How Companies Make It Tougher for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Employees to Achieve Work-Life Balance

Source: Katina Sawyer, Christian Thoroughgood, Harvard Business Review, August 23, 2018

…. Recently, we conducted a qualitative study in which we interviewed 53 lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) employees in the U.S. across various industries and job types. Specifically, we asked about their work-family experiences at their current organizations. Our study was motivated by the observation that, since its inception more than 30 years ago, research on work-family conflict in organizations has assumed that employees belong to a heterosexual family structure (one man and one woman). Our goal was to determine whether previous research on employees’ experiences of work-family conflict applied similarly to LGB employees and their families.

We found that, although LGB employees experience many of the same work-family conflicts that their heterosexual colleagues do — for example, work time interfering with family time, or feeling unable to separate from work at home — they experience a range of additional conflicts related to their stigmatized family identity. These include a sense of tension over whether to take advantage of family-related benefits for fear of revealing their same-sex relationship, feeling conflicted over whether to bring spouses to work events, and feeling uneasy about discussing with a supervisor the family-related challenges that impact their work life. ….