Work-Family Conflict: Antecedents and Consequences


People are engaged in different tasks and responsibilities in life. An employee could equally be a husband or a wife, parent or leader among others at the same time. The task of performing the different roles having different requirements brings conflict (Goldsmith, p. 12). It becomes difficult for people to prioritize effectively between the competing interests associated with work and family. Parents work to support their families which equally require their emotional and psychological presence apart from material things. Increased employment of married employees, especially those having children demands that family and work is effectively balanced.


The work environment presents challenges to the family union with emerging challenges from either side created by inter-role conflict. Pressure from work and responsibilities of the family are quite incompatible and mutually cancel each other. Inter-role conflict is characterized by two dimensions; the first is the work-family conflict created by work pressures interfering with family responsibilities. Secondly, the family-work conflict brought about by the family responsibilities spilling over the workplace. The manner in which either conflict is solved requires that challenges are mutually understood and dealt with (Murphy & Halpern, p. 18). Organizations are increasingly concerned with the work-family conflict which if properly handled settles the challenges from family-work conflict harmoniously. Managers are therefore of the view of modifying working conditions in favor of family but to the extent that organizational goals are not compromised. The working environment is thus organized with provisions for “part-time schedules, paid parental leaves, children daycare programs and extended maternity leave”.

The background is that if employees’ needs are not addressed satisfactorily, they are bound to suffer from anxieties which decrease their job performance. Employers are equally bound to suffer losses occasioned by reduced productivity and career dissatisfaction on the part of disillusioned employees. A study of Saudi married employees and the work-family conflict provides insight into the consequences that follow and their impact in both institutions. Work-family conflict in Saudi experiences three main outcomes namely; job depression, career dissatisfaction and diminished quality of family care. Work and family roles are always in conflict due to their opposed interests (Castro, Adler & Britt 23). A person becomes overwhelmed by either family or work responsibilities if the interface between the two roles is not balanced.

Work-family conflict-overview

As a result of work-related conflicts, employees are confronted with family problems occasioned by inability to meet the expectations of spouse, children and relatives. The duration of the work schedule in a day or weekly basis defines the family situation. Work stress characterized by long working hours with no proper compensation results in both job and family dissatisfaction. Marital life is directly affected if the working environment is stressful and time consuming. The general perception of life, family and work is a product of a balance of the competing interests. The relationship that exists between employers and employees at workplace defines work output and their quality of life. Motivated workers are self-driven towards achieving organizational goals. This requires that working schedule is flexible enough to accommodate family life since personal needs of employees have a direct consequence on their work performance (Payne & Cooper, p. 15).

Organizational support of family needs promotes employee motivation and increases work output. Job security and flexible working schedules are the most salient factors in reducing work-family conflicts. The nature of work determines employees’ perception of life and family responsibilities. The working load and hours spent on the tasks has a bearing on the amount of time and energy spent on family. Manual jobs without job security overwhelm workers to the extent of interfering with family life. The manual jobs are tasking and time consuming while compensation is not commensurate with the assigned responsibilities. Job satisfaction is therefore achieved based on pay, working environment and leadership style employed by management (Lambert & Kossek, p. 25). Antecedents of work-family conflict reveal that men and women experiences are different. Women experience more negative effects when work conflict interferes with family.

Marital satisfaction

The quality of marital life is a factor of the intimate relations between the partners. A spillover of work stress and anxieties on family relations reduces intimacy between couples since most of their time and energy is spent on duty. Consequently, there is limited time to develop intimate relations between couples due to anxieties related to job security and work performance (Goldsmith, p. 16). The relationship between husband and wife is dependent on several other external factors from the family environment, work being paramount. A poor husband doing manual jobs that do not have proper compensation and job security is bound to lose his family. This is because the meager salary obtained from casual employment may not meet family needs and expenses.

Parental satisfaction

An increasingly treacherous global economy has placed immense financial pressures on family. Parents are therefore taking up employment in order to earn a decent living and provide for their families. Traditionally, the Muslim family depends on the father as the sole bread winner. The mother remains at home taking care of children. The institution of marriage has therefore been modified by the competing global economic trends (Murphy & Halpern 22). Both mother and father are compelled to look for employment or engage in business in order to adequately provide for their family. Children are therefore left in the hands of strangers employed as housemaids and daycare support staff. In essence, parents are more than occupied with work responsibilities at the expense of family.

