Journal of Business and Psychology

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 397–411 | Cite as

Work–Life Balance in the Police: The Development of a Self-Management Competency Framework

  • Almuth McDowall
  • Allison Lindsay



Addressing a gap in the current work–life balance (WLB) literature regarding individual-focused approaches to inform interventions, we elicited behaviors used to self-manage WLB to draw up a competency-based WLB framework for relevant learnable knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs; Hoffmann, Eur J Ind Train 23:275–285, 1999) and mapping this against extant WLB frameworks.


Our participants were from a major UK police force, which faces particular challenges to the work–life interface through job demands and organizational cutbacks, covering a range of operational job roles, including uniformed officers and civilian staff. We took a mixed methods approach starting with semi-structured interviews to elicit 134 distinct behaviors (n = 20) and used a subsequent card sort task (n = 10) to group these into categories into 12 behavioral themes; and finally undertook an online survey (n = 356) for an initial validation.


Item and content analysis reduced the behaviors to 58, which we analyzed further. A framework of eight competencies fits the data best; covering a range of strategies, including Boundary Management, Managing Flexibility, and Managing Expectations.


The WLB self-management KSAs elicited consist of a range of solution-focused behaviors and strategies, which could inform future WLB-focused interventions, showing how individuals may negotiate borders effectively in a specific environment.


A competence-based approach to WLB self-management is new, and may extend existing frameworks such as Border Theory, highlighting a proactive and solution-focused element of effective behaviors.


Work–life balance Self-management Competencies KSAs 



The authors gratefully acknowledge Rachel Avery, Céline Rojon, and the anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments on earlier drafts.


