Fathers at Work: A Ghost in the Organizational Machine


  • Simon B. Burnett,

  • Caroline J. Gatrell,

  • Cary. L. Cooper,

  • Paul Sparrow

Address for correspondence: Department of Management Learning and Leadership, Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster, LA1 4YX, UK; e-mail: c.gatrell@lancaster.ac.uk


This article first provides a review of fatherhood in the gender and organization literature on work and family, and the body and (in)visibility. It observes how organizational assumptions which frame fathers as breadwinners, ignoring their paternal role, remain extraordinarily persistent because policies (no matter how long established) do not necessarily change social attitudes and behaviours. The article then draws upon original qualitative data to demonstrate how while male workers may feel valued as employees, they often feel invisible at work in their paternal role. Fathers perceive that, while family-friendly policies might in theory be available to ‘parents’ these are in practice targeted at working mothers. The article considers why working men's paternity is so often ignored, as though fathers are a ghost in the organizational machine. A recommendation for the establishment of a fatherhood and motherhood passport is made.