The general wellbeing of family members is dependent on the quality time they spent with each other. Children are safe and more comfortable with their parents than maids and daycare attendants however professional they are trained. The manner in which children are brought up in the Muslim society in Saudi Arabia is largely dependent on the nature of parent-children relationship. Motherhood in the Muslim society is strongly cherished (Castro, Adler & Britt, p. 27). Children are meant to be nurtured by their mothers towards acquisition of the Muslim cultures and family values. Daycare professionals and housemaids may not subscribe to the Muslim culture and family values. The conflict that ensues further complicates work-family relations.

Women are actually affected by work-related stress more than their male counterparts. This is because men are concerned with providing for family while motherhood demands that women spend more time with children as they grow up. The combined support of both parents in family care and upbringing of children is a product of harmonized work-family relations. There are circumstances which demand that parents complete assignments at home in order to meet work targets and responsibilities. Children are therefore left unattended creating loopholes for juvenile delinquency and criminality to develop. Women experienced more job dissatisfaction and exhaustion if family demands on their work became unmanageable.

Men also suffered from job depression as a result of poor balancing of work-related stress, career expectations and family responsibilities. Male employees find satisfaction from a balance of work responsibilities and family roles as the principle head of the family (Payne & Cooper, p. 19). Men’s self esteem and self actualization is achieved through a proper balance of developed careers, job satisfaction and prosperity at family level. On the other hand, female employees were more satisfied when family responsibilities were not interfered with work roles. Female employees are therefore in need of more support from employers in order to meet their family obligations. Family care and job satisfaction went hand in hand.

Female employees are more likely to drop out of their jobs than their male counterparts if family roles are interfered with by work. The general perception in Saudi Arabian Muslim society is that women should place motherhood above work responsibilities and career ambitions (Lambert & Kossek, p. 31). The responsibility of taking care of children primarily rests on the mother rendering the female employee in conflict with stressful working environments.

Career satisfaction

The aspect of career satisfaction is a component of individual attitudes to work and available opportunities for growth. Family satisfaction is part and parcel of job satisfaction and career progression taking into account income from work which is meant to provide for family needs. The financial status of family in Saudi society relies on the earnings of parents particularly the father whose main responsibility is to fend for his family. Male employees are therefore keen to develop their careers and business interests beyond those of their female counterparts. The problem of work-family conflict appears to affect men more than women since their hands are tied on their jobs. Unless, the wife/mother and female employee is engaged in some form of economic activity, the responsibility of providing for the family rests upon the father. The male employee is equally a husband and leader in the society. Families which depend on the father as the sole breadwinner are prone to experience severe consequences of work-related stress and conflicts. Such a parent is keen to maintain his job at all costs.

Job anxieties and financial insecurity renders the parent a prisoner of employment being ready to work under all conditions to survive (Goldsmith, p. 20). In case the sole bread winner loses employment, the financial crisis that emerges causes the entire family much anxiety, anguish and stigma. Work-family conflict is also a product of job dissatisfaction and unfulfilled career ambitions.

Family satisfaction

Family satisfaction is defined by the nature of family relationship between parents and children. Family relationship is a product of feelings, perceptions and realities about the family situation in the broader picture. Family satisfaction is therefore dependent on the various experiences that family members encounter in life. Career development and working experiences have got direct consequences on family relationships. Pressures arising from work and career demands subject employees to work-related stress which also interfere with family life since workers play multiple roles in society (Murphy & Halpern, p. 30). For instance increased working hours and poor remuneration enslaves workers’ life within the organization level at the expense of family. Better pay and flexible working schedule motivates employees to pursue organizational goals in order to improve their careers and contribution for the wellbeing of family. The mere presence of parents at home does not guarantee family satisfaction in view of the material support and financial wellbeing of family members.

Job satisfaction

The state-of-mind of an employee determines their general perceptions about their jobs. If the working environment is too demanding to accommodate personal interests of workers, their performance is decreased. The relationship between employees and their managers also determine the level of job satisfaction realized at workplace. The leadership styles employed by management in organizations should factor in the contribution of subordinate employees during decision making and problem solving processes. The role of a manager is to ensure that workers are mutually motivated towards achieving organizational goals. Motivated employees are satisfied with compensation, performance appraisals and reward systems which recognize individual and team effort (Castro, Adler & Britt, p. 34).

