The importance of role clarity

Wednesday September 7, 2016

When I was an MBA student, one of my favourite theories of motivation was "Motivation= ability+willingness+role clarity". 

My hunch would be that 50% of the jobs I'm working on these days includes a hefty dose of role confusion or ambiguity.

The role clarification process begins with the expected role – what other members of the team expect the individual to do. This is then translated into the sent role – the messages and cues that team members use to communicate the expected roles to the individual. The perceived role is what the individual perceives the sent role to mean. Finally, the enacted role is what the individual actually does in the role. The enacted role, in turn, influences future expectations of the team.

Role ambiguity arises when the sent role is unclear. This can stem from poor job descriptions, vague instructions from a supervisor or unclear cues from co-workers.  Role conflict occurs when the messages and cues comprising the ‘sent’ are clear but contradictory or mutually exclusive. Inter-role conflict  may occur when the person gets conflicting demands from different sources within the context of the same role, and can be observed frequently in matrix organizations. Intra-sender conflict occurs when a single source sends clear but contradictory messages. Person–role conflict results from a discrepancy between the role requirements and the individual’s personal values, attitudes and needs. Role overload occurs when expectations for the role exceed the individual’s capabilities.

Got problems with the way people are working together? Take a look at not just what the piece of paper say about duties and roles, but whether you are dealing with role ambiguity, conflict or overload. 

Author: Denise Picton

Categories: Leading & Managing