Joe Vesco rarely got to see his older sister, Rita. Although they lived only 70 miles apart, their visits seemed limited to family holidays. Rita was 31, married, and had two boys, ages 6 and 3. She was a supervisor for a telemarketing company, overseeing the work of 15 sales agents. Rita put in long hours, typically 50 to 60 hours per week. She frequently worked until 8:00 p.m. because many sales calls were made in the early evening. She had a departmental sales quota to reach and also had to monitor the individual sales quotas of each of her agents. Work was very stressful. She experienced considerable guilt and anxiety over how her work life was affecting her family. Her husband picked the children up from day care and fed them dinner. The younger child was often asleep before Rita arrived home. She and her husband had discussed at length whether Rita should look for another job with more conventional hours. It always seemed to come down to money. They needed both incomes to maintain their family, and Rita’s job paid particularly well. She was paid partly on commission, and because she frequently exceeded her department’s sales quota, Rita received about 20% additional income over her base salary. No other job would pay so well. Joe had a very different life. He was single, 24, and worked as a surveyor for the county. He had his own apartment, just recently purchased his first new car, and loved his independence. His job didn’t pay very well, but the hours were stable. He left work every day at 4:30. Joe didn’t worry about being fired or losing his job. The county employed only a few surveyors, and no one could remember anyone in his department ever being fired or laid off. It was a highly secure job but not very challenging. Joe didn’t think he would make a career out of the job, but for the present it suited him very well.

Joe and Rita got together at their parents’ anniversary party. Joe hadn’t seen Rita for quite some time and was surprised at how stressed out she looked. He remembered his sister as being a stabilizing influence on him while they were growing up. She always seemed to be in control of her life. That apparent control, whether real or just imagined by Joe, was no longer evident. Rita complained about not being able to leave her work problems at work; she worried about her children while at work. She acknowledged taking medication to help her get to sleep, which had never been a problem before. Rita also talked about going back to smoking, after having given up cigarettes for almost seven years. Joe reflected on his own life in comparison to his sisters. He didn’t make nearly the money she did, but his biggest concern in life seemed to be which sporting event he would watch on TV when he came home from work. And car payments. Joe remembered his own mother always being home when he got back from school. He wondered how his nephews would respond to their mothers absence after school. Joe concluded that Rita was wondering the same thing.


  1. What are the primary sources of work/family conflict in Rita’s life?
  2. To what degree does gender play a role in Rita’s work/family conflict? Why?
  3. What are the rewards and drawbacks for both Rita and Joe in the jobs they hold?