Author(s), Title and Publication

Hoeven, C.L. ter, Miller, V., Peper, A. & Dulk, L. den (2017). “The Work Must Go On”: The role of employee and managerial communication in the use of work–life policies. Management Communication Quarterly, 31(2), 194 –229. DOI: 10.1177/0893318916684980


Despite extensive work-life regulations in comparison to the U.S., many employees in the Netherlands do not take advantage of work-life policies. To more clearly understand the contributors to this difference between national policy and organizational practice, this study examines manager/employee communications across different genders, organizations, work environments, and contexts. Examining policy-related peer and leadership communications indicates resistance to policy due in part, to questions about how exercising policy benefits will impact the organization, their peers, and themselves, as possible reasons employees don’t entirely utilize the work-life benefits they have.

Using data obtained through focus groups with 75 employees and 43 managers within two private and one public organization, the study found that Dutch employees sometimes neglect to fully exercise the work-life benefits available to them, despite strong national and organizational support. Looking closely at communications between managers and employees, prominent contributors to the difference between available and exercised work-life benefits include perceptions that exercising work-life benefits; i.e., family leave, will (1) negatively impact career progression, (2) incite resentment from managers and co-workers, and (3) cause frustration from peers who are responsible for added tasks to accommodate leave.

Implications for Practice

Organizations should (1) verbalize rights in gender-neutral policies to encourage gender equality and organizational commitment, and avoid gender-implicit policies that imply favors, (2) create clarity for managers and for employees about policy-based eligibility and communication, (3) express leadership commitment to minimizing peer pressures and concerns associated with exercising policy benefits, (4) demonstrate specific attention to audiences who may be naturally less inclined to exercise work-life policy benefits, i.e., men and women without children, and (5) actively engage in a culture of understanding work-life needs and benefits, rather than relying exclusively on strict policy enforcement.

Location of Article

This article is available here.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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