Interactive Activity

Field Study Guidelines for Interviewing Employees and Employers

Activity Description: 

Author: Anna Haley-Lock

This assignment serves to frame the issues of the course in the following respects:

  • Exposing you to both employer and employee perspectives in the ways that jobs are designed, rewarded, and otherwise supported-including challenges and opportunities that employers face in these efforts, and the ways that these efforts translate for the lives of workers.
  • Revealing variation in the ways that jobs are designed, rewarded and supported•within the same major metropolitan area (local labor market), as well as within the same industry, and for potentially the same job title. In addition, by hearing the findings from groups assigned to other industries, you will be able to appreciate cross-industry similarities as well as differences in employment conditions and issues facing employers.
  • Working as a diverse, integrated, professional student group.

Arranging Your Interviews:

  • In class, groups will be created and assigned a specific industry (restaurant, retail, grocery). Each member will be assigned to interview either a front-line employee or an employer.
  • Interviewees should be adults (age 18+).
  • Interviewees may be “former,” rather than “current,” employees/employers if approved by an instructor, but you should clearly situate your interview with them in a specific former job and organization.
  • Before contacting your potential interviewees to recruit them, you must supply their names and organizational information to the instructor, who will be keeping a master list of interviews to minimize repeat contacting of people.
  • When you contact your interviewees to recruit and schedule them, you should review the purpose and nature of the interview with them, per the attached “informed consent”-style guidelines. This serves to establish the safest, most equally-footed context in which the two of you discuss their experiences.

Conducting Your Interviews:

  • You are being provided with a structured interview protocol to use as a basic outline for your interviews, but you are free to supplement it with additional questions.
  • Review the attached “informed consent-style” guidelines before you begin the interview.
  • Each interview should take roughly 1 hour (sometimes less, but avoid having it run on much longer as a consideration to your interviewee).

Writing Up Your Interviews Individually, and your Group Findings:
The focus of your writing up of these narratives will be primarily descriptive: to give a sense of the stories shared with you by your interviewees about their experiences with their jobs and their organizations. The format is generally open, but you should consider the following points:

  • Individual Interview: You need to convey the core of the interview completely BUT without “kitchen-sinking.” Don’t simply dump the contents of your discussion onto paper; rather, translate it into a more readable, narrative form. This form might involve a chronology of events, high and low points of the person’s job experience, or other - each interviews may suggest its own written structure.
  • Group Findings: This summary presents themes that emerged across the interviews. You might organize by Employers and Employees. Or you might organize by certain emergent themes, in some cases combining employer and employee perspectives that overlapped. You might organize by points of variation and similarity. Up to your group. Ask yourselves in this task, Across the discussions with people, what points were repeated? What points never came up? What are your initial thoughts about what the themes we have identified-as well as those not found-mean?
Activity Source: 

University of Washington ’07 created by Prof. Anna Haley-Lock

Domestic Violence and the Workplace: Learn what you can do to help

Activity Description: 

“We have developed this training to increase the safety for everyone in the workplace. The following information is contained in this training.

  1. What to do if you are being hurt. 
  2. Why the issue of domestic violence is important. 
  3. What domestic violence is - definition, cause, who is affected, laws and resources, barriers to leaving. 
  4. Why domestic violence is a problem in the workplace. 
  5. What Employees can do to help make the workplace safe. 
  6. What Employers can do to help make the workplace safe 
  7. What Oregon communities are doing about domestic violence. 
  8. What you can do to help in your community.
Activity Source: 

Multnomah County Oregon, Domestic Violence Coordinator’s Office. (n.d.) Domestic Violence and the Workplace: Learn what you can do to help. Retrieved August 14, 2007, from

Collaborative Web Project on Social Structure, Agency, and Diversity

Activity Description: 


  • To inform the general public about work-family linkages in the focal country.
  • To develop practical skills in critical thinking, collaborative writing, and web page design.

The web site will be a series of interconnected pages that synthesize information from the individual sole-authored research papers. As a team, students will decide how to best present the collective research, using the broad themes of the course—social structure, agency, and diversity—as an implicit framework. Each student must take “first-author” responsibility for at least two web pages. 