  1. Adams, G. A., & Jex, S. M. (1999). Relationships between time management, control, work–family conflict, and strain. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 4, 72–77. doi: 10.1037/1076-8998.4.1.72.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen, T., Johnson, R., Saboe, K., Cho, E., Soner, D., & Evans, S. (2011). Dispositional variables and work–family conflict: A meta-analysis. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80, 17–26. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2011.04.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amstad, F. T., Meier, L. L., Fasel, U., Elfering, A., & Semmer, N. K. (2011). A meta-analysis of work–family conflict and various outcomes with a special emphasis on cross-domain versus matching domain relations. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 16, 151–169. doi: 10.1037/a0022170.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bailyn, L. (1993). Breaking the mold: Women, men and time in the new corporate world. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  5. Barnett, R. C., & Hyde, J. S. (2001). Women, men, work and family: An expansionist theory. American Psychologist, 56, 781–796. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.56.10.781.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Block, J. (1961). The Q-Sort method in personality assessment and psychiatric research. Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boyatzis, R. E. (1982). The competent manager: A model for effective performance. Chichester, England: Wiley.Google Scholar
  8. Burke, R. J. (1993). Toward an understanding of psychological burnout among police officers. Journal of Social Behaviour & Personality, 8, 425–438.Google Scholar
  9. Byron, K. (2005). A meta-analytic review of work–family conflict and its antecedents. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 67, 169–198. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2004.08.009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chell, E. (2004). Critical incident technique. In G. Symon & C. Cassell (Eds.), Essential guide to qualitative methods in organizational research (pp. 45–60). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clark, S. C. (2000). Work/family border theory: A new theory of work/family balance. Human Relations, 53, 747–770. doi: 10.1177/0018726700536001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Costello, A. B., & Osborne, J. W. (2005). Exploratory factor analysis: Four recommendations for getting the most from your analysis. Practical Assessment, Research, and Evaluation, 10(7), 1–9.Google Scholar
  13. Donaldson-Feilder, E., Lewis, R., & Yarker, J. (2009). Research insight: Preventing stress, promoting positive manager behavior (no. 4845). London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.Google Scholar
  14. Fife-Shaw, C. (2006). Questionnaire design. In G. M. Breakwell, S. Hammond, C. Fife-Shaw, & J. A. Smith (Eds.), Research methods in psychology (pp. 212–231). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Ford, M. T., Heinen, B. A., & Langkamer, K. L. (2007). Work and family satisfaction and conflict: A meta-analysis of cross-domain relations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 57–80. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.92.1.57.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Frone, M. R. (2003). Work–family balance. In J. C. Quick & L. E. Tetrick (Eds.), Handbook of occupational health psychology (pp. 143–162). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gattrell, C., Burnett, S. B., Cooper, C. L., & Sparrow, P. (2012). Work–life balance and parenthood: A comparative review of definitions, equity and enrichment. International Journal of Management Reviews. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2370.2012.00341.x.Google Scholar
  18. Gist, M. E., & Mitchell, T. R. (1992). Self-efficacy: A theoretical analysis of its determinants and malleability. Academy of Management Review, 17, 183–860. doi: 10.2307/258770.Google Scholar
  19. Greenhaus, J. H., & Allen, T. A. (2011). Work–family balance: A review and extension of the literature. In J. C. Quick & L. E. Tetrick (Eds.), Handbook of occupational health psychology (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  20. Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources of conflict between work and family roles. Academy of Management Review, 10, 76–88. doi: 10.2307/258214.Google Scholar
  21. Greenhaus, J. H., & Powell, G. N. (2006). When work and family are allies: A theory of work–family enrichment. Academy of Management Review, 31, 72–92. doi: 10.2307/20159186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gremler, D. D. (2004). The critical incident technique in service research. Journal of Service Research, 7(1), 65–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Group Risk Development (GRiD). (2012). 2011 employer research. Summary of findings. Retrieved February 12, 2012 from
  24. Hill, E. J. (2005). Work–family facilitation and conflict, working fathers and mothers, work–family stressors and support. Journal of Family Issues, 26, 793–819. doi: 10.1177/0192513X05277542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Her Majesty’s Treasury. (2010). The Stationery Office Limited on behalf of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office© Crown Copyright. (2010). Spending Review 2010 (Cm 7942). Retrieved August 12, 2013 from
  26. Hoffmann, T. (1999). The meanings of competency. European Journal of Industrial Training, 23, 275–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hoobler, J. M., Hu, J., & Wilson, M. (2010). Do workers who experience conflict between the work and family domains hit a “glass ceiling?” A meta-analytic examination. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 77(3), 481–494. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2010.07.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Innstrand, S. T., Langballe, E. M., & Falkum, E. (2010). Exploring occupational differences in work–family interaction: Who is at risk? International Journal of Stress Management, 17, 38–55. doi: 10.1037/a0018565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kalliath, T., & Brough, P. (2008). Work-life balance: A review of the meaning of the balance construct. Journal of Management & Organization, 14, 323–327. doi: 10.5172/jmo.837.14.3.323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kinnunen, U., Geurts, S. A. E., & Pulkkinen, L. (2006). Types of work–family interface: Well-being correlates of negative and positive spillover between work and family. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 47, 149–162. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9450.2006.00502.