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Jenny Baker
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SIOP Award Winners: Meet the Winners of the 2020 William A. Owens Scholarly Achievement Award Who Share Insight on “What Is Work–Life Balance Anyway?"

Liberty J. Munson

As part of our ongoing series to provide visibility into what it takes to earn a SIOP award or grant, we highlight a diverse class of award winners in each edition of TIP. We hope that this insight encourages you to consider applying for a SIOP award or grant because you are probably doing something amazing that can and should be recognized by your peers in I-O psychology!

This quarter, we are highlighting the winners of the William A. Owens Scholarly Achievement Award: Wendy Casper, Hoda Vaziri, Julie Holliday Wayne, Sara DeHauw, and Jeff Greenhaus.








Why did you apply?

We applied because the paper had received a lot of positive feedback and attention from other scholars. Last year, this paper was a top-five finalist for the Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work–Family Research, which is an international award for the “best of the best” in work–family research, so we knew it was a strong paper. When we saw the call for SIOP awards, we decided to submit for the Owens Award.

Share a little a bit about who you are and what you do.

Wendy Casper is the Peggy E. Swanson Endowed Chair of Management and associate dean for research at the University of Texas at Arlington. Hoda Vaziri is an assistant professor of management at the University of North Texas. Julie Holliday Wayne is professor of management at Wake Forest University. Sara DeHauw is HR advisor at Ghent University, and Jeff Greenhaus is professor emeritus at Drexel University.

Describe the research/work that you did that resulted in this award. What led to your idea?

The project was initially started by Wendy Casper and Julie Wayne who became interested in researching the topic of work–life balance, and, in doing so, we realized there was no agreement in the literature as to what this construct meant as there were a multiple of definitions. So, we started a journey of trying to sort through the growing but disjointed and messy literature on balance. The initial idea was to code all the articles on balance to try and summarize what conceptual and operational definitions existed in the literature and use this as a springboard to develop our own definition of how balance ”should” be defined and measured. Julie and Wendy also did another study of balance with data collected from an engineering consulting firm where we asked people to complete various measures of balance and asked how they personally defined balance, so we had data on laymen’s definitions to inform our proposed definition as well. Wendy and Julie asked Jeff to join the team given the key role he played in defining other key work–family constructs like conflict and enrichment. Jeff brought Sara who was working with Jeff as a visiting PhD student at Drexel at the time. Later, Hoda joined the team initially to help with the massive coding. As the paper developed, Hoda took a leadership role in the data analysis and helped shape the paper into what it is today.  

What do you think was key to you winning this award?

I think the key to winning this award was a very strong team working together. We all wanted to conduct a meaningful, comprehensive review that truly moved the balance literature forward, so we shared the same vision. We also had healthy conflict that improved the quality of the paper. We spent many years meeting at conferences like SIOP, AOM, and the Work and Family Researchers Network having endless debates over how balance should be defined before we finally developed a definition that we could all agree on! Each member brought unique strengths that significantly improved the research. Hoda’s involvement was vital in getting through the review process. She came up with ideas for analyses that could address reviewer concerns. For instance, in the paper, we use a diversity index to quantify the level of disagreement in the literature about the definition of balance. In the first review at JAP, the reviewers did not buy our argument that there was still disagreement in the literature about balance—they argued that the disagreement was already resolved. Thanks to Hoda’s great idea to use the diversity index, we could empirically show that major disagreement still existed.

What did you learn that surprised you? Did you have an “aha” moment? What was it?

Something that surprised us is how difficult it was to get five people to agree about how to define balance! But, alas, that was also our strength as we had debated the topic for years before we went into the review process.

What do you see as the lasting/unique contribution of this work to our discipline? How can it be used to drive changes in organizations, the employee experience, and so on?

