Achieve Role Clarity In The Workplace

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Achieve Role Clarity In The Workplace

Achieving role clarity in the workplace stands as an essential ingredient for driving productivity and creating a cohesive and thriving organization.

When employees find themselves uncertain about their roles and responsibilities, it can lead to confusion, inefficiency, and a lack of accountability. By prioritizing the attainment of role clarity, organizations can empower their workforce, enhance collaboration, and propel substantial results.

In this blog post, we will explore the significance of achieving role clarity in the workplace, offering practical insights and strategies to assist you in establishing clear expectations and well-defined roles for your employees.

Most Common Situations When Employees' Roles Have To Be Clarified

1. When The Company Has A New Member

The new employee has to know what is his/her role in the company

In order for a new employee to know his or her role, the employer has to go through some steps.

First Step

Before you start the recruiting and selection process, you have to establish what you want to accomplish by hiring a new person and what this person’s role will be in your company. Based on the activities and responsibilities that this new member will have, you can then establish what should be the skills, competencies and characteristics of the new member.

By doing this, you define the role of the new employee. You set some expectations and the position of the new person in the company, including the work relationships with other members. This will also help you to look for the right candidates for the job.

If the job requirements are not well defined or are not proper for the job, the recruiting and selection process will be more difficult and you may not hire the right person. Just because you didn’t define well who the right person for the job is.

The Second Step

Make a detailed and accurate presentation of your expectations from the person who will be hired to the candidates you interview. It’s not enough that you clearly know how the new person should be and do in the company, the new person has to know as well. 

This will create the conditions for you to observe and know the candidates’ reactions and responses related to the role they are expected to play in your company. Some of them may be confident that they can meet the job requirements, while others may have doubts or dislike certain aspects of the role, or other types of reactions. All these are information for you to help you take the right decisions in the selection process. 

When the job is not well presented and some aspects are hidden, what’s happening is that you take more risks with the new employee. He or she may not like the job’s aspects that he didn’t know about and decide to leave or he may feel frustrated and have resentment because of these aspects.

Some Examples:

A company that hires a secretary but omits to mention that besides managing the correspondence, the company’s supplies, meetings and other things she has to make some cleaning activities, that normally are done by a janitor. This company may end up with a frustrated employee who does these activities poorly or doesn’t make them at all. And this company’s management will end up being frustrated by this employee too. 

Or, another example is if a company hires a recruiter but doesn’t discuss the tools or the budget that is available for recruiting activities, the new employee may be disappointed by these aspects. He may love the recruiting role and wanted the job for its responsibilities but didn’t realize that he doesn’t have a budget to post jobs ads, or doesn’t have proper interview conditions. Some candidates may be open to do their tasks in these conditions, others may not. 

The old or existing employees have to know what role has the new employee in the company

A part of the integration process is informing the existing employees about the new member and his or her responsibilities in the company. You can do this through a welcoming email addressed to all the employees, through an in-person meeting with all the employees, if your team is not very large, or with a part of the employees, when the team is larger. 

You may want to give special attention to presenting the new employee role to those employees with whom this employee will have to collaborate or with whom will have common tasks. This includes employees who work in the same department as well as those in other departments. 


Usually, when a new member is announced in a department, the existing members have questions about this and they may have fears or worries that this new member will affect their own roles.

Answering these questions and possible worries in advance, before these have time to grow or wrong assumptions are made, will help them have a more accurate understanding of this new person’s role. You will be able to address their worries and concerns in advance, before this member comes into the department, and create a welcoming environment for this new member.

Another reason why it’s a good practice to clarify the new member’s role in the company is for the old or existing members to know how to behave and interact with this employee.

A role requires certain behaviours and actions not only from the person who holds the role but also establishes to a certain extent the relationships with the other employees. 

For instance, if the new employee is responsible for managing vacation leaves, existing employees will know that this employee may be involved in their communication or discussions on this topic and is entitled to do so.

2. When The Employees Work In Projects Or A Team

When employees have to work together to accomplish a common goal, their roles have to be clear for them to work efficiently. More than that, they have to accept their roles.

Can you imagine three marketers assigned to collaborate on a new product launch campaign without clear distinctions in their responsibilities? Well, in this scenario, they may lose time and energy deciding who will do what, they may compete for the same tasks, and they may assign tasks between them in a way that doesn’t reflect their strengths and skills. Conflicts may occur, the quality of work may suffer, and is a high chance that the deadline will be missed.

Have you ever experienced this with your employees or yourself, regardless of job position? It’s not a funny thing.

Even if you assign, for example, 5 employees to come up with an idea for a certain issue, you need to assign a moderator for their discussions, that will make sure that the rules for the discussions are respected and keep it on track/on the direction that is wanted. Otherwise, the discussions may be dominated by one or two employees who impose themselves on others, or by those who have more powerful positions in the company, the members may criticised each other ideas in inappropriate manners, they may lose time on subjects that are not relevant for the issue and so on.

The Employees Have To Accept Their Roles And Other Members' Roles

If a member is not pleased with his/her role in a project he/she will not engage in it. 

Much of the acceptance of other team members’ roles comes from how  members perceive the fairness of tasks assignments. If they think that roles should have been different assigned, they will be frustrated.

They have to understand why the roles were assigned in a certain way and to be ok with the criteria. If these criteria are subjective or biased, they will not be well received. 

If a person is named team leader but is less skilled and experienced than other members, there are great chances that this person’s role to be rejected by the team members. They may question and criticize this person’s decisions and behaviour, they will not engage in the actions decided by this person and so on. Even if it is known that a leader doesn’t have to know everything to be a great leader, if he/she is not accepted, for whatever reason, the team will not function efficiently. 

