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Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
August 2002

My goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life.

Balancing Multiple Roles

You may have heard the advice given in time management workshops to cut down stress by simplifying your life and eliminating role conflict. That is good advice - as long as you are male. However, recent studies on work/life balance are finding that in spite of the popular belief that no one can do justice to the twin domains of work and home lives, the opposite is true. Many women managers and executives with multiple roles thrive on their many roles given that certain conditions are met. What these women know can free you from guilt and unlock the mystery of how to stop worrying about home when you are at work and worrying about work when you are at home.

Benefits of Multiple Roles

A study done at the Center for Creative Leadership with 61 women managers and executives and published by the Academy of Management Journal reports the benefits of multiple roles for women managers:

  • High life satisfaction
  • High self-esteem and self-acceptance
  • High functioning in managerial positions in both interpersonal and task functions
The Conditions that Make Multiple Roles Work?

The key element in making multiple roles work is the ability of the women studied to integrate the lessons of their various roles. Rather than dividing themselves into little compartments, they transferred lessons or traits from one role to another. It is not that they didn’t have time management compartments like working without worrying about home. What they added to the mix was the ability to view competencies in one area of life as carrying over into another. There are six ways that multiple roles within and outside a woman’s work life made their work roles even better:

  • Psychological resources: Women who have more roles have more opportunities to fell good about themselves, their activities, and their accomplishments. They don’t put all their self-esteem eggs into one basket.
  • Emotional support and advice: more role partners provide greater resources for support which buffers some of the stress associated with difficult challenges. Also, friends more experienced in management gave helpful advice.
  • Learning opportunities in interpersonal skills: Skills learned in one role can be directly utilized in another. Women mentioned learning patience and an appreciation of individual differences from their parenting roles.
  • Handling multiple tasks: Planning and prioritizing multiple tasks at home was good practice for juggling multiple managerial responsibilities.
  • Personal interests and background: Travel experiences and overseas study might be helpful with international business assignments.
  • Leadership: Skills learned in family businesses or community and religious organizations transfer to business challenges.
How to Better Integrate Your Work and Life Roles?

You can ask yourself the same questions the researchers asked of the women leaders:

  • Are there any dimensions or aspects of your personal life that enhance your professional life?
  • What have you learned from your other roles and how did you learn it?
  • How do you decide whether you have the resources to meet the demands in your life?
While many women may still be prone to stress and burnout from multiple roles, those in managerial and executive levels seem to have discovered the key to success with multiple roles, namely, that a leader is able to use resources from one role to meet demands in another area.
  • The best managers constantly draw on their leadership skills with children and volunteer work to develop interpersonal skills in the work place.
  • Strategic planning skills in one sphere transfer to other spheres.
  • A sense of competence and confidence in one area leads to a positive mood which motivates leaders to seek challenges and opportunities in other areas.
Lessons for BossWomen

With women making up 44% of the managerial and executive workforce in the U.S., we can effect change in the business culture. At the same time as you are integrating your own life lessons from multiple roles, you can encourage your employees to do the same. This process can even start in the hiring stage of employment. It has been a big mistake for career interviews to discount the time women have chosen to spend at home with children. No longer should women who are returning to the workplace after being home with children or working part time feel apologetic about “doing the PTA thing.” It seems that the executive lessons of planning, patience and personnel management transfer easily to the workplace in women who see the transfer. Employers can encourage that transfer by asking:

  • What have you learned in your other roles that can provide resources and skills in your desired job?
Another way to change the business culture is to encourage women you mentor to explore how skills from family, community, and religious participation apply to work roles. Since 72% of female vice presidents and top leaders in Fortune 1000 companies are married, and 64% have children, experienced leaders have a lot to teach their younger associates about multiple roles and work/life balance.


Get the most out of the complexity of your multiple roles by looking at skills and lessons that can transfer across roles. Encourage other women to do the same.



Ruderman, M. N., Ohlott, P. J., Panzer, K., & King, S. N. (2002). Benefits of Multiple Roles for Managerial Women. Academy of Management Journal. 45(2), 360-386.

Enjoy the end of the summer,
Susan Robison

BossWoman coaching topics include

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.
Up and coming workshops
From Susan Robison

Title: Not Just a Job: Helping Clients Achieve Work-Life Balance Through Meaning, Mastery, & Mindfulness
When: November 8, 2002; 1-4pm
Where: University of Pennsylvania Center for Continuing Education in Psychological and Community Services; Philadelphia, PA
What & Who: Designed for counselors who want to help clients with work related stress.
Fee: TBA
How: Preregister with Dr. Jeanne Stanley at 215-898-4171.

From Susan Robison & Pat Macomber

Title: Living Peacefully in an Anxious World: Stress Management for Busy Women
When: November 18, 2002 5:45-7:30
Where: TBA; somewhere in Baltimore, MD area
What: Stress management workshop.
Sponsored by: Executive Women's Network
Fee: free, but please preregister with Susan at 410-465-5892.

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Copyright 2002 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site without my permission.

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