Socio-Economic Review Page 1 of 38
Managing flexible work arrangements in
US organizations: formalized discretion
or ‘a right to ask’
Erin L. Kelly
and Alexandra Kalev
Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA and
The Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation Scholars in Health Policy Research Program, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
Correspondence: Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota, 909 Social Sciences, 267 19th Avenue South,
Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Scholars of the American workplace agree that the employment relationship has
changed in significant ways but disagree about whether workplaces are now
best characterized as ‘legalized’ or ‘restructured’, a designation that implies a
market orientation in the treatment of workers. We investigate whether a new
set of employment practices, namely flexible work arrangements (FWA) such as
flextime, compressed work weeks, telecommuting and reduced-hours schedules,
are administered using the principles and practices associated with either or
both management regimes. Our analyses of in-depth interviews with human
resources managers from 41 diverse organizations show that most organizations
have formalized FWA with written policies, but these policies institutionalize
managerial discretion rather than creating outright rights for employees.
Even when organizations write a formal written policy, FWA are managed as
negotiated perks available to valued workers if and when managers choose to
allow them, as suggested by the restructured workplace regime. We argue that
this ‘formalized discretion’ explains the low utilization and unequal access to
FWA found in previous studies. These findings suggest the need to
reconsider the theoretical link between formalization and employees’ rights in
Keywords: Flexible work arrangements, formalization, legalization, restructur-
ing, human resources, working hours, part-time employment
JEL classification: M52 Compensation and Compensation Methods, M54 Labor
Management, K31 Labor Law
There is widespread agreement that the employment relationship has changed in
important ways in the US over the last 40 years. However, there is no consensus
ßThe Author 2006. Published by Oxford University Press and the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics 2006.
All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com
among scholars about where we have ended up. Some scholars of the American
workplace claim the employment relationship is now ‘legalized,’ while others
see a significant ‘restructuring’ of American workplaces in the last 20 years.
Legalization refers to the infusion of legal ideals and the spread of formalized,
quasi-legal employment policies in American workplaces (Edelman, 1992;
Dobbin and Sutton, 1998; Piore and Safford, 2005). The restructuring of the
workplace refers, among other things, to the individualized negotiation of pay
and benefits, the decentralization of authority and the decay of both collective
and individual employment rights (Kalleberg et al., 1996; Cappelli et al., 1997;
Osterman, 2000; Handle and Levine, 2004). Some contend that the restruc-
tured workplace has replaced the legalized workplace (or rendered current
employment laws irrelevant) while others argue that legalization continues
to influence management decisions and cultural expectations about the
Researchers have attempted to pin down how broad, how deep and how
consequential these changes have been (Cappelli et al., 1997; Edelman and
Petterson, 1999; Osterman, 2000; Kalleberg, 2001). Some have documented the
prevalence of specific practices and policies that are associated with either
legalization or restructuring (e.g. Edelman, 1990; Dobbin et al., 1993;
Appelbaum and Batt, 1994; Osterman, 1994, 2000; Sutton et al., 1994). Other
scholars have studied the day-to-day experiences of workers in supposedly
legalized or restructured workplaces to see if organizations are ‘walking the
walk’ or just ‘talking the talk’ (e.g. Smith, 2001; Vallas, 2003a, 2003b; Albiston,
2005). We take a different approach to evaluating the influence of these two
management regimes in contemporary US organizations. We examine a set
of new practices—flexible work arrangements (FWA)—to see how they are
conceptualized, justified and administered by managers in a diverse sample of
41 US organizations.
FWA include flextime (where workers can set their own starting and stopping
times), compressed-work-weeks (where workers work, for example, four long
days and have one weekday off), telecommuting (where workers complete
their work tasks at home or in another remote site) and voluntary part-time
work, particularly job-sharing (splitting a job with another person). These
work arrangements are attractive to many employees, particularly those with
family caregiving responsibilities (Bond et al., 1997; Blair-Loy and Wharton,
2002). In a nationally representative sample surveyed in 2002, 79% of US workers
report that they would ‘like to have more flexible work options’ and 61% would
prefer to reduce their work hours (Galinsky et al., 2004, p. 21; see also Clarkberg
and Moen, 2001). Compared to the standardized hours and the separation of
home and work that has been the norm since the Industrial Revolution, FWA
give workers some control over how they arrange their work lives. The terms
Page 2 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
FWA and flexibility have been used in various ways in literature (e.g. Kalleberg,
2001; Zeytinoglu, 2002), but we focus on the administration of changes to the
amount, location or scheduling of work that are requested by employees.
By management regime, we refer to the policies and practices for managing
the workforce and also to the ideas, beliefs and assumptions that make these
policies and practices seem sensible (Bendix, 1974; Barley and Kunda, 1992;
Bourgeois and Sutton, 2004; Guillen, 1994; Shenhav 1999).
We do not classify
organizations as either ‘legalized’ or ‘restructured’ because this would reify these
regimes and imply a greater consistency within management practices than
Instead we understand these two management regimes as cultural
models or ‘toolkits’ (including both practices and ideas) that organizational
actors may draw on to make sense of their actions and the larger cultural
environment (Weick, 1985; Swidler, 1986; Barley and Kunda, 1992; Stryker,
1994, 2000). As managers make sense of new employment practices and
implement them in their organizations, do they look to one or both of these
management regimes for guidance? We argue that the management of
these new practices—which could be understood as fitting into either manage-
ment regime—provides an indication of the current state and future direction
of the employment relationship in the US.
As we describe below, the legalized and restructured regimes developed in a
historical sequence, with legalization preceding restructuring. Empirical research
on American management regimes reports regular changes in the period since
industrialization (e.g. Bendix, 1956; Edwards, 1979; Kochan et al., 1986; Barley
and Kunda, 1992). Some research suggests that these changes follow a pendulum
swing, with advocates of new regimes deriding the old models as no longer
suitable for the current economic environment (Barley and Kunda 1992;
Abrahamson and Fairchild 1999). Yet institutional theory claims that regimes
become taken-for-granted and unreflectively applied to new situations, regard-
less of their relevance (Selznick, 1957, 1969; Meyer and Rowan, 1977; Powell
and DiMaggio, 1991). These two literatures point to different predictions about
the administration of new practices such as FWA. The former implies that man-
agers will look to the newer management regime to guide them as they imple-
ment new practices and that managers will implicitly or explicitly reject the old
management regime as they enact the new one. The latter predicts that the
The term ‘employment relations regime’ is more accurate, because the management regimes we
examine concentrate on the employment relationship rather than supply chain decisions, marketing
strategies or other areas of management; however, we refer to management regimes for simplicity.
New empirical research shows that organizations often have policies and practices associated with
several different employment regimes simultaneously (Bourgeois and Sutton 2004).
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 3 of 38
institutionalized assumptions and practices from the older regime will continue
to influence managers and organizations.
To preface our main findings: we find strong evidence of the influence of the
restructured workplace regime on these practices, as well as a continuing—but
less explicit—concern with legal ideals among many human resources (HR)
managers. Specifically, we find that most organizations manage FWA with
formalized discretion, i.e. written policies are developed but these policies
explicitly protect managers’ discretion to grant or deny requests for FWA
(Figure 1). These policies create a case-by-case system for decisions rather than
laying out uniform qualifications for gaining FWA. These policies reflect key
tenets of the restructured workplace management regime, such as the use of con-
tingent rewards to keep commitment and productivity high, the devolution of
authority to line managers and resistance to the ‘entitlements’ associated with
the legalization of the workplace. At the same time, we find hints of the legalized
workplace regime in the fact that policies are formalized in writing, in references
to the legal ideals of fairness and consistency and in managers’ continuing
attention to legally defensible decision-making.
Previous research on FWA has investigated which organizations ‘offer’ or
‘allow’ FWA, but most investigators have not examined whether there are
actually written FWA policies in place, what the FWA policies say or how they
work in practice (Knoke, 1993; Goodstein, 1994; Knoke, 1994; Ingram and
Simmons, 1995; Osterman, 1995; Witowski, 1999; Lee et al., 2000; Deitch and
Huffman, 2001; Dex and Schiebl, 2001; Lewis, 2003; cf. Eaton, 2003). We are
essentially investigating the content of the dependent variable in these previous
studies, after our initial research suggested to us that ‘offering FWA’ meant quite
different things in different organizations. This work also complements studies of
Not Allowed Ad Hoc Formalized Discretion Formalized Ri
Figure 1 The management of flexible work arrangements in 41 US organizations.
Page 4 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
single organizations that have tried to explain the limited use of FWA even when
these practices are covered by ‘officially-available work–family policies’
(Hochschild, 1997; Blair-Loy and Wharton, 2004; cf. Fried, 1998 on parental
leaves). These studies have explained the limited use of FWA by arguing that
workers’ identities and priorities were actually oriented more to work than to
family, by examining how work-group dynamics affect who asks for and gets
FWA, and by reporting that employees realize there is a disjuncture between
the broader organizational culture and the promises of FWA policies. While these
insights are valuable, researchers have not examined how the FWA policies,
themselves, may foster limited utilization.
Before delving into the details of our findings and discussing their
implications, we describe the two management regimes in more detail, develop
hypotheses about how managers adhering to each regime would structure and
administer FWA, and orient the reader to our data and methods.
2. Two management regimes
The legalized workplace regime and the restructured workplace regime both
take large bureaucratic organizations of the mid-twentieth century as their
starting point and then describe important changes in the way that organizations
relate to their employees. Both regimes claim that the employment relationship
has moved beyond the bureaucratic ideal type of a stable hierarchy with clear
roles for management and workers. However, these two regimes present dramat-
ically different pictures of the central changes in the employment relationship
and where we are heading next (Table 1). In this section, we describe the basic
features of each regime, identify the employment practices associated with it
and develop hypotheses about the administration of FWA under each regime.
2.1 Legalization of the workplace
The legalization of the American workplace extends and elaborates the bureau-
cratic regime that developed and diffused in the first half of the twentieth century
(Edwards 1979; Baron et al., 1986; Stryker, 2003). The formalization of the
employment relationship and the uniform treatment of employees are the
key—and closely related—elements of this employment relationship. Both limit
the power of individual managers by cutting them out of many decisions. Legal-
ization supposedly protects workers from managerial capriciousness and dis-
crimination. As Selznick puts it, ‘Formal rules promise equal treatment; they
define expectations; they tend to specify the limits of authority’ (1969, p. 90).
Legalization also changes workers’ expectations about the workplace because
bureaucracy is now infused with legality (Selznick, 1969). In other words, the
institutional logic of the (democratic) state has made its way into, and
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 5 of 38
transformed, the employment relationship.
