Who's Ideal Is It Anyway? Men and Women Professionals' Response to the Ideal Worker Norm 公开

Armstrong, Julie Lynn (2011)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/rr171z14n?locale=zh


As a cultural strategy of control, the ideal worker norm is acknowledged to be an effective means of directing and eliciting the work efforts of professionals. Much as the organization of work is gendered, the ideal worker norm is also widely regarded to be a masculine norm. In this study, I examine both men and women professionals' subjective experience of the ideal worker norm. Through in-depth interviews with urban professionals' working in high-status occupations, I investigate their perceptions of the ideal worker norm as manifested in their workplaces, demonstrating professionals' awareness of a pervasive ideal worker norm which spans across a variety of work organizations. According to respondents, the ideal worker norm defines the meaning of worker success and dictates various demands and expectations, which, when fulfilled, communicate professionals' commitment to succeed. The intensity of such demands and expectations often leads to conflict between professionals' work and non-work spheres of life. As such, I examine professionals' response to the ideal worker norm. My findings show that professionals' response takes two forms: a practical response and an attitudinal response. Specifically, professionals' choose to actively conform to the ideal worker norm, fulfilling its demands and expectations, while simultaneously maintaining an attitude of ambivalence towards it. Moreover, my findings demonstrate that men and women professionals both choose to conform to the ideal worker norm and maintain an attitude of ambivalence towards it. However, I also find that distinct gender differences emerge within this attitude of ambivalence. These gendered patterns reveal the ways in which cultural expectations for the gendered division of paid work and unpaid domestic work shape the experiences of men and women professionals working in demanding careers.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

I. Introduction...1

II. Theoretical Background and Empirical Literature...2

II.A Workplace Culture...2

II.A.i Strategies of Direct Control...3

II.A.ii Bureaucratic Control in Knowledge Organizations...4

II.A.iii Eliciting Workers' Efforts: Workplace Cultural Norms...6

II.B Professionals and Work/Life Conflict...11

II.B.i Professionals' Intense Work Efforts...12

II.C Research Questions 1 and 2...16 II.D Gender and Work...16 II.E Research Question 3...24

II.F Theoretical Background and Empirical Literature: Summary...24

III. Methods...26

III.A Research Design...26 III.B Sampling...27 III.C Recruitment...30 III.D Interviews...30 III.E Data Analysis...32

IV. Results...33

IV.A Research Question 1: Professionals' Perception of the Ideal Worker Norm...33

IV.A.i Definition of Worker Success: High-Performer Qualities...34

IV.A.i.i Dedication and Commitment...34

IV.A.i.ii Dedication and Commitment via Taking Initiative...35

IV.A.i.iii Business Development Skills...36

IV.A.i.iv Soft Skills and Networking...37

IV.A.i.v Technical Competence...39

IV.A.i.vi Summary...39

IV.A.ii Definition of Worker Success: The Ideal Career Path...40

IV.A.iii Demands and Expectations...43

IV.A.iii.i Hours Worked...43

IV.A.iii.ii Face Time...47

IV.A.iii.iii Professionals' Responsiveness and Availability...49

IV.A.iii.iv Unpredictability...52

IV.A.iv Consequences for Not (Seemingly) Pursuing Success...54

IV.B Research Question 2: Responding to the Ideal Worker Norm...58

IV.B.i Challenges Between Work and Non-Work Spheres of Life...59

IV.B.ii. Professionals' Response: Conforming to the Ideal Worker Norm in Practice...63

IV.B.ii.i Career Choice, Work Hours and the Working Reality of Professionals...65

IV.B.ii.ii Day-to-Day Choices...67

IV.B.ii.iii Pursuing the Ideal Career Path...69

IV.B.ii.iv Work Takes Priority...70

IV.B.ii.v Limiting Demands...71

IV.B.ii.vi Summary...73

IV.B.iii Responding to the Ideal Worker Norm: Maintaining an Attitude of Ambivalence...74

IV.B.iii.i Expressing Misgivings...74

IV.B.iii.ii Critical Assessments...75

IV.B.iii.iii Uncertainty Regarding the Ideal Career Path...78

IV.B.iii.iv Declarations of Autonomy...81

IV.B.iii.v Summary...86

IV.B.iv Why Do Professionals Accept the Ideal Worker Norm?...86

IV.C Research Question 3: Gender Differences in the Response to the Ideal Worker Norm...89

IV.C.i Conforming to the Ideal Worker Norm and Maintaining an Attitude of Ambivalence: Gendered Differences...90 IV.C.ii Greater Internal Conflict and Emotional Consequences...91 IV.C.ii.i Summary...101

IV.C.iii Transferring Responsibility to Oneself...101

IV.C.iii.i Drawing Boundaries...101

IV.C.iii.ii Pressure and Expectations Are Self-Imposed...106

IV.C.iii.iii Summary...109

IV.C.iv Justifying the Choice to Conform to the Ideal Worker Norm...109

IV.C.i.v Summary...116

V. Discussion...117

V.A Professionals' Perceptions of the Ideal Worker Norm...117

V.B Professionals' Response: Conforming to the Ideal Worker Norm...119

V.C Professionals' Response: Maintaining an Attitude of Ambivalence Towards the Ideal Worker Norm...120

V.D Gendered Responses to the Ideal Worker Norm...123

VI. Conclusion...130

VI.A Study Limitations and Future Research...133 VI.B Final Thoughts...134

VII. References...136

VIII. Tables and Appendices...141

List of Tables and Appendices

Table 1: Respondents' Range of Hours Worked Per Week...44

Table 2: Respondent Characteristics...141

Appendix A: Interview Guide...143

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