Lack of role clarity; one of the root causes of conflict in the workplace

Role clarity, or more often the lack of role clarity, is an issue for many organisations. It’s something that regularly arises as the root cause of misunderstandings and conflict between leaders and team members. For the most part, organisations have pretty rigorous induction programmes where the new employee gets many opportunities to discuss the extent of their role and what is required.

The problem usually lies with employees who are longer in their role and challenges are often experienced during periods of significant change to the business where there may be a period of figuring out how roles evolve to adapt to the new requirements. Whilst a period of flexibility is required to allow roles to settle, leaders who miss the opportunity to formally discuss the requirements of the role with each team member as roles expand or change often find they are faced with workplace relationship issues, with expectations causing frustration among individual employees and creating conflict within teams.

The following pointers may be useful to help with role clarity:

 Conduct an annual job analysis for each employee on your team

At least once a year, ask your employees to list their job priorities. This will give you a sense of what their understanding is of the role and in discussion you can clear up any misunderstandings which may have arisen.

Communicate role changes clearly

When roles change, either due to a planned promotion, as a result of meeting the changing needs of the organisation or in response to an annual job analysis, it’s important that those changes be clearly communicated across the team and in some cases across the organisation.

Communication is critical to ensure that each employee understands their new job description and duties, that they understand what duties are assigned to other people and most importantly; if they work across multiple teams, who is responsible for deciding where their efforts are predominantly focused?

 Communicate the current priorities of the role

In the Pharma Industry challenges can often arise around role clarity with Leaders who are handling large organisational projects where they have multiple disciplines giving percentages of their time to a time bound project.  If they fail to clearly communicate who is responsible for what and to give a clear message on priorities as they shift and change, they can end up with conflicts, confusion and a breakdown in workplace relationships on the project they are leading as well as with peers and other stakeholders throughout the organisation.


Develop the key people skills required to conduct quality conversations related to job analysis 

Misunderstandings are a given in leading others and the ability to diffuse tensions as they arise is essential. Many of my previous articles and some of those to come cover some of these skills and offer considerations and insight into how you can succeed as a People Leader, however Leaders who have developed insight into how they influence others and develop superior communication skills will find they manage these conversations more successfully


Book a free 30 minute consultation to discuss role clarity and how to approach these conversations as a leader.