Organizations are understood as
polities similar to a state, complete with the rule of law—union contracts and/
or formalized personnel policies and practices—and promises of equal treatment
under the law. Workers are viewed as members of that polity, ‘more of a citizen
and less of a subordinate’ (Sutton and Dobbin, 1996, p. 794) who are represented
by their unions or protected by due process procedures even in non-unionized
The legalization of the American workplace arguably proceeded in two
phases, each initiated by landmark legislation. The Wagner Act (1935) solidified
collective bargaining rights in the US. This law protected workers’ rights to
organize and strike, and fostered the formalization of the workplace both
directly and indirectly through support for unions (Kochan et al., 1986;
Table 1 Two management regimes
Institutional model for
Understanding of employee Citizen–worker Free agent in
Decision-making Formalized and
regulated by written
oriented to equity and
compliance with law
Ad hoc and
oriented to problem-
solving and financial
performance of the
Allocation of pay and benefits Administrative system
‘internal labor market’
position in external
Role of HR Managers Monitor legal
respond ‘flexibly’ and
quickly to market
One of the central theorists of the legalized workplace, Lauren Edelman, argues that there has been a
reciprocal transformation of legal institutions with the ‘managerialization of the law’ (Edelman et al.,
1999). We find her argument convincing but it is not central to our empirical investigation in this
Page 6 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
Stone, 2004). Unionized workplaces developed contracts with explicit rights
and responsibilities for all parties: workers, their unions and management.
Soon after, workplaces without union representation began adopting elaborate
formal personnel systems, with formal job descriptions, job ladders, grievance
procedures, etc. that paralleled union contracts in many ways (Baron et al.,
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 furthered the legalization process by creating
new individual rights that eventually created new expectations for fair and equal
treatment in non-unionized and unionized settings alike. The Civil Rights Act
of 1964 forbids discrimination but does not tell employers what they should do
or not do in order to comply with the law. Instead, from the 1960s through
the 1980s, organizations adopted various policies that explicitly forbid discrim-
ination and that attempted to discourage discrimination by creating formal and
uniform procedures for hiring, evaluating, promoting and disciplining workers
(Edelman, 1992; Dobbin et al., 1993; Sutton et al., 1994).
The legalization of the workplace clearly extends beyond the basic rights
laid out in employment law (e.g. the right to organize, the right to a
non-discriminatory environment). Organizations quickly created new depart-
ments and staff positions to signal their attentiveness to these employment
laws (Edelman, 1990; Edelman et al., 1991). Organizations then interacted
with the personnel profession, courts and regulators to decide which
practices—including many practices that are not specifically named in the statute
itself—would be accepted as symbols and signals of compliance (Edelman, 1992;
Edelman et al., 1999; Kelly and Dobbin, 1999). For example, ‘grievance proced-
ures have emerged over the past few decades as the primary symbol of nondis-
crimination’ but it was not until long after these practices had spread that the
courts declared they could ‘insulate employers from legal liability’ (Edelman
et al., 1999, p. 407). Kelly and Dobbin (1999) found that maternity leave policies
began to diffuse rapidly in the early 1970s, long before the Family and Medical
Leave Act of 1993 mandated family leaves and even before the Pregnancy
Discrimination Act of 1978 made it clear that discrimination against
pregnant women was a form of sex discrimination. These examples show that
many organizations change their policies and practices, in an attempt to signal
Some scholars view the formalization of non-unionized workplaces, with their legitimacy and
apparent protections for workers, as a strategy for discouraging unionization (e.g. Edwards, 1979;
Jacoby, 2005). Other scholars argue that government regulations during World War II prompted
many organizations—unionized and non-unionized—to formalize their personnel systems in order
to meet government targets and reporting requirements (Baron et al., 1986). Regardless, there is agree-
ment that there was a wide diffusion of formalized employment policies between the 1930s and the
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 7 of 38
attentiveness to the law and to legal ideals, while the actual requirements of
the law are being hashed out by the courts and regulatory agencies. These
findings suggest that legalization affects even employment practices that are
not specifically regulated by formal law.
2.1.1 The legalized workplace and the management of FWA Even though there
are no laws that directly mandate or regulate FWA, institutional theory argues
that legalization provides a creeping cultural model that may be applied to new
practices (including FWA) as they arise. If the legalized workplace regime is
firmly in place, the formalization and equal treatment associated with this regime
will be taken for granted and unquestioned (Meyer and Rowan, 1977; DiMaggio
and Powell, 1983; Powell and DiMaggio, 1991). Organizational policies may
specify different treatment for different classes of workers, e.g. unionized and
non-unionized employees, probationary and non-probationary employees, but
promise equal treatment within those specified classes. To the extent that the
legalized workplace regime is institutionalized in organizational routines and in
managers’ understanding of the world, we would expect that:
Hypothesis L1: Most organizations will write formal policies that lay out
rules regarding FWA.
Hypothesis L2: Most formal FWA policies will implicitly or explicitly
promise equal treatment of workers.
The legalized workplace regime also suggests that managers—particularly HR
managers—are attuned to the legal environment and develop policies and
practices to respond to it. While there is no law mandating, or forbidding,
FWA in the US, the legal environment has implications for the application of
FWA. FWA in the US are arguably affected by the Civil Rights Act, the Clean
Air Act and state environmental laws, the Occupational Health and Safety Act
and the Fair Labor Standards Act. The different employment laws may have
encouraged or discouraged the spread of FWA and influenced the management
of FWA, if managers looked to the legal environment as they developed and
administered these practices.
First, feminist legal scholars have argued that, because women are still more
likely to have extensive caregiving responsibilities in families, ‘standard’ work
practices such as full-time work with set hours disproportionately disadvantage
women and may, therefore, be discriminatory under Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act (Williams, 2000; Travis, 2003; see also Acker, 1990). Claims that rigid work
arrangements are discriminatory have met with some success in US courts
(Williams and Segal, 2003), although there are also many cases where judges
have not accepted these arguments. Other industrialized countries have also
linked FWA to anti-discrimination law. The European Union Part-time
Page 8 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
Work Direction developed out of case law arguing that, given women’s
disproportionate placement in part-time work, unequal treatment of part-time
workers is a form of indirect sex discrimination (or disparate impact discrimina-
tion, as it is known in the US) (Heron, 2005). Australian tribunals and courts
have promoted FWA as a way to avoid illegal discrimination based on ‘carer
status’ (family responsibilities) (Bourke, 2004). These laws and cases provide
cultural resources that may be employed by managers (in the US and elsewhere)
attempting to understand and administer FWA.
Second, the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments required large employers in
severely polluted areas to create Employer Trip Reduction (ETR) programmes.
In addition to providing discount passes for buses and assistance for setting
up carpools, employers were encouraged to allow telecommuting and
compressed-work-weeks as a means to reduce the number of car trips to their
workplaces (Litvan, 1994; Reiman and Yohay, 1994). These requirements were
rescinded in the 1995 Clear Air Act but, in the meantime, some cities and states
passed local ‘trip reduction ordinances’, which also promoted various FWA
(National Center for Transit Research, 2004).
In contrast to employment laws that might encourage employers to offer
FWA, some employment laws conceivably constrain the use of FWA or
make these practices difficult to administer. The Occupational Health and
Safety Administration, a federal regulatory agency, issued a notice in 1999 that
employers were responsible for the safety of their telecommuting workers and
should, therefore, inspect their off-site workspaces. Confusion about employers’
responsibilities for monitoring home offices and concerns about the costs of
safe equipment (e.g. ergonomic chairs) for telecommuters may have discouraged
organizations from creating FWA policies (Hoover, 2000). The Fair Labor
Standards Act, which regulates working time for many US workers, may make
it difficult to allow compressed-work-week schedules. This is because employees
who worked a ‘9–80’ schedule where they put in 80 hours during 9 work days
and then took the 10th work day off would be eligible for overtime pay if they
exceeded 40 hours in either week.
In summary, the legalized workplace regime has taught managers to
pay attention to the legal environment when structuring and implementing
employment practices. Although no US employment laws require or directly
regulate FWA, these practices have been tied—in legal and management
discourse—to sex discrimination law, environmental law, occupational health
and safety law, working-time regulations and benefits regulations. The legalized
workplace regime, therefore, suggests that:
Hypothesis L3: Most managers will perceive that employment laws prompt
and/or constrain FWA, i.e. employment laws are relevant to the administration
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 9 of 38
2.2 Restructuring of the workplace
While the legalized workplace regime emphasizes the development of employee
rights in bureaucratized organizations, the restructured workplace regime
claims that we have undergone a historical process of dismantling bureaucratic
employment systems and replacing them with a market-based employment
relationship and a flattened organizational hierarchy. The origins of these
changes are commonly traced back to the 1970s, when increased international
and local competition pushed organizations to reduce costs and respond more
agilely to changes in market demands (Piore and Sabel, 1984). Also, changes in
the stock market, including the rise of institutional investors, created new
pressures for limiting labour costs and seeking short-term profits (Cappelli et al.,
1997; Jacoby, 2005). At the same time, a decline in unionization in the US and
other industrialized nations allowed more flexibility in employment relations
and the organization of work (Western, 1997; Knoke, 2001). One could also
argue that the move to off-shore production illustrates employers’ attempts to
avoid legalization of the US workplaces,
while the recent expansion of exemp-
tions to the Fair Labor Standards Act represents employers’ attempts to reduce
the impact of employment laws. The restructuring regime reacts to and rejects
the legalization regime that preceded it (Cappelli et al., 1997; Stone, 2004).
The organizational changes associated with the rise of this regime are variously
referred to as the restructuring of work, the transformation of organizations,
the rise of a new employment contract, the high road and low road, the dawn
of a digital era in employment relations and more (Appelbaum and Batt, 1994;
Cappelli et al., 1997; Smith, 1997; Milkman, 1998; Kalleberg, 2001; Stone,
2004). While different authors emphasize different elements, there are some
commonalities across them. We use the term ‘restructuring’ and identify two
broad principles as the core of this phenomenon (Cornfield et al., 2001). First,
restructuring involves a transition (back) to market-based employment relations,
as evidenced in the casualization of employment and the shift from collective
to individualized negotiations over pay, benefits and the conditions of work.
Second, restructuring involves the devolution of authority—including the
thinning of the managerial ranks and decentralization of decision-making.
The restructured workplace regime involves ‘the substitution of market
solutions for the internal, administrative rules associated with corporate
employment policies’ (Cappelli, 1999, pp. viii–ix). In contrast to the legalized
and bureaucratized workplace, in the restructured workplace regime, employ-
ment is understood as ‘a negotiated relationship where the power shifts
back and forth from employer to employee based on conditions in the labor
We thank one of the SER reviewers for raising this important point.