By having a good understanding of your employees’ skills and competencies, their expectations regarding tasks and responsibilities in your company, and setting clear and objective criteria for task and role assignments, you will succeed to gain their acceptance. 

3. When An Employee Has A New Role

When an employee has a new role in the company, whether it is in addition to their existing role or a completely new position, the role expectations have to be discussed and clarified. It’s almost the same process as with a new employee, meaning that the role has to be clear for the employee who has the new role and for the other members of the company.  

How The Employees Contribute To Defining Their Roles In The Company

Even though the employer initially defines the employees’ roles in the company, people don’t fit 100% in their expected roles. They have their own personalities and their own traits. Their skills and competencies may be lower or higher than the level of competencies required by the job at different moments of their development. They bring their own experiences, past definitions of certain roles, and ideas.

Often, people negotiate their roles questioning current expectations or requirements. They may propose new activities or they may do things in unexpected ways.

A role has undefined zones

Also, a role can’t be defined 100%. There will always be free areas where the employee will have to choose how he/she will act, even if this means that he decides to ask for guidance. This is true also for jobs with a  high-level of autonomy, because the areas where the employee can take decisions on their own are preestablished, so are pre-defined.

So, for instance, a Senior Content Writer who is responsible for creating engaging content for the company’s clients receives the task to write a blog post about a new product of a client but he gets limited details about the client requirement. He may choose to work with what he got or to ask for more detailed information about what the client wants. 

Sometimes, these undefined zones are vulnerable points where wrong decisions can be taken. In the previous example, if the Senior Content Writer decides to work with the information that he has but then after he finished the blog post, finds out that the client wanted something totally different, he wasted his time and energy. 

How many times have you told an employee: ”You should have asked”?

Why It's Important To Clarify Your Team Members' Roles

Impacts The Employees' Relationships And Collaborations

Employees may make incorrect assumptions about their roles if they are not clarified. For example, in a group meeting, there could be two employees who each assume that they have to lead the meeting. You can imagine that these two employees may irritate each other, affecting the way they interact and work with each other. 

Impacts The Employees' Performance

To conduct a performance evaluation, performance expectations must be established and clearly communicated to the employee. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you told an employee that you expected them to do certain things and they looked at you surprised? They didn’t even think about what you said to them.

In this situation, they may think: ”Well, I didn’t know that you wanted me to do that or behave in that way…” and so on.

Obviously, when the employee knows what you expect from him/her, the chances for him to do what you expect are higher. He knows what are these, and he knows the direction you want him to go and what to focus on. Knowing the goals, the destination is more likely that they will reach them. Or, in case they don’t reach them, they made some progress towards them. 

Impacts The Time Spent On Tasks

The work time will be better used when the employees don’t waste time discussing or arguing about who should do certain things, when they don’t make wrong assumptions that lead them to poor decisions.

As shown above, the employees’ confusions related to their roles consume their time and energy, and the company’s resources.

Establishes Clear Accountability And Ownership

When the roles are clear and well-defined, it becomes evident who is accountable for specific tasks and assignments. This clarity eliminates any ambiguity or confusion, ensuring that each individual understands their own responsibilities and obligations. By establishing clear ownership of tasks, it becomes easier to hold individuals accountable for their contributions, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment within the team. It also prevents the unfair burdening of other employees with tasks that do not fall within their designated roles. Ultimately, a transparent and well-structured allocation of responsibilities promotes a more efficient and harmonious work environment, where everyone knows their role and takes ownership of their assigned tasks.

How Roles Can Be Clarified

Clear job descriptions

A job description serves as a fundamental tool for clarifying and defining a job role within an organization. It outlines the key responsibilities, duties, and expectations associated with the position. By providing detailed information about the specific tasks, qualifications, and skills required, a job description effectively communicates what the role entails and what is expected from the individual occupying that position.

It helps to set clear boundaries and parameters, enabling employees to understand the scope of their responsibilities and the desired outcomes. A well-crafted job description also aids in aligning expectations between employers and employees, ensuring a mutual understanding of the role’s purpose and the contributions it requires.

Communicating your expectations in detail

A job description is necessary but it’s not enough for an employee to understands their role. It can’t contain all the information an employee needs to do their job well.

Take the time to explain in details what you expect from an employee. It’s a good time investment. 

Consider the most common situations where role clarification is needed, as specified earlier, and dedicate time to manage and discuss role expectations.

Encourage open communication about the employee's concerns, warries or questions about his/her role

A simple question can bring clarity and position an employee’s efforts in the right direction. 

In some cases, employees may refrain from asking questions because they are afraid of their leader’s reaction, based on past experiences. Some questions may be considered ”stupid” questions or as a sign of lack of competencies. Have you ever encounter these kinds of situations? 

Reassess the employees' roles periodically and adjust them when needed

The reasons for changing the employees’ roles may be various:

  • Their levels of competencies change over time
  • New tools and technologies may be used in the company
  • The team structure / components may change
  • New activities are required in the company

In conclusion, clearly defining and communicating roles and expectations is crucial for the success of any organization. It helps employees understand their responsibilities and how they fit into the larger picture, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction. As an employer, it’s important to take the time to clarify roles and address any concerns or questions employees may have. By doing so, you can create a positive work environment where everyone knows what is expected of them and can work together towards a common goal.

Key Points:

1. Three most common situations when employees’ roles have to be clarified – when the company has a new member, when employees work together on projects or in teams, and when an employee has a new role in the company.

2. How
the employees contribute to defining their roles in the company

3. Why it’s important to clarify your team members’ roles

4. How you can clarify your employees’ roles

Let me know what are your thoughts about this blog post. If you have questions I’ll be happy to answer them at:

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