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The Professional, the Personal and the Ideal Worker: Pressures and Objectives Shaping the Boundary between Life Domains



Both scholarly literature and popular accounts suggest that modern organizational practices have moved toward encouraging employees to “integrate” or blur the boundary between their personal and professional domains, for example, through self-disclosure at work, company-sponsored social activities or providing onsite child care. Concurrently, an ideology underlying U.S. professional norms discourages integration practices such as referencing non-work roles during workplace interactions, expressing emotions in the workplace, and/or displaying non-work-related items in workspaces. In this review, we posit that these two norms firmly coexist because they differentially serve two objectives corresponding to the parallel bodies of research we examine: one addressing boundary management as a tool for handling role responsibilities, and the other considering boundary management as a tool for shaping workplace identity and relationships. Specifically, we posit that segmenting personal and professional domains facilitates the management of role responsibilities, whereas integration is more beneficial for managing workplace identity and relationships. Further, both objectives serve the “ideal worker” imperative of work primacy. We identify key contingencies that help us to further understand existing research findings, and prompt future research directions informing theories for understanding the attractiveness and efficacy of different personal-professional boundary management strategies for both organizations and individuals.
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The Academy of Management Annals
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The Professional, the Personal and the Ideal Worker:
Pressures and Objectives Shaping the Boundary
between Life Domains
Tracy Dumas & Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks
Accepted author version posted online: 11 Mar 2015.
To cite this article: Tracy Dumas & Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks (2015): The Professional, the Personal and the Ideal Worker:
Pressures and Objectives Shaping the Boundary between Life Domains, The Academy of Management Annals, DOI:
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Accepted Manuscript
Publisher: Taylor & Francis & Academy of Management
Journal: The Academy of Management Annals
DOI: 10.1080/19416520.2015.1028810
The Professional, the Personal and the Ideal Worker: Pressures and
Objectives Shaping the Boundary between Life Domains
Tracy Dumas* and Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks
* email:
Both scholarly literature and popular accounts suggest that modern organizational practices have
moved toward encouraging employees to “integrate” or blur the boundary between their personal
and professional domains, for example, through self-disclosure at work, company-sponsored
social activities or providing onsite child care. Concurrently, an ideology underlying U.S.
professional norms discourages integration practices such as referencing non-work roles during
workplace interactions, expressing emotions in the workplace, and/or displaying non-work-
related items in workspaces. In this review, we posit that these two norms firmly coexist because
they differentially serve two objectives corresponding to the parallel bodies of research we
examine: one addressing boundary management as a tool for handling role responsibilities, and
the other considering boundary management as a tool for shaping workplace identity and
relationships. Specifically, we posit that segmenting personal and professional domains
facilitates the management of role responsibilities, whereas integration is more beneficial for
managing workplace identity and relationships. Further, both objectives serve the “ideal worker”
imperative of work primacy. We identify key contingencies that help us to further understand
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Accepted Manuscript
existing research findings, and prompt future research directions informing theories for
understanding the attractiveness and efficacy of different personal-professional boundary
management strategies for both organizations and individuals.
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Accepted Manuscript
“Why is it that I always get the whole person when what I really want is a pair of hands?”
– Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motor Company
“I believe in bringing your whole self to work. We are who we are. When you try to have this
division between your personal self and your professional self, what you really are is stiff.”
– Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
Navigating the personal-professional boundary is a core facet of life. Whether pursuing a
career, a calling, or simply trying to make a living, people make decisions on a regular basis
about how to enact and manage this boundary (Ashforth, Kreiner, & Fugate, 2000; Clark, 2000;
Creed, Dejordy, & Lok, 2010; Perlow, 1998; Rothbard & Ramarajan, 2009). Individuals attend
to this boundary because it can affect their experience of conflict between roles (Powell &
Greenhaus, 2010), their identity formation and expression (Kreiner, Hollensbe, & Sheep, 2006),
relationships with colleagues (Dumas, Phillips, & Rothbard, 2013; Trefalt, 2013) and career
outcomes (Uhlmann, Heaphy, Ashford, Zhu, & Sanchez-Burks, 2013). Organizations similarly
attend to this boundary through specific practices and policies implemented as an
acknowledgement of how the personal-professional boundary can shape employee performance,
well-being and attitudes toward work (Allen, Johnson, Kiburz, & Shockley, 2013; Kirchmeyer,
1995; 2000). Both scholarly literature and popular accounts reflect two broad approaches for
managing the personal-professional boundary; segmentation, which entails reinforcing the
boundary or separating the personal and professional domains, and integration, which entails
blurring this boundary or allowing domains to overlap (Nippert-Eng, 1996) (see Figure 1).
Insert Figure 1 about here
For over a century, the prevailing ideology and practice kept personal and professional
domains as non-overlapping spheres of social life (Kanter, 1977; Sanchez-Burks, 2005; Whyte,
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1956). However, changes in the nature of work, technology, and workforce demographics have
yielded unprecedented potential for more integration of these life domains (Kossek, Ruderman,
Braddy, & Hannum, 2012). On the one hand, the literature documents the persistence of a deep-
seated ideology supporting segmentation, or reinforcing the personal-professional boundary. For
example, a number of studies document the widely-held belief that attention to the socio-
emotional dimension of workplace interactions is inappropriate at work, and also show that
organizations discourage references to non-work roles in the workplace, as well as the display of
personal items in work spaces (e.g. Kellogg, 2011; Sanchez-Burks, 2002; Uhlmann et al., 2013).
On the other hand, there are also several studies documenting organizational practices that
encourage employees to integrate or to blur the boundary between their personal and
professional lives through personal self-disclosure at work, work-family policies such as on-site
child care, or company-sponsored social activities (e.g. Dumas et al., 2013; Fleming, 2005;
Kreiner, Hollensbe, & Sheep, 2009; Rothbard, Phillips, & Dumas, 2005). A common and logical
interpretation of the extant research on the personal-professional boundary is that the forces
supporting integration and segmentation are competing (Ramarajan & Reid, 2013) – and that
integration may be winning -- as evidenced by the proliferation of integration practices. The
opening quotes above, one from a captain of industry in a bygone era, the other from a
contemporary corporate executive, reflect this ostensible shift in acceptance of the notion that
employees should incorporate their personal “selves” into the professional domain.
In this review, we present an alternative to this interpretation by focusing on how
personal-professional integration affects individual outcomes, and by considering the conditions
under which organizations encourage or discourage integration. In doing so, we first posit that
rather than revealing a progression away from segmentation toward integration, research on the
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personal-professional boundary shows that forces supporting the two boundary management
strategies firmly coexist. Second, in reviewing the literature, we identify two key objectives for
boundary management, one is to use boundary management as a tool for handling role
responsibilities, and the other is to use boundary management as a tool for shaping workplace
identity and relationships. Published studies of the personal-professional boundary, and most
scholars generally focus on only one of these objectives (Trefalt, 2013 and Kreiner et al., 2006,
2009 are notable exceptions). Considering these objectives together reveals that enacting a rigid
personal-professional boundary (segmentation) is generally helpful for managing role
responsibilities, whereas blurring or weakening this boundary (integration) is generally helpful
for managing identity and relationships in the workplace. Third, we identify key contingencies to
these general patterns by drawing on the concept of the “ideal worker”, a term codifying the
traditional organizational imperative that the best workers are unencumbered by non-work-
related responsibilities and place a primacy on work (Williams, 1989, 2001). In explicating
these contingencies, we develop a framework for better understanding the attractiveness and
efficacy of boundary management strategies for both individuals and organizations. In sum,
considering boundary management research through the lens of the ideal worker helps both to
explain existing findings, and to generate new research questions regarding the nature of the
personal-professional boundary.
Our focus rests specifically on the dynamics of organizational behavior, that is, what
unfolds on the work side of the personal-professional boundary. The effects of integration on
individuals, groups or social dynamics outside of the work place are beyond the scope of our
analysis. Nonetheless, we acknowledge that integration can be symmetric or asymmetric.
Employees may blur the personal-professional boundary either by incorporating their personal
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lives into the workplace, by allowing work to transcend the boundary into their personal lives, or
both (Ashforth et al., 2000; Clark, 2000; Kossek, Lautsch, & Eaton, 2005). We address the
dynamics of incorporating aspects of employees’ personal lives into the professional domain.
Further, consistent with our interest in the theme of the ideal worker, explicating the reasons
organizations may encourage employees to incorporate their personal lives into work presents
more of a theoretical enigma. The enigma associated with allowing personal matters into public
spaces –in this case work spaces –is reflected in the words of a Silicon Valley high-tech
employee “…the intrusion of private sphere issues into the public sphere shatters the image that
one is an addict, that one is always ready, willing, and able to work. Addiction means you bring
work home—you don’t bring home to work” (Cooper, 2000, p. 395).
Given that our review addresses work across disparate bodies of literature including
work-family research and studies on identity, we clarify here our key terms and concepts. First,
we use the umbrella term “personal-professional boundary” to be inclusive of different research
streams. Within certain literatures, the focus is on the work-family boundary (e.g. Powell &
Greenhaus, 2010), whereas in other research, it is called the divide between work and non-work
(e.g. Trefalt, 2013; Sanchez-Burks, 2005), and in other studies, it is referred to as work-home
boundary (e.g. Kreiner, 2006). Still others use none of these terms explicitly when examining
dynamics that fall squarely within the scope of this review (e.g. Hewlin, 2009). Therefore we use
the term “personal” to encompass family and non-family related roles pursued outside of the
workplace, and social identities not directly related to either the family or work (e.g racial
identity, religious affiliation, sexual orientation). Second, our use of the term “professional”
encompasses people’s work roles, as well as their identification with work, and also serves as a
nod to the concept that incorporating “personal” aspects into the work space is widely considered
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to be “unprofessional” (Uhlmann et al., 2013). Third, following Kossek, Noe, and DeMarr
(1999) and Kossek, Lautsch and Eaton (2006), we use the term “boundary management strategy”
to refer broadly to whether people integrate or segment, whereas the term “boundary work”
refers to specific behaviors within each of those strategies (e.g. discussing personal matters at
work or maintaining separate calendars for work and personal events) (Nippert-Eng, 1996).
The analysis that follows is organized into three sections. In the first section, we discuss
the history of theoretical approaches to the personal-professional boundary. In the second section
we examine boundary management from the perspective of role responsibility management and
identity management. In the third section, we describe the ideal worker perspective as it relates
to the two objectives for boundary management. We conclude by elucidating a framework for
understanding these dynamics, and then discuss the broader theoretical implications of our
analyses as well as promising directions for future research.
“…don't bring a lot of homey things into your workspace. Doing so will distract and confuse
you. There's a reason service dogs mustn't be petted or played with when they're wearing their
work vests: They need to be clear that they're on the job”.
– Martha Beck sociologist and author
“My husband and children have a lot to do with who I am…Employees need to be able to bring
their whole selves to work…Even the CEO has to bring her whole self to work.”
