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Pursuing Career Success while Sustaining Personal and Family Well-Being: A Study of Reduced-Load Professionals over Time


  • We thank the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (1996–98 and 2002–04) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (1996–99) for financial support making this research possible. We are also grateful to other members of two research teams for their contributions to data collection and analysis, as well as ideas generated in periodic research team retreats: Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, Carol Schreiber, Margaret Williams, Michelle Buck, Leslie Haugen, Sharon Leiba O'Sullivan, and Connie J. G. Gersick. We are also very appreciative for the technical assistance of Sung Soo Kim and Christine Bataille of McGill University for their help with statistical analyses. McGill University, Michigan State University, and Boston University are thanked for their institutional support of this research.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Douglas T. Hall, Department of Organizational Behavior, School of Management, Boston University, 595 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215 [e-mail:].


This study examines the experiences, over 6 years, of 73 managers and high level professionals who reduced their workloads to achieve more sustainable career and family outcomes. We compared personal, family, and career success outcomes for people who maintained reduced loads over time with those who went back to full time work, and we found few differences, except for more promotions for the full-timers. To further understand our results, we identified four groups with all four possible combinations of extreme success (either very high or very low) on our two measures of success, objective and subjective. The groups were labeled Aligned Achievers, Alienated Achievers, Happy Part Timers, and Hard Luck Strivers. Subsequent qualitative analysis of group members’ reflections on the meaning of career success as well as the occurrence of significant life events helped explain the variation in their success in sustaining desired career and life arrangements over time.