Supervisor Attitudes about Employee Work/Life Issues Basic Concepts & Definitions Supervisor attitudes about employee work/life issues are critical to the success of any work-family initiative and play an integral part of two of the four components of family-friendly workplaces: workplace culture and climate and workplace relationships (see Sloan Work and Family Encyclopedia entries Family-Friendly Workplace and Work-Family Culture). In fact, one might say that supervisor attitudes are hurdles that must be cleared in order for an organization to achieve any level of “family-friendly”.
Supervisor Attitudes: Ajzen and Fishbein (2000) state “…that attitude is best considered to be a person’s degree of favorableness or unfavorableness with respect to a psychological object…” (p. 2). Other studies define attitudes with other variables of interest including (1) “organizational commitment, job satisfaction, and organization-based self-esteem” (p. 439, Van Dyne & Pierce, 2004) and (2) “personal ethical commitment and employees’ commitment to organizational values” (Adam & Rachman-Moore, 2004).
Attitude is hard to conceptualize, but in the context of this paper on supervisor attitudes about employee work/life issues, we define supervisor attitudes as those patterns of behaviors that demonstrate positive or negative regard towards employee work/life issues. Workplace Culture and Climate: The linkage between supervisor attitudes and workplace culture and climate is explicit—workplace attitudes affect every facet of work-family policies and initiatives. Workplace culture and climate refers to those shared values and beliefs, which are relatively stable, that help a group make meaning.
For more information, see the Sloan Work and Family Encyclopedia entries Family-Friendly Workplace, Perceived Usability of Work/Family Policies, and Work-Family Culture. Workplace Relationships: These relationships refer to the social support employees find at work in their relationships with one another, supervisors, etc. The linkage between supervisor attitudes and workplace relationships is subtle and very complex as those attitudes may be hidden or masked by other relational and support issues.
For more information, see the Sloan Work and Family Encyclopedia entry Family-Friendly Workplace. Importance of Topic to Work-Family Studies Supervisors play a critical role in the provision and utilization of work/life programs, and their attitudes towards employee work/life issues are inextricably linked to the organization and the employee. An organization may decide to decrease or minimize work/life programs based on supervisor input, and an employee may not feel comfortable taking advantage of a work/life program because of a supervisor.
Thus, it is important for us to better understand supervisor attitudes about employee work/life issues and how those attitudes impact work/life programs. The purpose of this paper is to broadly explore the ways in which supervisor attitudes are already being studied in the work-family studies literature and to identify how supervisor attitudes about employee work/life issues impact employees and programs. State of the Body of Knowledge Supervisor and manager attitudes towards a variety of objects or populations are commonly studied.
Attitudes toward women in the workplace, particularly women in management, are prevalent in the literature (Cordano, Scherer, & Owen, 2002; Liff, Worrall, & Cooper, 1997; Tomkiewicz, Frankel, Adeyemi-Bello, & Sagan, 2004). Liff, Worrall, and Cooper (1997) found that 30% of males in senior management agreed or strongly agreed that women managers should not combine career and motherhood and almost 25% of males said they did or would have a problem working for a woman. Further, organizations managed by males with negative views towards women managers were least likely to employ them.
The population was the industrial area of the West Midlands in Great Britain, which is considered to be male dominated. Several concepts already common to work-family studies were found to have similarities or overlap with supervisor attitudes. Table 1 summarizes those findings. Table 1. Summary of Research Concepts in Related to Supervisor Attitudes ConceptExplanation/DefinitionAuthors Intangible support“…employees seem to distinguish between tangible support (e. g. work–family practices) and intangible support (i. e. he culture of support, the belief that an organization is understanding of and flexible about conflicts that may arise)” p. 138. Jahn, Thompson, & Kopelman (2003) Managerial interpretation“…the role of managers in determining how to respond to institutional or resource pressures” (p. 580). Milliken, Martin, & Morgan (1998) Employer, managerial, and supervisor support•Dimension of work-family culture •Influences employee usability of work-family benefit (utilization). Allen (2001) Erdwins, Buffardi, Casper, & O’Brien (2001) Friedman & Greenhaus (2000) Thompson, Beauvais, & Lyness (1999)
Work climate for sharing concerns“…a work climate for sharing concerns is one where employees can discuss family concerns with supervisors and peers” (p. 32). Kossek, Colquitt, & Noe (2001) Implications for Practice and Research The supervisor is a key player in whether or not work-family programs are made available to employees and whether or not employees use the benefits. Organizations should be interested in the impact supervisors are having on these aspects of work-family programs for the same reasons that work-family programs are beneficial—job satisfaction, loyalty, commitment, etc.
The return-on-investment of the work-family programs is also at stake when supervisors can single-handedly jeopardize the utility of such programs. Organizations should be assessing supervisor attitudes and their impact on work-family programs and subsequently holding supervisors accountable for their attitudes. Research on the implications of supervisor attitudes on employee work/life issues needs to be expanded. The relationships between supervisor attitudes and intangible support, managerial interpretation, employer/managerial/supervisor support, and work climate for sharing oncerns are opportunities for additional research, and undoubtedly there are other connections to be made among topics already research in work-family studies. Also, the drivers of supervisor attitudes need to be explored because that is where the potential for change lies in the cases where supervisors have negative and unproductive attitudes about employee work/life issues. References Adam, A. M. , & Rachman-Moore, D. (2004). The methods used to implement an ethical code of conduct and employee attitudes. Journal of Business Ethics, 55, 225-244.
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The relationship of women’s role strain to social support, role satisfaction, and self-efficacy. Family Relations, 50, 230-238. Friedman, D. D. , & Greenhaus, J. H. (2000). Work and family—allies or enemies? New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. Jahn, E. W. , Thompson, C. A. , & Kopelman, R. E. (2003). Rationale and construct validity evidence for a measure of perceived organizational family support (POFS): Because purported practices may not reflect reality. Community, Work and Family, 6, 123-140. Kossek, E. E. , Colquitt, J. A. , & Noe, R. A. (2001).
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