– Indra Nooyi, Chairperson & CEO, PepsiCo
Examining the history of the personal-professional boundary in American society reveals
key turning points in our conceptualization of these domains. Prior to industrialization, and
particularly pre-World War II, there was little separation between the domestic and production
spheres. Artisans conducted their work at home, people cultivated food both for the market and
their own consumption on their family farms, and tradesmen conducted business primarily
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within their existing personal networks (Alt, 1976; Edwards, 1979). Quite simply, the
professional domain blended with the personal domain, and co-workers blended with family and
friends in relatively close-knit networks. However, with the advent of industrialization and the
proliferation of factories and mass production, men in particular, increasingly left their homes for
outside jobs. This pursuit of work resulted in a separation of professional and personal time, as
well as work-related and non work-related activities thus yielding different expectations about
appropriate behaviors for the two domains, further sharpening the distinction between them
(Tönnies, 1887; Weber, 1946). However, during the 1970s and 1980s, women began entering the
full-time paid workforce in larger numbers (Geurts & Demerouti, 2003) yielding more dual-
income families and thus introducing greater complexity regarding the personal-professional
boundary. Individual practices for managing the boundary between personal and professional
domains began to span a broader continuum ranging from integration to segmentation, with few
people completely employing only one of these boundary management styles (Kossek &
Lautsch, 2012; Nippert-Eng, 1996).
Contemporary organizational scholars began taking a closer look, in particular, at the
interface between personal and professional domains, and challenging anew, the assumptions
about the necessity of segmenting the personal from the professional. Indeed, organizational
scholars have documented changes in society, the workforce, and in the nature of work itself that
seem to indicate a trend towards greater acceptance of overlap between the personal and
professional spheres of life (Kossek & Lautsch, 2012). Specifically, the nature of work has
changed, in part, due to the rise of the service sector and decline of manufacturing jobs (Barley
& Kunda, 2001) resulting in an increase of knowledge work focused on problem-solving,
information processing and dissemination (Gargiulo, Ertug, & Galunic, 2009; Quinn, 2005).
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Moreover, the increasingly open-ended and complex nature of knowledge work has often made
the personal-professional boundary seem less clear than it once was (Perlow & Kelly, 2014;
Seron & Ferris, 1995). Informal relationships between coworkers are often central to
coordination and effective collaboration among knowledge workers (Gargiulo et al., 2009;
Woolley, 2009) , and have resulted in greater blurring of the distinction between coworker and
friend. Additionally, unlike manufacturing work or many other blue-collar jobs, knowledge work
can be performed outside of the workplace in some instances, often in employees’ homes
(Perlow & Kelly, 2014; Seron & Ferris, 1995). Advances in technology create further potential
for an overlap between the personal and professional domains (Barley, Meyerson, & Grodal,
2011; Kossek et al., 2012). Finally, the rise in dual-income families has prompted greater
attention to the challenges of managing work and family roles. As a result, various work-family
policies and practices have been developed to promote greater integration of the personal domain
into the professional domain (Hecht & Allen, 2009; Kirchmeyer, 2000; Kossek et al., 2005).
Despite these workplace trends and the appearance of contemporary encouragement of
more integration between personal and professional domains, a closer examination of the extant
research in this area reveals the coexistence of different forces (Ramarajan & Reid, 2013)
pushing for and against integration. For example, in a seminal ethnographic study of employees
at a research and development firm, Nippert-Eng (1996) described the ways people enact the
personal-professional boundary and documented both segmentation practices reinforcing a rigid
boundary, (e.g. maintaining separate keychains or calendars for home and work), as well as
integration practices weakening or blurring this boundary (e.g. displaying personal objects in the
work space or referencing non-work roles). Nippert-Eng’s unique insights and the rich data of
this ethnographic work also served as the primary basis for subsequent organizational research
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on the personal-professional boundary under the banners of boundary theory (Ashforth et al.,
2000) and border theory (Clark, 2000). Below we describe these two theoretical perspectives in
addition to role theory (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek, & Rosenthal, 1964; Katz & Kahn, 1978)
and Protestant relational ideology theory (Sanchez-Burks, 2002, 2005) to identify more
comprehensively forces underlying both segmentation and integration.
Theoretical Support of Segmentation
Role Theory & Segmentation. Role theorists have long asserted that keeping roles
separate is the optimal means for successfully enacting multiple roles. Role theory (Goode, 1960;
Kahn et al., 1964; Katz & Kahn, 1978; Merton, 1968) is a classic perspective considering how
people manage the rights and responsibilities stemming from their positions in various social
structures (e.g. family, work). Role theory is particularly insightful in advancing knowledge on
how the personal-professional boundary shapes employees’ experiences of role conflict
(Coverman, 1989; Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1992; Michel, Kotrba, Mitchelson, Clark, & Baltes,
2011). An individual encounters role conflict when the expectations or demands from one role
interfere with their ability to meet the expectations or demands from another (Greenhaus &
Beutell, 1985; Kahn et al., 1964; Katz & Kahn, 1978). Examples of role conflict across the
personal-professional boundary include feeling too tired or stressed to perform well at work due
to outside responsibilities, or struggling with incompatible norms for behaviors across the two
roles. A central assertion of role theory is that keeping roles separate--observing dedicated times
and spaces for participating in each role--reduces role conflict and facilitates performance in
each role (Kahn et al., 1964). In this way, role theory supports the notion that segmentation is an
optimal boundary management strategy.
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Boundary Theory & Segmentation.
Similar to role theory, boundary theory posits that
segmentation will reduce the extent to which participation in one role interferes with
participation in another (Ashforth et al., 2000). Two concepts central to boundary theory are
permeability and flexibility. Permeable boundaries are those allowing an individual situated in
one domain to be involved in another domain, for example, reviewing sheet music for a weekend
concert performance or accepting calls from family members while at work. Flexible boundaries
are those that can be moved, as in shifting the time one must report to work, or where work can
take place (e.g. a flextime policy allowing employees to schedule their own start and stop times
for work) (Ashforth et al., 2000; Hall & Richter, 1988; Kossek & Lautsch, 2012). Another key
concept in boundary theory is contrast, which refers to perceived differences or similarities
between demands and norms on each side of the boundary (Ashforth et al., 2000). When the
personal and professional domains are highly segmented, the boundary between them is
relatively impermeable and inflexible thus increasing the contrast between them. An employee
who segments might rarely discuss non work-related issues at work and would wait until after
work to address personal matters, therefore experiencing less interference between the two
domains. This aspect of boundary theory posits that segmentation is optimal for enhancing role
concentration and focus, an attractive outcome for both individuals and their organizations.
Border Theory & Segmentation. Although more narrow than boundary theory due to
an explicit focus on balancing work and family roles, border theory (Clark, 2000) similarly
addresses the ways employees actively shape the work-family boundary, and builds on the same
fundamental concepts of boundary permeability, flexibility and contrast. As in role theory,
border theory explicitly addresses factors that reduce role conflict. It also asserts that employees
will experience less role conflict when they segment roles requiring dissimilar behaviors, and
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when they reinforce the boundary around the role they consider most important thus reducing
interference from other roles.
Protestant Relational Ideology Theory & Segmentation. Building on Weber’s seminal
analysis of the Protestant Work Ethic (1904/1958), Protestant relational ideology (PRI) theory
(Sanchez-Burks, 2002, 2005) refers to a deep-seated ideology that separating the spheres of work
and non-work is right, efficient, and professional. Tacit beliefs, patterned behaviors and
organizational policies reveal assumptions about the appropriateness of segmenting the personal
and professional spheres of life—even if those assumptions are at odds with an individual's own
preferences. According to PRI theory, references to non-work roles and identities should be
minimized while at work, as should attention to social-emotional dynamics (Uhlmann &
Sanchez-Burks, 2014). Institutions and organizations reify this ideology via statutes limiting the
legality of discussing personal issues with employees (Gerken, 1993). PRI is also manifested in
recruiting and promotion practices favoring candidates who appear adept at reinforcing the
personal-professional boundary, for example limiting references to non-work affiliations on a
resume or signaling an acceptance of the norm to minimize non-work references during
professional conversations (Uhlmann et al., 2013). The foundation of this ideology appears to
stem from the cultural beliefs and traditions of early Calvinist Protestants combined with the
Protestant Work Ethic to create a distinct approach to navigating professional and personal
relationships. Although the religious aspects of the ideology have faded in contemporary society,
there remains a widely held assumption that employees should shed their personal lives upon
entering the organization.
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Theoretical Support of Integration
In contrast, drawing on arguments that the separation of personal and professional
domains is artificial and problematic (Kanter, 1977), scholars have proposed integration as a
better way to address the realities of living a life across these two domains (Bailyn, 2011; Bailyn,
Drago, & Kochan, 2001). When personal and professional domains are highly integrated, the
boundary between them is characterized by greater permeability and flexibility, and the contrast
between the two domains becomes lower. An employee who integrates may often disclose
information about his or her non-work life at work or enact boundary permeability by accepting
non-work related phone calls in the workplace. Whereas both role theory and PRI theory
perspectives present clear imperatives supporting segmentation as the optimal strategy for
managing role boundaries, boundary theory and border theory acknowledge the benefits of both
integration and segmentation. Next, we examine how these theories support integration, the
alternative approach to navigating the personal-professional boundary.
Boundary Theory & Integration. According to boundary theory (Ashforth et al.,
2000), integration provides simpler transitions between domains because it entails a greater
extent of domain overlap temporally, spatially and cognitively. Integration also provides
flexibility and allows the individual to enact any role regardless of the domain they inhabit at the
time. Therefore, handling multiple roles through integration is likely to be perceived as more
efficient such that when people co-locate different tasks and roles, they can feel that they are
succeeding in “killing two birds with one stone” and thus saving time. Ashforth and his
colleagues (2000) have also theorized a connection between integration and role identification
positing that those who identify with – or define themselves by – a given role are reluctant to exit
the role, and seek to enact that role across various situations. For example, an individual who
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views performing in a band on the weekends as central to their identity should find ways to
integrate this identity into the work domain. Accordingly, integration is also theorized as
beneficial in allowing individuals to express diverse aspects of their identities across different
Border Theory & Integration. Border theory (Clark, 2000) also considers individuals’
identification with their work and family roles, and posits that an asymmetrically permeable
boundary is appropriate for the role with which individuals most identify. Border theory posits
that people seek greater control over the boundary adjacent to their most identity-relevant role,
allowing that role to intrude on others where desired. Border theory also argues for the benefits
of “other domain awareness” (Clark, 2000, p 763), asserting that when employees make their
managers or work colleagues aware of their identification with the family role, they may receive
more support in enacting their roles in the desired manner. Overall, border theory posits that
employees will integrate successfully when their work and family domains are more similar, and
when there is organizational and family support for integration.
Unifying the Theoretical Foundations
Considered comprehensively, the foundational theoretical perspectives addressing
management of the personal-professional boundary reveal the faint outlines of a framework for
increasing our understanding of the dynamics of segmentation and integration. This framework
begins with the observation that both strategies represent unique ways to address two
fundamental concerns: role responsibility management and identity and relationship
management. Role responsibility management entails handling the demands of multiple roles
such as allocating time, attention and effort sufficient for each role, executing role-related tasks
effectively, and preventing interference between role activities. Identity and relationship
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management concerns realization and expression of one’s self-concept in the workplace,
managing others’ perceptions and feeling fully included in the organization. In the next section,
we review empirical studies demonstrating how boundary management addresses these two
“When I'm working, it's 100%. When I'm with my friends, I put everything away and enjoy life.
