Diversity Management

Work-Family Conflict May Be Affecting Your Latino Workers

While the premise of what is termed “work-family conflict” is simple – demands from, and responsibilities to, work and family interfere with each other –  the way different populations are affected is more complicated.

Work-family conflict explained

There are three major types of work-family conflict:
  • Time-based conflict – missing a family event due to work responsibility
  • Strain-based conflict – mistreating family after a stressful day at work
  • Behavior-based conflict – treating family members like subordinates at work
The demands naturally associated with both work and family life consume a person’s limited resources, leaving individuals with too little time or energy to attend to activities with family.

How work-family conflict affects people

There are a number of serious health-related consequences associated with the stress related to work-family conflict: depression, anxiety, somatic symptoms, obesity, high blood pressure, etc. Having to attend to these health-related issues can then cause even greater conflict, due to the increase in demands and time away from both work and family.

The missing link

While there is a wealth of knowledge on work-family conflict, a missing link remains on how different populations are affected. The majority of research studying work-family conflict has focused on white, educated, working professionals – and until recently there has been a lack of research focusing on any other ethnic or socioeconomic group. The different cultural and social circumstances surrounding populations may be instrumental in the way they are affected by work-family conflicts.

How the Latino population differs

There are some specific ways in which the work-family conflict differs for the Latino population.
  • Cultural orientation
The Latino culture tends to have a more collectivist (group/family) focus, where hard work is seen as a way to secure the well-being of the family (immediate and extended), not just the individual. Immigrants from Latin countries have tended to come to the United States to attain greater financial wealth for their families. Because of the cultural emphasis on and expectation of working hard, many traditional episodes of work-family conflict may not be viewed as stressful by Latino workers. In essence, Latino families tend to accept the fact that the job comes first for the family.
  • Gender expectations
The expectations of women in Latino populations tend to remain traditional: their primary responsibilities are child-rearing and household maintenance. The virtual necessity of two-income households can cause greater amounts of work-family conflict for females in Latino cultures, resulting in more harmful physical and mental effects for women.
  • Job type
The nature of jobs filled primarily by immigrants tends to be non-professional, low-paying, manual labor positions. Work of this type tends to require long hours and multiple shifts – meaning many people are working both nights and weekends. This increased time spent at work can lead to greater time- and strain-based work-family conflicts for Latinos. Additionally, the high physical demands of many of the jobs filled by Latino immigrants can be exhausting, resulting in free time being spent resting rather than with family. These effects tend to be felt more strongly for Latino women than men, because of the heavy cultural emphasis on women as family caretakers.

Implications for practice

Understanding how different populations may view and be affected by work-family conflicts can assist organizations in creating and promoting policies aimed at mitigating or decreasing the negative effects of work-family conflict. Organizations employing Latino, and particularly immigrant, populations may want to consider how instituting family-friendly policies, such as flex-time or on-site childcare could help mitigate the stress experienced by staff.

Interpretation by:

Kathleen Melcher

DeGarmo Group

This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Grzywacz, J.G., Arcury, T.A., Marin, A., Carrillo, L. Burke, B., Coates, M.L., & Quandt, S.A. (2007). Work-Family Conflict: Experiences and Health Implications Among Immigrant Latinos. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(4), 1119-1130.