Role conflicts occur when an individual is forced to take on separate and incompatible roles. Role conflicts can occur when one person is torn between roles for different organizations or when an individual is asked to perform multiple roles within one organization. For instance, an employee with both worker and management roles in the same department assumes the conflicting roles of supervisor and co-worker.
The Importance of Roles
In sociological terms, roles are important guidelines for behavior. A role, from parent to teacher or police officer, defines a person's expected behavior and sets the parameters for what is socially acceptable. Most members of society assume a number of roles in their lives. For example, an individual assumes different roles at work, at home or among friends. Each role creates a set of expectations within the particular environment.
Given the importance of roles, role conflicts can be extremely complex and challenging. For example, a fireman has a social role that asks him to protect society from danger. When a fire erupts on his own block, he is conflicted between his duties as a fireman and his role as a father and husband that requires him to take care of his own family first. Less dramatic role conflicts occur on a regular basis for most individuals.
Role Conflicts Within an Organization
While most role conflicts occur because of obligations to different groups, role conflicts can also occur within a single organization. In many companies, mid-level supervisors also work among the people they supervise. This leads to frequent role conflicts because the supervisor is expected both to work in cooperation with the group and report under-performing members. Role conflicts can also emerge when an employee is asked to perform contradictory tasks. For example, one supervisor may ask an employee to increase production and while another asks her to improve quality control.
Role Conflicts and Personality
Overall, role conflicts tend to cause friction and frustration, but the effects can vary from person to person. Certain people are simply more able to assume different roles and avoid friction when the roles overlap. Others find these conflicts extremely stressful and can't assume their multiple responsibilities without tension or resentment. The ability to deal with conflicting tasks and negotiate roles with other members can be a very useful skill. However, people who can handle conflicting roles aren't necessarily more skilled in their own work than those who lack this ability.
Effects on a Workplace
In general, role conflicts have a negative effect on group dynamics. Every member of a group comes to expect certain behaviors from another member, asking that member essentially to perform his role. When this role is disrupted by a contradictory role, other people can feel disappointed and even resentful. The individual experiencing the role conflict can also feel frustrated or overwhelmed. He may even feel hurt by the resentment from his peers.
Role conflicts are nearly inevitable in complex social groups. Each conflict is unique, so no single method can prevent all types of role conflicts. However, open communication helps limit the tension from role conflicts. Clear communication also helps all members understand that each individual has multiple roles to perform.
- Photo Credit Office image by 6922Designer from Fotolia.com father and son. image by Harvey Hudson from Fotolia.com
Definition of Intragroup Conflict
There are several varieties of conflict; conflicts can occur between opposing individuals in an argument or within a single individual who struggles...
How to Resolve Role Conflict
Everybody suffers from role conflict. This form of a social struggle could lead to further complications in your day-to-day life. People who...
Role of Conflict in Effective Group Communication
Communication is the transfer of ideas or information from one person to another. Effective information transfer requires the listener to understand the...
Advantages & Disadvantages of Conflict in Organizations
Over time, conflict within organizations may be inevitable. As people compete within the organization, they can come into conflict with the goals,...
What Are the Causes of Conflict in Organizations?
Every conflict presents an opportunity for developing innovative procedures, according to author Lawrence Khan in his article, "Fundamentals of Conflict for Business...
The Conflicting Roles of a Budget
A budget is a document that breaks down the costs of a project or an operation. It may also include an income...