Are you experiencing “Role Friction”?

Are you experiencing “Role Friction”?

Role friction is an often-unseen root cause that being left unaddressed, amplifies the problems that sabotage employee engagement and shackles organizational productivity.

The major factor in organization conflict is role friction.

Role friction weakens the organizational energy.

What is Role Friction?

Organizations frequently talk about role clarity but limit that discussion to individual roles. Does each employee know what they're supposed to be doing? It is not just what each role is doing. It's also about how much authority that role has. What this role is held accountable for? What decisions can that person make, and what involves others?

Too many issues and tensions would arise when accountability, responsibility and authority are not balanced correctly. When leaders have more authority than accountability, they can do real damage.

Such tension creates role friction when there is a mismatch between a person and the role, they are accountable for. That's usually thought about in terms of competencies, whether someone has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be successful in their role. We each have a natural way of getting things done, a way we approach problems when the situation is manageable. Some of us are more comfortable with risk taking and want to try things and then adopt, while others are very risk averse. Some of us need systems and structures that help us think through challenges, while others are happy with flexibility, some rebel against structure. So even if we have the knowledge, skills and abilities for a role, the role may not "fit" how we like to get things done, which is a role friction that is internal.

But toxic, unseen role friction often occurs between roles. One example is role overlap. For example, in some organizations, two different roles perceived to have authority on one particular task or a project, keeps manipulating each other's work.

Role friction more often ends up in another phenomenon, which is Goal Conflict. It could be understood easily through the case study below.

It refers to a conflict that arises when a team or an individual in a team is pushed to compromise or postpone working on tasks in hand due to interference or priority clashes. At times, even there are instances where a project or a task gets dropped due to such goal conflicts.

For instance, an organization which assign tasks through a ticketing system, where the organization has a centralized department (Team A), which caters to the needs of its internal stakeholders (Team B).

When a ticket for some particular requirement is raised through the centralized system, two things happen. First of all, the “Team A” will already have a line-up of tasks in hand, and when there lands additional task, there erupts priority clash.

However, for “Team B” that raises the ticket, the task may be of high priority. At such moments, “Team A” might perceive the situation as an interruption to carry out the tasks or projects in hand, and hence may not do the needful, or do it right away. Now, the question of “Who is responsible for What” arises.

The situation worsens even more, when “Team A” gets into making decisions with regard to executing the tasks raised through a ticket. In both the cases, distortion of roles, priorities and goals become inevitable, which results in spoiling the work atmosphere primarily, and the project on the whole.

If role friction is the root cause for your organizational failure, take necessary steps to resolve it. If you're a leader having trouble with another leader, see if role friction is the root cause, and do whatever you can to have it addressed.

Hopefully, this is some food for thought.

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