Self-ambivalence: Naming a contemporary work-family problem that has no name

Jenny M. Hoobler, Courtney R. Masterson, Kristie Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As workers and family members, individuals ought to celebrate seemingly positive events (e.g., a promotion, the purchase of a home). Yet, the numerous identities that contemporary workers hold increase the likelihood of an event that is pleasant in one domain being problematic in another, and more cognitively and affectively complex than anticipated. We theorize that these events are likely to prompt self-evaluations that are positive (“I’m a success!”) and negative (“I’m a failure.”) across one’s identity set, with questions such as “Who have I become?” and “Is this who I ought to be?” The result is self-ambivalence, that is, a simultaneously oppositional orientation toward oneself. We view this as a contemporary cognitive and affective experience for which theorizing in work and family is largely absent. Our conceptual model begins with “work-family ought events,” events accompanied by both possibilities and limitations that prompt identity-related self-examination. We acknowledge the influence of multi-level social systems including organizational, societal, individual, and partner factors, which can intensify self-ambivalence. We propose the experience of self-ambivalence has implications for self-concept clarity and ultimately well-being in both the work and family domains, and extend theory on this problem of self-ambivalence, a problem that heretofore “had no name.”
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)252-265
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


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