Leadership in the Age of Work-Family Conflict

It’s summertime.

When I was growing up that meant playing outside all day while my “stay-at-home” mom kept an eye on me, my siblings, and the rest of the neighborhood kids as we played on our “Jungle Gym” in our backyard. 

When my dad got home at 6:00, dinner would be mostly prepared except for what was to be cooked on the grill, and the evening would be spent as a family eating, playing “Ghost in the Graveyard,” and spending time with all the other moms, dads, and kids in the neighborhood who were all outside doing the very same thing.

Does this describe your life today?  If so, count yourself exceptionally lucky as study after study shows that Americans today are experiencing work-family conflict rather than the work-life balance of my childhood memories. 

The article, “The Three Faces of Work-Family Conflict” states that, “Fully 90 percent of American mothers and 95 percent of American fathers report work-family conflict.”

We all know the causes but the above -referenced study does a nice job of laying some of them out…

  • The American work model was created in the 60’s when the overwhelming majority of children lived with married parents, and their moms stayed at home
  • Now the reality has flipped, with about as many children living in dual-income households as used to live with a stay-at-home mom
  • Americans are working longer hours than ever before
  • With the population ageing, more working Americans are taking care of their parents
  • Additionally, thanks to the advancement of technology, some may perceive their workforce as “always available…”
  • And the list goes on…

Today’s Reality

The reality is “traditional life” has changed for so many of us.  Our current recession has added fuel to the fire by increasing job uncertainty, and some are taking on additional jobs to balance the risk.

Many of the CEOs I talk with are grappling with tremendous uncertainty when it comes to their employee healthcare benefits because of Obama Care, and entrepreneurs and small business owners are struggling to enjoy a little bit of summer as they make themselves available for every possible business opportunity that arises.

How do you lead in an era of work-family conflict?  Will we forever more harken back to the “good ‘ol days” of work-life balance, or can we as leaders create a sea change that truly does empower and ignite “balance” in the lives of the American worker?

These are the questions we’ll tackle over the next few weeks at #LeadershipChat!  Yes, my Co-Host Steve Woodruff (the “Connection Agent”) and I know we’re taking on quite a challenging topic…but if not at #LeadershipChat, then where?

-> This week we’ll take on the macro-issues: What can we do as leaders to influence these larger issues in America today? 

->Next week we’ll move to the micro-level and ask what leaders can do for their employees to bring about true balance while also preserving the required focus on creation of profits that keep businesses growing, fueling our economy.

To get your brains warmed up, our friend and Work-Life Nation aficionado Judy Martin has written, “Leadership on the Edge of the Work-Life Balance Battle,” a stellar summary of the current state of the “Work-Life Balance Battle,” with links to excellent articles that will give you a broad perspective on the issues.

You might find the article on The New Male Mystique particularly interesting!

What are some leadership solutions you believe in to empower a move from work-family conflict to work-life balance?

Please share in the comments and join us tomorrow evening, August 2nd, at 8:00 pm Eastern Time for #LeadershipChat on Twitter! 

Also – we’re going to try something new this week and “chat” on Google Plus at the same time we’re on Twitter!

At 8:00 pm ET, 8:15 pm ET, 8:30 pm ET and 8:45 pm ET both Steve Woodruff and I will ask the same question on Google Plus that we’ll be asking on Twitter.  This way, if you have a Google Plus account, but not a Twitter account, you can still participate. 

You can find me on Google Plus at www.gplus.to/lisapetrilli and Steve is www.gplus.to/connectionagent – Find us, Circle Us, and watch for our posts at those 4 times tomorrow night!

We look forward to a fantastic discussion on both Twitter and Google Plus!


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Photo is POV Summertime by Mateeee.


  1. Lisa,

    This is, indeed, a great topic. We tend to look at the past through rose-colored glasses. Something built into the human pysche, I think. I was one of those who had a stay-at-home-mom while dad worked. But it was in no way work-life balance. My “blissful” existence was built on top of the sacrifice of my father, compelled to live up to the “bread winner” model that was prevalent at time. He commuted 3 hours round trip to work every day for 30 years until he retired; bitter, worn out and depressed.

    So when you say “Age of Work-Family Conflict” I have to say this is nothing new. It has always been a conflict.