When I come home to my kids, it's pure joy and everything's worth it. Every time, I really focus
100 % on one thing. I've learned how to juggle my life and I feel like now I have the perfect
- Monique Lhuillier, Celebrity High-Fashion Designer
"I didn't want to lose my sense of myself in my profession. I like art, dance, clothes, travel. So I
made a conscious effort to embrace it all… Our country in particular — and the whole world —
has a real challenge in bringing more women into engineering and technical fields. It's good to
show that you don't need to sacrifice your sense of femininity because you are [an]engineer."
Marisa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo
Enactment of the personal-professional boundary from both the individual and
organizational perspective serves to manage role responsibilities and also to manage identities
and relationships in the workplace. Research addressing the ways people manage the
responsibilities associated with their personal and professional lives has drawn heavily on the
propositions outlined in boundary theory (Ashforth et al., 2000), border theory (Clark, 2000), and
role theory (Kahn et al., 1964). In doing so, this research considers how choices for managing
this boundary may influence the pitfalls of holding multiple roles such as role conflict, stress and
strain (Coverman, 1989; Powell & Greenhaus, 2010). Similarly, research on the ways people
manage their identities at work draws on boundary and border theory to consider how boundary
enactment is related to employees’ sense of who they are, the quality of their relationships with
colleagues, their expectations of how others will perceive them, and the impact of those
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perceptions on their experiences in the organization (Cheng, Sanchez-Burks, & Lee, 2008;
Kreiner et al., 2006, 2009; Ramarajan & Reid, 2013; Sanchez-Burks, Karlesky, & Lee, 2015;
Trefalt, 2013). Whether considering responsibility management or identity management,
individual choices for enacting the personal-professional boundary can determine whether
holding roles across these domains is enriching or depleting to the individual (Chen, Powell, &
Greenhaus, 2009; Chen & Powell, 2012; Powell & Greenhaus, 2010), and whether the
organization welcomes or chastises integration (Stanko & Beckman, 2014; Uhlmann et al.,
Managing Role Responsibilities
Managing role responsibilities successfully, from the perspective of the individual
employee, often means reducing depleting experiences such as role conflict, stress and the
transfer of negative affect that can inhibit performance and career advancement. From the
perspective of the organization, these outcomes are problematic as they have a negative impact
on the employees’ contributions at work and devotion to the organization. Accordingly,
organizational practices regarding the professional-personal boundary often reflect assumptions
of how employees’ responsibilities outside of work will detract from their work performance
(Allen, Cho, & Meier, 2014; Kirchmeyer, 1995;2000).
Role Conflict. When considering the effects of boundary management on workers’ ability
to handle multiple role demands, studies across various job types and industries show that
integrating roles often results in greater role conflict, as well as increased distress and
performance deficiencies (Chesley, 2005; Kossek et al., 2012; Olson-Buchanan & Boswell,
2006a). For example, Stanko and Beckman (2014) conducted interviews of navy personnel, their
commanding offers and family members, and found that use of cell phones and email while on
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duty resulted in distractions, interruptions, reduced productivity and mistakes at work – leading
to organizational interventions designed to constrain such boundary blurring activities. Hecht
and Allen (2009) conducted a longitudinal study of alumni from a Canadian community college
and found that weaker domain boundaries were associated with increased role conflict. Nohe,
Michel and Sonntag (2014) found, in a diary study of German human resources employees, that
the psychological separation of work and home life reduced the negative effects of role conflict
on performance at work. Specifically, though the employees reported that their family role
interfered with work, the negative effect on their work performance was attenuated by
psychological separation of the personal domain from the professional domain. Further, a study
of married workers in Brazil and the U.S. found that spouses who worked in the same company –
the ultimate integration of personal and professional domains – experienced greater strain-based
work-family conflict than did couples who did not work together (Halbesleben, Wheeler, &
Rossi, 2012).
Negative Spillover. Blurring the personal-professional boundary also often leads to
the transfer of negative experiences and affect from one domain to the other. Sumer and Knight
(2001) surveyed university employees and found that those who had difficulty establishing clear
boundaries between life domains experienced more spillover of negative affect from work to
home. Chesley (2005) similarly found in a two-year longitudinal study of couples that mobile
phone use for cross-domain communication increased the transfer of negative affect and distress
across the personal-professional boundary for both men and women. Conversely, Rothbard
(2001) found in a survey of university employees that men, in particular, kept negative family
emotions from affecting their work engagement by psychologically separating the two roles.
Song, Foo and Uy (2008) conducted daily surveys of business school employees and their
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spouses, documenting evidence of the spillover of negative affect from home to work. They
concluded that work-family policies fostering segmentation might be helpful in reducing such
spillover. Across varied contexts, it appears that keeping roles separate appears to ameliorate
adverse psychological outcomes including stress, depression, and role conflict (Linville, 1985,
1987; Settles, Sellers, & Damas Jr, 2002).
Individual Preferences. The adverse consequences associated with boundary blurring
may underlie findings that many workers prefer keeping professional and personal roles separate.
Bourhis and Mekkaoui (2010), for example, conducted a scenario experiment with part-time
management students at a Canadian university to determine whether their preferences for
segmentation determined their attraction to companies offering various work-family policies.
Interestingly, they found that irrespective of segmentation preference, participants were more
attracted to companies offering flextime and generous leave policies – policies characterized as
more segmenting1 (Rau & Hyland, 2002; Rothbard et al., 2005), than to companies offering on-
site child care and telecommuting – policies characterized as more integrating (Rau & Hyland,
2002; Rothbard et al., 2005). In other words, companies offering greater opportunities for
segmenting work and home responsibilities were considered more attractive overall. Fonner and
Stache (2012) found that employees who engaged in teleworking, a practice typically considered
as blurring the personal-professional boundary, employed extensive segmenting tactics,
deliberately choosing to separate their family role from their work role.
1 We acknowledge that flexible scheduling is sometimes characterized as an integrating practice. Importantly,
however, the effect of flexible scheduling on the personal-professional boundary is largely determined by the
individual’s implementation (Piszczek & Berg, 2014). Further, the type of basic flextime policies referenced here,
that simply shift the work day a few hours earlier or later, are considered to foster segmentation (Rau & Hyland,
2002; Rothbard, Phillips, & Dumas, 2005), whereas more extreme flexible scheduling practices that allow for
greater variability in start time on a day-to-day basis are considered to foster integration (Baltes, Briggs, Huff,
Wright, & Neuman, 1999; Dalton & Mesch, 1990; Kossek, Lautsch, & Eaton, 2005).
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Norm of Segmentation. This collection of findings is broadly consistent with the
tenets of role, boundary and border theories asserting that the optimal way for employees to
handle multiple role responsibilities is to segment them. Further, from the perspective of the
organization, encouraging segmentation among employees reflects an underlying ideology that
the personal domain detracts from the professional domain. PRI research puts this in a historical
context, showing empirically that cultural forces supporting the personal-professional divide can
be traced to its founding communities centuries earlier. The impetus for these imperatives was a
perceived need to disregard personal matters to concentrate fully on one’s work in order to fulfill
one’s calling. According to Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars (1993), the result was an
ideology that created “a split between the machine and the suburban garden.” Consequently,
those who bring aspects of their personal lives into the work place tend to be viewed as lacking
commitment and professional orientation. Nippert-Eng (1996) observed similar beliefs in her
seminal qualitative research. She wrote, “I have also heard of the condemning of children’s
presence, personal phone calls, and personal artwork at designated workspaces within the Lab,
all signs of allegedly ‘unprofessional’ people” (p. 269). Uhlmann et al. (2013) found across three
studies that referencing one’s non-work roles while at work was judged by working adults and
organizational recruiters as less professional. Specifically, they found that recruiters judged
candidates less favorably when personal information was included on their resumes, or when job
candidates indicated they would incorporate non-work topics into discussions with new clients in
order to build rapport. Taken together, such findings reveal that many individuals and
organizations recognize and tend to reify traditional expectations that separating the personal and
professional is most appropriate for managing responsibilities associated with these domains.
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Conceptual arguments (Ashforth et al., 2000) and certain empirical findings (e.g.
Hahn & Dormann, 2013) indicate that many employees personally prefer integration as a
boundary management strategy because it allows for greater flexibility. Moreover, although
integration practices generally increase role conflict, employees often appreciate the
organization’s attempts to help them shoulder their non-work responsibilities. For example,
Ratnasingam et al. (2012) found with a study of university employees that when the organization
was perceived as family supportive, employee use of on-site childcare, a policy allowing
workers’ family lives to transcend the work boundary, increased employee work engagement and
job satisfaction. Further, the schedule flexibility associated with modern work practices can
serve to weaken the distinction between work and non-work time in a manner that employees
find attractive (Baltes, Briggs, Huff, Wright, & Neuman, 1999; Dalton & Mesch, 1990).
Importantly however, extensive schedule flexibility – although attractive to employees -- is often
associated with the sense of always being at work, thus blurring the boundary between personal
and professional domains, yielding greater role interference (Blair-Loy, 2009; Perlow & Kelly,
2014; Perlow & Porter, 2009). Ironically, although some employees may prefer to integrate, the
overwhelming pattern in empirical studies is that practices blurring the personal-professional
boundary lead to greater difficulties in managing role responsibilities [Bulger, Matthews, &
Hoffman, 2007; Matthews & Barnes-Farrell, 2010; Matthews, Winkel, & Wayne, 2014; Olson-
Buchanan & Boswell, 2006b; Voydanoff, 2005, see Allen et al., (2014) for a review]. Also,
although our focus in this review is on integration of the personal domain into the professional
domain, it is worth noting that research addressing integration in the other direction also
overwhelmingly shows that integration is associated with more role conflict (Boswell & Olson-
Buchanan, 2007; Desrochers, Hilton, & Larwood, 2005; Glavin & Schieman, 2010; Glavin,
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Schieman, & Reid, 2011; Powell & Greenhaus, 2010; Schieman, Milkie, & Glavin, 2009;
Schieman & Young, 2013). Thus when considering the objective of role responsibility
management, segmentation appears to yield the most attractive outcomes.
Managing Identity and Relationships
Successfully managing identity and relationships from the employee perspective refers to
achieving freedom of self-expression, a sense of belonging, and respect in the organization, as
well as the formation of high quality relationships with colleagues. From the organizational
perspective, successfully managing employee identities results in the harvesting of their unique
perspectives and experiences to benefit the organization, and also yields more cooperative
employee interactions driving better performance overall. Below we review empirical findings
in boundary research addressing identity and relationship management.
Expressing Personal Identity. When considering the objective of identity and
relationship management, research findings on the personal-professional boundary provide
support for the notion that integrating personal identities into the workplace can benefit both
employees and the organization. People want to be perceived accurately (Meister, Jehn, &
Thatcher, 2014; Polzer, Milton, & Swann, 2002), and they feel better about themselves and the
organization when they can present their personal selves authentically (Cable & Kay, 2012).