Page 10 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
market’ (Cappelli, 1999, pp. viii–ix, emphasis added). There are no promises
about long-term employment, and there is widespread utilization of temporary
and contract workers who are not protected by the legalization of workplaces
(Cappelli et al., 1997; Knoke, 2001). These changes, taken together, mean that
there has been a dramatic shift in the risks experienced by workers (Jacoby,
2005; Stone, 2004).
To attract, retain and motivate workers without promising long-term
job security, organizations have shifted to more contingent ‘quid-pro-quo
benefits [that] are by nature differentially available to individuals, depending
upon the quo—upon what promise has been made or performance provided’
(Edwards, 1993, p. 29; see also Cappelli et al., 1997; Cappelli, 1999; Appelbaum
et al., 2000; Regini, 2003; Stone, 2004). The quid-pro-quo or performance-
based negotiation of pay is now a common practice (Capelli, 1999;
Knoke, 2001), and it is increasingly the model for the distribution of ‘alternatives
to compensation’ as well (Nadel, 1999). Compensation, some benefits and
attractive work arrangements like FWA are often jointly conceptualized and
administered as ‘employee rewards programs’ rather than as entitlements tied
to one’s membership in the organization (Federico and Goldsmith, 1998;
Indeed, about a third of American organizations have done away
with across-the-board or seniority-based increases altogether (Cappelli 1999,
p. 150), and contingent compensation schemes, based on performance and
productivity, have become much more prevalent.
Management gurus promoting the restructured workplace regime also
idealize a flatter hierarchy and the decentralization of employment decisions.
The devolution of authority is seen as a way to increase managerial capacity to
respond to changing demands. Flatter organizations theoretically give workers
more autonomy through self-managed work teams, quality circles and job
enrichment programmes (Osterman 2000; Appelbaum et al., 2000; Cornfield
et al., 2001;). Decentralization of authority also occurs within the managerial
ranks. Direct supervisors—not a central HR department—routinely hire
workers, assign them to certain jobs, evaluate them, and fire them if necessary,
operating units receive fewer policy directives, and line managers are more likely
to report that their ideas are being put to use (Capelli et al., 1997, p. 42; Cappelli,
1999). However, research suggests that line managers often lack the skills, time
Benefits that are regulated by the US tax code and/or the Employment Retirement Income Security
Act of 1974 (ERISA) are supposed to be broadly available to a range of employees, rather than being
targeted at top executives only. These ‘non-discrimination rules’ provide some safeguards for employ-
ees’ access to key benefits, but advocates of the restructuring regime pay little rhetorical attention to
them and instead talk about compensation and benefits programmes as ‘rewards’ systems.
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 11 of 38
or training for making the personnel decisions that increasingly fall to them
(Bond and Wise, 2003, p. 60).
The new emphasis on market-based, individualized negotiations and the
decline in centralized decision-making may be coupled with a rise in intra-
organizational inequality and a decline in management attention to equity. The
old employment relationship redistributed rewards within organizations (e.g.
from the more experienced to the less experienced) but the new practices, ‘with
their market and performance orientation, are eliminating those redistribution
aspects and increasing inequalities’ (Cappelli et al., 1997, p. 11).
2.2.1 The restructured workplace and the management of FWA Scholars who
have described (or prescribed) restructured workplaces have not paid much
attention to the FWA we examine here.
Osterman’s (1995) work is an important
exception. He finds that organizations with ‘high commitment’ employment
practices—including teams and TQM programs—are more likely to have
family-friendly policies. This suggests a link between practices commonly
associated with the restructuring regime and FWA (cf. Still and Strang, 2003).
However, our primary concern here is not whether organizations with restruc-
turing practices are more or less likely to have FWA in place; instead, we
investigate whether the principles of the restructured regime guide the con-
ceptualization and management of FWA.
The restructured workplace regime suggests that FWA will be administered
quite differently than employment practices that were institutionalized in the
legalization era. First, consistent with the principle of decentralization of
authority, organizations will avoid formalizing FWA in written policies and
instead welcome ad hoc arrangements that involve only workers and their direct
Hypothesis R1: Most organizations will administer FWA with ad hoc
arrangements, rather than formal policies.
Hypothesis R2: Most organizations will allow supervisors to decide which
workers can use FWA.
Second, the shift to market-based negotiations between individual employees
and employers, and specifically the rise of contingent (‘performance-based’) pay
and perks, will influence how employees gain access to FWA. Consistent with the
restructured workplace regime, FWA may be offered on a quid-pro-quo basis
and managers may emphasize the ‘business case’ for FWA.
Hypothesis R3: Most managers will perceive FWA as strategic tools for
recruiting, retaining and motivating valued workers.
More attention has been devoted to non-standard and contingent work, which is sometimes called
flexible work (e.g. Rogers, 1995; Spalter-Roth et al., 1997; Kalleberg et al., 2000; Zeytinoglu, 2002).
Page 12 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
To investigate the management of FWA, we collected detailed information from
one or two informants in 41 organizations. This strategy is appropriate for
exploring our hypotheses about how HR managers conceptualize and administer
these new practices in a wide variety of organizations. We sampled establishments
using the Dun and Bradstreet Market Identifiers database, which is arguably the
most representative and practical sampling frame for this type of study (Kalleberg
et al., 1990).
We sampled establishments in 12 diverse industries in the Califor-
nia (Bay Area), Minnesota (Minneapolis-St. Paul), New York City and central
New Jersey. These areas were chosen based on our own location (i.e. for conveni-
ence), but this strategy allowed us to check for regional variations because both
US coasts and the Midwest are included in the study. The industries were chosen
to provide variation in percentage of female workers, level of unionization and
average establishment size; we chose the same industries as Kelly (2000, 2003)
to allow comparisons with that survey data. In the last section of our findings,
we use this variation to report on some exploratory analyses that begin to invest-
igate the organizational and environmental traits associated with different FWA
The participating organizations included 12 manufacturing firms (5 computer
manufacturers, 3 chemical manufacturers, 3 transportation manufacturers
and 1 food manufacturer), 16 service organizations (5 business services firms, 4
transportation services firms, 3 health services organizations, 2 financial
services organizations, 1 university and 1 wholesale trade company), 4 non-
profit social services organizations and 9 government entities (6 local
governments, 1 state agency and 1 branch office of a federal agency). The
participating establishments varied greatly in size, with 9 organizations
employing fewer than 100 workers, 12 organizations employing between
100 and 1000 workers and 20 organizations employing over 1000 workers
We completed interviews in 46% of the organizations we contacted.
there are legitimate concerns about generalizing from a small sample such as
ours, we believe that our sample is broadly representative of work establishments
Two of the earliest interviews were not drawn from this sample. These early interviews were conduc-
ted with HR managers we knew personally, as an informal pilot of our interview schedule. Because
these interviews were conducted in basically the same way as our later interviews and provided very
similar information, we include them here.
This is a conservative calculation of our response rate. We completed 41 interviews, received clear
refusals from 21 managers and received no answer from 28 managers. We treat this last group as
refusals, even though we called some of them only twice because to time and staffing constraints.
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 13 of 38
included in the sampling frame. To check this, we used information in
the sampling frame to compare the participating establishments to the
non-respondents on size, sector and state. There were no statistically
significant differences between respondents and non-respondents. We do note
that public sector organizations were noticeably more likely than private sector
organizations to participate and establishments in New York City were less likely
than those in New Jersey, California or Minnesota to participate. Future research
would ideally examine sector and regional differences in FWA strategies, using a
Interviews were conducted in person by the authors, from May 2000 to
August 2001, with the early interviews conducted by both authors to insure
reliability. The interviews lasted between 50 minutes and 4 hours, averaging
1.5 hours. These interviews provide detailed information about decisions to write
(or to avoid writing) formal FWA policies, the content of those polices, utiliza-
tion of FWA, managers’ perceptions of FWA and interesting situations or dis-
putes related to FWA. The discussion of FWA ended with questions about
whether any laws or regulations affected FWA and, if so, what the impact
was. We specifically waited until the latter part of the interview to bring up
employment laws in order to get a sense of the legalization of this arena of
employment relations from the point of view of the respondent. Appendix A
includes an abbreviated interview schedule. In addition to questions about
FWA, the interviews covered family leaves, dependent care benefits, an overview
of the organization and the workforce at that location, and a brief discussion of
the respondent’s career and current responsibilities. Respondents were generally
mid-level managers with responsibility for a variety of HR policies and
Transcripts and interview reports were reviewed several times to
identify themes and different strategies for managing FWA in the responding
Of the 45 respondents (in 41 organizations), only five did not have manager, director or vice-
president in their title. The remaining five respondents included three lower-level employees (an
‘HR assistant’, an ‘HR generalist’ and a ‘diverse-work-force specialist’) as well as a comptroller and
a respondent whose title was ‘Public Works Laborer’ but who had sole responsibility for HR matters
in a small city. In addition to having the title of the respondent, we also asked respondents whether
they were ‘more of a decision-maker or an administrator’ or whether they ‘fill[ed] both roles’. The
questions about why policies were written at a certain time or in a certain way were asked of respond-
ents who had a decision-making role; most reported being in that role. Questions that administrators
were more likely to know (e.g. ‘About how many employees used’ a FWA last year) were asked of all
respondents, but we asked decision-makers whether there was someone else who could look this up or
get that information for us if they did not know those details. As noted below, there was remarkably
little tracking of FWA in these organizations and none of our respondents, at any level, had firm
numbers about the use of FWA.
Page 14 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
Analysis involved reviewing transcripts by calling up coded
passages and also repeated readings of the entire transcripts. We provide counts
of the prevalence of certain practices and question responses, but we do not
make strong claims about the generalizability of these findings to larger samples
of organizations. We believe our research strategy is better suited to exploring the
variety and content of FWA management and that future research using larger,
nationally representative samples is needed to know the prevalence of different
types of policies and practices with certainty.
In seven organizations the HR manager reported that no FWA were allowed.
We were not able to gather information about FWA practices that are completely
‘below the radar’, available informally to a few workers, nor can interviews with
HR managers provide direct information about workers’ or line managers’
experiences and opinions. We acknowledge this limitation but believe that our
interviews provide important information about the management of FWA and
its implication for the utilization of these benefits by a wide range of workers.
We also systematically reviewed the management literature on FWA between
1998 and 2001 in order to learn what messages professional associations and
management journals were giving managers about FWA. Neo-institutional
research on organizational change points to the importance of professional
associations and journals in propagating new practices (e.g. DiMaggio and
Powell, 1983; Dobbin et al., 1993; Edelman et al., 2001). Our respondents also
consistently reported that they learned about new practices and policy options
through these sources.
