Work Family Conflict: Xavier Hernandez, Ph.D.

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In this post, Xavier Hernandez, Ph.D.  shares his experiences with coaching people who are experiencing work family conflict. He specifically addresses some differences he has noticed in coaching Latino managers and executives, as well as some gender differences that have come up.

How do you coach someone who is experiencing work family conflict?

In coaching people often report that they “need” to or feel like they “have” to work so hard or so much for their family. Both also report that they “want” to spend more time with family. In coaching someone with work family conflict, the first thing the client and I explore is identifying the source of the imbalance in order to coach to that issue. We focus on where the client might be stuck or where there could be conflict and on whether and how this manifests in their life. It could show up at home, at work or both. A hurdle for people is the realization that we bring our whole self to work and home.

Have you noticed any gender differences in work family conflict?

I have found that it presents in different ways depending on gender. For some of the women I have coached, the conflict lies with their sense that, as a minority in the workplace, they have to work harder than men to be equally successful. For some men, the conflict arises when there is a health concern. These men frequently worry about the effects of stress on their health or about not being as active as they would like to be in order to stay healthy.

As you have coached Latino managers and executives, have you noticed differences in the levels and/or type of work family conflict experienced?

Yes, I have noticed differences. I have found that Latinos experience different levels of work family conflict for several reasons. Firstly, whereas U.S. culture is individualistic, Latino culture is very collectivistic and family focused. Latinos often feel that they have to ignore what they are culturally comfortable with and assimilate to the culture of the workplace in order to excel. Although Latinos often feel they are working hard in order to provide for their families, they generally do not bring up family concerns because they think they are not supposed to. Much like women, Latinos in the workplace feel they have to work harder than those from the majority culture in order to be equally successful, and they frequently feel a big disconnect between where they are in the organization and where they aspire to be.

I coached a Latina executive struggled with work family conflict. She was being pulled at home to spend more time there due to her young child and ill family member. Although she was successful at her job and time away or a modified schedule would have been permitted, she feared that making such a change would put her in an unfavorable light with senior management. She also feared that it would impact her competitive edge. For a while she tried to give 100% in both domains but the stress began to takes its toll and she could no longer manage. As a result we focused on self-awareness about her limits and worked to reframe her dilemma. In order to be effective to anyone (at work or at home) she would have to begin taking better care of herself. This realization gave her the permission in her mind to do a better job balancing these competing priorities.

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