Over the last few decades, the struggle between men and women for equal
opportunities in all socially relevant areas has strongly dominated European society.
The conflict of goals between professional success and a harmonious family
arrangement is at the core of this struggle, since an overwhelming number of people
in our society are directly or indirectly concerned with this issue. Our marriage model
is not the norm throughout the world, since societies of other cultures are far less
focused on couples. In our couple-centred society, work and relationships
constitute happiness and contentment for people, if they remain together
in a balanced relationship. However, the social reality shows no sign of harmony.
Instead, it is preoccupied with a complex and multi-dimensional net of conflicts,
which appears in various forms at different phases of life and compel men and
women to carry out certain arrangements within their dyadic construct system. The
focal point of this discussion is “agreement career”. This term means the phase
in one’s career in which gainful employment and parenthood – in particular, the
responsibility for children who are not yet independent – overlap and should be
matched. The core target group that is considered comprises younger male and
female managers with 5-10 years of work experience and growing children at preschool
and primary school ages. In this phase of one’s life and career, conflict arises
between focusing on work and family. This is because both career progression and
looking after growing children demand the greatest commitment. This situation is
exacerbated if there are changes in the parents’ value system and living conditions.
A large number of working people in Germany cannot really identify themselves
with their career goals. Instead, they have cultivated a cognitive dissonance between
their objectives and identification. Frustration increases in the wake of the rising
standards of living. People wish for more self-actualization, preferably away from
their work and family. The level of frustration that people are exposed to or expose
themselves increases. Despite a decline in work motivation, having a career is still
a life goal of many young managers, as it provides recognition, income and power.
Managers should generate top performances in the two worlds of work
and family. However, the rules of these worlds contrast each other. What is
seen as a “must” in the world of work – being resilient, tough and unsentimental
– is misconstrued in a family context, where tenderness, warmth and empathy
are desired. In addition, the mobility that is required at work leads to the “despatialization” of social relations.
Tension caused by the dual burden of work and family grows, not only day after
day but also, as shown above, night after night. If men or women choose one of
these two worlds, they are dropped out of the patterns of success, which are adopted
in other cultures. It is a close call between “burn-out” and a non-binding “social
partnership”. At work, existing hierarchies begin to dissolve because younger managers
cannot demand subordination from their juniors and, at the same time, they refuse
to obey their superiors. The change in our society’s life conditions is characterized by
the fact that the self-unfolding values, like emancipation, enjoyment, self-realization
and independence, have replaced the previous prevailing duty and acceptance values
such as obedience, readiness for acceptance, discipline and selflessness. Since family
members’ claims to power are also increasing, the family as a social group has become
more fragile. On the other hand, the value and guidance system, which determines a
manager’s character, should be re-calibrated.
As a supplement to the formal concepts that the state and companies offer to
cope with the conflict situation between work and family today, the present study
provides an approach to a solution that is based on the salutogenic model of A.
Antonovsky. We ask the question of how an individual (not a society) can appropriately
and effectively get a grip on the existing conflict situation. The model is based on the
statement that health and illness do not exclude each other. They are rather extreme
poles on a continuum and can be imagined as a continuous movement on a line
between two extremes – health and illness. This is why they are called a healthy/
disease continuum. When facing interchanging protective and risk factors, a person is
in the position to deal with critical life events or conflicts, to control his/her resources,
to open up coping potentials and to develop a sense of coherence, meaningfulness,
integrity and well-being. Through empirical investigations, Antonovsky proved that
healthy people have an intellectual-emotional global orientation, which he
called the sense of coherence (SOC). This expresses the extent of a pervasive,
enduring and dynamic feeling of trust: the person believes that the conflicts in which
he has found himself in are structured, predictable and explicable, and that he has all
of the resources available to meet the demands that are given by the conflict. He sees
these demands as challenges that are worth his efforts and commitment. According
to Antonovsky, a person possesses generalized resistance resources with which he
can combat stressors. If we define the sense of coherence as a stable property, which
is only characterized by social and cultural conditions and not by individual ones, the
salutogenic model can be transferred to our target group. So we can first find a
theoretical approach and then, several practical approaches. The theoretical approach
leads us to conclude that a positive self-image, social support, the experience and
consistency (in terms of the understanding of coherences) and the manageability of life
demands (in terms of being neither overstressed nor unchallenged) prevent tensions
from turning into stress. This can be achieved by controlling the emotions that
determine one’s self-esteem. This means making a feeling of significance emerging
in the context of social recognition, i.e., participation in decision-making processes in
a social environment. Further important resistance resources are self-respect,
identity and self-preservation.