Each web site must also have the following components:

  • Purpose, Disclaimer, & Authorship. On the home page for this website, (1) describe the purpose of the web site, (2) acknowledge the limitations of your research in a modest, but not apologetic way on the introductory page, and (3) list all authors. Place a condensed version of the purpose and authorship at the bottom of all web pages.
  • National Context. Summarize the national context of work-family linkages, including the demographic situation and the cultural milieu. Do not overwhelm the readers with too many numbers or lines of text. Be concise. All information should be sociologically relevant, and it should be presented in a visually appealing way.
  • Major Work-Family Issues. Identify and discuss several work-family issues in the focal country.
  • Work-Family Policies. Describe the national system of work-family benefits and regulations.
  • The Social Organization of Childcare. Describe the national childcare system.
  • Work-Family Organizations and Government Agencies. Identify and describe several organizations and government agencies that deal with work-family issues. Provide contact information for each one.
  • Annotated Bibliography. Create a comprehensive annotated bibliography (in .pdf format) that combines all references for the entire website.
  • Links to Relevant Web Sites. Integrate links as appropriate throughout the web site; do not merely list a bunch of sites on a separate page. Do not get carried away with links. Quality is much more important than quantity. Ask yourself: how is this link relevant to the assignment?
  • Flag & Map of Country. The professor will demonstrate how to download images from the web. Students, however, may not scan published images or download copyrighted images without the written permission of the owner of the images. Otherwise, students risk being held legally responsible for violating copyright laws.
  • References. Identify all sources of information at the bottom of each web page. Only cite the references that you use for that particular page. Give complete citations, and use ASA format.

Evaluation Criteria
The professor will evaluate each group’s web site on its sociological sophistication, quality of writing for a general audience, visual appeal, and “usability” design features. Refer to the criteria checklist for details.

Each team will receive a group grade. The professor, however, reserves the right to lower the grade of any team member who does not adequately fulfill her/his group responsibilities or who is uncooperative, subversive, or non-participatory in the collective decision-making and writing process.

Download the Evaluation Criteria check list here.

Activity Source: 

Sweet, Stephen, Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, Joshua Mumm, Judith Casey, and Christina Matz. 2006. Teaching Work and Family: Strategies, Activities, and Syllabi. Washington DC: American Sociological Association.

Union Work/Family Curriculum: Making it Work Better

Activity Description: 

“A union work family curriculum, provides union instructors, facilitators and discussion leaders with ideas on how to:

  1. Educate union members and leaders on work family issues;
  2. Advance these issues on the job; and,
  3. Advocate for work family issues in the workplace, on the legislative front and in the community

The 3½ hour curriculum contains short modules that can be incorporated into existing union trainings or used in its entirety to train bargaining committees, stewards or rank and file members.”

Activity Source: 

Labor Project for Working Families:

PBS series Livelyhood, “Night Shift” Episode

Activity Description: 

Livelyhood is a series of one-hour PBS specials focused on the work lives of Americans and how work impacts families, homes and communities.  It examines the changing nature of work and the economy and how American families are affected by these changes.  Episode topics include “Working Family Values,” “The Workday that Wouldn’t Die,” and “Night Shift.”  Each episode listed on the Livelyhood website contains a link to a Viewing Guide and Classroom Activities and Resources.

Click here to access the homepage of Livelyhood.  Click on the second link, “Night Shift,” to access the homepage for that episode:

For a link to the Interactive Teacher Guide for the episode “Night Shift,” click here:

For a link to the Interactive Teacher Guides for other Livelyhood episodes, click here:

Activity Source: 

The PBS series on the changing nature of work, Livelyhood:

Competition at Work, A Suggested Work and Family Class Activity

Activity Description: 

Related Encyclopedia Topic

Work-Family Policies and Gender Inequality at Work

To inspire critical thinking about how family friendly work amenities may be related to workplace rewards and how social categories (such as gender and family status) influence people’s career paths.


  1. Create sets of 2 employee profiles to hand out to small groups.  The profiles should be matched on all factors (i.e., education, work experience, job reviews, work-family policy use, gender, and parental status) save one. The following are a few examples of relevant differences:

    Match a pair on sex with only difference being policy use 

    Match a pair on policy use with only difference being sex.

    Match a pair on sex and policy use with only difference being the reason for policy use (e.g. one employee uses policy to care for their own medical problem while the other uses the policy for child care issues)

  2. Inform students that they will be simulating a work-place situation in which they act as supervisors who must award a promotion to one of two candidates. 

  3. Divide students into groups of 2-4 and hand out a set of two profiles to each group.  Ask the group to discuss both candidates and make a decision as a group about who to promote.

  4. Have groups report who they promoted and why.

  5. Discuss and illuminate patterns.  Bring up issues such as gender, policy use, and rationale for policy use, asking how these issues factored in decisions students made. 

This classroom activity is inspired by experiments conducted by Tammy Allen.  See the following articles for more detail:

Allen, T. D., Russell, J. E.A. & Rush, M. C.  (1994).  The effects of gender and leave of absence on attributions for high performance, perceived organizational commitment, and allocation of organizational rewards.  Sex Roles, 31,  443-464.

Allen, T. D. & Russell, J. E. A.  (1999).  Parental leave of absence:  Some not so family friendly implications.  Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 29,  166-191.

Activity Source: 

Content contributed by Sarah Beth Estes and Joe Michael as a Suggested Work and Family Class Activity for the Sloan Networks’ Resources for Teaching section.

Syndicate content