Feeling, Expressing, and Managing Emotions in Work-Family Conflict

  • Sabrina L. SpeightsEmail author
  • Jaime E. Bochantin
  • Renee L. Cowan
Original Paper


The current paper examines the nuanced emotional experience of work-family conflict (WFC) events. We integrate theories of attributions and emotion management to investigate both felt and expressed emotions when work interferes with family and vice versa. We propose that, in addition to task goals, individuals seek to accomplish relational goals which influence the feeling and expression of emotions. To capture these experiences, we use an interpretive lens to conduct qualitative content and constant comparative analyses on narratives of WFC events. Our findings highlight the difference in emotional responses (including both negative and positive emotions) depending on whether conflict originates from work or family. Specifically, we find more emotions reported when work interferes with family than when family interferes with work. Moreover, different emotions are most frequently expressed depending on the originating domain of conflict. We also find evidence of emotion management in which suppression of negative emotions is used to preserve relationships with family member and supervisors. Research to date does not address differentiated emotional experiences of WFC depending on the originating domain of conflict. This study demonstrates that the social contexts of work and family domains influence emotional experiences and that the active process of managing emotions is not wholly negative and accomplishes social goals of relationship maintenance.


Work-family conflict Emotions Qualitative content analysis Qualitative 



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Business and ManagementWheaton CollegeNortonUSA
  2. 2.UNC CharlotteCharlotteUSA
  3. 3.Queens UniversityCharlotteUSA

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