Can a Humane Culture Alleviate Work-Family Conflict?

Humane cultures can help to offset negative supervisor and coworker behaviors. How can you grow a humane culture? Learn more in this post!

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Work-family conflict, or the perception that work interferes with life, has been shown to have negative effects on health and well-being across cultures. New research shows that having a humane culture may help alleviate work-family conflict, with the strongest effects where it matters the most. Want to learn more about how to lessen work-family conflict for your employees, by building a more humane culture? Read on!

What is a humane culture?

A humane culture reflects the extent to which people in a context behave in caring and helpful ways toward one another. There are four key components to a humane culture. First, employees in humane cultures show concern for one another. For example, if a coworker is struggling with grief, they might reach out to see how they can best provide support. Second, employees in humane cultures are sensitive toward one another. Using this same example, a greiving employee who is in a more humane culture might recognize that their fellow employees are taking things off of their plate, to help them to have time to cope and heal.

Third, people are friendly to one another in a humane culture. They greet each other with dignity and enthusiasm, and make people feel a part of something larger than themselves. Finally, people in humane cultures recognize that everyone is human and makes mistakes. So, they are slower to judge and more likely to help fellow employees to navigate errors and to learn from their experiences.

People in a humane culture recognize that every person is valuable and deserves respect.

Why does having a humane culture matter?

Recent research shows that, across cultures, supervisor support and coworker support help to alleviate work-family conflict. In other words, when supervisors and coworkers are there to provide support, work-family conflict decreases. But, what about in situations where coworkers and supervisors are less supportive? This same recent research shows, using data from over 10,000 employees across 30 countries, humane orientation can help offset the negative effects of having less supervisor and coworker support.

In other words, when employees are in a larger culture that is supportive, the lack of support they receive from close others matters less. Thus, it’s particularly important for organizations to instill broader humane cultures when employees are working directly with managers or coworkers who show less support. While everyone benefits from having a more humane workplace, this is especially true for employees who are lacking this support to begin with.

open hand
Role modeling providing help to others is key to building a more humane workforce.

How can you make your workplace more humane?

First, it’s important to make sure that leaders are role modeling and rewarding humane behaviors. This means that when others show care, sensitivity, friendliness, or tolerance of mistakes toward their coworkers, their behaviors should be highlighted and celebrated. If leaders aren’t engaging in these behaviors, and showing others how valued they are, their followers will be unlikely to follow suit.

Second, if you’re in a culture that has high humane orientation but low supervisor or coworker support, you might think about improving your work-life outcomes by training employees to be more supportive. While humane cultures can offset some of the negative impacts of supervisor or coworker support on work-family conflict, the best case scenario is to have all three forms of support. So, training supervisors and coworkers to show more supportive behaviors toward those grappling with work-life demands might help. Overall, growing a humane culture is useful if you are struggling to improve supervisor or coworker behaviors on a particular team. But, striving to provide a humane culture that works hand in hand with supportive coworker behaviors, instead of against them, is ideal.

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