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Sustainable people management through work-life balance: A study of the Malaysian Chinese context

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Wee Chan Au


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PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to explore the harmful effects of negative externality at both national and firm level by identifying practices that impact Malaysian Chinese ' s well-being in the form of work-life imbalance.Design/methodology/approachThis paper adopts an emic approach using phenomenological enquiry to investigate what factors influence and shape work-life balance experience of Malaysian Chinese working adults. Emic approach, which takes into account elements that are indigenous to a particular culture, is useful to explore the uniqueness of the Malaysian context. Semi-structured interviews with six Malaysian Chinese working adults were conducted to understand their experience of work-life balance in the Malaysian Chinese context.FindingsThe findings highlight how contextual elements in the macro-environment (such as government legislation and policy, societal values, and practices) and the firm environment (owner and leadership values, superiors’ attitude) come together to shape the overall experience of work-life balance among Chinese Malaysians. The findings show that current work-life practices in Malaysia fall short in a number of ways, which ultimately leads to an unsustainable human resource position for Malaysian firms.Practical implicationsFrom a practical perspective the paper highlights the need to focus on employees’ work-life balance as a means to create sustainable and productive workplaces.Originality/valueGiven that the concept of work-life balance is grounded in western literature, it is important to explore the nature and relevance work-life balance in sustaining human resources in nonwestern, especially less developed business settings. Findings of this study contribute to the work-life literature by exploring the work-life balance experience in Malaysia through emic approach using a phenomenological lens. The findings identify a shortfall in sustainable people management arising through the interplay of unique negative externality multi-level contextual factors.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Au WC, Ahmed PK

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration

Year: 2014

Volume: 6

Issue: 3

Pages: 262-280

Online publication date: 01/09/2014

Acceptance date: 02/04/2014

ISSN (electronic): 1757-4323

Publisher: Emerald Publishing Limited


DOI: 10.1108/APJBA-02-2014-0024


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