Why clear workplace roles are responsible for good employee wellbeing and improved efficiency.
Many employees wear more hats than can be seen at a royal wedding, carrying out several different duties, often many of them outside their initial job description. This can cause unnecessary confusion and lead to frustration, as well as negatively impact employee wellbeing and workplace productivity.
I have previously discussed the first 4 elements that need managing effectively to promote a healthy workplace wellbeing culture – demands, control, support and relationships. In this blog, we’re talking about roles, and how when workplace roles and responsibilities are clear and compatible, it not only develops good employee wellbeing but also greatly improves productivity and efficiency within an organisation.
How undefined roles can affect workplace wellbeing
We’ve all been there! That horrible situation where something goes wrong or a task hasn’t been done because we thought it was the other person’s responsibility or vice-versa, and we are left feeling bemused and flustered scratching our heads and pointing fingers. Not a particularly helpful or healthy workplace scenario to find yourself in.
Now obviously, the emotional response and practical repercussions will vary depending on the importance of the task and the severity of the blunder, but regardless, this common occurrence often causes worry, blame, frustration and conflict. Getting organisational roles right, is all about avoiding exactly this kind of situation by ensuring that everyone knows their responsibilities and who does what and when.
What can an employer do to define clear roles & responsibilities?
The HSE management standard is that “employees indicate that they understand their role and responsibilities and that systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns”
So what does an employer need to do to ensure they meet this standard?
Clear job descriptions
A good starting point is ensuring that there are clear job descriptions in place, with defined work objectives. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities mean that everyone knows exactly what is expected of them. Individuals in an efficient team know what they need to do, and how they contribute to the overall goal. These people spend less time wasting energy arguing about who should be carrying out ‘that task’ and spend more time getting the job done.
This means misunderstandings are minimised, power struggles are reduced, and there is a greater willingness to support colleagues.
As well as having clearly defined roles, it is important that the specific responsibilities within that role are communicated to employees in such a way that are unambiguous and they feel confident in carrying them out.
Clear and concise descriptions of roles, and the associated responsibilities, are vital, but these are pointless if they are not made easily accessible to employees and backed up with helpful information like organisation charts, personal work plans and diagrams.
Also, consider how to ensure that all employees are able to access the information in a way that works for them. When roles and responsibilities are unambiguous it also makes performance management easier as it gives clear duties that an employee should be carrying out. It provides statements that are easy for supervisors to discuss in a matter-of-fact, non-confrontational way.
Displaying organisation, department and team objectives will help to clarify individual roles within the bigger context and how their own role links to this.
Conflicting roles cause well.. conflict. Almost every member of an organisation plays multiple roles with an array of responsibilities. As the name aptly suggests, sometimes these different roles can conflict with each other and be a trigger for stress for employees.
Consider a college lecturer, not only responsible for delivering content to their students, but also for recruiting to their courses, advising prospective students on the best choice of course, and guiding current students on their next steps.
On one hand – a role to recruit, to get bums on seats, to encourage students to continue to study through advancing levels to ensure the college receives the maximum funding possible.
On the other hand, a role to advise students on what is best for them and their future careers which may involve an entirely different route outside of the college/university education system, getting industry experience or perhaps changing subjects, at another college.
Having worked as a lecturer for many years I’ve seen first-hand how these conflicting roles can leave an employee feeling confused, stressed and yes, conflicted about which hat to wear in any given situation. For the lecturer, not only is their ability to do their job effectively affected by conflicting demands and pressures, but it may also affect their happiness or wellbeing at work as well.
Role conflict with multiple managers
Role conflict can also occur when an individual has responsibilities that fall under more than one line manager. In this scenario, it is even more important that responsibilities are clearly outlined and that the managers involved are transparent about their expectations and the expectations of the other manager. Communication and cooperation are key.
Managers must be encouraged to talk to their people regularly to ensure they are clear about what their current role entails and what is expected of them. This is a two-way conversation and should include what they in return can expect from the management e.g. training and support.
This opens doorways for employees to feel comfortable talking to their line managers if they are seeking clarity about what is required, or if there are discrepancies in who is expected to do what. Team meetings are a great way to allow people to clarify their roles and discuss possible conflicts but beware of the dreaded trap of ‘meeting for meeting’s sake”. Senseless meetings that could’ve been conducted in a few minutes via email or chat will make colleagues begin to resent these unnecessary time-sucks.
3 Ways to improve role clarity and avoid conflict
Some basic steps you can take now to improve clarity around workplace roles:
- Review employee job descriptions to ensure that their roles and responsibilities are not only clear but also up to date. Make sure you involve the employees in this process, as there may well be tasks, they do, that you are unaware of.
- Consider everyone’s roles and whether they present any conflicts. Think outside the box too – is their conflict with their family responsibilities, community involvement or beliefs? Would they be better suited to another role?
- Make sure new recruits are given a thorough induction into the organisation but also ensure all existing staff are made aware of the new recruit’s roles and responsibilities.
If you go through any sort of organisational change, don’t forget to revisit your employees’ roles and responsibilities. Check that everyone understands their new roles and whether there are any issues with them.
It’s an employer’s responsibility to make job roles clear
It is only fair that everyone should understand their role within an organisation and know what is expected of them on a day-to-day basis.
Ultimately it’s an employer’s responsibility to ensure that every staff member has a clear understanding of their role and what is expected of them on a day-to-day basis, and by doing so organisations can not only create a healthy working environment but also improve communication, productivity and business efficiency.
As a professional member of the International Stress Management Association and holder of a CPCAB-accredited Level 5 Diploma in Mental Health & Wellbeing Awareness, through More Than Motivation, I help businesses carry out a wellbeing reviews and develop a strategy for implementing clear roles and responsibilities for their workforce.