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Job roles and responsibilities can be hard to keep up with at the team level due to rapid change, evolving businesses, and organizational shifts. Often, team leaders assume employees know their job roles and responsibilities but don't factor in team growth, company changes, or personal biases that could cause miscommunication.

Role ambiguity is a setback that ultimately leads to unproductivity. For new and tenured employees, these gray areas create an overlapping of tasks, directions that are as clear as mud, and communication gaps, ultimately leading to role confusion.

Team members who are unsure of their responsibilities may work on the same tasks or in different directions than the team because there is no alignment. Role confusion will create friction and conflict and is detrimental to your bottom line. accurately states that the only thing worse than not knowing what someone else is doing is not knowing what you're doing. When roles are unclear or there is role conflict, employees waste time wondering what to work on and what direction to go in once they choose a task. Let's delve into the importance of clarity and how you can create it on your team.

The Dangers of Lacking Role Clarity

Role clarity is essential for teams to perform well. Role uncertainty can have various negative consequences, such as:

  • Confusion over responsibilities, missed deadlines, and decreased productivity.
  • Role conflict between team members with overlapping job roles resulting in frustration, reduced collaboration, and increased workplace stress.
  • Hindering team performance due to the complexity of large teams and hybrid teams. Some tasks might be duplicated, while others might go uncompleted. 
  • At the individual level, frustration, confusion, decreased motivation, and reduced efficiency will lead to employee turnover. 

Avoid these issues of role clarity by ensuring team members understand roles and responsibilities within the organization.

Create Clarity at the Team Level

Team members should not have to maneuver through their day with confusion or ambiguity in their professional rolesbecause responsibilities are a secret. Understanding who is responsible for what allows team members to perform their jobs confidently. 

Birkman defines clarity as aligning people and tasks to achieve team goals. Role definitions allow your high-performing team to be effective and march in the same direction. And it's up to the leader to clearly define roles and responsibilities.

Steps to Reduce the Lack of Role Clarity

Step 1: Clearly define employee roles

What areas does my role focus on that other roles do not? What is the purpose of my position?

These questions that team members may ask themselves are valid when their leader doesn't define their role or communicate expectations. Leaders can clearly define employee roles during the onboarding process of a new employee by creating a list of functions and responsibilities.

Although a new employee receives a job description, this could differ from the actual job role. During the onboarding process, provide new employees with an in-depth description of the details of their new position.

For tenured employees who lack clarity, evaluate that function's responsibilities and efficiently clarify your organizational goals for their role. Communicating prioritization for employees so they know what duties and aspects of their job are most important is also critical to their success. You can also clearly define what success looks like in each employee's role and your expectations for each team member.

Setting clear expectations for who should do what on the team allows team members to focus on priorities and common goals that benefit the organization because you have identified boundaries and created ownership within their actual role. A lack of expectations will demotivate your employees and cause frustration.

Role clarity will inform decisions, help set goals, and create an execution plan.

Step 2: Create alignment

After each role is defined, understand how each position helps achieve your organizational goals–and ensure your employees understand this. 

Clarity isn't one-and-done. It's important to continually clarify roles, tasks, and decisions since change is so frequent. An aligned understanding of day-to-day activities to prioritize will drive your team to be solution-focused and increase employee engagement rather than being distracted by confusion and conflict due to lack of clarity. 

Another way to create alignment is to implement an open communication policy between your team members and yourself. A psychologically safe environment will allow team members to feel comfortable telling you they are unsure of their deliverables or what others are responsible for.

Use open communication tools to break down communication barriers and utilize 1:1 communication with your direct reports. Leaders should ask questions regarding the employee's role to ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards the organization's purpose. Set clear expectations and align those expectations as a larger team.

Step 3: Promote transparency 

What is everyone else working on? What priorities do my team members have that might impact my tasks? What challenges are my teammates currently dealing with that may affect me?

Team members require transparent role clarity with each other to be successful in their roles and positively impact their mental health. Empower your team to share information, ideas, and tasks they are working on to eliminate the lack of role clarity that leads to work-related stress. 

Encouraging your team to be transparent will create an environment of accountability. Each member can hold one another accountable and know crucial deadlines.

However, the team also relies on its leader to be transparent. Effective leadership keeps your employees in the loop, and be sure to funnel down high-level information. Sharing information helps each individual better understand their role and how it fits into the team's and organization's overarching purpose. Leaders who promote transparency will increase trust, resulting in employees accepting more responsibility.

Ultimately, your employees will have the company's interests at heart.

The Benefits of Role Clarity

  •  Reduced work-related stress
  • Increased employee engagement and motivation
  • Complete role clarification and understanding of individual responsibilities

Tight Alignment + Transparent Culture = Clarity

When you provide your entire team with as much clarity as possible, your team's culture, build collaborative teams, and performance will improve, resulting in organizational, team, and individual-level success.

Regular conversations on well-defined roles and responsibilities allow your team members to be fully functional and productive in solving problems for your company and team to thrive. This level of transparency also allows for productive feedback from employees.

Our High-Performing Teams workshop is a tool that will help you and your team create role clarity through psychological safety, tight alignment, and building a transparent culture.

Connect with an expert for a free demo of our High-Performing Teams workshop to learn how to empower your teams to take performance to the next level through role clarity. 

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