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Role Ambiguity and Role Conflict are the two primary ways in which role dysfunction can take place. Role Ambiguity is born when an executive does not have useful information that allows him/her to effectively perform his/her duties.

It can also be explained as the extent to which an employees’ job tasks, work responsibilities and degree of authority are not well defined. Negative health consequences along with both negative employee attitudes and ineffective job behaviors are associated with role ambiguity.

Role Conflict, on the other hand, is born from simultaneous occurrences of two or more role requirements, so that the performance of one makes the performance of the other more difficult. It is such a pressure on the employee, that it leads to lower productivity, tension and ultimately causes dissatisfaction.

Causes for these constructs:

Role Ambiguity can arise from the business itself or from specific managers, who fail to implement the roles and directions associated with their job. In work settings, role ambiguity can stem from the size and complexity of the organization, rapid rate of change, restrictions imposed on the employees’ authority, unfavorable work environments and also vaguely defined tasks. However, it is indicative of poor management.

Furthermore, it is due to role ambiguity that individuals experience difficulty in enacting the role (role conflict).

Consequences of these constructs:

Several studies have shown that role ambiguity is related to the manifestations of poor mental health and physical health. In addition to these, role ambiguity is associated with both negative employee attitudes and ineffective job behaviors. Few examples of attitudes associated with role ambiguity, according to meta-analysis are:

  • Overall job dissatisfaction
  • Dissatisfaction with co-workers, supervision and job tasks
  • Absenteeism
  • High turnover intention
  • Low job involvement
  • Low organization commitment

Role Conflict, on the other hand, has been associated with employee-related outcomes (absenteeism, elevated blood pressure) as well as organizational outcomes (unethical behavior, low performance).

Efforts on the part of the organization to reduce role ambiguity- role conflict at work can improve the morale of the employees and increase productivity. The management of any organization has to conduct orientation for the new employees and call for meetings with the existing employees to clarify the duties and responsibilities to be carried out by each of them at work.

Moreover, employees should be treated fairly and their concerns should be heard and valued. Other ways in which the effects of role ambiguity-conflict on the employees can be reduced are:

  • Defined framework
  • Clear and concise instructions
  • Understanding the staff members
  • Making definite decisions
  • Making sure that employees are taking their lunch breaks and going on vacations