The relationship between the individual and work and family has changed dramatically over the years. Jobs and families both demand enormous commitments of time and energy, especially during peak years of family formation and career growth. Today, jobs usually consume a third of a person s day. Americans put more hours in at work to support their families, creating more stress at home, which results in a work/family conflict, pushing parents into actually seeking more time spent at work to escape these pressures and tensions in the home.
Juggling work and family life, particularly undesirable domestic chores, childcare and the increasing uncertainties and pressures of home life, are a few reasons for this battle for time spent between work and family. More effort and time is also put into work to achieve greater autonomy and job satisfaction in the workplace. This upward mobility work ethic is the heart of the American Dream. This work/ family conflict and the need for job satisfaction/autonomy in America is consequently fueled by this fast and furious pace of attaining the American Dream.
These are some of the issues that are clearly depicted in the books Rivethead by Ben Hamper and The Time Bind by Arlie Russell Hochschild. Less time spent at home and more time spent at work creates a vicious cycle that is eating away at our home lives. These tendencies have become trends of an entire generation that may be placing more value on work-related achievements than on the necessary nurturing experiences of family life. Overview of Texts
The issues of family/work conflict and autonomy/job satisfaction are important issues in the sociology of work today because of the continuous social and economic changes that occur in our society and effect the welfare of American workers and their families. The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home & Home becomes Work by Arile Russell Hochschild investigates the work/family conflict. Hochschild spent three summers doing field research at a company identified only as a Fortune 500 firm that Hochschild renames Amerco, which had also been credited on several different surveys as being one of America s 10 most family-friendly corporations.
Hochschild research consists of interviewing all employees in the company from the top executives to factory workers by observed working parents and their children throughout their hectic days. She followed six families through a whole day and much of a night, and sat on the edge of Amerco s parking lot to see when people started work and when they left. This study raises disturbing questions about the impact of time on contemporary lives. The excessive demands of work create stresses at home because there is insufficient time to do everything.
This is especially hard on women who bear the brunt of housekeeping chores, and on children, whose emotional needs require time with parents. Except for some older men, the people Hochschild interviews are aware of and concerned about the implications of this time bind. What is surprising, consequently, is their failure to take on reduced workloads, flex time, and other components of the company s effort to help employees balance the demands of work and home. While supporting the existence of these policies, only a few employees take advantage of them.
Fears about job security and career advancements are present, of course, but many employees were uninterested in such options because they perceived work, not home, as the less stressful and more emotionally fulfilling environment. With the employees family s on the brink of disaster and parents feeling perpetually out of control of their children s lives and their own, the office or factory floor ends up providing a sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, camaraderie and overall job satisfaction to these workers.
Unfortunately, after uncovering this surprising reversal of standard expectations, Hochschild buries it by simply assuming it is a passion. By escaping from the home by going to work reflects a dynamic with costs, but it also suggests a need to reconsider common conceptions of what constitutes a satisfying life. Hochschild s solution is a time movement, and organized grassroots movement that would join feminists with labor activists, professionals with the factory workers, men with women.
Hochschild proposes that the coalition begin by pushing companies to judge on merit rather then time spent at work, to move to a 35-hour work week and to give workers across the board greater job security would begin to create a better family and work balance for its employees. Rivethead, by Ben Hamper, is Hamper s description of his career as a General Motors factory worker in Flint, Michigan. A fourth generation shoprat, Hamper explains how an irresponsible father, numerous siblings, and his own tendency for laziness, drugs, and drinking pointed directly to a future in the factory, despite his inclinations toward poetry and music.
This book is a glimpse into the life on the General Motors car and truck assembly line, showing the lived experiences of people that have now become transparent voices in mainstream American society. In 1977 he reluctantly began working in the cab shop at GM. Ranging from his experience to his retirement ten years later, Hamper writes of the monotonous blue-collar work of factory labor in a very dark humor manner. Hamper describes his factory job as very monotonous, filled with repeated layoffs and call-backs.
Hamper and co-workers participate in extensive daily on-the-job alcohol and drug consumption in attempts to pass the time of their mind-numbing, repetitive nature of work. Hamper is perceptively critical of American business management, practice, and values throughout the book, and nearsightedly finds little worth or integrity in his fellow workers as in himself. The lack of desire to climb the career ladder, even finding ways to avoid work altogether, is quite prevalent throughout the book as he seeks to please no one, not even himself, even though he succeeds beyond even his expectations.
The major issues in Rivethead that are to blame for this type of worker behavior is the lack of job satisfaction along with work/family conflicts. Besides Hamper s quest to go bowling with GM chairman Roger Smith, Hamper is constantly displaying a need for an easier and more rewarding job. Other issues not related to actual job duties affect worker job satisfaction as well, such as the desire to more comfortably combine work and life. The work/family conflict is seen through the time constraints that limit him and other factory workers from spending time with family.
These time constraints create added stress at home on top of the existing problems that cause for a dysfunctional family. These stresses push parents/spouses into escaping these home ridden tensions by working longer hours in the factory. The less time spent at home and more time spent at work creates a vicious cycle that is eating away at all American families. Analysis The two major issues of work that I am going to analyze from a sociological standpoint are the work/family conflict and autonomy/job satisfaction.