Cable, Gino and Staats (2013) for example, found in two systematic studies that new employees
who are socialized into the organization with encouragement to emphasize their personal
identities are more engaged, less likely to turnover, and perform better than those socialized with
an emphasis on organizational identity. Byron and Laurence (2015) found that employees
displayed personal items (e.g. photographs, travel souvenirs) in their workspaces both to
communicate important aspects of their identities to others, and to remind themselves of their
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non-work identities. Kuhn (2006) reported that attorneys relished the opportunity to merge their
personal convictions and their professional roles through pro-bono work. Further, a fundamental
tenet of research on workplace spirituality is that employees perform better and feel better about
the organization when they are able to bring their “whole selves” into work (e.g. Gotsis &
Kortezi, 2008). Conversely, when employees suppress core aspects of themselves at work, they
experience emotional exhaustion, lower satisfaction and commitment as well as increased
intentions to leave the organization (Hewlin, 2003, 2009) in addition to lower self-confidence
and performance deficiencies (Barreto, Ellemers, & Banal, 2006; Creed et al., 2010).
Leveraging Employee Identities. Moreover, recent research examining the merits of
authenticity at work reflects the view that organizations can be more creative and innovative, and
can leverage diversity more effectively by embracing the unique perspectives and experiences
associated with the non-work identities of their employees (Cheng et al., 2008; Sanchez-Burks et
al., in 2015). For example, Cheng and her colleagues found that women engineers that tend to
integrate their gender identity with the professional identity are better able to develop innovative
products compared to women engineers that segment these identities. Madjar, Oldham and Pratt
(2002) found that employees were more creative at work when they drew on input and support
from their family members and non-work related friends. The logic that organizations benefit
from embracing employees’ personal identities is also evident in many diversity and inclusion
initiatives that invite employees to share their backgrounds and experiences in the workplace
(Roberson, 2006; Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 2000). The aim of these diversity initiatives is to
bridge differences and build a sense of common identity among demographically dissimilar co-
workers by welcoming their personal identities into the organization (Ely & Thomas, 2001).
Moreover, organizations can leverage the identities of their employees to better serve their
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customer base to the extent that the demographics of the organizations reflect the communities
they serve. Yagil and Medler-Liraz (2013) found that customer service workers shared more of
their authentic, non-work selves on the phone with customers when they perceived some
association with the customer (e.g. perceived demographic similarity or shared experience),
resulting in increased efforts to please the customer or provide excellent service.
Workplace Relationships. Research also clearly reveals that incorporating personal
identities into the workplace can yield more high-quality connections both with colleagues and
customers (Dumas et al., 2013; Ilies, Curşeu, Dimotakis, & Spitzmuller, 2013; Ilies et al., 2005;
Spitzmuller & Ilies, 2010; Yagil & Medler-Liraz, 2013). Trefalt (2013), in a study of attorneys,
found that sharing information about their personal lives with co-workers helped employees form
closer relationships, which in turn allowed them greater control over managing their personal-
professional boundary. Clark (2002) also found that communicating with co-workers about
family matters was associated with better relationships and increased support. Similarly,
Pedersen and Lewis (2012), in a study of diverse workers, including hospital workers and auto-
services employees, found that those who integrated by forming friendships with coworkers
exhibited improved performance because they cooperated more and helped each other.
Additionally, Byron and Laurence (2015) found that referencing personal identities in the
workplace can allow colleagues to discover “common ground” and shared nonwork experiences
that serve as the basis for deeper relationships at work.
Together, this research presents a variety of reasons that many organizations and
employees appear motivated to move toward integration. Multiple organizational stakeholders
benefit in various ways from employees’ expression of their personal identities in the workplace.
Overall, sharing one’s personal identity with colleagues yields positive psychological and
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relational outcomes for employees, as well as improved performance outcomes that are
beneficial to the organization.
The Imperative of Fit
Finally, the effects of these boundary management strategies on role and identity
management also appear to depend upon the fit between that strategy and the individual’s
preferences. Whereas we posit that overall, segmentation yields better outcomes for role
responsibility management, and integration yields better outcomes for identity and relationship
management, these effects are tempered by individuals preferences for integration or
segmentation strategies (See Figure 2). In other words, the match or fit between an individual’s
desired boundary management strategy and the context – and the extent to which they integrate
or segment drives attitudes toward the organization as well as conflict or harmony between
employees’ personal and professional life domains. For example, Rothbard and her colleagues
(2005) found that when employees perceived greater access to organizational policies congruent
with their desires for integration and segmentation, they were more satisfied with and committed
to the organization. Similarly, Kreiner (2006) found that employees experienced more role
conflict when there was incongruence between their preferences and the amount of integration
allowed by their organizations. Further, in a qualitative study of episcopal priests, Kreiner et al.
(2009) documented the ways priests managed the mismatch between their preferences for
integrating or segmenting and those of their superiors or parishioners. Some preferred to
integrate by bringing more of their family lives into their work. For example, one priest brought
her small child with her to meetings during the week though she knew that her bishop
disapproved. Still others sought more separation between their personal lives and work, but
negotiated this actively in the face of parishioners and superiors who wanted more personal
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interaction. This was the case with priests who resisted requests such as including their home
phone numbers in the church bulletin, or having their spouses attend all church functions. Clearly
these priests experienced better outcomes when their boundary preferences matched those of
their superiors and parishioners. Ammons (2013) also documented the discomfort people
experience when there is a misfit between their preferred and enacted personal-professional
boundaries. Further she found that men and employees with children were more likely to
experience fit between their preferred way to enact this boundary whereas women and those
without families were less likely to feel free to enact the personal-professional boundary in
accordance with their preferences.
Insert Figure 2 about here
These findings are all consistent with the concept of boundary control (Kossek &
Lautsch, 2012; Wotschack, Glebbeek, & Wittek, 2014) and indicate that it is important for
employees to have control over enactment of the personal-professional boundary in a way that is
consistent with their preferences. Importantly, however, even the quantitative empirical studies
considering fit as a moderator found significant main effects for boundary management such that
segmentation was still associated with reduced role conflict (Kreiner, 2006). In addition,
increased access to an integrating policy (on-site child care) was associated with reduced
organizational commitment (Rothbard et al., 2005). These results provide support for our overall
observation that segmentation seems to best serve the objective of managing multiple role
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Toward an Organizing Framework for Existing Research
Our analysis thus far shows how strategies for navigating the boundary between personal
and professional domains are directed toward two fundamental objectives: managing multiple
role responsibilities and managing identity and relationships. From the perspective of both
individual employees and the organization, segmenting appears to facilitate success in managing
role responsibilities, whereas integrating, at least under certain conditions, appears better for
managing relationships and identity at work. Ultimately, however, even this distinction based on
the two objectives for boundary management points to one fundamental purpose from the
perspective of the organization—enhancing individual contributions to the workplace.
Extrapolating from our review, we posit that organizations will encourage whatever
boundary strategy (integration or segmentation) they perceive as helping employees to better
devote themselves to work so as to embody an ‘ideal worker.’ Further, employees seeking
success often calibrate their own boundary management strategies according to what is rewarded
by the organization. This raises the question: What is the basis upon which organizations
determine whether integrating versus segmenting the personal domain into the professional
domain is valuable? To answer this question, in the next section we examine more closely the
concept of the “ideal worker” (Williams, 1989, 2001) and develop a framework articulating
conditions under which organizations do and do not value the integration of their employees’
personal lives.
"Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means
making choices and enjoying those choices."
-Betsy Jacobson, Author and Actress
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Examining research on the personal-professional boundary reveals that organizational
encouragement of a particular boundary management strategy – whether fostering more
integration or less – is derived from beliefs of how the strategy will allow employees to better
contribute and devote themselves to work. We develop this fundamental premise by linking
boundary research to research on the ideal worker norm, a term first coined in legal scholarship
addressing gender disparities in employment outcomes (Williams, 1989, 2001). Historically, the
ideal worker was a man with a stay-at-home wife as reflected in the following quote: “For
employers, men became ‘ideal workers’, in the sense that they were readily available to work
and no consideration needed to be given to their lives away from work, as this was taken care of
by women” (Carney, 2009, p. 117). More recently, there is a growing sentiment that single,
childless women may also approximate the ideal worker by devoting themselves to work (Blair-
Loy, 2004; Collins, 2008; Hamilton, Gordon, & Whelan-Berry, 2006). However, regardless of
family structure, the ideal worker schema reflects the assumption that workers should privilege
work over other roles, exhibiting full devotion to the organization (Correll, Benard, & Paik,
2007; Ely & Meyerson, 2000).
Organizational practices have long reflected expectations of employees’ full devotion to
work and constant accessibility for work, particularly concerning professional workers
(Zerubavel, 1993). Despite changes in the workplace, these expectations persist. For example, in
a recent survey of over 2000 U.S. and international employees, the majority agreed that the ideal
employee should be available to meet business needs regardless of the work hours, and 40
percent agreed that workers without personal commitments are the most productive (SHRM
Online Staff, 2011). Given the general expectation that employees should prioritize work over
all other commitments, we posit that organizations encourage employees to incorporate the
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personal domain into the professional domain in a manner that best affirms or reinforces the
primacy of work.
Conversely, incorporating aspects of one’s personal life into the professional domain may
be discouraged when it is perceived as challenging the expectation that the professional domain
should take priority or as undermining performance at work. This idea is consistent with recent
findings showing that employees who utilize flexibility policies are assessed more favorably
when managers attribute their policy use to a desire for productivity rather than a need to
accommodate family responsibilities (Leslie, Park, Mehng, & Manchester, 2012). Thus, we
propose that the ideal worker lens provides a unifying framework for the streams of research
addressing enactment of the personal-professional boundary. We further propose that applying a
nuanced articulation of the ideal worker schema to the dynamics associated with the personal-
professional boundary reveals key contingencies determining whether organizations will value
the integration of employees’ personal lives. Importantly, these contingencies map onto the two
objectives driving boundary strategies: role responsibility management and identity and
relationship management.
Insert Figure 3 about here
The Ideal Worker via Role Responsibility Management
The ideal worker should have a singular focus on work (Correll, Kelly, O’Connor, &
Williams, 2014; Kelly, Ammons, Chermack, & Moen, 2010), yet as reflected in studies showing
that greater integration highlights identification with the personal domain (Byron & Laurence,
2015) and increases role conflict, for many integration seems to hinder the ability to focus on
work (Kossek & Lautsch, 2012). An illustrative perspective comes from executive interviews by
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Groysberg and Abrahams (2014, p 62), “When I’m at home …I force myself to not check my e-
mail, take calls, et cetera. But this also works the other way around, because when I’m at work I
really want to focus on work. I believe that mixing these spheres too much leads to confusion
and mistakes.” In general, research suggests that the inclusion of personal references at work
hinders task performance through the mechanism of distraction and role interference (Olson-
Buchanan & Boswell, 2006b), as well as the spillover of negative affect into the workplace
(Song et al., 2008) (see Figure 3, cell C).