    Alan Berkson

    • Alan,

      I can certainly understand your perspective. It made me also think of the early days of our country when even our Founders would be away from their families for months or even years at a time.

      Your personal story is one that resonates with me because of the “New Male Mystique” article. In your case, I think that’s what your dad was suffering from – and thus it’s not really “new.” Perhaps it’s considered new because men are now starting to “push back” a bit.

      Take a look at the article if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet – there’s a link in my post (it came to me via Judy’s post).
      I very much hope you’ll join us for the discussion tomorrow night! All the very best…

  2. Lisa….

    Wow what an important topic…. it will be very interesting indeed.

    I’m afraid I can’t read that American Progress article without a bit of skepticism. The conclusions drawn from that are (IMHO) far too broad based on their data.

    Just as an example (and simplified) they say basically that thirty years ago 20% of women worked and now 70% of families are dual income. Therefore, their conclusions are that this is not ideal and we’re worse off. I think there’s just far too much complexity in ALL that data for us to make such broad conclusions.

    The enlarging gap between low income and high income families notwithstanding (and I’m not disputing that) there are also enormous positive trends that have come out of “working more” (quotes intentional). This includes an increased ability to work from home, and the lowering of technology barriers to starting new businesses that are based out of the home. Just as an example:

    – There are now more than 18 million home-based businesses and they generate $427 billion a year in revenue

    – 52 percent of small businesses are home-based.

    I wonder how those statistics are integrated into looking at work/life balance….

    There’s a WONDERFUL Ted talk given by Tim Harford on statistics and the God Complex….


    What a great topic… Looking forward to tomorrow evening…


    • Robert,

      What a great angle you’ve taken in considering the benefits of recent developments! Such great points. And the TED talk was fantastic… Not a path I would have ever thought to go down and it’s a brilliant complement to the discussion and the prep process of thinking through the enormity of the statistics, challenges and opportunities.

      Thank you so much for the gift of all of it! I look forward to really getting into this tomorrow night.

  3. Lisa –

    Gr8 Topic and as you point out, so appropriate for today’s working parents. I will say that “Work-Life” Balance takes TWO To Tango! Meaning, while corporations are putting more and more demands on us to do more work, and there are some people (present company included) that take on the corporate challenge with every ounce of their mind, body, and time!

    Inorder to get that raise, get that promotion, climb the corporate ladder, whatever the reason…some people tilt the Work – Life scale more towards the WORK direction.

    I do believe that Work – Life balance is a choice, and leaders can assist people to make a choice that meets their priorities without having to give up on their personal life.

    Time is our most valuable asset – one must continue to use it wisely – it helps to prioritize your work at the office and at home.

    There are so many ways to get caught up in the Work Treadmill…

    Thanks Lisa – Gr8 topic – Looking forward to the discussion on Tuesday @ LeadershipChat


    • Steve,

      I absolutely agree with you – much of the way we perceive it as either conflict or balance has to do with our own personal choices. I’m glad you’re excited about the topic and I look forward to seeing you as well!

  4. I think part of the challenge is to take 100% personal responsibility for the work life conflict rather than dissolve it to employers or by letting the business drive you if you are self employed. I think it is time to stop chasing work life balance as the ideal concept and to start getting creative and designing what we really want instead then collaborting with the relevant parties to turn that into reality.

    All great change and movements come from the ground up which is why each individual standing up and challenging convention is so vital in the times we live in.

    • Ali,

      Beautiful point about starting from the ground up. And you’re right – deciding what we really want is absolutely the first step – and ironically, often forgotten! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Thirupal Neeraganti says:

    Dear Lisa,

    Its very nice topic. I would to suggest to few words to balance Work -Family Conflict.
    Its very simple to apply Lean Six Sigma Procedures like D_M_A_I_C approches.
    D for Define, your Problem
    M for Measure, your problem how it will impact on your work and family life
    A for Analyze, for analyze all Root Causes (RCA) and implement better solutions with in the time lines
    I for Improve, once you have implemented your best practices then you should monitor and improve your solutions
    C for Control, once you are in improvement ladder then sustain the better results and Control and consistantly achieve your goals
    then enjoy Work-Family Life, How ever every day is challenging for us so we should learn , observe, analyze and implement best practices in our day to day life……

    Thirupal Neeraganti
    Cell: +91 998.519.6267
    email: [email protected]


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