Just when you thought that things couldn’t possibly get more complicated at work, considering the politics and the often-invisible red tape, it turns out another non-politically correct hurdle can wreak havoc in your workplace environment: your single status.
Being unattached may have an unintended effect on your work hours, job duties, and responsibilities.
Although the research in this area is preliminary, a recent small study highlights that single workers feel more mistreated and stigmatized in the workplace than their married counterparts.
Single workers may resent their married cohorts receiving more flexibility, in terms of duties and hours worked, alongside other real or perceived benefits.
In one recent study conducted by Wendy Casper, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, a diverse group of 59 singles from various work sectors, ages 22-70 were recruited and interviewed. Overall, singles of all ages felt they were expected to work more hours than their coworkers who were married with kids, but this was a bigger concern for young, never-married singles in their 20s and early 30s.
Young singles felt their personal time was not respected and that work interfered with finding time to date, attract a partner and settle down. All the young, never-married singles hoped and planned to marry in the future, and most planned to have children in the near future.
Casper decided to conduct interviews with single employees who were never married, divorced or widowed, and without dependent children to better understand their work-life experiences. Married workers were perceived in the workplace as happier, secure, more sociable and perhaps more stable than their single counterparts. Casper wanted to find out if negative stereotypes of singles translate into singles’ negative experiences in the workplace.
Singles over 35 but under 55 years old were hardest hit. Casper says “at a certain point in time, social expectations tell us it’s time to get married and have a family, so when employees are at an age where it is less common to be single, it may trigger questions in others as to why they aren’t following the traditional social expectations.”
This may bring up a whole slew of other questions such as a lack of norms, values, and perhaps intrinsic problems that may reside within an individual who does not follow convention, a sweeping and often erroneous generalization that can have devastating consequences for singles in the workplace.
Overall, singles of all ages reported family issues and concerns, but those over 50 reported elderly care services that had to be met. Singles in their 20s and 30s felt that others’ child care demands, and ‘traditional’ family obligations superseded all other family concerns and issues.
Casper encourages mangers and co-workers to understand that “everyone has personal needs and issues that may reside outside of work, which might not always be traditional.” Regardless of what these concerns are, she says it is important to be supportive of employees as they deal with work-life concerns and to treat all employees fairly and equally.
“Just treat your employees as you would want to be treated,” Casper added. “Everyone has a different story with different chapters.”