The practical approaches to solutions follow more leads. The illustrated coevolution
process shows a route through several coping scenarios. It describes
complex and different but interdependent development systems that, in spite
of disturbances, delays and malfunctions of the acting person, can, in an ideal
scenario, lead to a long-lasting balance in the management of different relationship
systems. The report is based on a viewpoint that is focused on the family. In our
opinion, developing a conflict-free family as much as possible is a cornerstone for
the further success of the economies of our macro-system. The goal is to work out
family-friendly work relationships and not work-friendly families. In the context of
our studies, co-evolution means the mutual influence on personal development of
partners living together. The matter of these studies is the question of how a person
develops his personality when living together with his partner and how they take
paths that cannot be comprehended without taking each other into account. The
more harmonious the relationship, the more the interests of the individual draw
back and are overlain by the interests that develop from the partnership, without
one being completely absorbed in the other. In this dyadically constructed world, on
the one hand, social relationships are reproduced. On the other hand, being a private
world, it sets itself apart from the outside world. This is because a person not only
lives in the dyadic world but also, in other ones, e.g., in the world of work, he has
to integrate contradictions and inconsistencies of these various construct systems
into himself, since he is a member of these systems. With the salutogenic model,
we can considerably reduce the conflicts between both microsystems – the world
of the family and of work. We discuss the coping resources and coping processes
that show the ways to make the conflict between work- and family orientation
comprehensible, manageable and meaningful.
From an ethical viewpoint, the modern family is defined as an inter-generational
personal life- and living community. This means parenthood, life partnership and
personality. In the Christian sense, the family is to be understood as a bearer of
social, personal and religious meanings: love, culture and education take centre
stage. Here, children are coddled in love and, as such, can more easily learn the
true order of reality. Therefore, in the Christian value system, marriages and families
form an indivisible unity. Family ethics are based on the Christian concept of a
person, which understands a man as “being” and “co-being” with others –
as an individual and, at the same time, as a social being.
The family is undergoing an ethical-sociological change process, which is
characterized by a further increasing individualization. In an extreme case, when
family relations become more and more replaceable, only individual life stories
of man and woman count in the family and outside of it. Former strong religious
bonds in families lost their influence because of growing secularizing. Today, a
single person no longer recognizes himself as part of a large superior whole
but increasingly as an individual. He no longer lives in a consistent world but
moves between different worlds such as between the highly specialized work world,
public life and family. A consequence of the self-centring of a husband and wife is
the increasing potential for conflict in the marriage, partnership and family.
The question is, how can this spiral be broken? Spouses should continually search
for individual solutions and negotiate with each other on how they can
reconcile compulsions or ambitions concerning financial safety and career,
and work with the desires and ideas concerning their partnership and
The first step is to recognize that the best form of self-actualization will find
its expression in human encounters, particularly in loving relationships. The coping
concepts that are discussed here are based on all of the forms of self-actualization –
through self-knowledge in encounters with others and in fulfilment, through one’s
own work and achievements. The second step is dissolving former role allocations
and reallocating them. This can depend on the phase of life but, in general, will lead
to a greater role variety for both men and women.
We are at a turning point when everyone is responsible for developing one’s
own personality, for choosing one’s own action plan and, thereby, for imagination
of masculinity and femininity. As soon as a child is born, both partners have to
grow into their roles. These roles change again – in a “family career”, in which the
couple is adapted to the relationship with the child, to the differentiation between
partner and parent roles and to a functional parental alliance. Differences in coping
behaviours depend on the parents’ relationship styles and their gender role orientation.
The partners’ maps can help them to better know, to recognize and to understand
the other partner.
Emotional attachment, feelings and love are the main resources for coping with conflicts. Emotions are the most subjective elements of human consciousness.
However, as well as genetically programmed emotions, they can be controlled through self-reflection. The various forms of love – from the passionate to the romantic – create an important binding force for the couple’s relationship and, above all, in the case of conflict.
The core function of positive feelings is to broaden the thought-action-repertoire of the partner and thus, to build up permanent personal (emotional, intellectual and social) resources. As a strengthening force, love should also be seen in the aspect of spirituality and philosophical contemplation. Another coping resource of the same importance, which relates to family and work, is emotional intelligence and competence. Emotional intelligence is necessary to lead a successful life, in order to recognize and to know one’s own emotions and thus, to be able to manage and utilize emotions. Emotional self-control – delaying gratification and suppressing impulsiveness – is the foundation of every kind of success. Other elements of emotional intelligence are empathy – knowing what others feel – and the art of dealing with the emotions of others, i.e. social competence and emotional integrity. Emotionally intelligent parents impart to their children self-confidence, curiosity, intentionality, self-control, attachment, the ability to communicate and willingness to cooperate.
With his salutogenic model, Antonovksy has shown the way between temperament
and socialization and has overcome the dichotomy between thought and action.