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kline, P. (1979). Psychometrics and psychology. London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  32. Kop, N., Euwema, M., & Schaufeli, W. (1999). Burnout, job stress and violent behaviours among Dutch police officers. Work & Stress, 13, 326–340. doi: 10.1080/02678379950019789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kossek, E., Lewis, S., & Hammer, L. (2010). Overcoming mixed messages to move from the margin to the mainstream. Human Relations, 63, 3–19. doi: 10.1177/0018726709352385.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kossek, E. E., Pichler, S., & Bodner, T. (2011). Workplace social support and work–family conflict: A meta-analysis clarifying the influence of general and work–family specific supervisor and organizational support. Personnel Psychology, 64(2), 289–313. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.2011.01211.x.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kossek, E. E., Ruderman, M. N., Braddy, P. W., & Hannum, K. M. (2012). Work–nonwork boundary management profiles: A person-centered approach. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 81, 112–128. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2012.04.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal and coping. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  37. Lewis, R., Yarker, J., Donaldson-Feilder, E., Flaxman, P., & Munir, F. (2010). Using a competency-based approach to identify the management behaviours required to manage workplace stress in nursing: A critical incident study. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 47, 307–313. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2009.07.004.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1982). Self-concept and the stability of personality: Cross-sectional comparisons of self-reports and ratings. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 1282–1292. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.43.6.1282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McNall, L. A., Masuda, A. D., & Nicklin, J. M. (2010). Flexible work arrangements, job satisfaction, and turnover intentions: The mediating role of work-to-family enrichment. Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 144, 61–81. doi: 10.1080/00223980903356073.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mesmer-Magnus, C., & Viswesveran, C. (2005). Convergence between measures of work-to-family and family-to-work conflict: A meta-analytic examination. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 67, 215–232. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2004.05.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1984). Qualitative data analysis: A sourcebook of new methods. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  42. Ollier-Malaterre, A. (2010). Contributions of work–life and resilience initiatives to the individual/organization relationship. Human Relations, 63(1), 41–62. doi: 10.1177/0018726709342458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Özbilgin, M. F., Beauregard, T. A., Tatli, A., & Bell, M. P. (2011). Work–life, diversity and intersectionality: A critical review and research agenda. International Journal of Management Reviews, 13, 177–198. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2370.2010.00291.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rantanen, M., Mauno, S., Kinnunen, U., & Rantanen, J. (2011). Do individual coping strategies help or harm in the work–family conflict situation? Examining coping as a moderator between work–family conflict and well-being. International Journal of Stress Management, 18, 24–48. doi: 10.1037/a0022007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rapoport, R., Bailyn, L., Fletcher, J. K., & Priott, B. H. (2002). Beyond work–family balance: Advancing gender equity and workplace performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  46. Rotondo, D. M., Carlson, D. S., & Kincaid, J. F. (2003). Coping with multiple dimensions of work–family conflict. Personnel Review, 32(3), 275–296. doi: 10.1108/00483480310467606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rotondo, D. M., & Kincaid, J. F. (2008). Conflict, facilitation, and individual coping styles across the work and family domains. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 23(5), 484–506. doi: 10.1108/02683940810884504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rust, J., & Golombok, S. (2009). Modern psychometrics. The science of psychological assessment. Hove, East Sussex: Routledge.Google Scholar
  49. Schluter, J., Seaton, P., & Chaboyer, W. (2008). Critical incident technique: A user’s guide for nurse researchers. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 61(1), 107–114. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04490.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Shippmann, J. S., Ash, R. A., Battista, M., Carr, L., Eyde, I. D., & Hesketh, B. (2000). The practice of competency modeling. Personnel Psychology, 53, 703–739. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.2000.tb00220.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sonnentag, S., & Bayer, U. (2005). Switching off mentally: Predictors and consequences of psychological detachment from work during off-job time. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10, 393–414. doi: 10.1037/1076-8998.10.4.393.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sigurdsson, J., & Dhani, A. (2010). Police Service Strength, England and Wales. Home Office Statistical Bulletin 14/10. ©Crown Copyright 2010. Accessed 11 Aug 2013.
  53. Valcour, P. M. (2007). Work-based resources as moderators of the relationship between work hours and satisfaction with work–family balance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 1512–1523. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.92.6.1512.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Van Steenbergen, E. F., & Ellemers, N. (2009). Is managing the work–family interface worthwhile? Benefits for employee health and performance. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30, 617–642. doi: 10.1002/job.v30:510.1002/job.569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Williams, A., Franche, R., Ibrahim, S., Mustard, C. A., & Layton, F. R. (2006). Examining the relationship between work–family spillover and sleep quality. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 11, 27–37. doi: 10.1037/1076-8998.11.1.27.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Yarker, J., Lewis, R., & Donaldson-Feilder, E. (2008). Management competencies for preventing and reducing stress at work. Identifying and developing the management behaviours necessary to implement the HSE management standards: Phase two (no. RR633). Norwich: Health & Safety Executive, CIPD.Google Scholar
  57. Yarker, J., Lewis, R., Donaldson-Feilder, E., & Flaxman, P. (2007). Management competencies for preventing and reducing stress at work: Identifying and developing the management behaviours necessary to implement the HSE management standards (no. RR553). Norwich: Health & Safety Executive, CIPD.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK

Personalised recommendations