Prof Dr Anja Karlshaus: “Every job is divisible – even the management position”

All News, Faculty, Inside CBS   -  26. September 2018

The concept of “part-time management” is still little used in German-speaking countries. However, more and more companies are being sensitised to the subject by looking at the advantages of flexible working time arrangements. The fact that flexible working time models are particularly important for women is shown by current statistics: 47 percent of working women work part-time, but only around nine percent of men. This becomes even clearer in management: The vast majority of part-time managers (83 percent) are women.

In the follow-up to her presentation on “Managing in a part-time job” at Boehringer Ingelheim’s DAX 30 Network Meeting 2018, Prof Dr Anja Karlshaus, Professor of General Business Administration and Human Resources with a research focus on flexible working time models for managers, gave us an interview on “Part-time management”.

CBS: “Part-time careers” is still regarded as a typical topic for women. Would you agree with this statement?

Anja Karlshaus: No, because strictly speaking “part-time management” is just as good an instrument for men. Especially younger men of the so-called Generation Y have a different claim today and want to spend more time with their family. Part-time management is also a good option for older people who want a smooth transition into retirement, for people with time-consuming hobbies or training goals, for managers with relatives to be cared for or health restrictions. They can continue to work in a demanding job – without exceeding personal performance limits.

It is true, however, that women’s careers are still much more impaired than men’s careers by work reduction and breaks due to educational reasons. If we promote part-time leadership, we do promote gender diversity. From this perspective, part-time management is certainly a “women’s issue”, as more and more women have ambitious career goals and want to develop further – despite and with small children or relatives in need of care!

CBS: “Part-time careers” may sound like a contradiction to many managers. How do you oppose this objection?

Anja Karlshaus: Only a few male managers in Germany work part-time. Even fewer have a career during their part-time commitment and are promoted from part-time to higher positions. In practice, part-time management can often be equated with a career standstill.  It is partly even accompanied by less income and complex tasks. The divisibility of leading positions is theoretically however a question of understanding guidance, as Andreas Hoff pointed out: Each job is always a result and a component of divided labour and therefore the job itself is divisible.

CBS: Apart from pure quantity: What is the difference between part-time management and full-time management?

Anja Karlshaus: The term “part-time management” is not so clear, since there is no generally accepted definition of it. “Part-time” is often defined in distinction from the standard “full-time”, which in turn can vary between 36 or 40 hours, with or without overtime. Part time in this context would be “proportionately less”. However, the decreasing number of hours and presence in the company has a major impact on the management style: the lower attendance time is compensated by a stronger focus on results and a higher degree of delegation. Internal coordination processes are less spontaneous and appointments are systematically planned in advance. Some part-time managers describe a noticeable increase in working hours, which leaves less room for networking or training. In addition, management decisions and management actions become much more transparent with models such as job sharing. Clear communication, good self-management and the ability to prioritise are all the more important in part-time management positions, because there is less time to compensate for leadership and organisational weaknesses.

CBS: What do you advise employees who want to sensitize their employer to the topic?

Anja Karlshaus: It all depends on whether the company already has part-time leadership formats or not. Unfortunately, it can be stated that companies in Germany are still characterised by a very strong presence culture and a corresponding management style. In addition, it is problematic that the term “part-time management” is still partly associated with less “commitment”, “willingness to pursue a career” and “determination” and thus stigmatised – especially men who want to reduce their working hours. This would require a change in leadership understanding and corporate culture in many organisations so that equal career opportunities also exist in time-reduced work models. As a manager, you have to bear this in mind when striving for such a model.

In any case, a well-founded situation analysis is crucial, which can also be carried out together with the superior and the personnel department. You should take a close look at the work content and processes of the management position, examine the so-called “part-time family” (superiors, colleagues, employees and customers) and proactively make suggestions on how the part-time management model could be developed in the corporate sense. This includes a proposal for selecting the appropriate part-time model (reduced full-time job or tandem), the possible regulation of attendance times, deputy regulations, work organisational measures and ideas for ensuring the transfer of information. Before this elaboration begins, however, it is important that the potential part-time managers consider for themselves what their professional and private goals are. There are no standard solutions in the area of part-time management in particular.

CBS: Do you think that part-time management could become the standard in the future?

Anja Karlshaus: If you look at today’s realities and values, it is obvious that standard role models such as the permanent full-time manager, which are independent of needs, are no longer up to date. Firstly, many HR managers assume that excellent work results and high motivation can only be achieved by taking personal needs into account in the sense of life-phase oriented working time planning. Secondly, the political framework conditions are also changing significantly with regard to the legal safeguarding of part-time employment, explicitly also for managers. Political initiatives, internal quotas for women and the public presentation of successful part-time managers also increase the pressure on the topic. And thirdly, increasing digitalisation opens up new possibilities for communication and accessibility in emergencies. In this respect, it can be assumed that part-time management models will gain a great deal of acceptance in the future and become more widespread.

Date preview:

Lecture “Part-time management – working model with a future” at the cross-company VAA network for women in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry (Organizer: Merck – Innovation Center) on November 6, 2018 in Darmstadt.

Lecture “Implementing Part-Time Leadership as Instrument for Sustainable HR-Management” at the 8th International CSR Conference on 13/14 November 2018 in Cologne. More information on the CSR Conference can be found at: www.international-csr.org

More information on the subject of “part-time leadership” can be found at: www.teilzeitfuehrung.info

Photo: Boehringer Ingelheim

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