An examination of the perceived impact of flexible work arrangements on professional opportunities in public accounting

Journal of Business Ethics 32 (4):317 - 328 (2001)
Since 1990, the multinational public accounting firms have all adopted flexible work arrangement policies. In part, the firms are doing this to fulfill an ethical obligation in creating an appropriate professional environment for their employees. This study examines the effect of participation in a flexible work arrangement program on an individual''s professional success and anticipated turnover as perceived by the participant''s peers and superiors. Subjects from one Big Five accounting firm read a description of a manager and answered a series of questions about the likelihood of the manager''s promotion to partner, voluntary and involuntary turnover, and desirability on a job. Gender and participation in a flexible work arrangement were manipulated in a 2×2 design. The results indicate that participation in a flexible work arrangement evoked significantly more pessimistic predictions on all of the dimensions. Gender did not have an effect on the likelihood ratings. Follow-up questions about the factors that enhance and hinder individuals career success in each work scenario indicated that the perceived ability to "juggle" and the ability to "pull one''s weight" potentially affects evaluations of what it takes to be a successful professional in the financial services environment. Implications for professional and ethics practice and research are also presented.
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