Which work-life benefits do managers approve: The role of motivational and interpersonal orientations

2018-09-03T04:17:25Z (GMT) by Melissa Jane Giles
Work-life policies and programs, such as flextime and working from home, are intended to assist employees with balancing work and personal commitments. Employee uptake of these arrangements, however, has been constrained, with managers at times reluctant to facilitate employees’ access. The focus of this thesis was understanding the decision-making role assumed by managers when they evaluate a request from an employee to utilise a work-life benefit.The research sought to firstly identify the information that influences managers’ decisions about subordinates’ requests for work-life benefits. Three information cues were examined: the gender and performance of the subordinate submitting the request, along with whether a career break or working from home was requested. The research also sought to identify the motivational and interpersonal orientations of managers that influence their use of these information cues and ultimately their decisions about subordinates’ requests. Five orientations were hypothesised to affect managers’ decisions: regulatory focus, affective commitment, self-construals, implicit theories and interpersonal trust. The selection of these variables, along with the formulation of the hypotheses, were guided by four theoretical frameworks: work disruption theory, dependency theory, institutional theory and helping behaviour.Judgment analysis was applied to evaluate the decisions reached by 121 participants with managerial experience. The managers responded to 16 vignettes, indicating whether the subordinate’s request for a work-life benefit would be approved or denied. Managers were found to be more likely to approve requests for career breaks than working from home. They were also more inclined to approve requests from high performers than average performers. The gender of subordinates did not significantly affect whether requests were approved, however. Furthermore, managers’ use of these information cues, and their overall tendency to approve requests for work-life benefits, were influenced by their regulatory focus, self-construal, implicit theory and interpersonal trust. To illustrate, prevention focused managers – managers that prioritise immediate duties over future aspirations – were more likely to approve requests for career breaks than requests for working from home.The results align to the proposition that managers reach decisions that are intended both to reduce disruption to the organisation but also to retain employees upon whom they are dependent. Managers are also influenced by institutional pressures to offer work-life benefits to particular employees and by the desire to help subordinates by approving requests for work-life benefits. Thus, the research confirms the relevance of work disruption theory, dependency theory, institutional theory and helping behaviour for explaining managerial decision making on work-life benefits.The findings also provide practical insights about practices organisations need to implement to promote more consistent and equitable decisions by managers. In particular, organisations should address the incentives bestowed on managers for approving work-life benefit requests and the training undertaken by managers, along with the guidelines established for decision making that detail the criteria for evaluating requests. The mindset with which managers approach the decision-making task of reviewing requests should also be considered.