The connection between understanding and managing increases the
sense of coherence. It enhances the ability to deal with conflict and the
possibility to solve it. It is a prerequisite for the creation of a mutual world for
The use of the resources created can lead to a change in relationship behaviour,
to a convergence of values and attitudes, which is more important than similar traits
of the two personalities. On the basis of personal resources, partners are in a position
to establish themselves as a married couple and as a family with children in the inner
world created by themselves – the partners construct their own world together.
The sense of coherence thereby represents a superior resource, which participates in the cognitive, emotional and motivational processes in the couple’s relationship. The sense of coherence plays a catalyst role in the consolidation of social resistance resources – it is quasi a “driver” for the couple’s willingness to self-development and entering together into a process of behaviour-driven convergence. The partners head to perceiving and accepting different kinds of relationship behaviour. For selfish reasons, self-interest ought to also satisfy third party interests, the demands of the partner. Attention should be paid to the balance of fairness and equality, which is inherent in the relationship, i.e., an equal share in the relationship. The process of mutual influence is support, restriction and challenge.
If the partners, individually or together, fully utilize their abilities to meet a challenge
that they can barely cope with, a “flow-experience” can emerge. This is a
state of uncertainty, like the one of a sportsman who is not sure whether he can
reach his goal. However, not only sportsmen experience this top form of dealing
with own goals. Optimal experience pre-supposes a fine balance between one’s
own ability to act and ability to deal with existing possibilities – only under this prerequisition, we can control the quality of experiences. To let common goals lead
to interaction, which strengthens the complexity of the family, the family must be
both differentiated and integrated at the same time. In an integrated family,
the differentiated goals of each member are important. Rituals create the necessary
space for this. The individual’s meekness and ability to be in submission determines
the success of the family as a group.
By using resources, the couple’s relationship behaviour should also positively
change, so that the control mechanisms are recognized and observed. As
stressors are omnipresent, we are permanently defied to cope. In this coping process,
a couple’s relationship develops in a state of continuous feedback and correction.
The match between personality and partnership is the result of continuous
reciprocities or transactions that function as control mechanisms over long
periods of time. To make these transactions run purposefully, control of the commitment of all participants is necessary.
There should be a willingness to plan relations long-term and to enter binding agreements with it. Such agreements should control the proportion between separation and togetherness, the dealing with congruencies and incongruencies, the mutual and individual external contact of the family member at work and in the family and the distribution of roles between work and family roles. All of these rules should be coherent, i.e., they should be perceived by the partners as an organized, consistent, structured and clear communication process. This also includes a positive atmosphere of debate, which takes into account the needs of the partners, their desire for free movement and their membership of other groups. This positive atmosphere also turns common habits into symbols, customs and rituals and is perhaps in a position to create myths.
The link to the vocational component of the shown co-evolution process attempts
to establish today’s business ethics, since each economy based on the division of
labour should still be understood as a mutual alliance. The increase in the fullness of
life (and not only in the volume of goods), in terms of independently selectable growth
satisfaction opportunities, comes to the forefront. The economic rights that are
desired by citizens require economic ethics as a basis according to which an individual
agrees to only pursue such goals that are compatible with the legitimate regulations
of an organized society of free and equal citizens. A company should be required to
have an independent self-commitment to the principles of business integrity in its
dealing with all stakeholders and to the ethical responsibility for the common good
(corporate citizenship). The object of business ethics is the morality of companies,
which manifests itself in the company culture. Meaningful value systems and mindsets
lead to the formation of a company-specific identity (corporate identity), expressed in
systems of recognition and participation. Not all company leaders have yet realized
that not just the market mechanism control but recognition and fairness in business
will be the determining success factors in the future.
However, this does not build a bridge between business ethics and family ethics.
Both are still standing like iron blocks side by side. In the updated concepts of business
ethics, there are still an “above and below” in business, i.e., a structure, as usually
arranged hierarchically: there are instructors and executors in it. On the contrary, in
families of well-trained and intellectually educated people (our target group), not
hierarchy, but co-organizing and co-creating prevail.
A man can no longer establish himself in one world or the other, since the society,
and thus also, the world of work, intervenes in the family by its new regulative measures. At least, it intensifies the ethical conflict between work and family, if the working world does not succeed to develop new ethical rules that match family ethics. The concept of “servant leadership” could be such a set of rules.
The core ethical idea, i.e., protection of the employee’s personal living space from
the control of and dependence on the company and the state, decreases more and
more, since the family support notions of both the company and the state deeply
penetrate into the heart of the previously familial self-image. The family is visibly
permeated by society. On the other hand, companies are undergoing democratization
processes. Decades ago, companies began to delegate responsibilities from the top
positions to the lower ones. Now this democratization process seems to turn back,
as a wave of individualization is changing company structures and processes from the
bottom to the top.
