Survey data from 226 service employees were used to test the hypothesized moderating role of chronic self-regulatory focus on the relationships between work-family conflict (WFC) and challenge/hindrance strain. A follow-up scenario-based experiment (N = 93 executives) confirmed the results of the hypothesized model. Results from the two studies together demonstrated the moderating role of self-regulatory processes: chronic promotion-focused individuals perceived WFC as a challenge-type strain, while chronic prevention-focused individuals viewed WFC as a hindrance-type strain. Individuals use self-regulation strategically: in work domains, they regulate themselves so that family does not interfere with work. Individuals' stress perceptions differ depending on the two dimensions of WFC as they regard interferences from (WIF) as a personal challenge, perhaps affording them an opportunity to balance work and life and to refine their abilities, but interferences from family to work (FIW) act as a barrier preventing them from achieving career success. When two-way interactions between WIF/FIW and chronic promotion/prevention foci were taken into consideration, the WIF/FIW main effects on challenge/hindrance stress became insignificant, suggesting that chronic self-regulation fully moderated the relationship. The results extend the current work-family research by incorporating self-regulatory processes as an important moderating variable, suggesting new research directions. The findings can help human resource management establish policies and benefit programs that take individual differences into account.
Keywords: challenge/hindrance strain; chronic regulatory focus; work and family.