Few of us resent a colleague taking time off during the working day to cope with a domestic or family crisis. But half of American workers believe their bosses abuse their positions to take more time off than they should, while expecting everyone else to keep their noses to the grindstone.
And this suspicion that bosses are not being totally honest and open with their teams about the amount of time they take off is deeply damaging to the workplace, research by consultancy Deloitte has concluded.
The poll of more than 4,000 people found exactly half believed bosses set different standards for themselves when it came to exercising flexible work options.
Their suspicion is not helped by the finding that those earning the highest salaries generally felt they had an easier time balancing their work and personal priorities.
Four out of 10 of those people polled who had a household of income of more than $75,000 a year said they successfully balanced their work and personal time, against fewer than a third of those making between $25,000 and $35,000 per year.
Yet, somewhat contradictorily, three quarters also felt that, by and large, everyone in their office was treated equally when it came to exercising flexible work options.
It was also clear that workers valued openness and honesty from their leaders, believing a "grown up" relationship between worker and manager tended to bring real business benefits.
More than eight out of 10 agreed that openness by their leadership contributed to a more ethical workplace culture. And more than two thirds said it created a more values-based organisation.
Tellingly, nearly three quarters said that if their boss were more open about his or her need to take time off during regular work hours for personal reasons, it would create a more engaging and productive environment.
"Today's workforce demands a more 'customized' career path and a tremendous amount of flexibility," said Sharon L Allen, Deloitte chairman.
"One size fits all no longer attracts or retains the best talent. By promoting open and honest communications across organizations and setting the tone at the top, our survey tells us that the workforce of today can be motivated in different ways. This is increasingly critical to retaining talent and preserving the health of today's organizations," she added.
Many workers today – increasingly men as well as women – were working hard to fit their work into their lives and vice versa, she continued.
"In fact, our survey findings prove that an overwhelming number of working adults, 81 per cent, take advantage of customized work arrangements," she said.
"And, while you might expect women to place more importance on these formal flex policies, a large portion of men, 74 per cent, agree that they would be more productive and engaged at work if they could better balance their work schedule and personal priorities," she concluded.