Role Analysis

At operative levels, it is possible to write job descriptions that reflect what workers do while at work. At middle and higher management levels a clear definition of expected and unexpected job related behavior is not possible. Certain aspects of a manager’s job (e.g. whether to take decisions in the absence of clear cut information how to react to situations where workers confront them on the shop floor, whether to hire a person related to the Managing Director etc) may defy clear conceptualization. Job analysis in such cases may be woefully inadequate to uncover the subtle informal ways of doing things. It fails to capture the behavioral expectations of various groups (unions, colleagues, superiors, subordinates, general public etc) that influences the actions of a job holder. Over a period of time, the roles to be played by a job holder may undergo a complete transformation identifying important job related behaviors that may lead to effective performance under the circumstances proves to be a difficult exercise.

Role analysis provides a satisfactory answer to this problem. A role is an asset of expectations people have about the behavior of person in a position. A position holder may perform three types of roles in day to day life; namely the expected role, the perceived role and the actual role. The expected role is what other people expect from a person. For example, a college teacher is expected by his role partners (principal, colleague’s, students) to come to the college and teach properly. The perceived role is how the individual thinks he should behave to fulfill the expected role. The teacher may think that he may be able to complete the given course is about a month’s time and it is sheer waste of time to be in college all through the year. The enacted role or the actual role is the way the person actually behaves in an organization. The college teachers giving shape to his thoughts might visit campus only once a week to handle his classes!

Now look at the conflicts that surface when the expectations of role partners remain contradictory. Take the supervisor’s job, as a part of the management team, he must have corresponding values and attitudes (oversee the work of workers, do not allow mistakes, punish the deviants etc) as a member from the workers’ group he should have their values and attitudes (carry the opinions of workers upstairs redress grievances quickly etc). He is expected to wear both the hats gracefully . Such role conflicts occur because of divergent role expectations . To complicate issues further job descriptions of supervisory role could be dissimilar in two organizations . In one organization supervisors may enjoy a lot of freedom and on the other their hands might be tied. The job descriptions might be the same but the actual roles played by the supervisors in both cases might be totally different! Changes in management philosophy, industrial relations, climate, corporate culture may also affect the roles to be played by job holders in a significant way. It is therefore necessary to supplement the job analysis process with the role analysis in order to have a clear picture of what the job actually demands.

Role analysis involves the following steps:

1) First, the objectives of the department and its functions must be identified
2) Second, the role incumbent is asked to state his key performance areas and his understanding of the roles to be played by him.
3) Third, other role partners (boss, subordinate, peers etc) are asked to state their expectations from the role incumbent.
4) Finally, the incumbent‘s role is clarified and expressed in black and white (called role description) after integrating the diverse viewpoints expressed by various role partners.

Source: HRM VSP