ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (1): 230-238.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.00230

• Regular Articles • Previous Articles    

Others’ perceptions of work-family conflict in the workplace: From stereotype perspective

JIN Yanghua, CHEN Shiwei, ZHU Yue, XIE Jiangpei()   

  1. School of Business Administration, Zhejiang Gongshang University, Hangzhou 310018, China
  • Received:2021-02-18 Online:2022-01-15 Published:2021-11-25


Although research has revealed that work and family can benefit each other (Casper et al., 2018), most companies still hold the belief that family matters often undermine individuals’ abilities to perform their jobs. This belief is based on the notion of “work devotion schema,” which represents a traditional assumption that employees should give priority to their work ahead of other life pursuits (Bourdeau et al., 2019). According to this schema, “ideal workers” are those who are willing to work long hours and do whatever their work demands. In contrast, people who experience work-family conflict are assumed to be preoccupied by family matters and thus as failing to meet the requirements of the ideal employee according to the work devotion schema. As a result, managers are likely to provide fewer job opportunities to these people. It is implied that others at work are very likely to interpret work-family conflict as an indicator of what kind of person the employee is and to interact with him/her accordingly. Therefore, work-family conflict may not only represent a personal experience but also have interpersonal implications in the workplace.
Several studies have tested the antecedents and consequences of others’ perceptions of work-family conflict. For instance, Hoobler et al. (2009) showed that managers expected female employees to have higher levels of family-to-work conflict and considered this to make them less well matched to their jobs, thus providing them with fewer opportunities. Moreover, Li et al. (2017) found that supervisor perceptions of work-family conflict were negatively related to employees’ performance ratings. However, the research into others’ perceptions of work-family conflict remains in its early stages.
Therefore, by integrating the literature on work-family conflict with that on stereotyping, this study builds an integrative model outlining how others at work (i.e., supervisors and coworkers) form perceptions of an employee’s work-family conflict, and how these perceptions influence his/her workplace outcomes. Specifically, drawing on theories of stereotyping (Cuddy et al., 2009), we propose that employees’ family characteristics (i.e., marital status, number of children, and caring for elders) may increase others’ perceptions of family-to-work conflict (FWC), whereas employees’ work characteristics (i.e., work time, workload, and work autonomy) may increase others’ perceptions of work-to-family conflict (WFC). We also identify the boundary conditions of these relationships by proposing the moderating roles of the focal employee’s gender and the perceiver’s gender egalitarianism.
Moreover, building on the stereotype content model and the warmth-competence framework (Fiske et al., 2002), we delineate the interpersonal consequences of work-family conflict—that is, how others view and react to an employees’ work-family conflict. We propose that others’ perceptions of an employee’s work-family conflict can influence their perceptions of the employee’s competence and warmth. Employees who are perceived to have FWC will tend to be viewed as less competent, whereas those who are perceived to have WFC will tend to be viewed as less warm. Likewise, we propose the moderating roles of the focal employee’s gender and the perceiver’s gender egalitarianism in the relationships between perceptions of FWC/WFC and perceptions of competence/warmth. Finally, we extend the theoretical model by proposing leadership emergence and workplace ostracism as behavioral consequences of perceptions of competence, and supportive behavior and approach aggression behavior as behavioral consequences of perceptions of warmth.
This study makes several contributions to the literature on work-family conflict. Theoretically, it opens a new avenue for research on work-family conflict by exploring its interpersonal mechanisms and by teasing out the antecedents of others’ perceptions of work-family conflict and the consequences of these perceptions. This study also advances our understanding of social perceptions in the workplace by positing that work-family conflict can serve as an important signal about an employee, to which supervisors and coworkers react accordingly. Practically, as with many stereotypes that affect workplace decisions, this study provides important implications for managers and coworkers to be aware of their own biases. Managers and coworkers should ensure that biased perceptions of work-family conflict do not affect their interpersonal behavior with other employees, as the elimination of such bias will help to create a more just and favorable working environment.

Key words: others’ perceptions of work-family conflict, gender, stereotypes, competence, warmth

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