We initially expected that FWA would be either formalized as rights available to
all workers, as implied by the legalization regime (Hypotheses L1 and L2),
or that FWA would not be formalized and would be available informally to those
employees who could negotiate them (Hypotheses R1 and R2), as implied by
the restructuring regime. Our expectations were based on the assumption that
formalization and universal access are intimately related. Specifically, we
expected that formalization of HR policies implied universal entitlement (to all
workers or to pre-specified categories of workers) and, conversely, that individual
negotiations would appear as a substitute for formal policies in organizations
Both authors inductively coded the interviews, comparing and refining our understandings of the
meaning of codes through discussions. Formal coding was then conducted by a graduate research
assistant in close consultation with the first author. Questions about coding were discussed and
resolved jointly by the research assistant and authors; therefore, we do not have formal inter-coder
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 15 of 38
that had not written things down (Selznick, 1969; Stinchcombe, 2001;
Reskin, 2000, 2003).
Our research on the administration of FWA reveals the clear and strong
influence of the restructured workplace regime on these new practices, as well
as suggestive evidence that the legalized workplace regime still influences
the administration of FWA in subtle ways. We find extensive variation in the
practical details of how FWA are administered, but a remarkable consistency in
the core elements of FWA governance: Supervising managers determine access
to FWA in all cases. In other words, Hypothesis R2 is supported regardless of
whether practices are administered in an ad hoc fashion (as suggested by
Hypothesis R1) or formalized in written policy (as suggested by Hypothesis
L1). Policies about FWA have been written to protect managerial discretion
and avoid creating ‘new entitlements’ for employees. In accordance with the
market metaphor central to the restructured workplace regime and Hypothesis
R3, managers routinely describe how FWA are used as a reward for favoured
workers. In contrast to Hypotheses L2 and L3, equal treatment of workers is
not promised and FWA are rarely connected to the legal environment. However,
some of the trappings of the legalized workplace regime are still evident in the
prevalence of formal, written policies and in the rhetorical attention to job
requirements and business necessity.
4.1 Formalized discretion and other management strategies
The classic employment policy from the legalized workplace regime has been
eschewed in the management of FWA. None of the 41 organizations in this study
provided a formalized right to FWA. Instead, the most common way to manage
FWA is through what we call formalized discretion—formalized policies that
explicitly set up negotiations between managers and individual workers about
access to FWA.
Seven organizations did not allow FWA, even informally. Thirteen organiza-
tions had only informal and ad hoc FWA that were not written down as company
policy. These arrangements were presented either as special accommodations
to deal with a temporary problem (such as an illness or changing childcare
providers) or as part of the ‘caring’ culture or the ‘professional’ culture in the
organization. For example, an executive in a new media company commented
that flextime had been part of the organizational culture from the beginning:
‘I think the company always had some sort of flextime. It was founded by four
Stanford professors, and they were software engineers. Two of them certainly
didn’t subscribe to the nine to five hours.’
Twenty-one organizations formalized FWA with a written policy that
makes it clear that managers ultimately decide on the use of FWA. Thirteen
Page 16 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
organizations had a simple policy statement introducing FWA and telling
employees to ask their supervisors about their options, while eight organizations
provided more detailed guidance to managers and employees. In the latter organ-
izations, employees often saw a list of questions to ask themselves before
approaching their manager with the initial request. For example, a major bank
includes a list of ‘Things to Consider’ and ‘Things Your Manager Will Need to
Consider’ in the booklet outlining FWA. A few of the largest organizations offer
even more help to workers, by creating an Intranet database with common ques-
tions and the necessary proposal forms or by providing similar information
through a toll-free helpline or brochures.
In these organizations, the procedural guidelines and well-publicized
policies imply a limited right, the right to ask for FWA. Respondents in these
organizations discussed a ‘right to ask’ or explicitly stated that all employees
may request FWA. For example, one HR manager at a major financial institution
told us: ‘the policy says every employee is entitled to have this discussion with
their manager, not every employee is entitled to get a flexible work arrangement.’
She later explained: ‘Managers aren’t required to say ‘yes’ to every arrangement,
but they are required to sit down and have a discussion with an employee and
really come up with a thoughtful reason’ for approving or rejecting the FWA
request. A bank’s brochure on FWA states: ‘while any team member may apply
for a Flexible Work Arrangement, this option will not be feasible for all work
situations.’ A major consulting firm allows ‘all employees with two years
experience to apply for a flexible work schedule’. To reiterate, though, none of
the organizations we studied promise workers—or even certain categories of
workers such as full-time, salaried workers—FWA. As they have formalized
FWA, these organizations have carefully maintained managerial discretion over
4.2 Why no formalized rights?
4.2.1 Avoiding legitimacy with ad hoc arrangements Managers in many of the
organizations with ad hoc FWA practices believed that formalization would
increase the legitimacy of FWA practices and, therefore, increase employees’
comfort in requesting FWA.
In three organizations, managers had actually
We asked managers at 9 of the 13 organizations with ad hoc practices why they had not formalized
their FWA. Seven of these nine respondents conveyed the idea that formalization would increase
legitimacy and the use of FWA. Additionally, one respondent worried that formalization would create
unnecessary rules and reduce managers’ ability to manage as they saw fit. The ninth respondent repor-
ted that ‘We just haven’t gotten to it, I think. I think that no ones been given the responsibility to do
that. And at some point I will probably just do it myself.’ This question was skipped in the remaining
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 17 of 38
drafted FWA policies and then chosen not to ‘roll them out’ or not to publicize
them to employees. For example, the HR manager at a mid-sized advertising
agency established criteria for evaluating whether flextime, telecommuting and
reduced-hours schedules were feasible and she shared those documents with
department managers. However, she reported that there is no policy announcing
these options to workers because:
My philosophy on putting these policies out there is that we’re
opening a can of worms, because there’s going to be 10 other people
in line within minutes. If we put out a thing that says, ‘All right, here’s
our policy on flextime,’ the line would be out the door and down the
hall of people wanting to do it.
This manager believes it would be more difficult to keep FWA limited to
highly valued and respected workers if it was formalized. She notes that, in the
ad hoc system,
I think that the people that have come forward have [the] sort of seni-
ority, a long term commitment here and good performance, mature,
and it has worked beautifully with those people (emphasis added).
Another manager, at a large manufacturing firm, reported that new guidelines
for FWA would not be distributed ‘desk-to-desk’ because top management feared
that ‘everybody will pick up the phone’ and ask for FWA if the formal policies
were shared with employees. Like Selznick (1969) and other scholars of the
employment relationship, these managers understand that formalization creates
expectations of rights among workers. In response to this conceptual linking of
formalization and entitlement, these managers decided to continue with ad hoc
arrangements that were not publicized by management.
The link between formalization and the legitimacy of FWA was made by some
managers in organizations with formalized policies as well. An executive at a
large bank explains that they wrote FWA policies in the early 1990s because
we had lots of employee feedback about flexibility being important to
them. We had offered them informally, but in the absence of a formal
policy, people got messages that this wasn’t a good thing.
[Interviewer: So you formalized it in order to increase the
four interviews because they were such small firms, with very few formal policies, that the question
seemed inappropriate (n ¼3) and by mistake in an early interview (n ¼1).
Page 18 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
Respondent: In order to increase implementation but also to send a
strong signal that flexibility is part of our culture, whether or not it
was a reality at the time.
A manager at a large professional-services firm noted that publishing a
brochure about how to pursue FWA both reassured workers that the company
was serious about FWA and pushed the firm further towards its aspirations.
I think it really needs to be written down ...that you really kind of
have to draw a line in the sand and say here we are and get some
written policies and practices down ... We do want to have some-
thing published so that an employee [knows about these options] ...
So they see it and then people start believing it and working toward it.
It is important to note that we cannot directly examine whether formaliz-
ation indeed increases utilization because none of these organizations—even
those with formalized policies and elaborated procedures for requesting
FWA—could provide information on the number of employees using various
Also, previous research on FWA utilization does not provide clear
information on whether FWA were formalized as policies or ‘offered’ only on
an ad hoc basis.
4.2.2 Avoiding entitlements with formalized discretion In contrast to Hypothesis
L2’s prediction, even managers who did write FWA policies have deliberately
avoided creating new employee rights—what some describe as new
‘entitlements’—in their FWA policies. The legalized workplace regime has not
only receded in this arena of employment relations; it has been actively resisted
by management. One HR manager, in an international import/export business,
explains that FWA are ‘‘really up to the individual manager. The one thing that
we’ll say to managers [is] ‘Employees don’t have the right to flex. It depends on
their job and it depends on how you [i.e. the manager] want to manage the
department.’’’ Similarly, the vice-president of a bank stresses that discussions
This in itself is a surprising finding, which may represent a reluctance to create a paper trail in case
of litigation (Bisom-Rapp, 1999), the desire to avoid a new bureaucratic burden for managers or the
decoupling of formal goals (i.e. motivating and rewarding valuable workers) from organizational
practice (i.e. examining whether FWA are an effective tool for this goal) (Meyer and Rowan, 1977).
Our impression is that HR managers are busy with other tasks and not eager to investigate utilization
patterns unless pushed to do so. They are also stymied by the existing HR software packages, which
apparently do not have easy ways to record use of FWA. Since our interviews, we have met work-
life consultants who are marketing ‘FWA tracking’ programmes to large organizations but no organ-
izations in our sample had these in place in 2000 and 2001.
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 19 of 38
between workers requesting FWA and their managers are ‘not an entitlement
type of conversation but it’s really a conversation about how you could do
your job differently’. In addition to the 4 respondents who explicitly derided
entitlements, 30 (of the 34 respondents in organizations that allowed FWA)
spoke positively of managerial discretion or described discretion as necessary
for their management of FWA.
Professional journals and magazines for HR managers are even more explicit
in their antipathy towards new ‘entitlements’. An article in Workforce says,
Work/life initiatives are very important to employees. All the newest
employee commitment studies make that clear. However, continuing
to add one work/life initiative after another could be a problem down
the line if workers start to see all the extra help and flexibility as simply
another entitlement. (Laabs, 1998, p. 55)
In an article that provides guidelines for setting up FWA, HR Focus instructs,
‘Information about FWAs should be consistent and support the message that
FWAs are an option, not an entitlement’ (Rose, 1998, p. S1; see also O’Daniell,
1999). The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM, the largest
American professional association for HR managers) provides a sample policy
for telecommuting, which includes this anti-entitlement message:
Telecommuting is a voluntary work alternative that may be appropri-
ate for some employees and some jobs. It is not an entitlement; it is
not a company wide benefit (Hasting, 1999).