Yet, there are key contingencies to the expectation that the inclusion of the personal
domain into the professional domain hinders an employee’s ability to perform work tasks
effectively. Primary exceptions to this general pattern are when: 1) the work tasks are mundane
and organizational features alone may not be sufficiently engaging 2) perceived time scarcity
jeopardizes commitment to work 3) personal roles provide valuable job-related skills and
resources (see Figure 3, cell A). From an organizational perspective, all three of these factors
render the employees’ personal life a source for enhanced, rather than diminished contributions
to the work role.
First, some organizations encourage integration of employees’ personal lives to stimulate
greater enthusiasm and engagement with the work task and the organization. Fleming and Spicer
(2004) studied employees of a U.S.-owned call center in Australia. This particular organization
encouraged employees to incorporate aspects of their personal lives and identities into the
workplace to help counteract the stressful and monotonous nature of call-center work as well as
to bond employees to the organization. The researchers observed surfboards, family pictures and
sporting trophies in employees’ workspaces. Employees were encouraged to socialize with their
coworkers, drink alcohol on Friday afternoons, and to view their team leaders as confidants with
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whom they could discuss personal matters all measures intended to help bond employees to
each other and to the organization in the absence of engaging work. Similarly, Pratt (2000)
explained that for Amway workers, the organization “…provided a strong sense of purpose and
community by uniting parts of their lives that had been segmented by modern society (e.g. work,
family and religion) (p. 488). Second, integrating employees family lives into the organization
can be a way to assuage their concerns that work takes too much time away from family. For
example, Pratt and Rosa (2003) found that due to the unique time demands and constraints
inherent in working for network marketing organizations, these organizations seek to reduce
members’ perceptions that time spent working competes with family time. Therefore, they
merged members’ work and family roles through practices labeled as “bringing family into
work” and “making workers into family”. Third, an employee’s roles outside of the work
organization may provide access to skills or resources that can improve their work contribution.
Hewlett, Luce and West (2005) explained that companies are missing out on untapped leadership
potential in their organizations because some employees intentionally conceal community
affiliations for fear of negative career consequences. Yet, their analysis shows that the activities
concealed by these employees (e.g. leadership positions in civic, religious or cultural groups) are
helpful in honing the types of skills that organizations covet. Overall, if organizations view
employees’ personal domains as sources of enhanced employee performance or increased
devotion, they will encourage integration of the personal domain into the professional domain
(see Figure 3, cell A).
The Ideal Worker via Identity Management
Consistent with the theme that the ideal worker is fully devoted to and engaged in the
workplace, is the notion that employees will be most engaged and committed to the organization
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when they are able to express their personal identities authentically (Cable et al., 2013; Cable &
Kay, 2012). Conversely, those who suppress authentic expression experience negative outcomes
including disengagement, withdrawal and stress (Hewlin, 2009). Moreover, both boundary
theory (Ashforth et al., 2000) and border theory (Clark, 2000) posit that people need to allow
their most central identities to transcend domain boundaries, ensuring that the expression of their
most important identities is not hindered by those less important. Therefore overall, employees
are better off when they can express their personal identities in the workplace.
Key contingencies to this general pattern are when the individual’s personal identities or
characteristics place them in the minority in their organization, or when their personal attributes
are devalued in the organizational context. Although there exists the fundamental notion that the
ideal worker is a man with a stay-at-home wife supporting his full devotion to the organization
(Kelly et al., 2010), there can be variation in the specific content of the ideal worker schema
across organizations (Ashcraft, 2013; Ashcraft, Muhr, Rennstam, & Sullivan, 2012; Ramarajan
& Reid, 2013; Tienari, Quack, & Theobald, 2002). Members of most organizations hold implicit
beliefs about the desired characteristics of a prototypical member -- and many of these
characteristics are based on social identities such as gender, family status or racial background
(Desai, Chugh, & Brief, 2014; Rosette, Leonardelli, & Phillips, 2008; Rosette & Tost, 2010). We
propose that when a worker’s personal identity does, in fact, fit with the expectations for a
prototypical employee in a given context, integration will be useful for that individual, and will
be rewarded by the organization. This notion is a corollary to the importance of fit between
individual and organizational preferences for boundary management identified in our review
above. A clear finding is that fit between the individual preferences and the organizational
pressures for boundary management were associated with increased well-being, more positive
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attitudes toward the organization and smoother workplace interactions for employees (Kreiner,
2006; Kreiner et al., 2009; Rothbard et al., 2005). Considering the ideal worker from a more
nuanced perspective also suggests that the fit between the individual’s personal identity
characteristics and what is valued in a given context would lead to benefits of increased
integration of the personal into the professional domain (see Figure 3 cell B). For example,
journalist Jill Nelson explained that mentioning her family’s home on Martha’s Vineyard helped
secure her position as the first African-American writer for the Washington Post magazine
(Nelson, 1993, pp. 6-7).
Conversely, integration may be more difficult for those whose personal characteristics do
not match what is valued in the organizational context, or who are in the demographic minority
(see Figure 3, cell D). In law firms, the gender identity of women renders them less congruent
with the norms of masculine attorney behaviors, thus affecting their experiences at work
(Gorman, 2005). The same holds true for women law-enforcement officers (Prokos & Padavic,
2002). Similarly, women in technical fields do not fit the occupational schema (Cheryan,
Davies, Plaut, & Steele, 2009; Jorgenson, 2002). Perceptions that women do not match the
prototypical computer scientist, may, in fact, keep women from entering careers in the computer
science field (Cheryan et al., 2009). Rosette et al. (2008) found that leaders are evaluated less
favorably, and that candidates are less likely to be hired or promoted when their characteristics
do not match those of a prototypical leader – a white male – yielding adverse effects on women
and minority candidates. Thus, employees who perceive that some aspect of their personal
identity does not fit with the organizational ideal choose to either downplay that aspect of their
identity or potentially face negative consequences when incorporating that identity into the
professional domain. Downplaying a given aspect of ones identity may be a viable option when
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that aspect is less central to the individual’s self-concept (Ashforth et al., 2000; Phillips et al.,
2009). However, with changes in organizational demographics, people may become more
comfortable integrating as reflected in this quote from a female executive, “The more women
have come into the workplace, the more I talk about my children” (Groysberg & Abrahams,
2014, p. 64).
Importantly, this concept is not limited to social identities such as race or gender, but
rather can apply to any aspect of an employee’s personal domain perceived to be incompatible
with their work (Creed et al., 2010; Creed & Scully, 2011). Kreiner et al. (2006) found in their
study of Episcopal priests that many of them concealed aspects of their identities that they
perceived to be incompatible with their vocation. For example, one priest liked to read comic
books but was concerned about what people would think if they saw him in a comic book store.
In sum, the compatibility between employees’ personal characteristics and those valued in the
organization remains a key contingency of the outcomes of integration. Applying this notion to
existing research suggests that researchers examine the “ideal worker” schema in the
organizations they study to understand what is normative or valued in that context, and how
employees’ personal roles and identities may or may not fit with that schema.
Although the ideal worker schema continues to impact employees choices and work
experiences, numerous modern practices directly challenge the assumptions underlying this
schema such that there is wide variation across industries, organizational strategies, worker
experiences and preferences with respect to the pressure exerted by this particular view of
employees’ work and non-work roles (Briscoe & Kellogg, 2011; Kelly, Moen, & Tranby, 2011).
In organizations with policies, practices and/or structures that weaken ideal worker-based norms,
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some of the challenges associated with integration may be lessened, thus giving employees more
latitude to enact the personal professional boundary however they see fit. No doubt, a variety of
organizational work-life initiatives including flexible scheduling (Baltes et al., 1999), on-site
child care (Rothbard et al., 2005) and telecommuting (Rau & Hyland, 2002) have already served
to re-shape perceptions of the personal-professional boundary. Further, more extensive cultural
change programs such as the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) serve to disrupt
longstanding norms of how work should be done by rewarding performance outcomes rather
than face time or personal characteristics, thus giving employees ultimate control over their
personal-professional boundary (Correll et al., 2014; Kelly et al., 2014; Perlow & Kelly, 2014).
Importantly, however, in considering the two broad objectives for personal-professional
boundary management, there are less direct, yet critical factors shaping the potency of the ideal
worker schema in organizations. As a look forward to future research on the personal-
professional boundary, we first discuss three such factors shaping perceptions of this boundary
via challenges to the ideal worker norm in any given organization: 1) diversity and inclusion
efforts 2) the proportion of women in key positions of influence, and 3) the non-U.S. influence.
Given the increasing diversity of modern organizations, future research explicitly considering
these factors would be poised to make theoretically novel and practically relevant contributions
to scholarship on the personal-professional boundary. Next, extending beyond our discussion of
these factors, we propose a broader future research agenda to advance the field’s understanding
of personal-professional boundary management.
Factors Mitigating the Potency of the Ideal Worker Schema
Diversity and Inclusion Practices. The diversity of an organization, as well as its success
with inclusion initiatives, can weaken perceptions of a prototypical ideal worker thus broadening
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the field of acceptance for workers’ personal identities. The difficulties faced by those who
differ, either from the prototypical organizational member, or from the majority of their
coworkers on salient dimensions, highlight the challenges raised by integration when it comes to
managing identity and relationships in the professional domain. For example, these challenges
are made evident by recent findings that integration, in the form of socializing at company social
events, leads to improved co-worker relationships – but only for those who are racially similar to
the majority of their colleagues (Dumas et al., 2013). Similarly, Byron and Laurence (2015)
found that when the inclusion of personal items in the workplace revealed common interests and
experiences among coworkers, they formed closer relationships, but these personal items also
created social distance when they highlighted differences between employees. Moreover, as
articulated by Phillips, Rothbard and Dumas (2009), when employees interact with colleagues
who are demographically dissimilar, they are concerned about what type of personal information
crosses the boundary into the professional domain, as some personal information (e.g., hobbies)
may reduce the individual’s perceived status. In considering the widely publicized integration
practices in newer companies like Google (Shepherd & Bernhart, 2007), it is worth noting that
these organizations are characterized by a great deal of gender, age and racial homogeneity
(Wakabayashi, 2014; Eggerton, 2014). Such lack of diversity presumably makes it easier for all
to integrate as there is considerable overlap between the personal and professional characteristics
of the employees.
Ely and Thomas (2001) introduced the integration and learning perspective on managing
diversity in organizations, an approach highlighting the value of incorporating disparate
employee experiences, unique viewpoints and backgrounds into the organization. This
perspective views diversity as a key aspect of daily operations and decisions in an organization,
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rather than a problem or a peripheral concern of diversity and human resources officers.
Drawing on this concept, Nishii (2012) addressed organizational climates for inclusion focusing
on their 1) fairness in employment practices, 2) integration of diversity, entailing creation of a
safe environment for employees to incorporate their core selves, and 3) inclusion in decision-
making, whereby dissenting opinions are actively solicited. Nishii found that when the climate
for inclusion was higher on these dimensions, there were fewer conflicts among people in
diverse work groups. Organizational practices that recognize and invite differences on multiple
dimensions can not only improve performance at the individual and organizational levels
(DiBenigno & Kellogg, 2014; Homan, Van Knippenberg, Van Kleef, & De Dreu, 2007; Pieterse,
Van Knippenberg, & Van Dierendonck, 2013; Richard, Murthi, & Ismail, 2007; Van de Ven,
Rogers, Bechara, & Kangyong Sun, 2008), but can also make people more comfortable being
themselves, yielding better experiences, relationships, and attitudes toward the organization
(Chrobot-Mason & Aramovich, 2013; Hobman, Bordia, & Gallois, 2004; Plaut, Thomas, &
Goren, 2009). When organizations are successful at creating a culture that truly values
differences, and employees feel safe incorporating their identities and perspectives into the
professional domain, the salience of prototypical professional domain identities and disparity in
outcomes of integration will be reduced.
