Exploring work‐family backlash in a public organisation

Jarrod M. Haar (Department of Strategy and Human Resource Management, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand)
Chester S. Spell (School of Business‐Camden, Rutgers University, Camden, New Jersey, USA)
Michael P. O'Driscoll (Department of Psychology, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Publication date: 1 December 2005



This study aims to test the belief that work‐family practices could have a negative influence in the workplace for non‐users of these practices.


A quantitative approach was undertaken, where users and non‐users of work‐family practices reported on a number of job‐related attitudes. Organisational justice theories suggest that employees will report lower attitudes if they feel that they are missing out on some benefit or practice. T‐tests were used to compare differences in these attitudes between users and non‐users.


There were no significant differences in any of the examined attitudes between users and non‐users of the organisations' work‐family practices.

Research limitations/implications

Implications are that firms should not necessarily decline the adoption of work‐family practices if they fear a “backlash” from their employees who would not use work‐family practices. The authors suggest that the social good these practices may provide might remove any negative feelings towards the organisation by employees who cannot use these practices.

Practical implications

Practical implications for public sector organisations might be offering work‐family practices that target the widest array of employees. Further, future research into work‐family backlash should compare actual users of multiple practices as explored here.


This is one of the few papers to explore users and non‐users of multiple work‐family practices. It confirms previous research into work‐family backlash, indicating that the non‐users are not adversely affected by work‐family practices that they do not or cannot use. However, unlike other studies, this paper explored the use of multiple work‐family practices, providing stronger and more realistic findings for managers to have confidence in their work‐family practices.



Haar, J., Spell, C. and O'Driscoll, M. (2005), "Exploring work‐family backlash in a public organisation", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 18 No. 7, pp. 604-614. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513550510624068

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