The family provides the background through which employees find their identity and motivation to work in order to earn a living. A taxing working environment has got negative repercussions of the family and vice versa. If the working environment is satisfactory, workers may endure family conflict for purposes of securing their jobs from unnecessary influence. Job satisfaction is therefore achieved through factors that recognize career ambitions and personal needs of every employee. To this end, parents find it justifiable to endure work stress which is properly compensated in order to fend for the family. The challenges of family life encourage parents and children to develop long-term career ambitions. Children are encouraged to excel in school with an assurance of obtaining credible papers which can secure them well paying jobs.

On the other hand, parents are expected to develop their careers through continuing education with the aim of climbing the corporate ladder. A descent lifestyle is therefore developed through lucrative careers for well paying jobs. Monetary gain is not the only motivation for employment and career ambitions. The value of money is estimated from its impact on the family institution. The degree of prosperity in the family determines the overall wellbeing of society. Work-family conflict is a product of a multiple factors with work stress and poor compensation being at the heart of the problem (Payne & Cooper, p. 25). The conflict is developed through poor employer-employee relations that eventually spill over into the family.

The burden of working under pressure without the hope of improving one’s career and receiving poor compensation discourages employees. This is because the time and money spent in education and career development cannot be squandered by casual employment with poor remuneration. Employees are actually inspired to work towards achieving the targets of their organizations as well as their personal needs. The job environment should therefore be flexible enough to accommodate workers’ interests through consultation for a common approach in decision making and problem solving.

Air force case study in Saudi Arabia

The Expeditionary Air Force presents demanding tasks and responsibilities on the soldiers with considerable stress. The perception of soldiers working in an environment characterized by security threats generates substantial amount of stress (Lambert & Kossek, p. 35). Role conflict develops where soldiers find it difficult to balance the responsibility of expeditionary warrior and that of being a family member. Family members in most cases are dependants of the warriors which call for their unwavering commitment to the military service. The expeditionary characteristic of the Air Force service where individuals are deployed anywhere in the world for duty has got significant repercussions on the family.

The expeditionary phenomena developed after the end of the Second World War in tandem with the emergence of UK and United States as the world’s superpowers. Expeditionary Air force Forces were thereafter subjected to deployments away from Saudi Arabia to “foreign fixed forward locations”. Subsequent wars such as the cold war resulted in further deployment of forces within short-time durations. The number and frequency of deployments are ever increasing depending on the challenges brought about by the fight against international terrorism and other crimes (Goldsmith, p. 28). Officers eligible for deployment are however few in number taking into account the rigorous training and experience required for Air force qualifications. The Persian Gulf War resulted in further deployments of the almost the same expeditionary forces within a short span of time.

A static pool of airmen is periodically deployed without relevant consideration for family. The perception of these duties is severely damaged by the burden of continuous deployment which rests upon few competent airmen apart from a limited number of reservists who play the same role. An effective management program that underscores the need for elaborate deployment schedules for airmen that equally address work-family conflict adequately is urgently needed (Murphy & Halpern, p. 30). Deployment refers to an official duty outside the home environment where air force soldiers are reassigned to a different unit under another leadership. In essence, the deployed airman is relocated officially to another unit during the time of deployment.

Such deployment has been carried out in Saudi Arabia in conjunction with Western super-powers to wartime zones like Iraq. Deployed Saudi airmen perform duties such patrolling of military aircrafts in territories considered no-go zones during war. Deployment is different from Temporary Duty where airmen are assigned short-term duties but remain under their original chain of command. The time spent away from home determines the extent to which work-family conflict is felt by the family left behind during both deployment and Temporary Duty (Castro, Adler & Britt, p. 34). Active duty strength is further determined by rate of deployment rates and availability of airmen. The concept of static pool of deployment is an important characteristic of the work-family conflict since deployment destinations are ever increasing for the limited number of qualified airmen qualified that can be deployed. The families of this static pool of airmen eligible for deployment are ever forced to endure absence of fathers, husbands and close relations at the call of duty.