Women in Positions of Influence.The image of the ideal worker with a singular devotion
to work and no competing responsibilities is historically gendered in that it favored a man whose
wife who does not work outside of the home (Correll et al., 2007). Hoobler, Wayne and Lemmon
(2009) found that managers’ perceptions of women’s work-family conflict had a negative impact
on their performance appraisals and promotions --- irrespective of the women’s family structure
or their actual difficulty managing work and family roles. These findings reflect the power of
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traditional perceptions in the workplace. However as the composition of the workforce changes,
more women are increasingly in position to influence these traditional perceptions (Elsesser &
Lever, 2011). Further, with the rise of dual-income families, fewer men have stay-at-home
wives-- and men whose wives work outside of the home are less likely to endorse traditional
views (Desai et al., 2014). Therefore, the presence of women in key positions in the organization
may shape perceptions and consequences of integrating aspects from the personal domain into
the professional domain.
The increasing presence of women in positions of power both in the workplace and in
society serves to reshape attitudes regarding the personal-professional boundary, and is
associated with reduced work-family conflict (Ruppanner & Huffman, 2014). Ruppanner and
Huffman (2012) studied local labor markets in large cities and found that in markets where
women were highly educated and had high representation in managerial positions, there were
more work-family policies – an important outcome, as work-family policy availability positively
affects women’s job satisfaction (Butts, Casper, & Tae Seok Yang, 2013). Similarly, when there
are high concentrations of women in labor markets, women earn more (Cohen & Huffman,
2003). Moreover, the gender earning gap is lower in contexts where there are more educated
women (Cotter, DeFiore, Hermsen, Kowalewski, & Vanneman, 1997). Overall it seems that
when there are more women in a general employment situation, women overall are better off.
This may be even more the case when there are women in high profile, influential or powerful
positions. Therefore, the increasing presence of women in organizations, particularly in
influential positions, can affect the working experiences of women, help to reshape fundamental
workplace assumptions, and change the power dynamics sustaining ideal worker norms.
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Non-U.S. Cultural Influences. There is increasing evidence that norms for the personal-
professional boundary vary cross-culturally (Uhlmann & Sanchez-Burks, 2014). Scholars across
various disciplines have suggested that the ideal of minimizing the personal while in the
workplace may be a particularly strong norm in the U.S. as reflected in a series of empirical
findings comparing workers of different nationalities (Sanchez-Burks, 2005). In American
society, for example, people appear less adept at simultaneously processing task-related
information and social-emotional information in work settings compared to employees in other
countries (e.g., Sanchez-Burks, 2002). PRI theory research shows that the American norm of
inattention to relational cues in the professional domain affects cognitive processing and
perceptions such that when experiment participants are primed with workplace norms, they fail
to notice or encode relational and emotional behaviors that they would otherwise notice in the
personal domain (Sanchez-Burks, 2002; Sanchez-Burks et al., 2009). Similarly, Chua, Morris
and Ingram (2009) and Sanchez-Burks et al., (2003) found that Chinese managers were more
proficient at forming instrumental and socio-emotional bonds with the same people whereas the
social networks of the Americans were more segmented. Moreover, Sanchez-Burks, Nisbett and
Ybarra (2000) found that Latin-American study participants were more able to attend to
emotional and task cues simultaneously in work groups than were American study participants.
More broadly, however, it appears that integration is actually the modal approach to the
personal-professional boundary around the world. In Korea, there is a tradition of chaebol or
‘company familism’ (Kim, 1988) where deep personal knowledge and connections are sustained
across the personal-professional boundary. The Chinese networking system, guanxi (Solomon,
1999; Tsui & Farh, 1997) similarly operates on a system whereby one's personal and
professional networks are leveraged for mutual benefit and as a consequence are not considered
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separate. In many parts of East Asia, managers have deep knowledge of their employees’
personal lives and extend help and support such as sending flowers for a family funeral or a gift
for a child’s birthday. In turn, employees are more likely to help a manager with their personal
endeavors (Hampden-Turner & Trompenaars, 1993). Throughout much of Latin America, and
particularly in Mexico, personal and professional relationships are treated the same through a
relational script of simpatia (Díaz-Guerrero, 1975; Sanchez-Burks et al., 2000; Triandis, Marin,
Lisansky, & Betancourt, 1984). Overall, the continual infusion of international talent into
American organizations may gradually alter perceptions that personal domain commitments,
behaviors and emotions necessarily detract from employees’ work devotion and attention,
rendering them less ‘ideal” or less professional. Thus, the influence of non-U.S. cultural norms
may make integration a viable workplace practice for more people.
Future Research
Above, we discussed factors that may ultimately reshape perceptions of the personal-
professional boundary by weakening the ideal worker schema in work organizations, however
the field is ripe for considering numerous other issues relevant to boundary theorizing. First, the
increasing diversity in modern organizations requires a continual reexamination of how we can
manage the multiple types of identities people bring into the workplace in order to make
organizations more innovative and effective overall (Freeland, 2012). Second, given that
outcomes associated with individual enactment of the personal-professional boundary are so
profoundly shaped by others’ perceptions and by organizational norms, examining interventions
that target norms and perceptions directly is a fruitful future research path. Third, research
addressing the personal-professional boundary is often conceptualized as a narrow area applying
primarily to the enactment of work and family roles, thus future boundary research would benefit
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from drawing more explicit connections to various other areas of organizational research. Below
we elaborate briefly on these ideas for future research paths.
Dimensions of Diversity. It is clear that racial dissimilarity, gender representation and
national origin impact outcomes of integrating personal and professional domains, yet studying
other attributes as dimensions of diversity can also yield important insights for organizational
boundary research. In addition to characteristics such as national origin or gender, understanding
generational differences in enactment of the personal-professional boundary could be an
important theoretical development with strong practical implications. Anecdotal accounts
suggest that millennials view the work-home boundary differently than prior generations, but
there is little empirical research documenting clear generational differences on this and other
workplace issues (Becton, Walker, & Jones-Farmer, 2014). Systematically comparing different
age cohorts could enrich our theorizing on factors driving individuals’ preferences for integration
or segmentation. Relatedly, most research addressing the personal-professional boundary
assumes the existence of a clear, agreed-upon boundary that can be rendered more or less
permeable or flexible in accordance with our norms and accepted practices. However, it is worth
considering how perceptions of the mere existence of a boundary may be changing over time.
For many, particularly younger employees, the use of social media both reflects and influences
what is considered work-related and what is considered personal (Ollier-Malaterre, Rothbard, &
Berg, 2013), pointing the way for future research regarding generational differences in
perceptions of this boundary.
Future research should also revisit the connection between family structure (e.g. marital
and parental status) and boundary management. Traditionally, work-family research addressed
the plight of married, working parents, with few studies explicitly considering or comparing
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multiple types of family structures including single parents or single, childless employees. Yet
given the evolving nature of modern families, work-family boundary theorizing could be
enriched by the explicit examination of non-traditional family structures. Additionally, the
traditional ideal worker schema reflects beliefs regarding the connection between family
structure and employees’ potential to contribute value to the organization. Whereas the original
ideal worker was a man with a stay-at-home wife, suggestions that single, childless employees –
especially women – may be the new ideal worker warrant further study. The few existing studies
explicitly addressing single childless workers suggest that they perceive less support from the
organization in managing their personal-professional interface (Casper, Weltman, & Kwesiga,
2007), although they need support managing this boundary just as much as workers with families
(Kelly et al., 2014; Perry-Smith & Dumas, 2007). This is particularly striking as single, childless
workers currently comprise over 30% of all U.S. workers (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,
2011). Overall, considering the connection between the personal and professional domains for
different family structures is a promising new area of research for work-family scholars and
those studying the personal-professional boundary more broadly.
Challenging Traditional Norms and Perceptions. The rich body of research on
organizational work-life policies often reveals mixed results (see Kelly et al., 2008 for a review),
and many scholars suggest that rather than individual policies, widespread cultural change is
needed to truly address challenges of managing the personal-professional boundary (Kelly,
Moen, & Tranby, 2011; Moen, Kelly, & Hill, 2011; Perlow & Kelly, 2014). Organizational
scholars and practitioners alike are gaining ground in identifying ways to redesign work and
shape workplace culture in ways that directly challenge traditional norms. For example, the
Support. Transform. Achieve. Results. (STAR) program entails teaching supervisors how to
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effectively support their employees’ family and personal lives, and helps identify changes to
work processes that increase employee control over their work schedules (Kelly et al., 2014).
Clearly the key to success of such programs in any organization is executive level buy-in, and
top-down support of fundamental changes in beliefs about work. Future research should
consider how and why some leaders recognize the value of such programs, and deepen our
understanding of factors leading to success in implementing cultural change in lieu of isolated
policies. Moreover, future research should also consider how individual employees may
successfully negotiate favorable workplace conditions and greater boundary control when not
employed by an organization that embraces widescale change. Overall, recent research suggests
that the way forward is to replace traditional norms and ways of working, yet much more
research is needed to show how to bring about these critical changes.
Connecting Organizational Research Areas. Historically, studies of employees
enactment of their work and family roles dominated research directly addressing the personal-
professional boundary, however, as shown in our review, the question of how to manage this
boundary is ubiquitous. Further, understanding the personal-professional boundary can inform
the study of numerous organizational behavior topics including diversity, employee motivation
and workplace relationships. In a nutshell, the ideas covered by boundary theories are quite
relevant to many areas of organizational research that do not explicitly reference boundary
research. For example, studies on work engagement and workplace spirituality frequently refer
to employees’ deployment of their “whole selves” in the workplace (e.g. Barrick, Thurgood,
Smith, & Courtright, 2015; Gotsis & Kortezi, 2008). This language invokes the image of
employees allowing aspects of their personal lives to transcend the personal-professional
boundary, yet little research in these areas explicitly draws on established boundary theories
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(King & Williamson, 2005 is an exception). This represents a missed opportunity both for
boundary theorists and for organizational research overall. The first step toward capitalizing on
this opportunity is for boundary theorists to begin applying their ideas to a broader array of
research topics, signaling to the field the relevance of boundary theories to organizational
research in general.
Our goal in this review was to consider more closely a collective assumption that
integration of the personal and professional domains is the new and preferred norm. By bringing
together related but distinct streams of research, one of which addresses personal-professional
boundary management as a tool for handling multiple role responsibilities , and the other of
which considers boundary management as a tool for shaping workplace identity and
relationships, we found that integration is more or less effective and attractive depending on the
objective. Examining research on the personal-professional boundary also reveals why and how
integration is effective for some employees but not others. By discussing these patterns
comprehensively, we advance scholarship on a fundamental dimension of organizational
behavior and social life. Further, using the notion of the “ideal worker” as a lens through which
to view these two distinct currents of research, we identified key contingencies affecting
navigation of the personal/professional boundary which help to provide a framework for
understanding reported findings. Finally we discussed areas of opportunity for future research
addressing the personal-professional boundary.
