Article: Le, J. K, Tissington, P. A., & Budhwar, P. (2010). To move or not to move – a question of family? International Journal of Human Resource Management, 21(1), 17–45. CYBRARY – Business Source Premier
Issue or problem
The primary issue that Le et al (2010) wanted to study was the effect that family-on-work and work-on-family have. They decide to do this research on relocation, as it is the most prevalent, direct, and most invasive aspect of work impinging its lives of the employees and its family members. They break down the effect it has on intermediate family members compared to those on the external family members. With further break down of the intermediate family members on the spouse and their children. The authors focused primarily on 62 Military Personnel (from UK’s Royal Air Force), because relocation in these situations is less of a choice, and they relocate many times that this is the extreme case scenario.
After the economic periods in the late 2000s, advancements in technology, higher than normal unemployment, and globalization, relocation for the purpose of work-related issues is on a rise for the past decade (le et al, 2010). Work relocation directly impacts the family, thus studying how family and work interact with each other with a single point of commonality (the employee) is why this aspect was studied.
A lot of studies have looked into the negative effects on relocation on the family or on the employee. A lot of studies measure this as a one-way relationship. Le et al (2010), is trying to study a bidirectional positive and negative impact of relocation on work and family. They want to use exploratory qualitative research to help find variables or themes (to be used in future quantitative studies). The researchers also wanted to use this exploratory study to make suggestions on how to mitigate the negative side effects of relocation on the employee’s family and vice versa.
Theoretical (concept or construct) focus or topic
Relocation impacts could be defined loosely as:
Relocation effects on the employee ~ F (- marital status, – number of kids, – spousal employment, spousal support, marital status) * G (adjustment time, willingness)
It should be noted that the function above doesn’t contain weights, but just the positive or negative effect of each variable. Weights can imply and add more meaning to this equation. This equation was defined by lee et al (2010) survey of the literature. These are some of the main factors that were addressed or brought up during a qualitative exploratory study of 62 military personnel.
The concepts or constructs defined
Spillover and facilitation were defined as the key to this analysis. Spillover is defined as aspects of work that affect the family. Whereas facilitation doing one thing for work positively impacts another thing for work. These are needed in order for the study to take place. If spillover doesn’t happen then how does family impact work and work impact the family through the employee? If relocation doesn’t positively impact the career of the employee, then why would the employee undergo it? So, there has to be a perceived or actualized benefit to relocation, before the employee moves or decides to leave their employer all together to avoid the relocation.
The authors took an exploratory qualitative approach for their study. Their main reason for this approach was to explore themes in relocation affecting the family, and the family affecting the relocation. Their hopes were to identify themes for a future study that could measure the relative strengths of these themes through a quantitative approach. They also state that quantitative tools are insufficient at this part of the exploratory phase, whereas qualitative work has a particular advantage to it. You need to know which themes to study on your sample before you can devise the appropriate measurement instrument and analysis tool. Though this can be accomplished through an extensive analysis of the literature, the authors did state that the bidirectional relationship of family and work with respect to relocation is the gap in the current knowledge.
Conducting 30 minutes and 2 hours (average of 1 hour) long interviews with 62 military personnel, allowed to collect these themes. Another aspect of qualitative research that was used is the three measures for validity. Face validity (summarizing responses and getting confirmation back from the interviewers), Confirmation (asking clarifying questions), and peer examination (independent peers evaluating and commenting on the questions and findings), are used in this qualitative study, which is what makes this study appropriate for their purpose.
Conclusions of the study
Le et al (2010) stated that for the role of a family member, employees face issues like: guilt that arise from a lack of fulfilling family commitments and needs during relocation and pride due to advantages manifesting in the family because of relocation.
For the spouse of the employee, they face issues like: work-related issues (reduced earning potential, unemployment, and hire-ability), psychosocial impact (anger, depression, etc.), and social impacts (loss of social network, community, and friends).
For the children of the employees, they face issues like: school-related impacts (they may fall behind or speed ahead, depending on where they were relocated on and it is diminished if they were placed in boarding school), psychological impact (mirrors that of the spouse), and social impact (hard time making friends, but strengthens internal family bonds).
Finally for the extended family, though it can be hard to establish a connection, some found it amazing that they got to visit a new place to see the relocated family from time to time.
However, there can be a devastating impact on the family unit, separation can occur (divorce) if there is no focus on family, but only on one’s career, and if relocation fatigue (due to multiple relocations in a span of a few years) occurs.
With all of this work impacting the family, the family can impact the work. The researchers found that the family can try to influence when and how they move. This effect is amplified when the employee involves the family in the decision. Doing this will increase buy-in from all members, and makes the family happier in the end. The family can defer or accelerate the relocation depending on their own plans. But, if the company pushes the relocation, the family could exert pressure on the employee as well, to a point where the employee will leave (think of leaving or be aware of the option) the organization because they would prefer to keep their family intact.
Recommendations for future research
This study involved military families. They relocate every 2 to 3 years, more often than most families around the world. In most of these cases, rejecting relocation is not a wise facilitating option. For these reasons, this is an extreme case for employee relocation, as lee et al (2010), noted. Thus, the study can be applied to generic global and national level companies. Finally, now that they have identified themes, we can measure their strength/magnitude and correlations between each theme to relocation effects on family and family effects on relocation.