In this dissertation, I examine boundary work, the process through which individuals construct, negotiate, place, maintain, and change the boundaries delineating their work and non-work lives. The analysis of the data collected in a qualitative, inductive study of 70 attorneys at a large U.S. law firm reveals that boundary work is a fundamentally relational process. Relationships represent the immediate context within which attorneys conduct their boundary work. They facilitate boundary work, as a source of social support, and constrain attorneys’ options, as a source of relational expectations.
When attorneys face incompatible work and non-work demands, they are not only interested in resolving their work-nonwork conflict, but in preserving positive work relationships, as well. In pursuing these goals, attorneys want to be fair toward others and show them respect. Accordingly, they choose to oppose work demands or accept them, and to speak up or remain silent about their work-nonwork conflict. Four types of boundary work emerged from my research: negotiating, opposing work demands and speaking up; going along, accepting work demands and remaining silent; just doing it, opposing work demands and remaining silent; and informing, accepting work demands and speaking up. Each type offers a unique set of opportunities and challenges for setting desired boundaries and for preserving relationships. In addition, the nature of the relationships within which boundary work takes place seems to affect how each approach unfolds. Many attorneys recognize the critical role that relationships play in boundary work, and thus prepare for future boundary work by selecting supportive relationship partners and by developing relationships into reliable sources of social support.
This dissertation contributes to work-nonwork research by expanding its focus on addressing the challenges of competing work and non-work tasks, to include individuals’ desires to preserve relationships by meeting relational expectations, as well.
|School Location:||United States -- Massachusetts|
|Source:||DAI-A 69/10, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Management, Individual & family studies|
|Keywords:||Agency, Professionals, Work-family conflict, Work-life balance, voice|
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