Work-Family Conflict

Focus group participants in all countries discussed work-family conflict being an issue, however, the focus of the discussions tended to differ in between countries. For example, in the Canadian focus groups, long hours, flexibility in scheduling, difficulties with childcare, lack of family support, and a difficulty with enforcing boundaries between work time and family time were discussed. Conversely, some participants also discussed the positive aspects of holding multiple roles, stating that they can strengthen relationships (especially with their partners), and that it helped them become positive role models for their children.

Similarly, those in the Israeli focus groups reported experiencing both work interference with family (WIF)and family interference with work (FIW), with problems such as difficulties getting to work with sick children, or having to leave training to get home to the family. They also discussed the difference between conflict and positive spillover, with comments explaining how work and family roles could complement each other.

Women in India also reported both WIF and FIW. They had more negative experiences to report compared to positive spillover. Further, they believed that multiple roles could be enervating along with being exhausting.

In Turkey, the focus group participants reported that they experienced conflict especially between work and parental roles. It was felt that the development and education of children were the primary responsibility of the women. Despite feeling many demands on their time, these women reported feeling that they have fulfilled lives and they are proud of the sacrifices they had made for their families (especially their children).

In the Ukraine, there was some disagreement about the extent to which work and family interfere with one another. The majority of participants indicated that work-family conflict was not an issue, while others said that the conflict was sometimes a problem or often a problem. The key reasons provided for the lack of balance included not having enough time or being too tired from work responsibilities to deal with responsibilities in the home.

In Australia, the focus of work-family conflict was on being a "proper mother" or a "super-mum". Women reported feeling as though they needed to choose between having a career versus having "just a job". They felt that they were experiencing hidden costs of working on their relationships.

Indonesian women discussed work demands such as ineffective management (meetings after work hours), lack of reliable administrative support system, indecisive leadership, and unskilled coworkers/subordinates. On the family side, they reported experiencing demands arising from the care and education of their children, unequal distribution of domestic chores with spouse, and unavailable or incompetent domestic helpers.

Negative Outcomes From Work-Family Conflict

In some cultures (e.g., US and Canada) work demands were heavier and there was more sacrifice of family time. By contrast, in othercultures (e.g., Turkey and Taiwan) family demands were heavier and there were more career sacrifices.

Canadian participants reported not having enough time for their partner, children, or themselves, having increased arguments with their partner, being tired, stressed, or distracted, or not having enough professional growth in their job.

Similarly, Indonesian women discussed having low work motivation, difficulty in concentrating on their job, withdrawing from their work, being stressed, lacking sleep, or experiencing negative emotions (such as being irritable, panicked, or sad).

Women in the Ukraine stated that they often did not complete their family responsibilities, they did not have enough time for their children, or they were not as focused on work as they felt they should be.

American participants felt that stress was one of the biggest outcomes they experienced from a lack of balance. They reported this stress occurring in both family and work domains. These participants stated that striving for balance between their work and family is very difficult, and that the inability to ultimately reach the balance is one of the reasons for the experience of stress and negative emotions such as frustration.

In Spain the lack of fit between work hours and family hours was a major factor (Poelmans, 2004.)

Participants in Taiwan discussed the more traditional obligations that exist for women to complete the housekeeping and take care of their children, parents, and parents-in-law. Women reported obtaining fewer opportunities to develop their own work careers when compared to men. Finally, there seemed to be different generational attitudes toward the unequal situation that exist for women dealing with work and family conflicts. The older generation of women was more accepting to the inequality that exists when compared to the younger generation.

Further, Turkish women tended to blame their husbands for not supporting career development for women and not sharing the household responsibilities. They often times blamed themselves for being perfectionists and not delegating responsibilities to others around them, especially their husbands. Finally, they believed that they needed to retrain themselves for a more egalitarian society.

Interestingly, guilt was a common outcome discussed by participants. Again, the themes that emerged regarding this guilt were quite different, however. Women in some cultures (e.g., India, Arab Israelis, and Australia) reported pressure to be a “superwoman”. Australian women were most likely to report experiencing guilt due to their inability to be superwomen, while women in the US mentioned feeling guilty about having to put their jobs before their families and their inability to be in two places at one time. Conversely, women in India and Turkey appeared to experience guilt more when they felt that they had ignored the academic achievement of their children. The Arab women in Israel who were interviewed spoke about feeling guilty for not fulfilling their traditional gender roles. Many of the Jewish Israeli women mentioned that they felt that they had moved from guilt to positive spillover as a function of their stage in life.

Coping and Social Support Strategies

Participants had many different coping strategies for dealing with the work-family conflict (WFC) they were experiencing. In India, women attempted to be a superwoman (or the "durga" of the many hands). Conversely, they also coped with the WFC by lowering their standards or focusing on quality time. Similarly, Israeli women reported either lowering their standards or being a superwoman. They also said that they work on coordinating their demands in order to cope with WFC. In Turkey, women reported lowering their standards, however, instead of lowering standards at home, they preferred lowering their standards at work. Canadians discussed trying to compartmentalize their work and family, trying to make their family their priority, negotiating their role with their partner, changing to a more family friendly job, or using organizational policies to help balance (such as flextime or job sharing). Most countries reported using social support as a method of coping with WFC. Commonly, spousal, family, and friend support were discussed. Interestingly, in the US, women were more likely to mention the use of social support as a coping strategy than men were. Participants in India also reported support coming from neighbours, paid help and household labour saving technology. Canadians discussed support coming from paid help and managerial support, and Israeli participants reported having support from their extended family and their community. Collectivistic cultures (e.g., India, Indonesia, Turkey, and Spain) had more extended family support. However, this can be a strain as well as a support (Aycan, 2005). Those in economically underdeveloped countries, had more access to paid household help. But, the quality not always high (Aycan, 2005). While these early results are intriguing, further analysis of these data will certainly serve to elaborate on and clarify these findings.