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When Work and Family Conflict, Men Are More Likely Than Women to Leave Their Jobs

May 24 2003 - Male and female employees are confronted with conflicts between work and family but men who believe they have a heavy workload are more likely to leave their jobs than their female counterparts. This is the conclusion of a Texas A&M University study, conducted by Ann Huffman, a doctoral student in psychology; Dr. Stephanie Payne, a Texas A&M professor of psychology; and Carl Castro of Walter Reed Army Research Institute. Their study examined whether the time demands of a job and perception of workload affected male workers more than women - and if the differences were enough to make male, more than female employees, want to leave their jobs.

"The short answer is "yes," gender does make a difference," Huffman says.

Their finding was presented at the recent Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology's annual conference in Orlando.

"I think a lot of the time when people think about work-family conflict, they immediately think of female employees -- that they would be the ones to experience the conflict moreso than men, but that was not what we found," Payne says.

According to the researchers, men have significantly higher levels of 'work-family angst' than women. And men, more than women, believe that long working hours are detrimental to their personal time, are too time consuming and greater numbers would consider leaving their jobs, in comparison to women.

A partial explanation is that the two sexes have traditionally played different roles. Stephanie Payne says that women are traditionally committed to roles that support the family and although they may be expending a lot of time at work, they can still find the energy for family responsibilities.

Men, on the other hand, are more accustomed to the role of breadwinner and can find it difficult to adapt to increased demands of taking care of family and home, Payne explains.

Nevertheless, more men are being called upon to handle more family responsibilities, whether they are married with a working spouse and have children or they are single dads with child-care concerns, she notes.

"In terms of the way we think of men and women, and the roles they play, we're really not as far along as we would like to think we are when it comes to attitudes about gender," Huffman says.

"I think when women first started entering the workplace, they probably experienced work-family conflict during this transition, but now with things changing, men are going through this transition and experiencing the same type of conflict," she says.

Huffman notes that the workplace is changing in increasing magnitude, with men assuming more family responsibilities while women are taking a more active role in the workplace.

The potential impact of this one trend alone, she says, is something that more and more organizations are paying attention to. Forward-thinking organizations know employees facing serious work-family conflicts are likely to leave their jobs if the demands interfere too much with their family responsibilities.

Therefore, organizations are working to provide a healthy balance between work and personal life. In fact, one national study found 70 percent of workers are not satisfied with their work-family balance, and half of those people are considering looking for new jobs because of problems of coping with both personal life and work.

"It seems that organizations will have to take this changing demographic into consideration if they are going to keep their employees productive and happy," Huffman says.

"In this day and age, the boundaries between work and home are less defined," Payne says. "With beepers, cell phones and email people are expected to respond to work demands even when they are physically some place else. The boundaries of 'when am I at home and when am I at work' are less clear."

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