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Clearing up role clarity: Perceptions vs. reality in the workplace


One of our favourite questions to ask groups is, “What gets in the way of your wellbeing?” In doing so, we’ve had the opportunity to listen to the challenges many people face when it comes to trying to stay well.

Time and time again, we hear common themes emerge: feeling time-poor, struggling with motivation and energy, grappling with high work demands, and wrestling with the elusive work-life balance. These are challenges we can all relate to, right?

Recently, one woman shared something that really resonated. She said, “I’m wearing too many hats. I work hard all day, and without a break, I go straight into my mum role. Then, I’m trying to juggle all the other roles I play in life as well. I don’t feel like I get any time for myself.” Her words highlight a struggle that many of us face daily – the relentless balancing act between work and personal life…. and everything else.

So what do we do? In short, there is no easy answer. However, there are a couple of key areas we can hone in on. One important concept to explore is the notion of boundaries. Or more specifically, porous boundaries. Porous boundaries are unrestrictive and can mean you become overinvolved. Porous boundaries mean we end up wearing multiple hats, often simultaneously, at the expense of ourselves.

Unsurprisingly, when we constantly switch roles without a chance to recharge, then we end up with nothing left in the tank. This not only affects our individual performance but can have cascading effects on the organisations we serve, leading to issues such as fatigue, chronic stress, and even burnout.

From a workplace perspective, this is where concepts such as role clarity become vital. Role clarity is one of the six primary factors that impact workplace stress. It’s essential for individuals to have a clear understanding of their responsibilities, and what healthy boundaries look like.

I often refer to this little diagram as a great place to start a conversation on role clarity.

Does perception meet reality? When role clarity turns into role confusion it can lead to conflict, disengagement and even burnout.

As a bit of homework, give this diagram a go for your own role!

At the end of the day, whatever we can do to reduce the pressure on people will make a difference to their wellbeing – no matter how small that step is.

What’s the biggest challenge your workplace faces in ensuring role clarity?
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