8: Flexibility stigma and the rewards of flexible working

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In Chapter 5, we explored the issues around the manifestation of the subjectification of self – specifically around passion at work, and the issue of passion exploitation – to possibly explain why individuals are likely to overwork when working flexibly. The idea of how passion can lead you to work long hours when given more autonomy at work is generally based on the idea that you work longer hours to meet your goals, your passion. In other words, longer working hours is driven by your inner need to succeed and wanting to achieve a more positive notion of self and self-fulfilment. Flexibility stigma is different, although ultimately stemming from the same cause – the entrepreneurial self-culture and the ideal worker culture. It is embedded in guilt and the negative connotations of self when you fear that you have moved away from the ideal worker image or that you are not fulfilling it as rigorously as you should be. Flexibility stigma also stems from the assumptions of others of what flexible working can result in for different groups of workers, again shaped by societal norms such as gender norms and intensive parenting cultures.

Some scholars (Rudman and Mescher, 2013) argue that men are likely to experience double stigma when using flexible working arrangements for care purposes – namely, flexibility and femininity stigma. Flexible working for care purposes makes men be perceived as going against the ideal worker image and against the male-breadwinner image. However, as we discussed in Chapter 7, there are underlying assumptions behind men and women’s flexible working practices.

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