Despite the prevalence of work spouses, scarce empirical research has focused on the communication occurring within these relationships, leaving managers with little understanding as to whether organizations can or should communicate support for employees forming these relationships and how privacy is navigated among work spouses. Building on McBride and Bergen’s conceptualization of the work-spouse relationship, we used Communication Privacy Management theory (CPM) to understand what, if any, privacy rule decision criteria individuals used as they negotiated disclosures within their work-spouse relationships. Analysis of interviews with 41 people in work-spouse relationships suggests that participants recognized both their own core privacy rule decision criteria and when these criteria were similar to or different from the criteria influencing their work spouse’s. Furthermore, work-spouse relationships formed despite organizational efforts to keep them at bay. Theoretically, the findings add to CPM theory, such that they establish the need to examine catalyst criteria as current and previous, as well as argue for the addition of confirming criteria to account for situations in which catalysts reinforce routinized privacy rules. Overall, the findings from this study advance the literature on communication in the work-spouse relationship and CPM theory and highlight the role that workplaces play in fostering these types of relationships.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Strategy and Management