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Every flow has its ebb: The impact of flow on work–family conflict and adjustment in global careers

Abstract Despite an increase in research in psychology on the mental state of flow, little is known within the area of organisational studies about its “dark side.” Although prior organisational studies literature suggests that flow leads to generally positive work outcomes, we use conservation of resources theory to argue that expatriates in the state of flow can accumulate resources that lead to work adjustment but at the same time may experience unintended negative work–family conflict consequences. Specifically, we argue that being in the state of flow can improve expatriates' work adjustment because they can concentrate on the task at hand in an unencumbered way. Yet the exclusive concentration on work tasks and the distortion of time while in the state of flow may reduce psychological and time resources available to the family, resulting in work–family conflict. We explore whether flow theory needs to be altered to discover potentially negative work–family conflict outcomes inherent in the complex work regimes associated with global careers. Structural equation modelling analyses based on a sample of 230 expatriates in the United States and 169 expatriates in Brazil revealed that flow increased both work–family conflict and work adjustment.

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