This leads to turning away from the normal working relationships and to the organization of new life layouts and to careers that are adjusted to phases
of life, leading to patchwork life-stories. For someone who does not want society
to increasingly influence his family, only family-social benefits from the state and
company are acceptable which provide the highest family independence. He/she will
begin to search for his own coping strategies at work.
In this investigation, the sense of coherence proves to be not only a personality
construct but also, a resource. Coherence experience is a resource for health
and, at the same time, an element of health. Approaches for the compatibility
of work and family follow two guiding principles: the principle of sequential
compatibility and the principle of simultaneous compatibility. If we, as presented
above, follow the guiding principle of simultaneous compatibility, we have to search
for personal requirements, instinctive motives and competences. These activate
self-realization processes, which lead to a higher identification in both work and
family. The instinctive motives are the described flow experience – the personal
recognition, which is based on an aggressive instinct and attachment to the work
group, providing the desire to achieve something. The professional competence of a
manager is his/her qualified social competence, which means he/she has no control
over others but does over his-/herself. This is consistent with the Christian virtues of
wisdom, cleverness and moderation.
Managers’ development as personality development leads us to the most important
approach to solving conflicts in the world of work – the “Servant Leadership”.
This is neither a concept nor a technique, but a lifestyle. The matter is the following:
What can I do for others’ personal development and reaching the common goals?
Servant Leadership, as was developed by Robert Greenleaf in 1970, follows a holistic
consideration of the qualities of people, work and a sense of community. This
presupposes a spiritual understanding of identity, mission, vision and environment.
With this approach, we find ourselves right in the individual “corridor of action”, in
order to, on the one hand, manage conflicts at work as a manager and, on the other
hand, in the family, as a spouse. This approach enables us to cope with the conflicts
between both areas of life. Servant leadership at work is the key to mitigating the
tension between career and family. The core elements of servant leadership are
described in detail. From these elements, a new type of manager can develop, who
frees himself from his own primal fear and wins a new basic sense of trust, which
strengthens his sense of coherence at work.
The social behaviour of individuals in our European societies moves between two
poles – individualization and collectivization. How will it develop in the future? We
combine our suggestions for solutions from the preceding chapters into a complex
whole. The theoretically and empirically secured parenthesis, which binds all of
the coping strategies that are presented, is the salutogenic model. To comprehend
the finding of meaning and identity at work and in the family as an integrated coevolution process, we should overcome the short-term thinking that characterizes
our impatient society and thus, overcome the related conflict between character and experience. This is because the experience of an incoherent era threatens the ability of a person to shape his/her character into a sustainable life story.
The coming generations will successfully develop a group sense of coherence,
if the respective group succeeds to achieve a joint vision of the world – namely,
in the family and in the world of work. The group awareness that is required for this
originates from a collective behaviour of group members, which finds its expression in
myths, rituals, humour, speeches and ceremonies.
The coping strategies that we have been presented for both groups – the
family and work team – overlap. However, they are not congruent with each
other. The best approach for the co-evolution of work and family would be to
make both coping strategies congruent (if it works). If we relate partnership
management to the working world and servant leadership to the family, i.e.,
interweave both coping scenarios together, there are several paths towards
this goal that seem to be practicable:
The first one describes the partnership management at work. It requires
two or three people who share power to pool their resources and strengths in order
to reach their common goals. This method of management is based on individuals’
behaving as partners, developing a common vision, setting goals and taking on
responsibility together. Leadership in a partnership is indivisible; it should encompass
all decision-making situations in business and cannot only be limited to project work.
The second describes Servant Leadership in the family. The actors of the
family develop easement towards each other to the same extent as they learn to
serve themselves. They will learn to recognize the core elements of servant leadership
– active listening, empathy, awareness, persuasiveness, imagination, foresight
and responsible dealings with others – as their resources. Thus, they will develop
a stronger sense of coherence in the family. They are on the right way towards
becoming a “family servant leader”, who recognizes the conflict within and
outside of the family as comprehensible and manageable, as well as subject
to a meaningful solution.
The coping strategies presented here – partnership management at work and
servant leadership in the family – are congruent with that what we have described
as easement. The co-evolution of work and family can then succeed if the leadership
in both spheres of life is with responsibility and integrity. This presupposes behaviour
that is built on truthfulness, instead of manipulation. This behaviour resolves conflicts
fairly, instead of suppressing them or violently fighting them out. It conciliates
relationships instead of fighting for power and puts others’ interests before their
own ones. A noble goal? The target achievement begins with the first step!
It remains to be seen whether self-responsibility of the individual for solving
conflict of the “Rush Hour of Life” can be permanently kept free from new
social expectations, influences or even compulsions, which then postulate a
new concept of humanity.