Tribal Affiliations, Gender Roles and their Influence on Work Life Balance Practice: The Case of the Kenyan Telecommunications Sector

  • Sheillah Chimungeni

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The intersection of peoples’ paid work and non-work responsibilities has over the last twenty years received increased interest in the media, workplaces, and academic circles. The
increased attention is driven by a realisation of the undesirable consequences of inter-role conflict, also referred to as work life conflict. A growing area of global societal concern relates to WLB policies and practices that are designed to improve peoples’ ability to effectively carry out paid work and non-work responsibilities harmoniously. Employers and governments adopt WLB policies and practices to aid workers in successfully participating in labour market activity, family and personal life while also enhancing quality of life. Research attests to the benefits of employees and employers having good WLB practice. However, WLB research has considerably progressed in Western countries, fairly in Eastern Countries, while minimal attention has been given to African countries like Kenya, where WLB practice is less known.

Purpose: This study identifies and compares the WLB policies and practices in use within Kenya’s telecommunications sector using Safaricom Kenya and Telkom Kenya as case studies. It critically evaluates the perspectives and experiences of managers and employees of the use of WLB policies and practices, particularly on the manner in which tribal affiliations and gender role expectations influence WLB practice.

Methodological approach: A mixed method approach was adopted for this study. Data was drawn from corporate policy statements, multi-level semi-structured interviews, and online questionnaires with managers and employees across both organisations, as well as bodies and organisations in Kenya’s wider public and private sectors.

Findings: The findings indicated that: (1) Both organisations offered what they each interpreted as WLB policies. Safaricom offered statutory and organisation-specific WLB policies and practices while Telkom offered only statutory WLB provisions; (2) Political influence and tribal affiliations interfered with the equal use of WLB provisions, and autonomy in the decision making of line managers who played an integral role in the implementation of WLB policies and practices; and (3) Gender roles and expectations impacted on the designing, implementation, and use of WLB policies and practices, with increased attention directed towards women WLB needs.

Research limitations: First, the relatively small numbers of line managers in the sample’s population meant that deeper quantitative analysis was not possible. Nevertheless, the line manager quantitative results were validated through triangulation with findings from interviews carried out with the same managers as well as outcomes from the other methods used. Secondly, only the head offices of Safaricom and Telkom located in Nairobi were examined. Hence, while the results can be generalised to Kenya, they cannot be generalised to other countries characterised by different cultures and contexts. However, the approach used to finding these results can be applied to a wide variety of situations, thus allowing the examination of external validity.

Originality/value: This study is one of the first to explore the effect/impact of tribe in the Kenyan telecommunications sector, and reflecting on the historic and traditional permeation of political practices and rivalry within organisations, as well as the impact this has on WLB practice. The study’s definition of ‘family’ was conceptualized to suit that of a typical Kenyan ‘extended family’, reflecting the financial and gender role obligations that characterise the Kenyan society. Third, the concept of womanhood and related roles in the Kenyan setting are revealed as being critical and complex for the Kenyan woman who has to attend to paid work while at the same time balancing not only domestic responsibilities, but also religious and community obligations.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorRandhir Auluck (Supervisor), Philip Dunham (Supervisor), Eno Maycock (Supervisor) & Kirsten Stevens (Supervisor)


  • Kenya
  • telecommunications sector,
  • work life conflict
  • work life balance
  • culture
  • tribe
  • gender
  • politics
  • trust
  • commitment
  • job satisfaction

Cite this