Describe the theory you are using, describe the event that happened to you, explain how the theory applied to the event, summarize the paper and personal concluding insights based on the application of organizational behaviour theory.
Description of Role Conflict Theory
At an organization, there are various factors which could influence a person’s behavior or attitude in professional environments. Accordingly, several theories and models exist, which determine the factors and the causes behind organization behaviors (Miner, 2015). One such theory is the role conflict theory. According to the role conflict theory, a person in any kind of professional environment is expected to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of his or her respective roles. When a person is overburdened with numerous roles, there are bound to conflicts between them. The following essay attempts to delve deep into role conflict theory, which has then been applied to a personal experience.
Role conflict theory dictates that imposing a number of roles and responsibilities to a person would make it impossible for him or her to comply with all of them (Johannessen, Tynes & Sterud, 2013). For instance, every individual is expected to perform a number of roles and duties as part of their everyday life. However, if a person feels themselves being pulled in multiple directions, it could lead to conflict between the roles. This could be because the various roles that a person is expected to fulfill often has opposing obligations, which results in tension or friction between them. The concept of role conflict has its roots in sociology, and was first coined by Talcott Parsons, an American sociologist. The very term role refers to the set of expected behavioral patterns and obligations which a person has to follow, especially when it is relative to others. A role, in any context, thus may be explained as a kind of blueprint. A role dictates the goals a person has to carry out, the goals they are to pursue and the way to achieve these tasks. According to the role theory, a person’s social behavioral patterns and interactions depend on roles. However, in pursuit of fulfilling all these goals, an individual may experience role conflict (Biddle, 2013).
In fact, role conflict theory is one of the most important aspects of professional life as well. In organizations and other similar environments, role conflict may also be experienced with regards to opinions on what duties and responsibilities a particular role may entail (Schulz, 2013). For instance, intra role conflicts are common in organizations. If two senior employees ask a junior employee to execute a particular task, it would be impossible for the latter to carry out at the same time. The main foundational principle of role conflict theory is that every individual is driven by an innate desire to attain success (Schmidt et al., 2014). As a result, there is added pressure on individuals due to various roles which place incompatible and opposing demands resulting in a conflict.
I have personally experienced the conflict of roles as well. As part of our course, we were asked to partake in a group assignment. The class was divided into teams of five, and a separate assignment was assigned to each time. I was in a team, which consisted of five members, and we had to complete the assignment within 3 weeks. Keeping in mind the numerous team building theories, it took us some time before we could get used to working in a team. We did not appoint a leader at the very beginning. Instead, the tasks were distributed and allotted based on interests and expertise. For instance, I was in charge of the research portion and the concluding part of the assignment. This was because the assignment topic was my area of expertise, and I had previously done significant research on the topic. However, this proved to be both an advantage and disadvantage. It was beneficial because it allowed our team to progress on the right track, and provided sufficient background information that each team member would require. However, this also meant that I would have to take responsibility for a majority portion of the assignment, which was beyond my immediate role. For instance, there were situations where I had to delay my own work in order to help a fellow team member. I prefer to work in an organized fashion, by setting personal goals for myself. I had chalked out a plan according to which I would work and complete my assigned portion within the given time frame. However, going out of my way to help my team mates proved to be detrimental to my own work. Moreover, there were several conflicts within the team as to the responsibilities and duties of each member. Since we had failed to appoint a leader at the very beginning, we found it difficult to navigate effectively through the project. This led to numerous conflicts within the group, since we were not clear as to what our individual responsibilities and duties were. For example, although I had specified that I would be in charge of two aspects, I was also asked to weigh in on others’ portions. This took a toll on the project itself as we were progressing in a haphazard manner, without any clear sense of direction. At one point, we were unsure of whether we would be able to meet the deadlines.
Application of Role Conflict Theory in Personal Experience
The role conflict theory can be applied in this case. As mentioned earlier, a role may be defined as a blueprint which guides and directs how a person should act and behave in a specific situation. However, the role conflict theory also suggests that the roles and responsibilities of the people should be clearly identified and communicated. Yet, we had failed to do so in our group task. I personally felt the consequences of such a situation, owing to the role conflict theory. Since I was unsure of my exact duties and responsibilities, it was difficult for me to work on the assignment in an efficient manner. Additionally, I had way too much on my plate, which was owing to the excessive demands that had been placed on me. The demands of my team members were often conflicting and opposing in nature. As a result, this led to various intra role conflicts. Our team also witnessed a number of inter role conflicts, which occurred due to a lack of clarity within the team.
Although we were finally able to complete our work on time, there were quite a few obstacles that got in our way. I believe that there are certain things which could have been done so as to avoid such a situation. For instance, I believe that the most important step in resolving role conflict is first clearly defining the roles. During our group assignment, none of the team members were exactly aware of what our individual roles were and what we were expected to do. It is important to understand the boundaries between each role, so as to prevent any form of overlapping between them. This would also enable me to define my priorities at the beginning. It is also important to recognize that a single individual is not capable of fulfilling a range of tasks and duties, and therefore, he or she should stick to a definite role which has been decided upon on the basis of expertise and strengths and weaknesses. I believe that organizational behavioral theories like role conflict theory can help one understand the dynamics of team work, group building or other aspects of professional life. At our places of work, we will be required to work in association with others or placed in various unfavorable situations. In such cases, it is imperative to have a sound knowledge of organization behavior theories, so as to understand the behavioral patterns and attitudes of others and ourselves.
To conclude, role conflict is one of the most important aspects of professional life. Role conflict can be of two types – inter role and intra role. Irrespective of the type, conflict arises due to a lack of adherence to the boundaries that a role dictates. If there is overlapping between the roles and responsibilities of a person, it may lead to conflict. Defining the roles at the very beginning is one of the most crucial steps to reduce or resolve role conflict.
Anazodo, K.S (2018). Chapter 3: Perceiving ourselves and others in organizations, Slide 7.
Biddle, B. J. (2013). Role theory: Expectations, identities, and behaviors. Academic Press.
Johannessen, H. A., Tynes, T., & Sterud, T. (2013). Effects of occupational role conflict and emotional demands on subsequent psychological distress: a 3-year follow-up study of the general working population in Norway. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine, 55(6), 605-613.
Miner, J. B. (2015). Organizational behavior 1: Essential theories of motivation and leadership. Routledge.
Schmidt, S., Roesler, U., Kusserow, T., & Rau, R. (2014). Uncertainty in the workplace: Examining role ambiguity and role conflict, and their link to depression—a meta-analysis. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 23(1), 91-106.
Schulz, J. (2013). The impact of role conflict, role ambiguity and organizational climate on the job satisfaction of academic staff in research-intensive universities in the UK. Higher Education Research & Development, 32(3), 464-478.
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