We have argued that rather than movement toward integration, norms and practices for
integration and segmentation both persist even in the face of societal and workplace changes.
Much of the existing research on the personal-professional boundary has been prompted by new
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ways of working and changes in technology, yet whereas research documents the proliferation of
new practices fostering integration of the personal-professional boundary (Kossek & Lautsch,
2012), we also see practices reinforcing traditional workplace norms. For example Yahoo CEO
Marisa Mayer sparked controversy after her decision to revoke employees’ ability to
telecommute or work from home (Goudreau, 2013) and Best Buy’s CEO, Hubert Joly, recently
dismantled the organization’s successful Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) program
returning thousands of employees to a more traditional, less flexible work structure (Bednarz,
2013). These developments are consistent with our theorizing about the pressures and objectives
shaping enactment of the personal-professional boundary – but also highlight the fact that this is
a dynamic area of organizational concern warranting continued study. One question to further
consider is how societal and organizational norms will continue to shape organizational practices
around the personal-professional boundary. Specifically, younger organizations, entrepreneurial
firms and high technology organizations may feel less pressure to conform to changing norms.
Overall, our conceptual review and analyses reveal several implications for organizations,
individuals and society, as well as fruitful avenues for future research.
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Figure 1 Integration-Segmentation Continuum
Integration Segmentation
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Figure 2 The Fit Imperative:
Efficacy of Boundary Management Strategies
Role Responsibility
Identity and Relationship
Low Fit of Org
& Individual
High Fit of Org
& Individual
Low Fit of Org
& Individual
High Fit of Org
& Individual
Integrate - + + ++
Segment + ++ -- -
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Figure 3
Factors Determining Whether Integration or Segmentation Strategies are Attractive to
Organizations and Effective for Individuals
Boundary Management Objective
Role Responsibility Management Identity and Relationship
Cell A
· Work tasks are mundane
· Perceived time scarcity hinders org. commitment
· Personal domain provides job-related skills
Cell B
· Personal attributes are in the majority
· Personal attributes match what the org. values
· Personal domain is the most central identity
Cell C
· Personal domain interferes with work tasks
· Features of personal domain are distracting
· Personal domain experiences are negative
Cell D
·Personal attributes are in the minority
·Personal attributes are devalued in org. context
·Personal domain is the least central identity
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... Compounding these issues, expectations often diverge across roles and are incompatible, so bringing them together can create conflict (Allen et al., 2014;Dumas & Sanchez-Burks, 2015;Nippert-Eng, 1996). ...
... This differs from the Global North, where the natural separation between roles (Dumas & Sanchez-Burks, 2015) makes multi-role interactions the exception, rather than the norm. ...
... First, role holders must engage in multi-role interactions; they must enact two roles with the same person. Given that such multi-role interactions are far from automatic (e.g., Dumas & Sanchez-Burks, 2015), our study makes a valuable contribution by highlighting that a combination of motivation and ability underpinned it. More specifically, we found that socioeconomic aspects of the context were instrumental: the ability to have multi-role interactions flowed from tightly-knit community networks, while motivation to have multi-role interactions flowed from pervasive poverty, pressing time constraints, and a lack of family planning services. ...
Role theory generally predicts that when the demands and norms of two roles are highly contrasted, individuals will construct a strong boundary to separate the roles. However, such predictions are grounded primarily in the Global North, emphasizing role pairings such as ‘work-family’ and hybrid ‘work-work.’ Comparatively, the Global South is characterized by a relative lack of public services that creates a highly contrasted, highly salient, and yet understudied role pairing – ‘work-community.’ Additionally, the socioeconomic features of the Global South (e.g., dense and overlapping community networks, financial poverty) call into question whether existing predictions surrounding boundary strength are likely to hold. We conducted a qualitative study of 73 Tanzanian participants who had both a self-employed work role and a family planning counsellor community role. We found that highly contrasted roles can be simultaneously perceived as both incompatible and compatible. Specifically, the boundaries we observed were neither uniformly strong nor weak, but rather of asymmetric strength: strong when a social interaction was anchored in the community role, but weak when anchored in the work role. The specific role contrasts we identify, and the importance of role anchoring we observe, have important implications for role theory and literature on boundary setting more broadly.
... This perspective elevates WFH research by considering optimism as a potential meaningmaking process to navigating through contextual ambivalence. In fact, our research shows how the challenges of WFH transition could create the context for employees to develop balance by managing the duality of their roles in order to handle their personal/ family and work responsibilities (Dumas and Sanchez-Burks 2015). We also extend the work-life boundaries literature by showing how developing boundary management strategies in WFH contexts could promote situated integration, a process where employees engage in both stringency and flexibility to set priorities and boundaries within a set of conflicting demands (Nippert-Eng 1996). ...
... First, extending the work-life boundaries perspective, managers and HRD professionals could work collaboratively to provide the necessary job resources to reduce work-life conflict as a result of the blurring of work and home boundaries (c.f. Dumas and Sanchez-Burks 2015). Proper infrastructure and communication channels could help alleviate employees' anxiety over company network and connectivity issues. ...
... Researchers could examine the situated transition of roles in conflicting work-life boundaries and how employees develop learning-oriented behaviour to manage their personal/family and work priorities (c.f. Dumas and Sanchez-Burks 2015;Nippert-Eng 1996). Second, the role of emotion as moderating psychological response, learning, and work engagement could be further explored. ...
COVID-19 has led to alternative work arrangements for many organizations. Working from home (WFH) is an example, but it could lead to psychological effects affecting employees’ attitudes and behaviour towards their work. This paper aims to explore the psychological impact of WFH on learning and work engagement. A case study of a multinational training academy was conducted over a 12-month period through telephone and virtual calls, reaching out to a total of 1,318 employees. WFH arrangements can be classified into planned (expected) and unplanned (unexpected). Employees in the planned arrangement coped better due to sufficient psychological preparation than the unplanned group that experienced psychological disorientation with WFH transitions. Despite initial resistance, the planned group gradually accepted the arrangement and was able to regulate their psychological response with a longer-term view of their work. In contrast, the unplanned group reacted with stronger emotion and adopted a transient view of their work. The paper extends the concept of work-life boundaries and learning orientation based on WFH transitions. It also contributes to workplace learning from the job demand-resources perspective in relation to work engagement. This research gives voice to employees working in isolation, helping them reconnect with themselves to navigate through uncertainty from the HRD perspective.
... The growing introduction of advanced technologies in customer services has led to new workplace identity dynamics inside requiring academic study (Fleming, 2019;Sergeeva et al., 2017). Conceptions of the ideal worker (e.g., Reid, 2015) may be affected by the fact that work, or parts of it, may be replaced, supplemented or modified by machines (Huang et al., 2019).To the extent that identity at work builds on a sense of ability linked to accomplishing workplace tasks (cf., Dumas & Sanchez-Burks, 2015), automating task components may shape how employees understand their own abilities and thus how they see themselves. Working together with machines has been the object of a long-standing academic literature around scientific management (Haber, 1964) and socio-technical systems (Emery & Marek, 1962), along with more recent algorithmic versions which have been studied in terms of performance (Cappelli et al., 2020), and control and surveillance (e.g., Norlander et al., 2021;Sewell & Taskin, 2015). ...
... Work environments give rise to expectations around how workers should behave and be. These expectations involve the more or less explicit construction of the ideal worker (e.g., Dumas & Sanchez-Burks, 2015;Reid, 2015) whose attributes employees are measured against by colleagues, managers, and workers themselves. The aspiration toward being an ideal worker is a powerful identity motive (Brown & Coupland, 2005), shaping employee's workplace behavior and relationships, including their views of themselves (Reid, 2015). ...
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The increasing use of semi-automated technologies in service work has implications for employee’s conceptions of their own abilities, and their processes of identification at work. Drawing on theorizing from the identity literature, we examine how employees come to think about their own abilities in relation to and in comparison to machinic norms, creating unattainable expectations of an “ideal worker”. Through a qualitative case study of the introduction of a semi-automated system in a supermarket service setting, we examine cashiers’ sense of devaluation on the basis of their humanness, which comes to be seen as of a less-abled nature in relation to the automated system. We show how cashier perceptions of customers’ changing interaction norms contribute to this sense of identity void, as traditional encounters of care or mutual regard are replaced by automated processes. We discuss the implications for Human Resource Management, laying out a future research agenda around identity processes and human-technology interaction.
... After all, all careers have stressors, and many features of musicians' working lives will be common not only in the creative industries, but also in the wider knowledge economy (including perhaps to researchers reading this), and indeed other forms of labour too. Shared experiences might include challenges maintaining a life/work balance, or difficulties delineating the boundaries between colleagues and friends (Dumas & Sanchez-Burks, 2015). However, musicians are particularly interesting to explore these questions for a number of reasons. ...
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Evidence points towards the key role that networks of both formal and informal relationships play in musicians' careers. Alongside this, these careers have in recent decades become increasingly understood as engendering emotional stressors around mental health and wellbeing. However, what is the relationship between these two phenomena? In other words, what is the affective impact on musicians' mental health of maintaining, understanding and negotiating the most proximate relationships in their lives? This paper seeks to answer this by employing the conceptual architecture of relational work, focusing in particular on the experiences of 'mismatches', to interpret insights from semi-structured interviews with twenty-eight musicians working in the United Kingdom. The findings suggest that the relational work of 'matching' relationships to appropriate understandings and methods of transactional exchange is enormously complex for musicians given that their economic relationships often are intimate personal relationships, and vice versa, leading to frequent 'mismatches' in musicians' methods of relationship management which can be upsetting or emotionally destabilising. This is revealed by exploring the overlapping and interconnected forms of relational work employed by musicians amongst both their family and their musical colleagues. The findings contribute towards scholars adopting an affective frame of analysis towards practices of relational work, an emerging body of work primarily from Eastern Europe applying relational work analysis towards musicians, and more broadly researchers interested in understanding the psychosocial causes of mental ill-health amongst musicians.
... The need for crafting WNB has mainly been fuelled by the trend to integrate work into other life domains due to: (a) the extended use of information and communication technologies (Piszczek, 2017), resulting in blurred boundaries between work and nonwork life domains ; (b) the demand for highly flexible work arrangements in a 24/7 economy (Bauer and Brauchli, 2017); and (c) organizational practices that encourage employees to expand work into nonwork life domains (Dumas and Sanchez-Burks, 2015). This trend is accompanied by increasing work density, which is the ratio of one's workload over the resources available to perform that work (Derks and Bakker, 2014) and few opportunities for necessary recovery from work stress during and after work (De Bloom et al., 2015). ...
