Poor performance is not always the fault of an employee. When someone is not doing what they’re supposed to be doing or didn’t follow a process, oftentimes it’s because there’s a gap of understanding or due to role ambiguity—the lack of clarity and certainty on the roles and responsibilities that come with that individual’s job. This is usually the root cause of all operational problems within organizations.
Why Role Clarity Matters
Based on a study conducted by Effectory, nearly 50% of employees across all sectors experience a lack of role clarity in the workplace. Unclear roles affect employees’ efficiency and effectiveness at work. Aside from affecting job performance, employees with a deeper understanding of their responsibilities are more likely to stay with the company and more satisfied with their jobs than employees who experience role ambiguity.
In my work leading teams through process improvement, I’ve observed that 30% of operational problems are solved through clarification. When roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, there is less confusion, frustration and duplication of effort. As a result, employees are more productive. They also understand how they fit into the team and know the value of what they do, boosting their morale.
How to Address Role Ambiguity in the Workplace
Understand the situation.
The first step is to grasp the current situation. Simply putting to paper the current state of your operations (ex. pre-sales, post-sales, follow-up, and repurchase) will allow you to see where the gaps are and understand where the lack of clarity is coming from so you can solve problems at their core.
Document your processes.
What I often see with processes in organizations is that it’s more verbal and off the cuff as opposed to an official written document. While employees may often have a list of responsibilities that come with their job, what actually happens in day-to-day operations is only communicated verbally.
Every organization must have its processes put on paper. When you put things on paper, you make them objective and not personal. This is what should happen in the process, instead of leading statements with “You’re not doing this.” Every organization must have a centralized location or an agreed-upon place where they store process information/process documentation. This also helps discern between situations where there is job ambiguity versus someone who actually isn’t doing their job.
Employees who experience role ambiguity might be a product of ineffective onboarding or unspecific training. To ensure that your people are able to complete the tasks assigned to them, provide the additional training that is specific to their role and team. Not only will this give them more clarity in their role, but it will also motivate them, and bridge the gap between where they currently are and where you want them to be.
Check in with your team members regularly. Doing so will make it easier for them to communicate their challenges at work, including tasks and responsibilities that aren’t clear to them.
Conduct short weekly team meetings to discuss what they are currently working on. This way, everyone is aware of what others are doing. Moreover, it can help identify unclear roles and responsibilities and where there may be overlaps and duplicate tasks.
Regular check-ins with your people will not only allow you to keep track of their work, but spot and address clarity issues early too.
Employees should never have to guess what they are doing and what role they play on their team and within their company. Clarifying roles and responsibilities seems simple and is often overlooked and undervalued, but resolving role ambiguity can greatly impact your team’s performance.
With clearly defined roles and responsibilities, everyone can focus their time and effort on what they should be doing. No time is wasted, productivity increases, your people feel motivated and they deliver quality work, which makes your clients and management happy.
In love and respect,