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LITERATURE REVIEW

LITERATURE REVIEW

Work-life balance has always been a concern for quality of working life and its
relation to quality of life. Individuals experiencing interference between work and
personal lives are also significantly more likely to suffer from reduced
psychological well-being and physical health. (Grant-Vallone & Ensher, 1998).
Work-life Balance
Work/life balance, in its broadest sense, is defined as a satisfactory level of
involvement or fit between the multiple roles in a persons life (Clarke, Koch &
Hill, 2004). Work/life imbalance is when the pressures from one role make it
difficult to comply with the demands of the other. (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985).
Employees who experience increased stress due to work/life conflict and decreased
perceptions of control over their work and non-work demands are less productive,
less committed to, and satisfied with, their organization and more likely to be
absent or leave the organization. (Grant-Vallone & Ensher, 1998). The nature of
work, such as its routinization, supervision, and complexity, has been linked
casually to an individual's sense of control and depression (Kohn & Schooler,
1982) Individuals experiencing interference between work and personal lives are
also significantly more likely to suffer from reduced psychological well-being and
physical health. (Boles & Babin, 1996; Boles,Howard&Donofrio,2001).Perceived
balance between work and social roles usually is leading to life satisfaction. Workfamily balance was found to predict well-being and the overall quality of life
(Fisher,2002; Greenhaus, Collins & Shaw, 2003) . On the other hand, failure to
achieve balance was associated with reduced job and life satisfaction (Allen, Herst,
Bruck, & Sutton, 2000), decreased well-being and quality of life (Grant Vallone &
Donaldson, 2001; Noor, 2004) as well as increased stress (Burke, 1988) and
impaired mental health ((Beatty, 1996; Grzywacz & Bass, 2003).

The term work-life balance gives rise to certain intricacies and ambiguities. First of
all work-life balance can be considered as a highly subjective concept. There is no
one size fits all approach regarding the best work-life balance, as each individual
innates a different opinion what represents the best work-life balance for him or
her. Greenblatt (2002, p. 179) describes work-life balance as the absence of
unacceptable levels of conflict between work and non-work demands indicating
that when demands from the work and non-work domains are opposing, conflict
may occur. This definition highlights yet another equivocality. Whereas the
meaning of work may be somewhat narrowed down to an activity involving 37
mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result (Oxford dictionaries,
2012) e.g. to earn a living, the term non-work demands in Greenblatts definition is
quite broad and can mean anything except work. Due to these deficiencies, some
authors are in favour of using for example the term work-family life balance,
work-home life balance or negative job-to-home spillover to narrow down the term
life (e.g. Galinsky, Bond & Friedman, 1993; Guest, 2002; Hill et al., 2001;
Maume & Houston, 2001). For the sake of this research, I adopt the definition of
Clark (2000, p. 751) who sees work-life balance as satisfaction and good
functioning at work and home with a minimum of role conflict.

The notion of work-life balance has gained high importance during recent years. In
this context, developments and changes at the work place such as advances in the
information technology and information overloads that require quick responses and
changes at a fast pace put increasing pressures on employees (Guest, 2002). Next
to this, also developments and changes in life outside work can be seen as source
of a work-life imbalance. In particular, transformations in the socio-economic
environment and changes in technology opening possibilities regarding where and
when work is carried out cause an imbalance between work and home
responsibilities. Moreover, the shift away from the image of the traditional
family towards an increasing appearance of single parent families and the greater
participation of women in the labour force represent factors requesting a greater
work-life balance among employees (Guest, 2002).
Work life balance has emerged as a major theme during the last two decades,
which witnessed a substantial intensification of work caused by economic
uncertainty, organisational restructuring, and increase in business competition
(Green, 2001; Millward et al., 2000). To respond to the new conditions,
organisations demand higher performance and commitment from their employees,
which is translated into expectations for working longer and for prioritising work
over personal life (Perrons, 2003, pp. 68-72; Simpson, 2000; White et al., 2003).
Indeed, recent survey data suggests that the pressure on employees to work longer
hours under inflexible work schedules is ever increasing. The literature suggests
that lack of balance between work and non-work activities is related to reduced
psychological and physical well-being (Sparks et al., 1997; Frone et al., 1997;
Thomas and Ganster, 1995; Martens et al., 1999; Felstead et al., 2002). For
example, recent empirical research in the United Kingdom (Hyman et al., 2003)
indicated that intrusion of work demands into personal life (e.g. working during the
week-end) was related with reports of heightened stress and 38

