Coping up with work-family conflict!
In recent times, India has become one of the most attractive countries for foreign investors. Many multinational corporations (MNCs) have been expanding their operations to India. Practicing managers from these MNCs are keen to understand how to manage, motivate and lead a work force primarily drawn from the native Indian population.
Workplace has become more demanding on employees. Employees try their best to balance the demands from work role as well as non-work roles, family role is one such role. Maintaining work-family balance to be productive at workplace has always been a challenge. Employees often struggle to balance at times conflicting demands from work and family domains. In such situations, employees in India prefer to attend to family demands and compromise with workplace demands. They tend to be less committed to employing organizations and become dissatisfied with their jobs. Dissatisfied employees rarely perform up to their full potential. They become less productive than what they should be.
Conflicting role expectations from both family and work domains are labeled as work family conflict (WFC), which affects employees’ job-related attitudes such as one’s commitment towards employing organization and one’s satisfaction with the job. Given that, Human resource managers across businesses and cultures are focusing on designing interventions that enable employees to balance work–family demands.
Interestingly, however, we are yet to develop comprehensive and clear understanding of how WFC affects Indian employees in India. It is generally believed that Indians do not experience intense degree of WFC. The rationale is in a collectivistic culture such as Indian culture people view work as a means to achieve family well-being. Family is considered as the most salient social institution in Indian culture and family roles are known to take precedence over work roles. Indians tend to be guided primarily by family-centric work ethic, which encourages them to behave in a manner that enhances one’s family status. In this context, the family role is rarely considered a hindrance to work role. Individuals tend to take family roles more seriously than work roles. On the other hand, in individualistic societies such as the European and American societies, demands from work and family domains are often perceived incompatible with each other. Hence, demands from both domains are rarely perceived to be incompatible. Most of the studies in the domain of WFC have been conducted in Western individualistic societies and not many studies have been conducted in collectivistic societies such as India.
In recent times, the demographic profiles of Indian workforce are changing with employees not very keen to compromise either of work and non-work roles. They are trying to balance both work and family roles. From organizational perspective, the challenge is how to mitigate the dysfunctional impacts of WFC on employees’ commitment and satisfaction, and thereby help them to be productive and perform to their full potential.
We (I along with Prof. Nikunj Jain of IMT, Ghaziabad and Prof. Ranjeet Nambudiri of IIM, Indore) investigated if supportive leadership behaviour help mitigate the negative effects of WFC. The study was conducted with the employees of Public Sector Banks. The banking industry is characterized by long working hours and stressful conditions. This leaves employees with little time for their family. We found that intensity of employees’ negative attitudes can be reduced if the intensity of the negative impact of perceived WFC can be mitigated. Supportive leader behavior is found to be one such mitigating factor. Employees who perceive the leader and organization to be supportive are better equipped to cope with conflicting demands of work and family. Nurturant task leadership behaviour is effective in reducing the intensity of negative impact of WFC on job satisfaction and fostering organizational commitment among the employees in Indian context. Such leadership behavior fosters emotionally rich social exchange between followers and leaders that helps in mitigating negative stressful impacts of perceived WFC on commitment and satisfaction. Such leaders help subordinates to grow professionally to assume higher responsibilities, display affection and encourage subordinates who perform and seek suggestions from subordinates, that is, involve them in decision-making and problem-solving. When leaders demonstrate positive relational behavior and offer socioemotional support, their followers perceive the organization to be supportive and tend to reciprocate. This enables the followers to cope with conflicting demands of work and family, thus reducing the intensity of perceived WFC and retaining their commitment and satisfaction. Indian employees, under such leaders tend to be productive and effective; they effectively address the team members’ needs for dependency and personalized relationships. It is desirable that organizational leaders should nurture subordinates through appreciation, guidance, recognition and develop them through empowerment. Leadership development interventions need to take cognizance of the same and design the development process accordingly.