Greensboro, N.C. – Being a committed parent can enhance managerial ability because child-rearing develops skills that are useful at work, according to a new study by the Center for Creative Leadership and Clark University.
The study, published this month in the Journal of Applied Psychology, contradicts conventional wisdom that parents are easily distracted by their responsibilities at home – in particular their children – and therefore are more likely to be ineffective at work. The article was co-authored by Dr. Laura Graves of Clark University; Dr. Marian Ruderman of the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®); and Patricia Ohlott, formerly of CCL and now at the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning.
“Based on previous research, we were fairly confident that our study would confirm that being committed to family increases a person’s overall well-being. But our study shows for the first time that being a committed parent can improve a manager’s work performance,” said Ruderman, a research director at CCL. “Raising a family helps develop skills such as negotiating, compromising, conflict resolution and multitasking, which are important traits of successful managers.”
The study’s objectives were to determine how managers’ commitments to marriage, children or both affected their life satisfaction, career satisfaction and work performance. In addition, the study looked at whether commitment to marriage and children reduced the physical and emotional resources managers could devote to work or actually expanded managers’ abilities to meet the demands of their jobs. Among the 347 respondents, 221 were parents. Almost all of the respondents (91%) were married.
Being able to manage the demands of children and running a household helps respondents better manage the stress of work instead of adding to it, said Graves, an Associate Professor of Management at Clark University. “Family experiences provide managers with positive feelings that carry over to the workplace and facilitate performance. They also help managers develop the ability to see others’ views — a capacity which is critical to supervising others, working in teams or relating to superiors,” she said.
“Our study has important implications for employees and organizations alike,” Graves added. “While many organizations have adopted family-friendly policies, most still operate under the assumption that a family focus will detract from performance. Our research suggests that this assumption is wrong. In fact, a family-focused manager may be, in fact, the leader your company should have.”
The study’s findings were based on respondents’ personal evaluations of their life and career satisfaction. Work performance was determined by feedback from the respondents’ bosses, superiors, peers, direct reports and other colleagues.
About Clark University
Clark University is a private, co-educational liberal-arts research university with 2,000 undergraduate and 800 graduate students. Since its founding in 1887 as the first all-graduate school in the United States, Clark has challenged convention with innovative programs such as the International Studies Stream, the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the accelerated BA/MA programs with the fifth year tuition-free for eligible students. The University is featured in Loren Pope’s book, “Colleges That Change Lives.”