emotional exhaustion for employees. Furthermore, employees perceived that


intrusion of work obligations into their personal lives negatively affected their
health (Hyman et al., 2003). However, there are still important issues that ought to
be addressed within the subject of work-life balance. Work-life balance has been
rather narrowly conceived and considered; as it has been predominantly viewed to
pertain to individuals, especially women, who are in corporate employment and
have family obligations (Parasuraman and Simmers, 2001; Hardy and Adnett,
2002; Felstead et al., 2002, p. 57). Because of this narrowness in the consideration
of work-life balance, pertinent organisational actions are mostly oriented towards
the implementation of family-friendly policies (Felstead et al., 2002; Wise and
Bond, 2003).

Empowerment
Prior to 1990 the concept of empowerment was only accessible via research papers
including individual development, total quality control or participative
management as a topic (Sullivan, 1994). However, ever since the 1990s, articles
featuring employee empowerment have arisen. Reasons for this increase in
academic articles can be credited to its positive influence on work outcomes
(Spreitzer, 2008). Empirical research found evidence that empowerment predicts
job satisfaction, high levels of organizational commitment and productivity (e.g.
Bordin, Bartram & Casimir, 2007; Hakanen et al., 2006; Jun, Shaohan & Hojung,
2006; Koberg et al.,1999; Laschinger et al., 2001; Salavona et al., 2005). Even
though empowerment has been identified with organizational bottom line
outcomes, Honold (1997) identifies in her empowerment review that the former
construct can be considered as highly subjective. She argues that in order for
empowerment to bear fruits for an organization it must to be placed into the
context of each organizations individual culture and specific needs.
Types of Empowerment
Within the last twenty year of organizational research, two types of empowerment
emerged, namely structural and psychological empowerment (Spreitzer, 2008).
Whereas structural empowerment refers to a set of practices that provide
employees with access to information, support, resources and give them the
opportunity to learn in the work environment (Kanter, 1993), psychological
empowerment has a different underlying assumption. 39

Psychological empowerment places an individuals psychological states into focus,


which are important for employees to experience control over their work
(Spreitzer, 2008). Thomas and Velthouse (1990) saw empowerment as an internal
process linked to intrinsic task motivation, which can be defined as a broader
concept within a set of four cognitive variables reflecting an employees
orientation to his or her work role. These four variables are meaning, competence,
self-determination and impact. By meaning the authors refer to how an employees
own values, standards or ideals oppose towards a value of a work goal or purpose
at the working environment. The second construct, competence, represents an
individuals belief in his or her capability to execute work activities with skill,
comparable to self-esteem or self-efficacy. Self-determination relates to an
individuals sense of autonomy, as having the choice of initiating and performing a
task and includes individuals sense of control regarding how to carry out own
work. The last dimension impact hinges at the feeling of employees as having
influence over work outcomes and the degree to which employees can make a
difference. The four dimensions ofpsychological empowerment have emerged as a
popular way to measure psychological empowerment and the validity of the
dimensions has been demonstrated by scholarly research, of who Spreitzer (1995)
represents the pioneer. This thesis adopts the definition of psychological
empowerment given by Thomas and Velthouse (1990).
Empowerment has been defined by different authors throughout the years and
some authors had similar views on what empowerment is, although other explains
it a bit differently. There are three types of empowerment namely structural,
motivational and leadership approach. This research would be assessing emotional
empowerment (psychological empowerment) since even when empowerment is
done through a structural or leadership approach employees might still not
experience empowerment.

