Work–life management tensions in multinational enterprises (MNEs)

E. Anne Bardoel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Global work–life initiatives present unique challenges for HR departments in multinational enterprises (MNEs) because of the complexity of implementing policies that require sensitivity to local issues such as cultural traditions and legislation. A tension-centered approach to analyzing these complexities, not utilized in previous research on the topic, is applied here. Three generic sources of tensions are developed: strategic/policy versus operational considerations, centralization versus decentralization and contextual/institutional versus organizational demands. Earlier research yields four potential responses to tensions: opposition, spatial separation, temporal separation and synthesis, with a fifth option added for no recognition of tension. The framework is applied to global work–life initiatives using data from 27 qualitative interviews with regional and global HR managers employed by 13 MNEs. There is evidence supporting the prevalence of each of the three generic sources of and five responses to tension, and of overlap across categories and responses. For managers, the analysis provides useful insights for constructing global work–life initiatives that are effective and responsive to local conditions. For researchers, the tensions approach yields a relevant tool for analyzing global work–life initiatives. For both, the findings suggest it is important to guard against biases related to Western notions of progress.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1681-1709
Number of pages29
JournalThe International Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2016


  • diversity
  • global HR
  • MNEs
  • qualitative research
  • work–life management

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