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In an informal survey taken at a recent management seminar, fully 10 percent of the participants identified themselves primarily as single people in their corporation rather than as marketers, managers, change agents and so on.

It's striking that of all the roles that these professionals were called upon to play each day, they most strongly felt that being single was the strongest psychological role for them in the company and what defined them in the work place. It is in helping single employees confront this psychological role and its perceived corporate limitations that management can make a valuable and meaningful contribution to the entire workforce.

Women and other minorities, of course, have known for years that they've had to work twice as hard just to be accorded the same regard as the archetypal white, married male. Single people are learning the same thing and management will have come a long way when it can recognize and equalize the subtle ways in which all their workers can feel valued as persons as well as contributors to the corporate vision.

Michael Abruzzese, Ph.D., is a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School, director of the Institute for Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology Inc. and a consulting psychologist in Boston, Mass.

This article originally appeared in HR Today and has been reprinted with permission of the author.

And the Survey Says . . .

A cover story in a 1996 issue of Personnel Journal – now called Workforce – reported that 81 percent of readers surveyed believe that single employees end up carrying more of the burden than their married coworkers, not only by subsidizing benefits of colleagues with dependents, but also by filling in when the army of parents goes home.

Source: Ruth Padawer, "U.S. may offer parents protection from job bias," Bergen Record, 5-27-99.

Notable Quotes . . .

"As companies step forward to help parents juggle home and family, their childless colleagues increasingly resent getting saddled with the load. They say they work longer hours; rarely use sick days; are there late at night when a client calls back with problems; and often carry the weight of work during summer months or maternity leave.

"CEO’s are noticing. Executives say this of one of the hottest issues in corporate boardrooms today. For them, the issue is finding an equitable – and legal – way to compensate staff with very different needs and equally different productivity."

Kristen Bole, "Working parents take time for the kids, while resentful singles pick up the slack," San Francisco Business Times, May 24, 1999.


"When I first started talking about this issue, there was a perception that single people and childless people were this very tiny population, some sort of obscure interest group.

"In fact, Census Bureau statistics show that single, childless people are 30 percent of the work force. For the first time in U.S. history the percentage of households occupied by one person – 25 percent – is exactly the same percentage of households occupied by a mom or dad and one or more kids."

Interview with workplace consultant Mary Young by Columnist Amy Gage, "A Call for Balance," Pioneer Press, June 14, 1998.


"People without spouse and children are seeking benefits that are better suited to their lifestyles. Employment law experts warn that discrimination suits based on parental status are likely to emerge.

"‘As a result, employers will have no choice but to explore a wider variety of work/life benefits instead of work/family benefits,’ said Michael R. Losey, president and CEO of the Society of Human Resource Management."

"Future Workplaces Must Welcome Myriad Lifestyles, SHRM Says," www.businessknowhow.com.


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