A Within-Person Evaluation of Decision Making Logics as Mediating Mechanisms in Episodic Work-Family Conflict Decision Making

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A Within-Person Evaluation of Decision Making Logics as Mediating Mechanisms in Episodic Work-Family Conflict Decision Making

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Increased workforce diversity, technological innovations, and globalization are some of the diverse macro-environmental factors that have changed the very nature of work. While many organizations have adopted flexibility initiatives with the intention of enabling better employee management of work and family demands, this flexibility has come at a cost. Blurring of boundaries between work and family domains, and greater work-family customization by employee are some of the unanticipated consequences of initiatives that were intended to reduce demands but only make additional demands of the employee’s attention. Consequently, ‘making work and family work’ represents a persistent concern among many working individuals. Although research on work-family decision making has acknowledged that individuals intentionally allocate resources to different domains to achieve desired outcomes, research has only recently begun to examine the antecedents of and process by which individuals resolve work-family conflict episodes. While recent research has found that contextual factors influence whether the work or family role is prioritized, the mediating processes underlying these decisions have yet to be examined. This study contributes to the literature by examining the episodic work-family decision making process to evaluate decision making logics as mediating mechanisms of work-family decisions. It adopted a daily diary method to examine episodes of work-family conflict and drew on theoretical frameworks to evaluate the decision making logics namely, the logic of consequences and appropriateness (March, 1994) as potential mechanisms at the within-person level. The study found evidence to suggest that a concern for consequences and concern for complying with role appropriate behaviors may mediate the relationship between contextual factors, such as role pressure, support and activity importance, and the decision to prioritize either work or family. Essentially, short-term penalties associated with non-participation in certain activities, especially in the work domain, are associated with prioritizing work over family while benefits accruing from participating in activities, in the family domain are associated with prioritizing family over work. Further, a need to comply with certain role expectations and the need to maintain positive relationships with the other individual in the activity may also be associated with individuals prioritizing activities, especially in the family domain. Additionally, the study examined whether role salience moderates the relationship between activity importance and decision to participate in an activity and found no interactive effects on the decision to prioritize work or family. Work-family conflict is a pervasive concern for most employees and managing episodic instances of conflict is an important part of achieving work-family balance. This study provides insight into why individuals may decide to prioritize work or family in certain situations during episodic conflict. Although over 80% of US organizations offer some form of flexibility (Kossek & Michel, 2011), research finds that most management policies and practices aimed at reducing work-family conflict levels are associated with weak or ambiguous effects (Kelly, 2008; Kossek & Michel, 2011) given ambiguity about the direction of interference experienced. This study adds to research on episodic conflict and a better understanding of which can lead to greater insight into how practices may be modified to reduce conflict and improve outcomes for individuals.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. October 2017. Major: Psychology. Advisor: Aaron Schmidt. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 215 pages.

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Urs, Lalitha. (2017). A Within-Person Evaluation of Decision Making Logics as Mediating Mechanisms in Episodic Work-Family Conflict Decision Making. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/192682.

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