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Communicating organizational tension: Balancing work and family

Erika Lee Kirby, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In this project, I address aspects of communication surrounding issues of work and family. Specifically, I examine how work-family ideologies, boundaries, conflicts, and benefit programs are constructed on an ongoing basis through discursive communication. In Chapter 1, I describe changes in the workforce and corporate America motivating the current emphasis on work-family issues. I then outline a theoretical and practical rationale for examining tensions between work and family. ^ In Chapter 2, I review relevant literature and pose the research questions. I first summarize existing research on work-family issues at the intraindividual, interpersonal organizational and macrosocietal levels. I then illustrate how a communication-centered perspective extends beyond this research to offer a process perspective as to how issues of work and family are discursively constructed. I advocate using a structurational perspective to examine this process, and pose research questions to explore several areas of inquiry within work and family, including boundaries, conflicts, ideologies, and policies. In Chapter 3, I ground this dissertation as an interpretive-critical discourse analysis. I describe the organizational context and participants, as well as procedures for data collection (focus groups, individual interviews, and document analysis) and data analysis. ^ In Chapter 4, I discuss the themes that emerged from the data around the three original areas of inquiry. The primary themes related to negotiating meanings of “work” and “family” included messages in the organizational culture about work, family and gendered expectations. Three themes emerged that informed negotiating meanings of work-family boundaries and conflicts, including communication about family at work, experiencing work-family conflict, and communicating about internal conflicts. Finally, two primary themes addressed the negotiating the meaning of work-family programs, including perceptions of program availability and perceptions of program usability. Finally, in Chapter 5 1 revisit the original research questions and discuss the implications of the results for both work-family research and structuration theory. I then pose directions for future communication research on work and family. Finally, I cite the strengths and limitations of this dissertation and offer concluding observations. ^

Subject Area

Speech Communication|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Kirby, Erika Lee, "Communicating organizational tension: Balancing work and family" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9967382.