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A good relationship with the boss can help relieve the stress experienced by working mothers, but it's not without a cost, according to a university researcher.

Debra Major, associate professor of psychology, has found that such a relationship on the job can also have a downside for a working mother's home life.

"An effective working relationship with the boss makes the woman's work life less stressful," Major said, "but the boss's support may come at a price that creates conflict with the woman's family life."

In the study, Major and doctoral student Karyn Bernas discovered that while having a good working relationship with the boss reduces a woman's stress on the job, it also increases the extent to which her work conflicts with her home life.

"We think that may mean that women have to 'pay' for things like flexibility and support from the boss by doing things that infringe on family time, such as working longer hours and taking on tough assignments," Major said.

"That doesn't necessarily mean that working moms have to do more than their co-workers, but effective working relationships are characterized by mutual high expectations. So, if a woman gets the afternoon off to see her child in a play, it may be mutually understood that she will be working next Saturday."

Their research also revealed that women with "hardy" personalities experienced less stress at home and at work. Not surprisingly, they found that stress at work and/or at home contributes to work-family conflict, and that emotional support from one's family reduces stress, Major said.

Major and Bernas recently completed an article on their research, which is scheduled to appear next month in Psychology of Women Quarterly, the journal of the Women's Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association.

This article was posted on: February 28, 2000

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