Conger and Kanungo (1988) defined empowerment as a process of enhancing the


feelings of self-efficacy among organisational members, which would also include
that the employees perceive themselves to be empowered. It was also stated that
when looking at empowerment it doesnt make employees limited by the
bureaucratic paradigm of strict controls combined with contingent rewards and
punishment that employees have to adhere to but rather more relaxed controls and
an internalised commitment to the task. At this time to empower employees
stemmed from what management can do to empower employees through their
actions within the organisations. The focus was more on what management can do
to push 40 employees to perform better and what they can do if employees didnt
comply (Block cited in Thomas & Velthouse, 1990).
Thomas and Velthouse (1990) defined psychological empowerment as four
cognitions reflecting an employees orientations towards his/her job namely impact
(the ability employees have to affect organisational outcomes); competence (an
employees capability to perform the work); meaningfulness (the value of the
work) and choice (how and deciding on the time to execute tasks). Spreitzer (1995)
somewhat changed what Thomas and Velthouse (1990) found by defining
psychological empowerment as manifested in four cognitions reflecting an
employees active orientations to his/her work that included meaning (the value of
the work in relation to expectations); competence (the ability to skilfully execute
tasks); self-determination (deciding on the method, pace and effort when
completing tasks) and impact (ability to influence outcomes at work).
Together, these four cognitions reflect an active, rather than a passive, orientation
to a work role (an orientation in which an individual wishes and feels able to shape
his or her work role and context). These four dimensions collectively make up the
overall construct of psychological empowerment. The lack of any of these

dimensions will reduce, though not completely eliminate, the overall degree of felt
empowerment (Spreitzer, 1995).
Meaning is the value of a task goal or purpose, judged in relation to an
individuals own ideal standards (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990). Meaning
works like a driving force of empowerment; if employees dont like working
at a specific place, if the job they are doing are clashing with their value
system, they would not feel that much empowered.
Brief and Nord; Hackman and Oldham cited in Spreitzer (1995, p. 1443) defined
meaning as a fit between the requirements of a work role and beliefs, values, and
behaviours.

Competence can be defined as the feeling of accomplishment after


skilfully completing a task that has been undertaken. When feeling
competent about the task that has been performed employees would also be
more open to confront difficulties instead of refraining from attempting to
engage in the activities. When feeling competent employees are more likely
to also experience job satisfaction. This is also related to feelings of selfefficacy and this would also influence how tasks are going to be approached
in the future (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990).

Self-determination is another key component of intrinsic motivation that


is a key determinant of satisfaction. Competence and self determination is
also key component and an essential ingredient for intrinsic motivation
(Thomas & Velthouse, 1990). Self-determination relates to the opportunity
to select task activities that make sense to perform in ways that seem
appropriate and also the sense of freedom about how to do their own work
(Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997; Mishra & Spreitzer, 1998).
Impact is the degree to which an individual can influence strategic,
administrative and operating outcomes of work. It can also be defined as the
degree to which behaviour can influence the overall outcome of the task.
Quinn and Spreitzer (1997) explained that empowered employees would
also feel that they have an impact on the task (are able to influence the
outcome of these tasks) would also be more engaged in the tasks that they
do. These are the type of employees that would be expected to make the aim
and objectives a reality and not remain on paper.

Psychological Empowerment and Work-Life Balance


This area lacks solid research represents the investigation of the possible influence
of psychological empowerment on work-life balance. As to my knowledge, only
one author specifically investigated this relationship. Akda (2012) did a small scale
study (N=72) to test whether psychological empowerment is related to work-life
balance and in how far the two constructs influence physical and mental well-being
of the workforce. Results from the multivariate regression analysis reveal that
psychological empowerment and work-life balance showed a significant
relationship. With the aid of Hackman and Oldhams job characteristic model
(1976), this influence can be explained. Kraimer et al. (1999) confirmed in their
study the discriminant and convergent validity of the four dimensional
empowerment construct and also found that the three constructs of Hackman and
Oldhams job characteristic model (1976) are related to the four dimensions of
psychological empowerment. Particularly, the construct of job meaningfulness was
positively associated with empowerment meaning; task feedback was positively
related to competence and impact and job autonomy showed a positive relation to
empowerment self-determination. As previously mentioned, empowerment
competence is related to self-efficacy, which should increase when receiving task
feedback (Gist, 1987, Gist & Mitchell, 1992). Next to 42
improving competence levels, task feedback is also argued to positively relate to
impact. Hackman and Oldham (1976) argue that task feedback has a positive
relation with knowledge of the actual outcomes of certain activities and without
such knowledge individuals would not be able to have an impact in the
organization. Hence, the three constructs of the job characteristic model play a
crucial role in psychological empowerment.