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Apr 03, 2024 Leslie Beale, PCC, JD

Role Call: The Perils of Unclear Job Responsibilities

At long last, you’ve made the final hire to round out your executive team. Fully staffed and ready to dive into your organization’s new initiatives, you’re confident that your leaders will guide their teams to meet their goals well within the allotted timeframe. It’s almost hard to believe. Finally, you’re ready to drive results!

Hold on a minute… are you really?

While having the right people in place definitely raises the odds of achievement, there is one more step to ensure a winning hand: clarifying roles and responsibilities. Every member of the team should clearly understand their own job function, those of their fellow teammates, and how all will intersect.

Sounds easy to do, but statistics show most leaders believe we’re failing at this crucial task: McKinsey’s The State of Organizations 2023 Report stated that 40% of respondents pointed to unclear roles and responsibilities as a cause of organizational inefficiency. To learn more about the risks associated with cloudy work duties, read on.

Should We, or Shouldn't We?

When no one knows which team member is responsible for what task, it can take forever to make the simplest of decisions. Who should be invited to this meeting? Should Luis be copied on this email? Do I go to Sonia or Brandon for approval?

Even the most routine of details can become complex if every team member doesn’t clearly understand how they, and their co-workers, fit into the big picture. Employees who typically take ownership will often experience a higher level of anxiety, fatigue, and depression as they worry about missed timelines and delayed progress. The toll on their mental health is reflected in decreased productivity, with studies reporting a stunning 12 billion work days lost yearly around the globe due to anxiety and depression.

I Already Took Care of That!

When your employees don’t know where their role ends and someone else’s begins, it’s very easy for mistrust, turf wars, and interpersonal conflicts to emerge. Although the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer’s Special Report: Trust in the Workplace states that 79% of workers feel more trust in each other than they do their CEO, head of HR, or direct manager, when job duties are murky, trust erodes. Team members unwittingly duplicate activities, invade each other’s space, and step on each other’s toes. Additionally, those who are conflict-avoidant may sit back and relax, waiting for explicit permission to perform tasks that are crucial to forward momentum.

I Think Jim is Handling This...

Confusion around roles and responsibilities is a surefire way to stall results. Employees who possess an above-average work ethic may find themselves taking on too many tasks, frustrated that no one else is “stepping up” to help. Others may feel resentful, wondering why they weren’t tapped to take care of certain assignments. Skill sets go unused, the risks of mistakes increase, and—worst of all—gaps in the process can occur when team members unintentionally omit a mission-critical step.

Is Your Team Really Ready to Move the Needle?

In a world where the pace of change and the complexity of organizations are increasing like never before, it is essential that leaders get the fundamentals right, beyond adding players to the team.

Start by matching roles and responsibilities to the unique strengths and knowledge of your team members—both on a project and organizational level. When distinct guidelines are established outlining a workers’ job duties, purpose, and daily expectations, not only will they be happier on the job, they’ll also be happier with each other. Studies by Harvard Business Review have shown that when employees understand the clear boundaries of their own roles, team collaboration soars.

Worried that your team’s roles and responsibilities are unclear? We’re here to help. Book a call today.

Published by Leslie Beale, PCC, JD April 3, 2024
Leslie Beale, PCC, JD