Employees care about financial success – but not about work-life balance, say researchers

Financial success is important across cultures but the importance of maintaining a work-life balance differs between them, finds new research from BI Norwegian Business School.

Career proactivity – the effort employees make to progress in their careers through career planning, skill development, and consultation with senior colleagues – is positively related to career success, but what is considered success can differ between countries.

Anders Dysvik, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, conducted a study on the relationship between proactive career behaviours and two subjective measures of career success – financial success and work-life balance. They used a sample of 11,892 employees from 22 different countries and found employees were more likely to be proactive in their career to achieve subjective financial success than a good work-life balance.

However, the importance of career proactivity to achieving financial success and work-life balance differed among cultures.

Prof. Dysvik says:

“The relationship between proactivity and individual perception of career success depends on cultural context. Career proactivity was important for financial success across cultures, but highest in cultures with strong hierarchies that lack communication between different levels, such as Japan and China. For work-life balance, career proactivity was important in cultures that prioritise common group goals over personal goals and reward those who are altruistic and caring towards others, such as the UK and US.”

Understanding what contributes to individuals’ subjective career success is important because this is associated with greater life satisfaction and psychological well-being. It is also important for organisations as subjective career success can lead to lower turnover intentions and increased support for organisational change.

This study was published in the Journal of Organizational Behaviour.