Employees concerned about their reputations as dedicated workers and caring parents may experience stress or an identity change, research from the University of Georgia found.
“In our experiences studying working parents, we heard a lot of people say things like, ‘He’s a great employee but he doesn’t know his children’s names.’ said Laura Little, a management professor and research co-author, in a news release about the research. “We wanted to find out if facing those kinds of judgments influence people’s behavior. It could be a mother who doesn’t want to stay late at work because she’s afraid people will think she’s a bad mother, or a father who doesn’t want to take time off to see his kid’s game because people might assume he’s less dedicated to his career.”
The research, co-authored by Jamie Ladge of Northeastern University and published in the Academy of Management Review, suggested that when working parents feel they aren’t matching up to ideals, they may behave in ways intended to alter others’ views of them.
Sometimes, when an employee’s self-image doesn’t line up with their work-family image, they may change their self-image. When this happens, working parents often settle into a new identity based on whether work or family is more rewarded.
Companies can help working parents manage work-family image issues by providing family-friendly policies and positive role models, Little said.
She encourages working parents to emphasize the good parts of both their work and family lives in a way that shows both are important and can fit together well.