The contrast between FWA policies and organizational policies that do involve
‘entitlements’ was also very clear in respondents’ discussion of the Family and
Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Given a clear legal mandate (as with family leaves),
managers recognize entitlements that constrain their choices about how to deal
with workers’ needs. Under this law, many American workers are entitled to up
to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for an infant, care for a seriously ill relative
or deal with the worker’s own serious illness.
Respondents indicated that
both family leaves and FWA involve disruptions in the normal coordination
of work and that both are commonly understood as ‘family-friendly’ or
‘work–life’ policies, but they are handled very differently by these organizations.
Although we know what the family leave law requires, we asked whether
managers have discretion over granting family leaves. Almost all of the
The basic coverage rules for the federal family leave law are that employees must have been
employed in a work establishment with at least 50 workers within a 75-mile radius for at least
1250 hours and at least 1 year.
Page 20 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
respondents explained that they did not have any discretion because the law gave
employees’ clear rights to family leaves.
Examples of these responses included
an explanation that there is no discretion with family leaves ‘because [it] is pro-
tected by the Family Medical Leave Act, so they’re entitled to take that,’ a state-
ment that ‘That’s a federal law. You don’t have a choice,’ and a comment that
leaves are ‘really set out for everyone, I mean it’s the law.’ One respondent repor-
ted that the HR department handled family leaves (rather than supervising man-
agers) because ‘we don’t want a manager saying the wrong thing about leave,
because leaves now are protected by FMLA.’ In contrast, when we asked about
FWA and managerial discretion (after allowing the respondents to describe their
policies or practices in their own terms), 40 of our 41 respondents replied that
managers had significant discretion in determining who could or could not use
FWA. An HR manager in a state agency makes a clear distinction between the
two types of family supportive policies:
Family leaves are regulated by the federal law, state law, and state
policies. Anyone who provides adequate documentation ‘gets it’ and
there is no latitude or discretion. It is a matter of law, in contrast to
flextime ...People are entitled to it [i.e. family leave], they feel
entitled to it, and they know about their rights.
The law—and the way a legal rule overrides managerial discretion—is the
most distinctive difference between these two ‘work–family’ policies.
4.3 Only the vestiges of legalization in the management of FWA
Because a number of US employment laws might be relevant to FWA and because
legalization suggests a broad attentiveness to legal concerns, we hypothesized
(Hypothesis L3) that concern with employment law would shape the manage-
ment of FWA. However explicit references to employment law were largely
absent from the interview discussions of these practices. Our respondents
talked in detail about how employment law affected other employment practices
(e.g. family leave, sexual harassment programmes), but they did not feel the
long arm of the law pushing them to adopt FWA or leading them to manage
FWA in particular ways. This is the case even though we usually discussed
We began asking about discretion with regard to FMLA after realizing that discretion was built into
formalized FWA policies. Of the 26 interviews that included this question, 25 respondents said there
was no discretion about FMLA or explained that there was no discretion about the first 12 weeks of
leave, because that was legally mandated, but that managers could decide whether to approve
extended leaves. The final respondent said she supposed there was discretion with family leaves but
she had never seen one denied.
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 21 of 38
FWA immediately after discussing family leave and the impact of the Family and
Medical Leave Act of 1993 on the organization.
After hearing about organizational practices and policies for FWA in their own
words, we asked whether any laws affected their decisions to allow, or not to
allow, FWA or their administration of FWA programmes. Most managers
responded to this question by saying something like ‘Not that I can think of ’
or ‘Not that I’m aware of’. The exceptions identified legal barriers to offering
certain FWA, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (n ¼6), Occupational
Health and Safety Administration rules (n ¼3) and (unspecified) pension rules
(n ¼1) that made part-time employment for older workers challenging. No
respondents brought up the sex discrimination law and only two respondents
alluded to the idea that providing equal opportunities to women required
changing the way work is done by allowing part-time schedules or other FWA.
This is an interesting omission because FWA have been conceptualized as a
way to advance equal opportunities in the face of gendered family responsibilities
by US scholars (e.g. Williams, 2000; Rappoport et al., 2002; Williams and Segal,
2003; Travis, 2003) and in other nations’ employment laws (Bourke, 2004;
4.3.1 Criteria for decision-making Our respondents did not voice
anti-discrimination concerns directly, but these worries may be at the root of
their guidance to supervisors about the criteria for FWA decisions. When we
asked respondents what supervisors should consider when making FWA
decisions, we heard that managers’ should decide whether FWA are feasible based
on their assessment of how the work can be done. Managers in 26 of the 34
organizations emphasized job requirements as the primary criterion. One
manager said the questions to consider are:
Does it meet operational requirements? It’s always about ‘Can you
still get the job you need to get done [done]?’ So it’s really about
This quotation comes from a huge high-tech manufacturing company, but the
same ideas were voiced at all kinds of organizations.
Management writers and professional associations advocated focusing on
job requirements and sometimes claimed that criterion would protect employers
from complaints and legal risks. For example, Sandra Sullivan, founder of a
Connecticut consulting firm called Flex-It, claims in a Management Review
‘You must institute a flexible process that is accessible to everyone,’
says Sullivan. ‘That doesn’t mean everyone can be flexible; it means
Page 22 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
everyone can write a proposal,’ she clarifies. The employee then
submits the proposal to the manager, who must make sure not
to engage in a personal dialogue, but to keep the discussion
business-based ...If you keep the decision business-based, there’s
no opportunity for an employee to come back later with a lawsuit.
(Capowski, 1996, p. 17)
The rhetorical attention to job requirements and business needs is reminiscent
of how employers defend themselves in discrimination cases involving disparate
impact (or indirect discrimination) claims. In US courts, facially neutral practices
that have a disparate impact on protected categories of workers are not deemed
discriminatory if the employer can show that those practices are related to the
job and constitute a necessary part of doing business (e.g. Edelman, 1990;
Williams and Segal, 2003). It appears that anti-discrimination law has taught
these HR managers to frame their decisions in terms of job requirements
and business necessity, even when the specific practices at hand have not been
interpreted as part of anti-discrimination law. However, these legal concerns
are coded rather than explicit. Therefore, while we believe it is plausible that
legal concerns are still influencing the administration of FWA in subtle
ways, we recognize that the evidence of the legalization regime’s influence is
When organizations excluded certain groups of workers a priori from FWA,
these exclusions seemed to be based on management’s beliefs that FWA were
not feasible for those occupational groups or, less commonly, on union repres-
entation. In 10 of the organizations (out of 34 that allowed FWA), respondents
reported that certain occupational groups were not eligible for FWA. Three
organizations excluded production workers from all FWA and, in an additional
two organizations, production workers could only ask for a compressed-work-
week schedule (i.e. four 10-hour days per week). Additionally, two hospitals
excluded those doing patient care and one advertising agency excluded ‘planners’
who were the primary contact people for clients.
In addition, two cities
excluded unionized workers who had not negotiated FWA in their
contracts. These two cases suggest that the legalized regime may still be at work
in the management of unionized workers while the restructured regime increas-
ingly structures employment practices for non-union workers.
Although we did not discuss the reasons for excluding categories of workers in detail, managers may
have believed that the continuous, interdependent work involved in assembly work and the need to be
available to patients and clients made it impractical to have different starting and stopping times or to
work from home.
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 23 of 38
Some respondents (N ¼7) also emphasized the need for consistent, fair and
justifiable treatment of employees; we view this concern as an additional ghost
of the legalization regime. These HR managers instructed supervisors to make
consistent decisions and ones that could be justified, if they were challenged.
One HR manager explained that her guidelines to supervising managers are
‘Just consistency. They don’t allow one person to do it and one other [pause]
somebody not. So, just be consistent.’ Another respondent claims that managers
do not have to treat people in exactly the same way, as long as they have a reason
for their decisions. He says FWA decisions are up to managers ‘as long as you’re
consistent. So, you know, this way I can always say, ‘‘I didn’t give it to you
because ...’’ ’ This respondent, and several other managers we talked to, equates
consistency with having a valid, i.e. non-arbitrary and accountable, reason for
Managers and management writers present ‘job requirements’ as an objective,
technical and neutral criterion for deciding on FWA. Business needs (as assessed
by managers) are also seen as objective concerns. In contrast, a substantive
consideration of workers’ needs is sometimes viewed as a threat to objectivity
because it introduces the possibility of unacceptable inconsistency. For example,
the vice-president at a major bank tells us:
[We] say that the reason shouldn’t matter, so that a manager is not in
a position in which, you know, ‘I want a flexible work arrangement
because I’ve just had a baby,’ but one of you wants a flexible work
arrangement because you’d like to volunteer a day a week. So we don’t
want managers making value judgments about ‘Gee, the volunteer
thing, that’s kind of optional but the baby thing, well that’s like a
real thing.’ So we’re very clear that it’s not the reason that’s the
driver, it’s whether or not you can do your job in a different way.
To summarize, constructing ‘job requirements’ as the primary criterion
for deciding on FWA allows managers to retain managerial authority—by
determining who can use FWA—at the same time that they show some deference
to legal ideals by following consistent and apparently non-discriminatory
procedures for considering workers’ requests.
4.4 Market ideas in managerial decisions about FWA
The restructured workplace regime identifies a move towards market-based
employment relations including contingent pay and benefits as a method for
motivating workers in the absence of long-term employment. FWA play a part
in that system, according to our respondents. Consistent with our prediction in
Hypothesis L3—and despite the stated criterion of job requirements—about
Page 24 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
half of our respondents (N ¼17 of 34 that allowed FWA) explicitly said that
managers are more likely to grant FWA to valued workers as both a reward for
past performance and an inducement for continued commitment.
The administration of FWA reflects the market mentality inside organizations,
in which workers who are ‘in demand’—either because of their particular skills
or the tightness of the labour market—negotiate what they want while less-
valued workers get much less. In a business services firm, the guidelines to
managers direct them to consider the employee’s performance rating when
deciding on FWA. Most policies did not include explicit guidance about using
employee performance as a criterion, but managers in the interviews
routinely—and quite matter-of-factly—described performance as a central part
of the decision-making process. For example, a manager in an advertising firm
says that FWA really depend on the manager’s evaluation of the worker (not
the requirements of the job):
I would say that if the manager values the person, they make it
work ...Most of [the managers] around here are pretty accepting of
it if the person has been a strong performer. Now, if they haven’t,
there’s no incentive to do it. So it really is a performance-based thing.
An HR manager in another business services organization—one with
award-winning work–life policies—stresses the importance of being a high
performer and a valued worker in order to be granted FWA.
...Unless you’re a really high performer who has a skill that the
company really needs, and if you do, you have a lot of leverage. They’ll
do whatever you want ...as long as you continue your performance.
But if you’re, you know, an average or above average performer, it’s
not as easy to get what you need.
