- Work and Life Integration: Organizational, Cultural, and Individual Perspectives
In the 21st century men and women work. The Leave it to Beaver era has ended. And, the world is flattening as global lines of communication and trade expand. Today's worker arrives at an office that demands longer hours and higher education, but offers little security. And today's manager faces the challenge of creating an inclusive environment for a diverse workforce, while meeting employee demands for flexibility with fewer resources. But while work-life conflict may be an accepted reality, work-life integration remains an elusive goal.
Work and Life Integration: Organizational, Cultural, and Individual Perspectives is an impressive volume that has garnered the wisdom of leading scholars and woven them together seamlessly creating a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts. Ellen Ernst Kossek and Susan Lambert's book offers business professionals and scholars alike a refreshing analysis of what it will take to make true progress in the workplace. The chapters have been artfully crafted so that even the most seasoned readers learn a great deal.
The book is divided in to three main sections, Organizational Perspectives, Individual Perspectives and Cultural and Social Perspectives, and includes a provocative conclusion that encourages the readers to reconsider long held assumptions and engrained ways of operating.
Mac Dermid's chapter, (Re) Considering Conflict between Work and Family establishes a baseline with a succinct critique of what is work-family conflict? And what do we know about it? She shows that conflict is often used as a catch-all term, and if stratified into types such as time-based, strain-based and behavior-based (Greenhaus and Beutell, 1985), employers and scholars may be better able to design appropriate interventions.
Taking an organizational perspective, Milliken and Dunn-Jensen consider "how people think about and manage their work and non work time." (p.44) They acknowledge that time pressures have increased and address the implications of new technologies but assert that time allocation is ultimately a choice. Valcour and Hunter expand on common assumptions about the impact of technology on work-life integration. Their model illustrates the relationships between technology and factors such as job type, organizational policies, and work distribution (pp. 63-64).
A common weakness in the employer approach to addressing work-life conflict is the underestimation of personal accountability. Friede and Ryan's discussion of the effects of self evaluation on work family interaction reminds us that ultimately work family conflict is experienced at an individual level. Cleveland adds another dimension with a discussion on "What is Success?" Poelmans draws our attention away from the "consequences" of conflict and considers the "actions of deliberation, decision making, and learning that proceed and follow a work-family dilemma." (p. 264) This is a particularly important chapter for the business reader, for how can an employer design policies for a workforce it may not understand?
In the section on cultural and social perspectives, Pitt-Catsouphes and Googins assert that true change will be limited until work-family is approached both as a private and public concern. They encourage collaboration between human resources and corporate social [End Page 1860] responsibility. Edmondson and Detert review the research on using workplace dialogue as a tool for change and apply it to work-life; an important comparison for the business reader hoping to create an open dialogue within their workplace.
And finally Kossek and Lambert leave the readers to consider: What is not a work/life issue? They assert the importance of keeping work central to the new business case that includes: a focus on workers and their key role in determining profitability; an understanding of the implementation problems in current business and social policy, and an assessment of the merits and limitations of various interventions.
This reviewer humbly offers a word of caution to the authors and to the business reader. While overall this book will be a valuable addition to any practitioner's or scholar's library, the business reader...