Family worries can cause conflict with work colleagues

Worrying about family problems during work time increases conflict with work colleagues and can lead to spousal arguments at home in the evening says a study published this week in the British Psychological Society’s Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.

The study, conducted by Dr Ana Sanz-Vergel and colleagues from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Business School and Complutense University of Madrid, Spain, asked participants to rate how much family conflict had affected their concentration at work, and how much they had experienced rudeness and arguments with their colleagues and with their partner. 

Dr Sanz-Vergel said: “Previous studies have demonstrated that psychological and physical job demands, role ambiguity, shift work or job insecurity can cause conflicts between work colleagues. In this study we wanted to examine how worrying about family issues can interfere with work and affect interactions with colleagues at work and with partners at home."

Some eighty couples (mean age 42 years) working in twenty-five different organisations filled in general socio-demographic questionnaires and also completed a survey twice each day over a working week. Nearly 70 per cent of couples had at least one child.

Daily interpersonal conflicts at work and daily family-work conflicts were measured at the end of the workday (in the afternoon). Daily interpersonal conflicts at home were reported before going to bed in the evening.

Dr Sanz Vergel said: “The difficulty of focusing on work when distracted by family worries made employees irritable. This led to them reacting negatively towards colleagues instead of using more adaptive strategies, such as seeking social support or being assertive. This negativity is transferred to the home in the form of increased conflict with their partners.

“These findings may help us to better understand how family-work conflict affects our relationships with others both at work and at home on a daily basis.”

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The Society publishes 11 academic journal titles in conjunction with our publishing partner Wiley-Blackwell. The Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology publishes empirical and conceptual papers which aim to increase understanding of people and organizations at work.

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