Navigating Work-Life Conflict

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    Navigating Work-Life Conflict
    (2018-02) Oelberger, Carrie
    In this video Carrie Oelberger, assistant professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, discusses work-life conflict and the challenge of navigating the boundaries between our personal and work lives. "The more meaningful someone finds their work, the harder it will be for them to erect those boundaries," she says. Rather than placing the burden solely on individuals, Oelberger argues that employers have a responsibility to encourage healthy work practices—especially if there's an existing organizational culture that encourages over-work. "If we're retaining workers that are deeply personally discontented then that has really negative outcomes both for the workers and for the organizations."
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    Retention and Its Discontents: How Ideal Workers with Family Aspirations Navigate Career Decision-Making
    (2018-03-28) Oelberger, Carrie
    Every career decision invites an opportunity to realize – or repress – deeply held desires. Furthermore, modern careers provide recurrent possibilities to engage in these reflections. I examine career decision-making for people who are extremely devoted to work, embracing ideal worker norms, but who also desire a family, what I come to call family aspirations. Using interview and detailed career history data from 82 international aid workers, I analyze how respondents experienced and coped with a clash between their work devotion and their family aspirations. I find that people experience different degrees of turmoil during the decision-making process resulting from their different perceptions of the possibility to realize their family aspirations. This finding suggests that it is not only labor market outcomes that are beset with inequality, but that people differentially experience angst during career decision-making processes. Finally, even after a protracted process of deep reflection, many people nonetheless choose to double down and prioritize work, suggesting that people who fully embrace ideal worker norms tend to fear the loss of purpose it provides in their lives without a highly probable alternative. As such, organizations may paradoxically retain employees who are devoted to work, but personally discontented. The theory of family aspirations offers a novel call for scholars to re-think the concept of work-family conflict, offering contributions to research on work-family, labor market inequalities, and careers.
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    Tipping the Scales: How Deeply Meaningful Work Increases Work-Relationship Conflict and the Moderating Role of Occupational Value Homophily with Close Others
    (2018-03-08) Oelberger, Carrie
    How is work-relationship conflict experienced by people in deeply meaningful work, those who experience both self-actualization and self-transcendence through work? Drawing upon in-depth interview data with 82 international aid workers, I uncover two distinct mechanisms. First, people who find their work deeply meaningful experience more boundary inhibition around work practices than their colleagues, increasing their absence and unreliability to close others (e.g. spouse, family, friends). However, when close others similarly perceive deeply meaningful work as important – what I call occupational value homophily – it fosters an emotional connection that ameliorates the strain of time-based and trust-based conflict. Conversely, contexts of occupational value heterophily engender an emotional distance that exacerbates the strain of time-based and trust-based conflict, resulting in a torturous situation I call work-relationship turmoil. These findings highlight the crucial roles played by boundary inhibition and relationship context in moderating the experience of work-relationship conflict for those in deeply meaningful work.