The static pool of airmen is characteristically screened prior to deployment further decreasing the number of eligible officers available to fill the deployment fields abroad (Payne & Cooper, p. 33). Some airmen are not qualified for deployment since their credentials are limited to training and recruiting among other duties within their home stations. Scarcity of qualified airmen for deployment strains the nature of work assigned to the Air-force for such expeditionary exercises. The staggering effects of the resultant work-family conflict that accompanies such restricted and recurring deployments have direct adverse effects on the force and the family.

According to the definition of Aerospace Expeditionary Force, airmen in the service are trained to develop a unique culture and attitude characterized by availability to go and work anywhere. Air force needs are therefore emphasized at the expense of family responsibilities for the deployed airmen. Trained personnel for deployment exercises are further equipped with aircrafts of the highest quality. The Saudi Air force consists of two main deployment forces; one that specifically responds to national requirements while another is trained to respond to broad-spectrum operations anywhere in the universe (Lambert & Kossek, p. 40).

Deployment program follow a known procedure with features for “on call deployment, regular training and exercises, preparation for actual deployment and finally recovery from the deployment exercise”. Under this program, officers are privileged to have a “vulnerability window” which provides them with predictable timeframes through which they can be deployed or not. The program is basically a rotational schedule for deployment for different categories of airmen enabling the soldiers to predict the time to spend with family and when to expect deployment (Goldsmith, p. 36). The program also provides for one year of non-duty schedules which airmen can exploit to meet with family and friends.

Job satisfaction and retention

The organizational strategy for deployment scheduling promotes increased retention of airmen in the Air force. Job satisfaction is determined by the retention rates of the deployed airmen. Long durations of deployment reduce retention rates significantly due to the prolonged absence from home. The impact of work-family conflict is therefore magnified in this scenario resulting in extreme job dissatisfaction and massive drop outs from the service. The expeditionary experience of long serving airmen contemplating dropping out of the Air force is a major loss to entire unit (Murphy & Halpern, p. 33). This is because it takes too long to train sufficient airmen for deployment in serious missions. Policy restructuring is thus necessary of the EAP program for deployment. The program which is flexible and accommodates family concerns is likely to inspire airmen to work without stress. This is because deployment is harmoniously spread through the various units of the air force beyond the compulsory deployment occasioned by interests of national security and international pressure.

Military retention

Retention of the forces should be a major priority of the military commanders since deployment experience is quite exceptional unlike that which has been obtained from business organization. Sustainability of the service in deployment and related activities relies heavily on the retention rates of qualified and experienced airmen (Castro, Adler & Britt, p. 42). The main factors which lead to reduced retention rates and periodic dropping out of the airmen is the persistence of old-fashioned policies which do not recognize the work-family conflict that accompanies prolonged deployment. Periodic impromptu deployment is equally discouraging and frustrating to the families of the airmen. It is evident that the intention to leave or remain in the service is defined by the impact of deployment rates and activities on the family.

Career and job satisfaction among the different cadres of the air force is also determined by rank and grade in the service. Junior and middle-grade airmen belong to a rank that calls for serious career decisions. Senior officers are much more privileged in air force service than the junior and middle-grade airmen. These senior airmen are obviously retained in the service up to retirement while several other lower ranked officers are found to drop out of the service due to the challenges brought about by deployment (Payne & Cooper, p. 39). Some officers are undecided since they are ignorant or negligent about their career paths at a particular time. Organizational commitment to retention and deployment scheduling which factors family interests of airmen is crucial towards increased job satisfaction and career progression.

Turnover and retention of airmen in the service are mutually exclusive factors which all rely on job satisfaction parameters. Deployment is the single most important factor that determines both retention and turnover. Deployed servicemen are both expeditionary airmen and members of a family at the same time. Inter-role conflict develops from these competing responsibilities with an equilibrium shifting to either retention or turnover depending on family experiences and working conditions (Lambert & Kossek, p. 44).

Work-Family Conflict: Specific Antecedent

Work and family are mutually exclusive roles that employees should balance in life. Inter-role conflict is generated from the competing demands of the two on limited resources under the control of the worker. To this end, there is an inter-role conflict manifested through the competing roles of airmen being members of the Air Force and family, both of which demands for the same time. Work-family conflict is a negative impact of Air Force work on family life. On the other hand, Family-Work Conflict is a product of family demands overwhelming work. Apart from the nature of work itself, family determines work perceptions and attitudes as regards to the expeditionary air force in general (Goldsmith, p. 39).

