Your Boss Doesn't Really Want You To Have A Life

work have a lifeMaybe you really are just another brick in the wall, after all.

Corporate speak might emphasize the importance of maintaining work/life balance, but according to a new study from the WorldatWork Association, it may all just be lip service. It turns out employers still want their workers to be willing to sacrifice for the office.

The WorldatWork study, culled from 2,300 employees and managers from six countries, uncovered an inherent contradiction regarding work/life balance. Even though 80 percent of the polled employers claim to be in favor of allowing employees to set aside time for outside obligations including those related to family, a full 40 percent believe that the most productive employees are those without substantial personal commitments.

"We set out to study men and work-life integration, but instead uncovered workplace trends showing employees suffer a variety of job repercussions for participating in work-life programs, even when their leaders insist they support the business value," said Kathie Lingle, executive director of WorldatWork's Alliance for Work-Life Progress, in a WorldatWork press release. "This conundrum can be so oppressive that some employees go underground, resorting to 'stealth maneuvers' for managing their personal responsibilities."

But the demands for total commitment are perhaps not so underground after all, but rather dovetail with worker expectation. As much as your employer might say that he emphasizes the balance, we all secretly suspect what he really wants. And so a chill sets in on actually taking advantage of work-life programs. Indeed, the survey found that 62 percent of employees in developing countries, and 34 percent in developed, said that they were overtly or subtly discouraged from using such policies. (The developed countries were the U.S., the U.K. and Germany. The developing countries were Brazil, China and India.) Among the perceived consequences were unfavorable job assignments, negative performance reviews, negative comments from a supervisor and the denial of a promotion.

As a blog from TheWall Street Journal notes, the results from the WorldatWork study match up with a similar study conducted last year by the Bain & Co. consulting firm. That study featured interviews with 3,300 employees. Fewer than one-third of male and half of female respondents said that they've used such flex programs allowing for reduced hours and other schedule alterations. Their rationale? Concern over loss of respect from both supervisors and peers.

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