were rigid, and employees' work-family problems were openly and clearly evident. Here we worked directly on work-family concerns and found that how a site deals with work-family issues is a clue to what is preventing them from meeting key business goals. At this site, management was trying to shift the structure to empowered work teams, and this effort was not proceeding smoothly. Control dominated the culture: "driving the business need" meant controlling where, how, and when people worked. The culture was individualistic, one that people described as sink or swim. Although an array of work-family benefits was theoretically available, only a limited version of flextime was actually allowed. Managers were afraid, given the culture of control, that if other benefits were made available, productivity would fall. This restriction on flexibility meant that people who, for instance, needed time to care for children or elders had to make sub rosa arrangements using personal leave and sick time. The costs to the site were considerable in terms of unplanned absences, lack of coverage, turnover, backlash against people who took the time they needed, and mistrust of an organization that claimed it had benefits but made their use so difficult. This way of dealing with work-family issues created a closed loop that reinforced existing practices, stifled innovation, and bred distrust of the empowerment concept. When, on the basis of our work, management openly recognized these issues and extended the use of work-family benefits to all employees, teams came up with collective approaches to flexibility that had dramatic results. Nearly everyone worked out a different schedule. The site experienced a reported 30% reduction in absenteeism, customer responsiveness increased as times of coverage were extended, divisions between employees decreased since apparent favoritism was reduced, and self-managed teams that previously had little responsibility are now active participants not only in decisions about work schedules but in other business issues such as team selection and evaluation. In addition, working on the work-family issue gave managers insight into the negative consequences of the culture of control and why this site had been having such difficulty in moving to empowered teams.
Another very different example comes from a product development team, which consisted of professional engineers, mainly male. Work-family issues were not explicitly discussed or overtly recognized as a concern by most workers at this site. However, the long hours seen as necessary there made life difficult for employees. At this site, we found that concern with work-family issues serves as a diagnostic tool that leads to cultural assumptions underlying difficulties of meeting an expressed business goal: in this case, shortening time to market. The team operated in a continual crisis mode that created enormous stress for people. One person, for example, loved her job but complained that it made her feel like a "bad person" because she wasn't able to "give back to the community" as much as she wanted to. This crisis mode also interfered with the team's ability to get products to market in a timely fashion. The source of these difficulties was a work culture that rewarded long hours at work and emphasized individual problem solving. Indeed, it was well recognized that people were more highly rewarded for solving problems or crises they had created themselves than they were for preventing these crises in the first place. Although management recognized the problems produced by this culture of crisis and indiscriminate use of time, their efforts to change the situation had failed. They failed because they did not confront deeply held cultural assumptions about work, which became our main targets. We challenged the way time was allocated and helped work groups to take control over time and how they used it.
Based on an analysis of how time was used, one group structured its work days to create periods of uninterrupted time, or quiet time, where people could devote attention to their individual deliverables. Time was also allocated for interactions. This intervention helped the group see that they could change the way they worked. They could use their time differently and plan their work to minimize unnecessary crises. Their product, to the surprise of some, was launched on time and the group won a number of excellence awards. By minimizing unnecessary crises and taking control of time these employees reduced the pressure on them and thus were able to help their work-family integration. In addition, managers discovered that many unnecessary interruptions came from them and learned to change their behavior, vis-a-vis their engineers, away from continuous surveillance and frequent ops reviews.
In another case we worked with a sales and service district. The work force was mixed here, with sales similar to the engineers of the previous example though more evenly divided between men and women, and service primarily male blue collar. Here was a clear example of how appealing to employees' work-family concerns can provide the motivation and energy for productive efforts at reengineering and restructuring. Employees in this district were under enormous pressure at work which limited their options for integrating work and family. For the sales organization, the pressure came from ever increasing targets in a highly competitive environment, while in the service function, it was the requirement for constant availability to respond to customers quickly. Although the district was called a partnership, individualism was the norm and collaboration within and across the functions was quite limited. Finger pointing and blame were common as employees in each of the functions were on their own to deal not only with work problems but with family demands as well. This specialization and functional separation meant that information about customers was rarely shared and help with family issues or emergencies was not common. The intervention involved a cross-functional team selling, servicing, and supporting a particular product group. The goal of the team was to restructure the ways the functions worked together in order to ease their lives. With the impetus of helping themselves as well as the business, the team found ways to collaborate in new and unexpected ways. Service helped sales identify new marketing opportunities and problem sites. Through better communication with sales, service employees could better plan for installations, removals, upgrades, and software fixes. As the different functions began to collaborate, they found ways they could cover for each other and be more responsive to customers. Teamwork had an impact on members' family lives as well. They knew they could count on each other for coverage, and improved communication meant that people had more complete and honest information which helped them predict and plan their family lives with greater confidence that these plans would hold. As a result of these efforts, sales in the group increased over budget and service improved, despite downsizing and growing external competition.
Finally, in another sales environment, we found that looking at work through a work-family lens can highlight the importance of how work is being accomplished—the process—as well as the outcome. (This example comes from the work at Tandem Computers, Inc.) At this site, it was the habit of sales teams to work around the clock to complete a proposal for a prospective customer. In the morning, they were rewarded with cheers from managers and co-workers, complimenting them on their commitment and willingness to get the job done. One manager, in response to our interventions, recognized that this behavior reflected poor work habits and had a negative impact on these people's ability to balance their personal lives. Not only were their families suffering, but it took many days to recover from the all-nighter and people were less productive during this recovery time. He therefore commented to his team that he was not impressed with their behavior, that it demonstrated an inability to plan adequately, and began to share his perceptions with other managers. As a result, new work habits began to be recognized and rewarded, and norms started to change.
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Each of these examples shows the benefit of joining strategic business issues with the realities of employees' lives, as well as the invisible costs of ignoring the link between work and family. As corporations engage in significant changes in the workplace, our findings suggest that linking these efforts to work-family concerns enhances their chances for success. Such linking energizes employees to participate fully in the process because there are personal benefits to be gained. It also uncovers hidden or ignored assumptions about work practices and organizational culture that can inadvertently undermine the very changes that corporations seek.