One life or two?

This is an excerpt from my new book, Organizational Psychology for Managers.


Another area of destructive stress is everyone’s favorite problem: conflict between work life and family life. The problem here lies in the basic premise that we have two lives: a work life and a family life and that these are somehow two separate existences. Perhaps if you are James Bond you get to live twice; the rest of us don’t have that luxury.

One of the biggest sources of frustration for employees is this illusion that these lives are separate. When we ask people to sacrifice family for the sake of the organization, we are putting them into a very stressful situation. In part, we are forcing them into a form of role ambiguity: they are being forced to play two roles at once or choose between two very important roles. We are also forcing them into a mental state where they are doing one thing but thinking about the other: a form of multi-tasking. This is a very bad place to be. Not only does it reduce performance, it also interferes with job satisfaction. As you’ll recall from our discussion of the High Performance Cycle, reducing job satisfaction reduces commitment to the organization, which interferes with goal accomplishment, better known as productivity.

Taking the time to respect people’s lives outside the organization is a powerful tool for building loyalty and commitment. Indeed, as we’ve discussed, time is a powerful gift. Sending people home a little early if you’re running ahead of schedule or accepting that quarterly report a little late so that Fred can attend his kid’s soccer game are extremely effective methods of reducing that work/family conflict. Flexible work from home policies are another good approach. When you make it easy for people to manage the demands of work and family, you build loyalty and increase satisfaction with the organization. That, in turn, feeds the High Performance Cycle.

Organizational Psychology for Managers is phenomenal.  Just as his talks at conferences are captivating to his audience, Steve’s book will captivate his readers.  In my opinion, this book should be required reading in MBA programs, military leadership courses, and needs to be on the bookshelf of every Fortune 1000 VP of Human Resources.  Steve Balzac is the 21st century’s Tom Peters.

Stephen R Guendert, PhD

CMG Director of Publications


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