Despite the formal policies this organization advertised to the public and
prospective employees, in practice, the manager recognized that FWA were
granted selectively as a reward for excellent performance.
Several managers (N ¼7) also emphasized that tight labour markets increased
‘the need to keep talented people on staff ’, as a manager at an advertising agency
explained. Another example of the way that individual performance and labour
market conditions work together came from a vice-president of a major bank
who noted that:
Even stupid managers realize they’re better off retaining this person
on a 4-day-a-week arrangement than losing them all together.
Although it isn’t always true. I mean, [if] the person that’s a marginal
performer, the manager’s going to say no [to the FWA request].
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 25 of 38
The quid-pro-quo system of managing FWA is implied in these discussions of
granting FWA to high performers (e.g. ‘They’ll do whatever you want ...as long
as you continue your performance’). In some organizations, the benefit to the
organization must be presented explicitly in the negotiations for FWA. For
example, a bank’s policy states: ‘Flexible work arrangements must demonstrate
a clear benefit to the business environment and be based primarily on job func-
tion, so such arrangements may not be available to all team members’ (emphasis
added). A manager in an advertising firm describes a successful ‘business case’
presented by a worker requesting FWA: ‘She did something near and dear to
our hearts: included a costs impact statement.’ Another HR manager, in a state
agency, instructs her managers ‘make sure if you’re going to reject it, you’ve
got good reason to reject it, and typically that’s because the employees have not
made a good enough case of any benefits other than for their own convenience.’
This quote conveys the greater weight given to organizational needs than to
employee needs, which are discounted here as a ‘convenience’.
In short, despite the stated emphasis on allocating FWA according to
job requirements, the majority of these managers acknowledge that, in their
organizations, FWA function as a strategic tool to reward and motivate high
4.5 An exploration of which organizations do what
Our research has documented the ways that FWA are administered in US organ-
izations and interpreted these practices in light of current management regimes.
Another important question is ‘What predicts whether organizations administer
FWA policies and other new employment practices with ad hoc arrange-
ments, formalized discretion or fully formalized rights?’ Neo-institutional studies
suggest that larger organizations, public sector organizations and unionized
organizations were the most affected by legalization and its call for formalized
policies and procedures (Edelman, 1990, 1992; Sutton et al., 1994; Sutton and
Dobbin, 1996). We, therefore, hypothesize that these organizations would either
create more formalized FWA or eschew FWA altogether. In other words, larger
organizations, public sector organizations and unionized organizations would
be less likely to handle FWA with ad hoc arrangements. With our small sample,
we were not surprised that there were no statistically significant differences
between organizations with different approaches to FWA. However, our findings
are suggestive and support the hypotheses suggested by neo-institutional
research. Future research using larger, nationally representative samples should
follow-up on these questions.
We find that organizations with ad hoc arrangements are smaller, on average,
than those that do not allow FWA and those with formalized discretion. The
Page 26 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
mean establishment size of organizations with ad hoc FWA is about half that
of organizations with no FWA and of organizations with formalized discretion
policies. A similar pattern is seen for organization size, with ad hoc organizations
having a mean size four times smaller than the organizations with formalized
discretion policies. Our data also suggest the possibility of an interaction of size
and the demands of the work process, but we cannot test interaction effects
with such a small sample. Six of the seven organizations that did not allow
FWA at all were small and provided non-professional services directly to clients
or citizens. The need to respond to clients’ changing needs with a small workforce
may make it difficult to manage FWA. This generalization should be tested with
other data. On the other end of the spectrum, all eight of the organizations that
provided extensive FWA guidance were large ‘new economy’ firms, i.e. organiza-
tions in the service sector or in high-tech manufacturing. We speculate that
formalized discretion is particularly attractive to large organizations that are
embedded in the ‘new economy’ but also responding to the bureaucratic
pressures that come with size—whereas small organizations in these sectors
(e.g. high-tech start-ups and small professional services firms) may not feel a
need to write policies of any type. This claim should also be tested with a larger
sample of organizations.
Bi-variate analyses suggest that public sector organizations and unionized
organizations are more likely to have formalized discretion policies or to disallow
FWA, and less likely to manage FWA with ad hoc arrangements. Among the
public sector organizations 25% did not allow FWA, compared to 15% of the
private sector, and 62% of public sector organizations had formalized discretion
policies, compared with 49% of private sector organizations. Ad hoc arrange-
ments were found in only 13% of public sector organizations but 39% of
private sector firms. Unionized organizations are more likely to avoid FWA
completely (25 vs. 10%). When they do allow FWA, unionized organizations
are less likely to set up ad hoc arrangements (25 vs. 38% of non-unionized
organizations). Although not statistically significant, these findings suggest that
there continues to be substantial differences in the employment relationship
across sectors and unionization status. Importantly, though, none of the
organizations—including the government agencies and those with collective
bargaining agreements—had formalized rights to FWA.
Flexible work arrangement initiatives are increasingly common in US workplaces
but researchers had not investigated how these programmes are administered.
We asked whether and to what extent the central tenets of the legalized workplace
management regime or the restructured workplace regime are reflected in the
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 27 of 38
administration of FWA. Our study of the governance of FWA reveals the growing
influence of the restructured workplace regime, and only the hints of the legaliza-
tion regime’s influence in the continued preference for formalized policies and
the focus on job requirements as the primary criterion for FWA decisions.
Even the written FWA policies are missing the key elements of meaningful
legalization: declarations of employee rights and the possibility of holding the
organization accountable to some outside authority (Sturm, 2001; Reskin,
2003). In contrast to the suggestive evidence that legalization may still be subtly
influencing FWA, the central tenets of restructuring appear very clearly in the
management of FWA. Decisions about FWA are explicitly decentralized, with
the supervising manager given the authority to manage the work process as he
or she sees fit. Furthermore, our interviews suggest that—in practice—managers
administer FWA as quid-pro-quo benefits, available to those workers who have
‘earned them’ through superior performance. Contingent access to FWA seems
to be used to induce commitment from workers in the context of job insecurity
and rapidly changing organizations.
Our research makes four specific contributions to theory and research on the
employment relationship and FWA in particular. First, our findings suggest that
some common questions about employment policies do not capture important
aspects of organizational governance today. Scholars often ask, first, why do
some organizations adopt certain personnel policies while others do not and,
second, which workers actually use the benefits or receive the protections
provided by these policies. Both questions assume that, except in the smallest
organizations, the employment relationship is regulated by written policies that
a priori render some groups of employees eligible for a certain protection or
benefit—that employment policies are structured in accordance with the legaliza-
tion regime. We show that these assumptions are incorrect, at least in the case of
FWA and perhaps for other new workplace practices such as phased retirement
and extended personal leaves. More generally, we suggest that future research
explicitly examine which aspects of the employment relationship are formalized
and what formalization implies for different practices and in different national
contexts (Marsden, 1999).
A second, and related, point is that our findings reveal a methodological
problem with previous studies of FWA. Organizational surveys implicitly assume
that the legalized workplace regime is at work by assuming that written policies
promise protections or benefits to all employees or, at least, to specified groups
of employees such as non-unionized workers. We show that survey questions
such as ‘Do you offer flextime?’ or ‘Do you have a policy about flextime?’ are
not valid measures of the employees’ access to FWA because the policies adopted
in these organizations deliberately and explicitly allow supervisors to decide, on
a case-by-case basis, which workers may use FWA. Additionally, our findings
Page 28 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
suggest that quantitative research should ask which organizations adopt which
management strategy (i.e. ad hoc vs. formalized discretion vs. formalized right)
for administering FWA. Our findings also raise the question of how negotiations
between employees and supervisors unfold in organizations with different
approaches to managing FWA. Qualitative research based on observations of
FWA negotiations in different organizations could elucidate what criteria
managers and employees use in their claims-making and justifications and
provide even more grounded evidence of the influence of the restructuring
and legalization regimes in workplaces today.
Third, our research helps solve the puzzle of why so few workers use the FWA
that are presumably available to them (Hochschild, 1997; Fried, 1998; Epstein
et al., 1999; Blair-Loy and Wharton, 2002, 2004; Still and Strang, 2003).
The assumption has been that, if there is a formal policy ‘offering’ FWA and
there are workers who feel constrained from using FWA, there is a problem—a
decoupling of policy and practice—in the implementation of the policy.
However, we contend that policies are written in ways that actually create these
constraints and limit the use of FWA. In other words, we show that the limited
utilization of FWA is built into the company policy itself. This finding suggests
a need for new theoretical concepts that go beyond a dichotomy of formal
policies and informal practices (Stinchcombe, 2001), as well as for additional
research that empirically investigates what formalization looks like today.
Fourth, this work helps solve the empirical puzzle of why there is such unequal
access to FWA. Earlier examinations of FWA have found that women, non-white
workers, less educated and less-skilled workers are less likely to have access to
FWA in the US (Capowski, 1996; Glass and Estes, 1997; Beers, 2000; Golden,
2001; Yang and Reid, 2005). Scholars have assumed—and we concur—that these
groups of workers are less likely to be employed by organizations that allow
FWA. In other words, less privileged workers are less likely to work for generous
employers. However, we contend that there is also intra-organizational and
intra-occupational variation in access to FWA, even in organizations that have
adopted formal FWA policies. Some occupational groups are excluded from
some organizations’ policies, as we described. But even when that is not the
case, these policies allow managers to grant FWA to some valued workers
while denying it to others in the same occupational category.
There are good theoretical and empirical reasons to believe that supervisors’
assessments of workers’ performance are affected by the workers’ race, sex and
family status (Cejka and Eagly, 1999; Ridgeway and Smith-Lovin, 1999; Reskin,
2000; Ridgeway and Correll 2004; Correll and Benard, 2005). Ethnic and racial
minorities, and women, especially mothers, may find it more difficult to be
recognized as a ‘high performer’ and to win FWA under this system (Weeden,
2005). Ironically, workers with extensive family responsibilities, in particular,
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 29 of 38
might improve their performance with the benefit of FWA that allows them to
work when and where they are most productive and focused.
Scholars studying workplace inequality generally see formalization as a tool
for limiting managerial discretion and consequently reducing inequality
(Bielby, 2000; Reskin and McBrier, 2000; Sturm, 2001; Reskin, 2003). However,
the formalization of discretion may have the opposite consequences as formaliza-
tion that reduces discretion. Formalized discretion seems to institutionalize and
legitimize unequal access to attractive work conditions, rather than challenging
patterns of inequality. Our findings suggest that scholars of the employment rela-
tionship need to investigate more deeply what ‘formalization’ means in different
contexts and whether and when it has redistributive effects.
