Single and Stuck at Work

Single and Stuck at Work

Do single employees end up working harder and longer to accommodate their married-with-kids co-workers?

Single and Stuck at Work

elnur / 123RF Photo

You’re just about to end your workday, but the boss calls you in for one more task. Your co-worker can’t stick around because his son has a soccer game. You have no children, so you’re stuck being the team player — again. Sound familiar?

I think for a long time there’s been tension between parent and non-parent co-workers,” said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, a research organization based in New York that studies changes in the workforce. “What we find is the resentment usually comes from those who make less and feel they are constantly asked to do more.” It may surprise you that hours spent on the job between workers with kids and those without are pretty even, Galinsky said.

“Statistically, there isn’t a significant difference between parents or non-parents and the hours they work,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean there isn’t resentment building up by those single workers who feel they get saddled with more projects.”

Human resources consultant Andrea Ballard said workers without families often get frustrated they can’t use the same excuses as those who have children.

“They don’t feel it’s OK for them to say they want to leave early for their Pilates class,” Ballard said. “But most companies and firms have flexible policies in place, and you don’t have to have a family to ask for these policies.”

Do research and see what options are available, Ballard said. If there is not a flexible policy and you still feel you’re being taken advantage of as a single worker, you should speak up to your supervisor, Galinsky said.

“Say, ‘I’m always glad to help out, but I need some help too,’ ” she said. “Have a list of specific occasions you feel were unfair. A lot of times the boss won’t know this is a problem. They have a bottom line, and they look to their team to get it done.”

The family conflict does not just apply to working mothers.

“Our research shows men have more work-family conflict than women,” Galinsky said.

Employers who can meet both the needs of employees who are single and those who have families will see positive results, Galinsky said.

“People who have their needs met, whatever their needs are, tend to give more back,” she said. “Professionally, they will pick up the slack in other areas and work harder.”

Ballard said that in order to get satisfaction, you should stop letting your fears take over.

“The Millennials are not going to accept flexibility not being an option,” she said. “It’s going to be a requirement for them — both men and women.”

Galinsky agreed.

“We’re talking about a workforce that’s in transition,” Galinsky said. “The resistance fades away eventually because that way of doing business just won’t cut it anymore.”

Jenniffer Weigel
Jenniffer Weigel’s career started in radio, where she did everything from sports, news and traffic reporting. When she moved to TV, she won an Emmy Award for her on-camera reporting. She is now a columnist for the
Chicago Tribune and a frequent contributor for WGN radio and WGN Television. Her first book “Stay Tuned” was published in 2007. Her second book “I’m Spiritual Dammit” was released in September of 2010. Her third book was released in 2012.
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