Work–life balance is a popular topic in conversation and in the media. Yet, science currently lags behind in being able to inform practice in evidence-based ways. Our hope is that this paper can advance science and practice on balance by bringing some much-needed consensus on what balance is conceptually and how researchers and practitioners should measure it operationally. From that basis, our hope is to push the literature in a new direction to truly understand balance and to examine its correlates. While researchers know a lot about work–family conflict and enrichment, much less is known about balance. This is important for several reasons. First, work–family conflict and enrichment are directional constructs whereby work and family spill over into one another such that one role creates harm or benefit to the other role. In contrast, balance is a more global evaluation of how work and nonwork fit together and is not directional. Second, work–family conflict and enrichment involve the interface between work and family, whereas work–nonwork balance focuses on the interface between work and all of the nonwork domain. This is important because the nonwork domain is much broader than just family, and for some people, especially those who are single and childfree, there may be other aspects of the nonwork domain that are more central to their identity and that take more of their time than family. Our research suggests that balance is empirically distinct from work–family enrichment and conflict and predicts variance in employee attitudes and behavior above and beyond conflict and enrichment. For these reasons, we believe that the literature on the work–nonwork interface should supplement its emphasis on conflict and enrichment with a greater focus on balance. We hope our paper will help spur the literature to move in that direction.

How did others become aware of your award-winning work/research? 

We presented a very early version of this paper at SIOP in Hawaii in 2014. After that, work–family researchers who had been at the session often asked about it. We also got some press from being a top five article for the Kanter Award in 2019, which was publicized through the Work and Family Researchers Network. After it was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, it quickly began to gain interest and citations.

To what extent would you say this work/research was interdisciplinary? 

Work–family research is inherently interdisciplinary, so the literature we were coding for our data set comes from a variety of fields including sociology, economics, and family studies. That said, all of us have a background in I-O psychology or organizational behavior, so we tended to use that lens in our research. The focus on construct-validity issues in this work is reflective of our disciplinary paradigm of I-O psychology.

Are you still doing work/research in the same area where you won the award? If so, what are you currently working on in this space? If not, what are you working on now, and how did you move into this different work/research area? 

Hoda, Julie, Wendy, and Jeff, along with some other research friends, are working on a meta-analysis of the antecedents of balance. Hoda, Julie, and Wendy are also working on a scale-development piece based on the definition of overall balance and the facets of balance in this article. Once the scale is developed, this will open many doors for studying balance. Sara has moved to a more practice-based career and is not doing research any longer but is putting these ideas into practice in her own life.

What’s a fun fact about yourself (something that people may not know)?

Work–family researchers are very warm and welcoming, and we are always excited to bring new scholars into the work–family research family! For many years, we have enjoyed convening with other work–family research friends on Sunday night at the Academy of Management for a great dinner. Thanks to work–family research friend Shaun Pichler, who started this awesome tradition, we have had great meals and even better company all over North America. Jeff’s wife, Adele, has been a regular attendee, and Wendy’s husband, Roger, and Julie’s daughter, Aubrey, have also joined us. As Hoda and her husband Hossein are about to welcome their son any day, we are hoping this newest research family member might join us sometime in the future!

What piece of advice would you give to someone new to I-O psychology? (If you knew then what you know now…)

Our advice to new SIOPers is to get and stay engaged in SIOP and other aspects of your professional community. The world of I-O psychology is filled with some awesome people who will become lifelong friends. Find your people. Embrace teamwork. Build community. There is nothing more fun than doing great work that gets accolades and sharing that experience with people you care about. Then, when you’ve been doing this for a while, keep your eyes open for new people to the field—take them in and help them be part of the community as well.


About the author:

Liberty Munson is currently the principal psychometrician of the Microsoft Technical Certification and Employability programs in the Worldwide Learning organization. She is responsible for ensuring the validity and reliability of Microsoft’s certification and professional programs. Her passion is for finding innovative solutions to business challenges that balance the science of assessment design and development with the realities of budget, time, and schedule constraints. Most recently, she has been presenting on the future of testing and how technology can change the way we assess skills.

Liberty loves to bake, hike, backpack, and camp with her husband, Scott, and miniature schnauzer, Apex. If she’s not at work, you’ll find her enjoying the great outdoors or in her kitchen tweaking some recipe just to see what happens.

Her advice to someone new to I-O psychology?

  • Statistics, statistics, statistics—knowing data analytic techniques will open A LOT of doors in this field and beyond!

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