This research was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Life Course
Center at the University of Minnesota and a Faculty Summer Fellowship from
the University of Minnesota. We are especially grateful to the managers and
organizations that participated in this study. We thank Frank Dobbin, Michal
Frenkel, Joshua Guetzkow, David Knoke, Phyllis Moen, Joachim Savelsberg,
Yehouda Shenhav, Robin Stryker, and the reviewers and editors for their
helpful comments. Thanks as well to Samantha Ammons for excellent research
assistance. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2001 Society
for the Advancement of Socio-Economics meetings and the 2002 American
Sociological Association meetings.
Abrahamson, E. and Fairchild, G. (1999) ‘Management Fashions: Lifecycles, Triggers, and
Collective Learning Processes’, Administrative Science Quarterly,44, 708–40.
Acker, J. (1990) ‘Hierarchies, Jobs, Bodies: a Theory of Gendered Organizations’, Gender
and Society,4, 139–58.
Albiston, C. (2005) Bargaining in the Shadow of Social Institutions: Competing Discourses
and Social Change in Workplace Mobilization of Civil Rights’, Law & Society Review,
Appelbaum, E. and Batt, R. (1994) The New American Workplace: Transforming Work
Systems in the United States, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press.
Appelbaum, E., Bailey, T., Berg, P. and Kalleberg, A. L. (2000) Manufacturing
Advantage—Why High Performance Work Systems Pay Off, Economic Policy Institute.
Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press.
Page 30 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
Barley, S. and Kunda, G. (1992) ‘Design and Devotion: Surges of Rational and Normative
Ideologies of Control in Managerial Discourse’, Administrative Science Quarterly,37,
Baron, J. N., Dobbin, F. R. and Jennings, P. D. (1986) ‘War and Peace: the Evolution of
Modern Personnel Administration in U.S. Industry’, American Journal of Socology,92,
Baron, J. N., Jennings, P. D. and Dobbin, F. R. (1988) ‘Mission Control? The Development
of Personnel Systems in U.S. Industry’, American Sociological Review,53, 497–514.
Beers, T. M. (2000) ‘Flexible Work Schedules and Shift Work: Replacing the 9–5 Work-
day?’, Monthly Labor Review,123, 3–10.
Bendix, R. (1956). Work and Authority in Industry: Ideologies of Management in the Course
of Industrialization. New York, Wiley.
Bendix, R. (1974) Work and Authority in Industry: Ideologies of Management in the Course
of Industrialization, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press.
Bielby, W. T. (2000) ‘Minimizing Workplace Gender and Racial Bias’, Contemporary
Bisom-Rapp, S. (1999) ‘Bulletproofing the Workplace: Symbol and Substance in
Employment Discrimination Law Practice’, Florida State University Law Review,26,
Blair-Loy, M. and Wharton, A. S. (2002) ‘Employees’ Use of Work Family Policies and the
Workplace Social Context’, Social Forces,80, 813–45.
Blair-Loy, M. and Wharton, A. S. (2004) ‘Organizational Commitment and Constraints
on Work-Family Policy Use: Corporate Flexibility Policies in a Global Firm’, Sociological
Bond, J. T., Galinsky, E. and Swanberg, J. E. (1997) The 1997 National Study of the
Changing Workforce, Families and Work Institute.
Bond, S. and Wise, S. (2003) ‘Family Leave Policies and Devolution to the Line’, Personnel
Bourgeois, M. D. and Sutton, J. R. (2004) ‘Legal Environments, the Employment
Relationship, and Management Regimes: Evidence over Thirty Years.’ Paper presented
at the American Sociological Association, August 16, 2004.
Bourke, J. (2004) ‘Using the Law to Support Work/Life Issues: the Australian Experience’,
American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy and Law,12, 19–67.
Cappelli, P. (1999) The New Deal at Work, Massachusetts, Harvard Business School Press.
Cappelli, P., Bassi, L., Katz, H., Knoke, D., Osterman, P. and Useem, M. (1997) Change
At Work, New York, Oxford University Press.
Capowski, G. (1996) ‘The Joy of Flex’, Management Review,85,12–8.
Cejka. M. A. and Eagly, A. H. (1999) ‘Gender Stereotypic Images of Occupations
Correspond to Sex Segregation of Employment’, Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin 25, 413–23.
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 31 of 38
Clarkberg, M. and Moen, P. (2001) ‘Understanding the Time-Squeeze: married Couples
Preferred and Actual Work-Hour Strategies’, American Behavioral Scientist,44,
Cornfield, D., Campbell, K. and McCammon, H. (2001) Working in Restructured
Workplaces: Challenges and New Directions for the Sociology of Work, Thousand Oaks,
CA, Sage Publications.
Correll, S. J. and Benard, S. (2005) ‘Getting a Job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty?’,
Paper Presented at the American Sociological Association, Philadelphia, PA.
Deitch, C. H. and Huffman, M. L. (2001) ‘Family Responsive Benefits and the Two-Tiered
Labor Market’. In Hertz, R. and Marshall, N. (eds) Work and Family: Today’s Vision,
Tomorrow’s Realities, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, pp. 103–30.
Dex, S. and Scheibl, F. (2001) ‘Flexible and Family-Friendly Working Arrangements
in UK-based Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: Business Cases’, British Journal of
Industrial Relations,39, 411–31.
DiMaggio, P. J. and Powell, W. W. (1983) ‘The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional
Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields’, American Sociological
Dobbin, F. and Sutton, J. R. (1998) ‘The Strength of a Weak State: The Employment Rights
Revolution and the Rise of Human Resources Management Divisions’, American Jour-
nal of Sociology,104, 441–76.
Dobbin, F., Sutton, J. R., Meyer, J. W. and Scott, W. R. (1993) ‘Equal Opportunity Law
and The Construction of Internal Labor Markets’, American Journal of Sociology,99,
Eaton, S. C. (2003) ‘If You Can Use Them: Flexibility Policies, Organizational Commit-
ment, and Perceived Performance’, Industrial Relations,42, 145–67.
Edelman, L. B. (1990) ‘Legal Environments and Organizational Governance: The
Expansion of Due Process in the American Workplace’, American Journal of Sociology,
Edelman, L. B. (1992) ‘Legal Ambiguity and Symbolic Structures: Organizational
Mediation of Civil Rights Law’, American Journal of Sociology,97, 1531–976.
Edelman, L. B., Petterson, S. M., Chambliss, E. and Erlanger, H. S. (1991) ‘Legal Ambiguity
and the Politics of Compliance: Affirmative Action Officers’ Dilemma’, Law and Policy,
Edelman, L. B. and Petterson, S. M. (1999) ‘Symbol and Substance in Organizational
Response to Civil Rights Law’, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility,17, 107–35.
Edelman, L. B., Uggen, C. and Erlanger, H. S. (1999) ‘The Endogeneity of Legal Regula-
tion: Grievance Procedures as Rational Myth’, American Journal of Sociology,105,
Edelman, L. B., Fuller, S. R. and Mara-Drita, I. (2001) ‘Diversity Rhetoric and the
Managerialization of Law’, American Journal of Sociology,106, 1589–641.
Page 32 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
Edwards, R. (1979) Contested Terrain: The Transformation of the Workplace in the
Twentieth Century, New York, Basic Books.
Edwards, R. (1993) Rights At Work, Washington, DC, Brookings Institute.
Epstein Fuchs, C., Seron, C., Oglensky, B. and Saute, R. (1999) The Part Time Paradox:
Time Norms, Professional Lives, Family and Gender, New York, Routledge.
Federico, R. F. and Goldsmith, H. B. (1998) ‘Linking Work/Life Benefits to Performance’,
Compensation and Benefits Review,30, 66–70.
Fried, M. (1998) Taking Time: Parental Leave Policy and Corporate Culture, Philadelphia,
Temple University Press.
Galinsky, E., Bond, J. T. and Hill, E. J. (2004) ‘Status Report on Workplace
Flexibility: Who Has It? Who Wants It? What Difference Does It Make?’, Viewed at
Glass, J. and Estes, S. B. (1997) ‘The Family Responsive Workplace’, Annual Review of
Golden, L. (2001) ‘Flexible Work Schedules: Which Workers Get Them?’, American
Behavioral Scientist,44, 1157–78.
Goodstein, J. (1994) ‘Institutional Pressures and Strategic Responsiveness: Employer
Involvement in Work-Family Issues’, Academy of Management Journal,37, 350–82.
Guillen, M. F. (1994) Models of Management: Work, Authority and Organization in a
Comparative Perspective, Chicago, Chicago University Press.
Handel, M. J. and Levine, D. I. (2004). Editors’ Introduction: The Effects of New Work
Practices on Workers. Industrial Relations,43(1), 1–43.
Hasting, R. R. (1999) ‘Sample Telecommuting Policy. Information Services’, Society for
Human Resource Management (SHRM), Available at www.shrm.org. Article viewed on
May 17, 2001.
Hegewisch, A. (2005) Individual Working Time Rights in Germany and the UK: How a
Little Law Can Go a Long Way, pages 102–120 in Working Time for Working Families:
Europe and the United States. Washington, DC: Freidrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
Heron, A. (2005) Promoting and Protecting Reduced-Hours Work: European Union Law
and Part-Time Work, pages 35–53 in Working Time for Working Families: Europe and
the United States. Washington, DC: Freidrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
Hochschild, A. R. (1997) The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes
Work. New York: Metropolitan Books.
Hoover, K. (2000) Bill Keeps OSHA Out of Telecommuters’ Homes. Washington Business
Journal, January 28, 2000. Available at http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/stories/
Ingram, P. and Simmons, T. (1995) ‘Institutional and Resource Dependence Deter-
minants of Responsiveness to Work-Family Issues’, Academy of Management Journal,
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 33 of 38
Jacoby, S. M. (2005) The Embedded Corporation: Corporate Governance and
Employment Relations in Japan and the United States, Princeton, NJ, Princeton
Kalleberg, A. L. (2001) ‘Farewell to Commitment? Changing Employment Relations and
Labor Markets in the United States’, Contemporary Sociology,30, 9–12.
Kalleberg, A. L., Marsden, P. V., Aldrich, H. E. and Cassell, J. W. (1990) ‘Comparing
Organizational Sampling Frames’, Administrative Science Quarterly,35, 658–88.
Kalleberg, A. L., Knoke, D., Marsden, P. V. and Spaeth, J. L. (1996) Organizations
in America: Analyzing Their Structures and Human Resource Practices, Thousand Oaks,
CA, Sage Publications.
Kalleberg, A. L., Reskin, B. F. and Hudson, K. (2000) ‘Bad Jobs in America: Standard and
Non Standard Employment Relations and Job Quality in the United States’, American
Sociological Review,65, 256–78.
Kelly, E. L. (2000) Corporate Family Policies in U.S. Organizations, 1965–1997,
Ph.D. Dissertation, Princeton University.
