Company man or family man? Fatherhood and identity in the office

June 11, 2014

There is no "one size fits all" image of how men view their role as fathers within the context of the workplace. However, fatherhood is becoming a more serious and time consuming role for men to fulfill. Therefore employers must acknowledge that many fathers want to be more than just traditional "organization men" who dedicate their life to their work. These insights come from Beth Humberd of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, in the US, one of the authors of a study about how professional men experience fatherhood in the context of their workplace. The article appears in Springer's Journal of Business and Psychology.

Humberd and her colleagues conducted in-depth interviews with 31 fathers who all have working spouses. The team found that men juggle four primary images of themselves as fathers, depending on the norms and expectations of their work and home lives: provider, role model, partner and nurturer. These images reflect the more traditional expectations surrounding the "breadwinning" father, as well as more recent expectations of being an involved parent. These ideas are influenced by how men perceive their work demands, and the flexibility of their working hours. Also, these ideals reflect the way in which men interact and converse with their colleagues about , and how they view their childcare responsibilities relative to that of their spouse.

New mothers often use various tactics to resolve identity conflicts or tension between work and family life. In contrast, it appears that working fathers do not seem to grapple with identity tensions in the same way as working mothers do. The team posits that men do not spend as much time intellectually analyzing such potential tensions because they are not held to the same set of traditional parenting expectations as women. Although living at the nexus of these multiple images may help a man to adequately meet all expectations of fatherhood, it does not help with changing the image and conditions of the so-called "organization man" within the workplace.

"While work-life policies and programs can be designed to be gender neutral, often organizational cultures are not. There is still a strong cultural perspective that when men become fathers, little will change for them on the work front," the team writes. They also believe that organizations, managers, and co-workers still do not fully recognize and openly appreciate men's caregiving roles. "As take on more responsibility for care giving, norms may inhibit the development of a true involved sense of fathering for these ."

Explore further: Do US men value fatherhood over their careers?

More information: Humberd, B. (University of Massachusetts, Lowell), Ladge J.J. (Northeastern University), Harrington, B. (Boston College Center for Work & Family). (2014). The "New" Dad: Navigating Fathering Identity within Organizational Contexts. Journal of Business and Psychology DOI: 10.1007/s10869-014-9361-x

Related Stories

Do US men value fatherhood over their careers?

October 13, 2011

The classic figure of a distant, career-focused father who spends lots of time at the office and who has little time for his kids might be getting outdated, a new study shows.

Sports 1, housework, 0

July 12, 2012

Pressure to be more involved in their children's lives has many middle class men turning to sports as a way to nurture their kids. This softening of gender roles might be seen on the field, but researchers found it doesn't ...

Fathers work the hardest, but not as hard as they used to…

June 17, 2013

Men with a partner and children at home work longer hours than other men in full-time work, but the number of hours they work has been in decline over the last 10 years, according to new research published today by the University ...

Male identity evolves on TV dramas

April 8, 2014

Male characters on television used to hold onto traditional ideas of masculinity tighter than viewers maintained their grip on remote controls.

Recommended for you

Biologists trace how human innovation impacts tool evolution

November 24, 2015

Many animals exhibit learned behaviors, but humans are unique in their capacity to build on existing knowledge to make new innovations. Understanding the patterns of how new generations of tools emerged in prehistoric societies, ...

How experienced buyers can mitigate economic bubbles

November 19, 2015

(—Over the last decade, many people got a tough primer on the effects of economic bubbles, as the bursting of the 2007-2008 housing bubble sent shockwaves through most of the major world economies. But property ...

First Londoners were multi-ethnic mix: museum

November 23, 2015

A DNA analysis of four ancient Roman skeletons found in London shows the first inhabitants of the city were a multi-ethnic mix similar to contemporary Londoners, the Museum of London said on Monday.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.