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Unformatted text preview: 273 Work Life Balance: What DO You Mean? The Ethical Ideology Underpinning Appropriate Application Natalie Reiter Roy Morgan Research This article categorizes definitions of work life balance (WLB) according to a frame- work of ethical ideologies. By understanding what perspective the definition of WLB is framed within, practitioners and academics will be better able to assess the suitabil- ity of that definition for a particular application. Although many current definitions are absolutist in nature, dictating a “right” balance that all should aspire to, the author argues that definitions reflecting a situationalist perspective are most valuable to acad- emics and practitioners. Definitions from a situationalist perspective offer an opportu- nity to explore what factors contribute to attainment of WLB for particular groups of people. Once there are broadly agreed definitions of WLB for groups of people, rele- vant measures of WLB and WLB initiatives that respond to these definitions can be developed. This will provide a baseline for the comparative analysis of WLB programs. Implications for organization development interventions and change management prac- tice are explored. Keywords: work life balance; definitions; measures This article was inspired by Mackayla, Bryleigh, Dimity, and Estelle. I am grateful to Ian Harris, Kerry Grigg, Anne Bardoel, and Ross Donohue for their support as well as the anonymous reviewers who added so much depth through their insightful suggestions. Natalie Reiter is a researcher with Roy Morgan Research in Melbourne, Australia. THE JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE, Vol. 43 No. 2, June 2007 273-294 DOI: 10.1177/0021886306295639 © 2007 NTL Institute DISSENT REGARDING WHAT WORK LIFE BALANCE MEANS Although the literature is replete with discussion on work life balance (WLB), the definitions of WLB are many and varied. Sharp (as cited in Forsyth, 1980), an early psychologist, felt that his research was hindered by lack of agreement among his par- ticipants regarding what was moral and what was not. So too the work life balance field is hindered by lack of agreement over the term balance and the moral implica- tions of the definition. Each WLB definition has a value perspective that determines what factors will be seen as relevant to achieving balance, and definitions can be cat- egorized according to these value perspectives using Forsyth’s (1980) taxonomy of ethical ideologies. Understanding the value perspective is crucial to appropriate appli- cation of definitions. Almost every article on WLB has a different definition of what WLB actually “is.” Kirchmeyer (2000), a prolific and much cited author in the field of WLB, con- firmed the contention of the current article that “Those who write about work-life initiatives do not identify routinely what they mean by this term and rarely is a mean- ing sought” (p. 81), whereas Lewis, Rapoport, and Gambles (2003) noted that “The term ‘work life balance’ remains problematic” (p. 829)term ‘work life balance’ remains problematic” (p....
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This note was uploaded on 06/09/2009 for the course MANAGEMENT 2025MGT taught by Professor Davidponton during the One '08 term at Griffith.
- One '08