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Ongoing developments, such as digitalization, increased the interference of the work and nonwork life domains, urging many to continuously manage engagement in respective domains. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent home-office regulations further boosted the need for employees to find a good work-nonwork balance, thereby optimizing their health and well-being. Consequently, proactive individual-level crafting strategies for balancing work with other relevant life domains were becoming increasingly important. However, these strategies received insufficient attention in previous research despite their potential relevance for satisfying psychological needs, such as psychological detachment. We addressed this research gap by introducing a new scale measuring crafting for a work-nonwork balance and examining its relevance in job-and life satisfaction, work engagement, subjective vitality, family role and job performance, boundary management and self-rated work-nonwork balance. The Work-Nonwork Balance Crafting Scale was validated in five countries (Austria, Finland, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland), encompassing data from a heterogeneous sample of more than 4,200 employees. In study 1, exploratory factor analysis revealed a two-factorial scale structure. Confirmatory factor analysis, test for measurement invariance, and convergent validity were provided in study 2. Replication of confirmatory factor analysis, incremental and criterion validity of the Work-Nonwork Balance Crafting Scale for job and life satisfaction were assessed in study 3. Study 4 displayed criterion validity, test–retest reliability, testing measurement invariance, and applicability of the scale across work cultures. Finally, study 5 delivered evidence for the Work-Nonwork Balance Crafting Scale in predicting work-nonwork balance. The novel Work-Nonwork Balance Crafting Scale captured crafting for the challenging balance between work and nonwork and performed well across several different working cultures in increasingly digitalized societies. Both researchers and practitioners may use this tool to assess crafting efforts to balance both life domains and to study relationships with outcomes relevant to employee health and well-being.
... Prior to the onset of the pandemic, employed mothers inhabited a world of competing and contradictory work and maternal ideals, where the 'ideal worker' is unencumbered by caregiving responsibilities and devoted entirely to organizational ends. Organizational primacy thus takes precedence (Acker, 1990;Dumas and Sanchez-Burks, 2015;Reid, 2015). Simultaneously, ideal mothers must adhere to intensive mothering practices (Ennis, 2014), in which 'mothers should be the central caregivers of children and ideal childrearing is time-intensive and emotionally engrossing' (Christopher, 2013, p. 189). ...
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This paper explores the impact of the ‘mobilization’ of employed mothers by the UK government to home‐school and care for children while performing paid work at home, in order to limit Covid‐19 transmission. Drawing upon actor network theory (ANT), we extend John Law's (1994) concept ‘modes of ordering’ (or strategic shifts in response to change when power relations are unequal) to illuminate how employed mothers’ networks were re‐ordered. In this netnography, we observe how they re‐ordered personal and local networks to combine home‐working, home‐schooling and childcare. We learn how, when mothers’ usual networks broke down, they employed three novel modes of re‐ordering: retentive, retrogressive and reformative. These modes capture the complex relationships between work and family – an area of concern that has previously received limited attention in relation to actor networks. Our findings reveal the gendered nature of the mandatory imposition of home‐working during the pandemic. Through developing Law's modes of ordering, we demonstrate the potential of ANT to understand the impact on mothers of home‐working and highlight important practical contributions for organizations and governments.
... Traditional gender roles expect men to be more career-oriented and agentic and women to be more family-oriented and communal (Prentice & Carranza, 2002). Given that there is a strong preference in the workplace towards employees who prioritize work over non-work issues, particularly family (Dumas & Sanchez-Burks, 2015), men are perceived as more "ideal" because they are expected to be able to devote themselves fully to their careers compared to women who are expected to take up family responsibilities (Blair-Loy, 2003). In situations where work devotions can be under threat, such stereotypic expectations that favor working men over women provides a buffer for men. ...
During the COVID‐19 pandemic, many individuals are confronted with the work‐from‐home challenge, which often results in work‐family interference. Although prior to COVID‐19, the influence of traditional gender role expectations was shown to be reduced over time, it is unclear whether and how such traditional worldview might influence judgments towards men and women when family interrupted work under the threat of COVID‐19. This study presented and tested competing predictions derived from the gender role theory. An experimental study with 971 adults showed that during (vs. before) COVID‐19 pandemic, men were evaluated more negatively when they experienced family interruption to work compared with women. The negative evaluation further led to more punitive reactions and less support at work. The results suggested that gender role expectations reinforced the traditional status quo by punishing status‐quo‐breakers under the threat of COVID‐19.
... In this case, workers who internalize the ideal worker norm might recognize the ways that FWC impedes their concentration in the work role (Paulin et al., 2017). In other words, when non-work-related responsibilities and obligations spill over into the work domain, workers might be more likely to perceive such experiences as interfering with their ability to fully commit to their work role (Dumas & Sanchez-Burks, 2015). This, in turn, might amplify the negative thoughts and emotions towards their partner, and the adverse consequences might be more severe in combination with relationship strains. ...
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Family scholars have devoted much effort to understand relationship strains and couple well-being. However, surprisingly few longitudinal studies have sought to capture within-individual variations in relationship strains over time, and the ways that family conditions moderate the association between relationship strains and couple well-being. Using four waves of panel data from the Canadian Work, Stress, and Health Study (2011–2017; n = 1778 individuals; 5058 person-years), this study investigates the association of relationship strains (i.e., the unequal division of housework, perceived housework unfairness, and spousal disputes) with couple relationship quality—and the extent to which family-to-work (FWC) and breadwinner status moderate that association. We use fixed effects regression techniques to analyze this diverse sample of workers with multi-item measures of focal variables. We find that the unequal division of housework, perceived housework unfairness, and spousal disputes are associated with lower levels of relationship quality, respectively. Moreover, FWC amplifies the adverse associations of perceived housework unfairness and spousal disputes with relationship quality over time—but FWC’s moderating influence is exacerbated among non-breadwinners. Our findings elaborate and sharpen the scope of FWC as a moderator (and breadwinner status as an additional contingency) in the application of equity theory alongside other conceptual ideas like stress amplification in the stress process model.
... This is framed within the general shift in responsibility for well-being from state to individual promoted by neoliberal political rationality and governance, in which state-provided goods and provisions (for example, state-funded childcare centers) are largely replaced with various market-based services to be chosen by subjects (for example, organizational voucher schemes through which parents are offered some financial support for their choice of privately-operated day-care) (Fleetwood, 2007;Gambles et al., 2006;Lewis and Beauregard, 2018). Moreover, the so-called family-friendly policies often belie a traditional view of the division of care work and paid work based on gender and outdated assumptions about ideal workers (see Dumas and Sanchez-Burks, 2015;Lewis et al., 2007). The scholarship has showed that those who use these practices -most likely women -often experience professional isolation and fewer networking opportunities, as well as a lesser reputation among colleagues and superiors for being less committed to the organization, and lower career advancement prospects (Beauregard, 2011;Leslie et al., 2012). ...
The chapter introduces the scientific debate on work-life balance, starting with a short reconstruction of the history of the concept, from the emphasis on conflict between separate spheres to the more recent urges to abandon it, because of its many limitations and biases. Moreover, the authors outline the main thematic axes around which the debate on work-life balance has developed, such as gender, class and generation, but also those that should be explored further, by adopting an intersectional approach in the analysis of the relationship between work and other spheres of life. Finally, the ongoing changes, implications and challenges presented by the Coronavirus pandemic are considered, in order to identify the possible trajectories and perspective that are opening for future research agenda.
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The attributions to HR policy have been widely used in developing a theoretical foundation for person environment fit and work family practices. This research construes the theories of attribution and conceptualized that with the cognitive process under the domain of work family practice which is highly assimilated with perceived work family person environment fit (WEPEF). Moreover, this study has differentiated the attributions under work family practices with a particular environmental source and certain attributions to the intent’s source while adopting a specific practice. This study has also argued that available supplies with an employee to integrate or segment under the domains of work and family significantly indulged with attributions. Moreover, the study links the attribution process with different employees’ attitudes and behaviors pertained to different levels of environments (supervisor and organization) to have a fit mechanism of work family practices. Finally, this research contributed a consistent picture of work family fit which would also be helpful for future research.
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An examination of the literature on conflict between work and family roles suggests that work-family conflict exists when: (a) time devoted to the requirements of one role makes it difficult to fulfill requirements of another; (b) strain from participation in one role makes it difficult to fulfill requirements of another; and (c) specific behaviors required by one role make it difficult to fulfill the requirements of another. A model of work-family conflict is proposed, and a series of research propositions is presented.
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Scholars maintain that a major source of work-family conflict is the lack of sufficient time in the day to meet work and family obligations (see, for example, Hochschild 1997; Parcel 1999). This time crunch is exacerbated by the increase in work hours over the past thirty years, especially for professional and managerial workers and for women (Jacobs and Gerson 2004). Work-family researchers generally see long work hours as negative consequences of employer demands or increased competition wrought by globalization and industry consolidation (Schor 1992; Hochschild 1997; Jacobs and Gerson 2004; Blair-Loy and Jacobs 2003; Fraser 2001). But to fully comprehend why people maintain demanding careers in the first place we also need to understand the normative and emotionally charged cultural understandings that inspire, organize, and justify work dedication. These schemas, the cultural facets of structure (Sewell 1992), help define people's moral identities and their desires about how to spend their waking hours. In this chapter I delineate the cultural schema of work devotion using the case of female finance executives. In so doing, I question the common assumption among scholars that long work hours are automatically associated with "overwork" and necessarily exacerbate work-life conflict. "Ideal workers," those highly valued employees who can work long hours without being burdened by family responsibilities, are typically male (Williams 2000; Acker 1990). In this chapter, however, we study "ideal workers" who are women, specifically female finance executives who have been generously rewarded for intense work commitment. My respondents are at the extreme end of the distribution of employed women, and are the only women or are among the very few women who have reached top positions in their firms. They are the "wrong" gender for these positions. Being outsiders has made them particularly self-conscious and articulate about the rewards and dilemmas of ideal-worker status. This extreme case helps reveal taken-for-granted assumptions about work devotion and allows us to understand work commitment from the perspective of these ideal workers themselves.
This study explored wheTher different models of work-family relationship were possible for individuals with different attachment styles. A mail survey was conducted using employees (N = 481) at a midwestern university in the United States. Results suggested that (a) individuals with a preoccupied attachment pattern were more likely to experience negative spillover from the family/home to the work domain than those with a secure or dismissing style (b) securely attached individuals experienced positive spillover in both work and family domains more than those in the other groups, and (c) preoccupied individuals were much less likely to use a segmentation strategy than the other 3 attachment groups. However, when the conventional job satisfaction-life satisfaction relationship was examined, the data provided unique support for the spillover model. Implications of the findings for both attachment and work-family relationship literatures are discussed.
One of the great social and cultural transformations of the twentieth century is the historical shift from the primacy of labor to that of consumption—the mediation of social relations and consciousness by consumer goods. This relatively recent phenomenon eclipses the class experience of wage-labor and raises commodity fetishism to a new form of domination: from extensive exploitation and misery (wage-labor), to reduced work time (leisure) and increased material comforts (consumerism). Integrated by increased leisure and higher wages, modern employees are culturally and politically dislodged from the world of work and from a class experience in the traditional Marxian sense. Concerned primarily with the immediate gratifications of familial intimacy and consumerism, they come to tolerate the exploitation of labor and even political authoritarianism so long as the system sustains a rising standard of living.