Kelly, E. L. (2003) ‘The Strange History of Employer-Sponsored Child Care: Interested
Actors, Uncertainty, and the Transformation of Law in Organizational Fields’, American
Journal of Sociology,109, 606–49.
Kelly, E. L. and Dobbin, F. (1999) ‘Civil Rights Law at Work: Sex Discrimination and the
Rise of Maternity Leave Policies’, American Journal of Sociology,105, 455–92.
Knoke, D. (1993) The 1991 National Organizations Survey Technical Manual, Unpublished
Report, University of Minnesota, Department of Sociology.
Knoke, D. (1994) ‘Cui Bono? Employee Benefits Packages’, American Behavioral Scientist,
Knoke, D. (2001) Changing Organizations, Boulder, CO, Westview Press.
Kochan, T. A., Katz, H. C. and McKersie, R. B. (1986) The Transformation of American
Industrial Relations, New York, Basic Books.
Lee, M. D., MacDermid, S. M. and Buck, M. L. (2000) ‘Organizational Paradigms of
Reduced-Load Work: Accommodation, Elaboration, and Transformation’, Academy
of Management Journal,43, 1211–26.
Lewis, S. (2003) ‘Flexible Working Arrangements: Implementation, Outcomes, and
Management’, International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology,18,
Laabs, J. (1998) ‘They Want More Support—Inside and outside of work’, Workforce,77,
Litvan, L. M. (1994) ‘Clean Air Act’s Car-Pool Mandate’, Nation’s Business,82, 36–9.
Marsden, D. (1999) A Theory of Employment Systems: Micro-Foundations of Societal
Diversity, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Meyer, W. J. and Rowan, B. (1977) ‘Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as
Myth and Ceremony’, American Journal of Sociology,83, 340–63.
Page 34 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
Milkman, R. (1998) ‘The New American Workplace: High Road or Low Road?’ In Thomp-
son, P. and Warhurst, P. (ed.) Workplaces of The Future, Houndmills, Basingstoke,
Hampshire, Macmillan Business, pp. 25–39.
Nadel, R. S. (1999) ‘Compensation Alternatives: Changes In Business Strategy. Plans
and Expectations’, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), White Paper,
www.shrm.org. Article viewed on May 18, 2001.
National Center for Transit Research. (2004) ‘List of Trip Reduction Ordinances’, Article
viewed at www.nctr.usf.edu/clearinghouse/tro/trolist.htm, viewed on August 11, 2004.
O’Daniell, E. E. (1999) ‘Energizing Corporate Culture and Creating Competitive Advant-
age: A New Look At Workforce Programs’, Benefits Quarterly,15, 18–25.
Osterman, P. (1994) ‘How Common is Workplace Transformation and How Can We
Explain Who Does It?’, Industrial and Labor Relations Review,47, 173–88.
Osterman, P. (1995) ‘Work/Family Programs and The Employment Relationship’,
Administrative Science Quarterly,40, 681–700.
Osterman, P. (2000) ‘Work Reorganization In An Era of Restructuring: Trends In
Diffusion and Effects on Employee Welfare’, Industrial and Labor Relations Review,
Piore, M. J. and Sabel, C.F. (1984). The Second Industrial Divide: Possibilities for Prosperity.
New York, Basic Books.
Piore, M. J. and Safford, S. (2005) Changing Regimes of Workplace Governance: Shifting
Axes of Social Mobilization and the Challenge to Industrial Relations Theory, Paper
presented at the Harvard, MIT Economic Sociology Seminar, March 1, 2005.
Powell, W. W. and DiMaggio, P. (1991) The New Institutionalism in Organizational
Analysis, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
Rappoport, R., Bailyn, L., Fletcher, J. K. and Pruitt, B. H. (2002) Beyond Work Family Bal-
ance: Advancing Gender Equity and Workplace Performance, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.
Regini, M. (2003) ‘Work and Labor in Global Economies: The Case of Western Europe’,
Socio-Economic Review,1, 165–84j.
Reiman, P. S. and Yohay, S. C. (1994) ‘Compliance With The Clean Air Act Employer Trip
Reduction Requirements’, Employee Relations Law Journal,19, 621–38.
Reskin, B. (2000) ‘The Proximate Causes of Employment Discrimination’, Contemporary
Reskin, B. (2003) ‘Including Mechanisms in Our Models of Ascriptive Inequality’,
American Sociological Review,68, 1–21.
Reskin, B. and McBrier, D. B. (2000) ‘Why Not Ascription? Organizations’ Employment of
Male and Female Managers’, American Sociological Review,65, 210–33.
Ridgeway, C. L. and Smith-Lovin, L. (1999) ‘The Gender System and Interaction’, Annual
Review of Sociology,25, 191–216.
Ridgeway, C. L. and Correll, S. (2004) ‘Motherhood as a Status Characteristic’, Journal of
Social Issues,60, 683–700.
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 35 of 38
Rogers, J. K. (1995) ‘Just a Temp: Experience and Structure of Alienation in Temporary
Clerical Employment’, Work and Occupations,22, 137–66.
Rose, K. L. (1998) ‘The Business Case for Flex’, HR Focus,75, S1–2.
Selznick, P. (1957) Leadership in Administration: A Sociological Interpretation, New York,
Harper and Row.
Selznick, P. (1969) Law, Society and Industrial Justice, New York, Russell Sage.
Shenhav. Y. (1999) Manufacturing Rationality: The Engineering Foundation of the
Managerial Revolution, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
SHRM. (Society for Human Resources Management). (2001) ‘Flexible Work
Arrangements’, White Paper Series, Available at www.shrm.org.
Smith, V. (1997). New Forms of Work Organization. Annual Review of Sociology,23:
Smith, V. (2001) Crossing the Great Divide: Worker Risk and Opportunity in the New
Economy, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press.
Still, M. C. and Strang, D. (2003) ‘Institutionalizing Family-Friendly Policies’. In Moen, P.
(ed.) It’s About Time, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, pp. 288–309.
Stinchcombe, A. L. (2001) When Formality Works: Authority and Abstraction in Law and
Organizations, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
Stone, K. V. W. (2004) From Widgets to Digits: Employment Regulation for the Changing
Workplace, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Stryker, R. (1994) ‘Rules, Resources, and Legitimacy Processes: Some Implications for
Social Conflict, Order, and Change’, American Journal of Sociology,99, 847–910.
Stryker, R. (2000) ‘Legitimacy Processes as Institutional Policies’, Research in the Sociology
of Organizations,17, 179–223.
Stryker, R. (2003) ‘Mind the Gap: Law, Institutional Analysis and Socio-Economics’,
Socio-Economic Review,1, 335–67.
Sturm, S. (2001) ‘Second Generation Employment Discrimination: A Structural
Approach’, Columbia Law Review,101, 458–568.
Sutton, J. R. and Dobbin, F. (1996) ‘The Two Faces of Governance: Responses to Legal
Uncertainty in U.S. Firms, 1955 to 1985’, American Sociological Review,61,
Sutton, J. R., Dobbin, F., Meyer, J. W. and Scott, R. (1994) ‘The Legalization of the
Workplace’, American Journal of Sociology,99, 944–71.
Swidler, A. (1986) ‘Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies’, American Sociological
Travis, M. A. (2003) ‘Equality in the Virtual Workplace’, Berkeley Journal of Employment
and Labor Law,24, 283–376.
Vallas, S. (2003a) ‘The Adventures of Managerial Hegemony: Teamwork, Ideology, and
Managerial Resistance’, Social Forces,50, 204–25.
Page 36 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev
Vallas, S. (2003b). ‘Why Teamwork Fails: Obstacles to Workplace Change in Four
Manufacturing Plants’, American Sociological Review,68, 223–50.
Weeden, K. (2005) ‘Is There a Flexiglass Ceiling? Flexible Work Arrangements and Wages
in the United States’, Social Science Research,34, 454–82.
Weick, K. (1995) Sensemaking in Organizations, Newbury Park, CA, Sage Publications.
Western, B. (1997) Between Class and Market: Postwar Unionization in Capitalist
Democracies, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press.
Williams, J. (2000) Unbending Gender: Why Family Work Conflict and What to Do About
It?, New York, Oxford University Press.
Willams, J. and Segal, N. (2003) ‘Beyond The Maternal Wall: Relief for Family Caregivers
Who are Discriminated Against on the Job’, Harvard Women’s Law Journal,26,
Witowski, K. M. (1999) ‘Becoming Family-Friendly: Work-Family Program Innovation’,
Research in the Sociology of Work,7, 203–232.
Yang S. and Reid, M. (2005) ‘Adoption and Implementation of Flexible Work Programs: a
Cross-Level Study’, Unpublished working paper, Available from author at
Zeytinoglu, I. U. (ed.) (2002) Flexible Work Arrangements: Conceptualizations and
International Experiences, New York, Kluwer Law International.
Appendix A. Abbreviated Interview Guide
The interview was introduced as follows:
This research examines what companies are doing (formally or informally) to help
workers with their family responsibilities. We know that HR managers often balance the
needs of workers, the needs of the organization, and, sometimes, demands from the
government. We want to know:
(a) why you do what you do (and perhaps why you’ve chosen not to do some
(b) how family programmes actually work here—what is involved with adminis-
tering and managing family leaves, dependent care programmes and flexible
The following questions were asked about each FWA practice, i.e. flextime, telecom-
muting, job-sharing or other voluntary part-time work, and other arrangements that
respondents brought up:
1. Do you have [FWA practice] here? If no: Did you ever consider it? Why did
you decide not to pursue this? If yes: When did you first allow [FWA practice]?
Why did you start allowing [FWA practice]?
Managing flexible work arrangements Page 37 of 38
2. Is there a written [FWA practice] policy? If no: Did you ever consider it? If yes:
Why did you decide to formalize this with a policy? What does the policy say?
Why did you set up the policy in this way?
3. How do workers learn about [FWA practice]? What is the process for applying
for it, if any?
4. Do managers have discretion about who gets [FWA practice]? What
instructions or guidance do you give to managers, if any? What are the criteria
used for deciding about [FWA practice]? Are any groups excluded?
5. How are disputes handled? Have there been any interesting situations with
[FWA practice] recently?
6. About how many workers used [FWA practice] last year? Who tends to use it
(specific work groups or demographic groups)? Do you have the sense that
more workers would like to use [FWA practice] than those who do? What
keeps them from using it? Do you track the use of [FWA practice] or what
happens to workers who use it?
The discussion of FWA ended with a more general question: Do any laws or regulations
affect your policies about flexible work arrangements? Which ones? How?
Page 38 of 38 E. L. Kelly and A. Kalev