Work behavior of individual airmen on deployment is determined by the number of dependants, marital status and period of separation from family. Family separation is not consistent with the traditional values of the society in Saudi Arabia. However, deployment of airmen is an isolated scenario. Deployment is often a separation from family for longer periods and distances. Communication through state-controlled networks is the only means available to airmen to exchange ideas and information with family members. Limited telephone conversation and electronic mail are the common communication tools available to deployed airmen.

Level of dependency

Different levels of dependency define the moderating factors for physical and psychological stress that accompanies deployment. Marital status and levels of dependency are inter-related. Single parents may not suffer the same degree of pain experienced by families made up of married couples with or without children as dependents. Married couples with children experience more adverse effects of the work-family conflict since the number of dependents is increased (Murphy & Halpern, p. 38).

Family model

Absolute separation of airmen in contradiction with traditional Muslim values in Saudi Arabia has got negative repercussions on both the Air Force and the family. The typical family model in Saudi Arabia is structured in such a way that the father is the head of the family and provides for the financial and wellbeing of that family. The female parent is bestowed motherhood which demands that she takes care of the entire household including all the children residing in her home. This is the accepted family definition in the Muslim society of Saudi Arabia. In atypical terms, there exist single parents and divorcees living with children and other dependants. The number of dependents is the lowest common denominator which determines family structure with respect to expeditionary air force scenario.


During deployment, the Air Force personnel are properly equipped for any task including flying with aircrafts, disarmament exercises and real combat in the battlefield. The Air Force therefore entrusts its airmen with skills and tools of trade for the tasks assigned to them. On the other hand, airmen expect Air Force management to reciprocate their trust to work in dangerous zones through commitment with flexible deployment schedules and programs (Castro, Adler & Britt 47). Organizational trust that deployed airmen shall be loyal to the Air Force when called upon to duty at scheduled times is mutually understood. This mutual trust enhances job satisfaction and family life for their shared benefits. Diminished trust from either party reduces the quality of their relationships.

The promise by senior manager and directors with respect to defined scheduled deployment is balanced against the airmen’s concerns on defined time frames for their families. The expeditionary Air force Deployment program is meant to restore order in the service away from the traditional random exercises lacking certainty. Predictability is improved in terms of when to expect deployment within the country or abroad and when to expect a return. The psychological contract created by the mutual trust between the management and the airmen serves to boost their working relations and reducing the work-family conflict rationally.

The new expeditionary deployment program is also subjected to periodic evaluation in order to determine its effectiveness. As such, airmen are individually asked to give feedback about the previous and the current programs with a view of making amendments which are appreciated across the board. An element of fairness is therefore established in a service where the hierarchies of command are highly esteemed (Payne & Cooper, p. 43). The officials in higher ranks interact with airmen in lower ranks for the purpose of improving their working relations. Decision making process becomes consultative and adopts an integrated approach with equal appreciation of each and every airman.

Promotions and performance appraisals of individual effort in deployment exercises and combat in battlefield are equally publicly recognized and rewarded. Meritocracy defines promotions from one rank to another taking into consideration the different levels of expeditionary experiences. This serves to enhance retention of experienced airmen while encouraging those in lower and middle-grade ranks to make wiser decisions as regards to their career ambitions. The quality of service provided, career prospects within the air force and improved quality of family are appropriately factored in the new expeditionary deployment program.

Works Cited

  1. Castro, Andrew C. Adler, Amy B. & Britt, Thomas W. Military life: the psychology of serving in peace and combat, Volume 3.New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006.
  2. Goldsmith, Elizabeth B. Work and family: theory, research, and applications. Michigan: Sage Publications, 2007.
  3. Lambert, Susan J. & Kossek, Ellen E. Work and life integration: organizational, cultural, and individual perspectives. London: Rout ledge, 2005.
  4. Murphy, Susan E. & Halpern, Diane F. From work-family balance to work-family interaction: changing the metaphor, Volume 2002. London: Rout ledge, 2005.
  5. Payne, Roy & Cooper, Cary L. Causes, coping, and consequences of stress at work Wiley series on studies in occupational stress. California: Wiley.

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