In The Time Bind and Rivethead, the issue of job satisfaction is seen through Hochschild s and Hamper s depiction of the priority levels of the employees jobs and their families as seen in their lives. In The Time Bind, Hochschild s sample was small and all her subjects worked for the same company, she found that both mothers and fathers were choosing work over home. The couples she observed regularly chose not to take advantage of the company s policies regarding family or personal time, and they had come to find the workplace more comforting than the tensions of home and family.
There is a terrible lack of support for families in the workplace in general, and work is perceived as more pleasant than home because at least at work parents are supported and know when they are doing the right thing or the wrong thing as opposed to home. Even though the job satisfaction factor varies between levels of responsibility, the accomplishments felt in the workplace versus the home is quite large. In Rivethead, the issue of job satisfaction as depicted by Hamper is seen through the effects if shiftwork on the factory workers families and social lives.
Plagued by constant exhaustion and obsessed with not getting enough sleep, factory workers suffer from high levels of irritability, mood swings, and stress. All of these create complications in family relationships. Factory workers often work long hours and either conform to their family s routine, or follow a routine of their own, otherwise they are forced to live to some extent, independent of their families as in Rivethead.
The working conditions in factories play a large role in the lack of job satisfaction, when someone works hard all day in a smoky chamber full of sludge, noise, armpits, beer breath, cigar butts, psychos, manic depressives, grease pits, banana stickers, venom and gigantic stalking kitty cats. , (Hamper:116). These work conditions are quite disturbing and inhumane to the welfare of the worker. The constant need for job satisfaction and feelings of accomplishment and autonomy is quite evident throughout the book. There were so many of us shoprats that we were all just part of some faceless heard. , (Hamper:40).
Because job satisfaction differs between levels of work and responsibility, other contributing factors, such as work and family conflict, can affect job satisfaction. Hocschild s and Hamper s books depict the work/family conflict as though the family is gradually being shoved out of the mainstream of American social life. Hocschild points out that the battle for time is definitely present. She raises questions like how we should be judged, either based on the hours of work we put in or our accomplishments while at work, The time a worker works in and of itself, has to count as much as the results accomplished within that time.
Time is a symbol of commitment . whether time mattered more than results was a key point of contention. But it became buried in the company s rhetoric. (Hocschild: 69). The ultimate effects of long work hours on our lives have long term consequences on home life that become difficult to justify to our families. As in Rivethead, work seemed to function as a backup system to a destabilizing family, My marriage to Joanie was quickly beginning to crumble. Between my nightly beer-bombing over at Glen s and our continual teetering on the brink of poverty.
There was only one antidote to our marital woes; finding me gainful employment . she was the breadwinner and I was the louse. The parallel between my behavior and my old man s was something that didn t escape me. , (Hamper:26-28). In the past decade, socio-economic conditions have contributed to the need for dual incomes for families. Dual incomes call for both parents to work, hence, no one is home with the children. In the past, it was the norm for women to stay home having a more expressive role in the family; taking care of children and providing emotional support for the family.
Presently, women tend to feel that their traditional roles as child bearers and homemakers must be supplemented with a sense of achievement outside the home. This need for achievement through job satisfaction for men and women can have positive and negative effects on children. A child who observes the competent coping abilities of a working parent learns how to cope with life s problems. The parent is then perceived as a positive role model. It can render a child to be more emotionally mature and competent in dealing with responsibility as needed for schoolwork and extra curricular activities.
The negative connotations hard working parents and their children experience are much more drastic on the worker and the family. The aspects of parenting that are affected when faced with longer work hours are quality, quantity and content of time spent at home. The pressures and stresses may be created by ourselves in our home-life and only reinforced by the workplace. Different economic, social, and political surroundings foster our stress that set the stage for an overall reduced quality of life as seen in The Time Bind and Rivethead.
Conclusion Because society has changed, the family s function within society has changed as well. Work/family conflict and the need for job satisfaction/autonomy have required parental and family roles to become modified to meet these changes. Jobs and families both demand enormous commitments of time and energy on the worker, especially during peak years of family formation and career growth. These controversial issues are clearly depicted in the books Rivethead by Ben Hamper and The Time Bind by Arlie Russell Hochschild.
Less time spent at home which creates work/family conflict and more time spent at work in an attempt to develop more job satisfaction/autonomy creates a vicious cycle that is depleting family values and home lives. Sadly these trends are becoming more popular of an entire generation trying to compete in a global market where higher value is placed on work achievements, struggle for upward mobility and job satisfaction rather than on the satisfaction of family life and concerns. This work ethic has always been the heart of the American Dream, to work hard, move upward in your job, and be financially sound.
Yet, the positive motives for success in our jobs is to blame for the negative consequences of the difficult task of creating an equal balance between work and very important satisfactions of family life. The demands and effects that society place on every American worker to keep up with the rate at which our society is competing in a fast paced global economy raises the question as to where our priorities lie, in the family or in the work? Work may not always be there for the employee, but then again, home may not either. (Hochschild:201).