Psychology in Business Series 2011:Clearly Defined Staff Roles

Clearly Defined Staff Roles Increase Business Mental Health

When we become stressed we often become more confused, anxious, tense and irritable. Stress also decrease memory concentration and decision making abilities. Quite literally, we lose our ability to relax and see things clearly.
It is the same for a business! An organisation that is stressed can become distorted in its perception and can neglect important decision making. In the confusion and desperation, the urge to get things done and save the business can overshadow clarity.

This is particularly the case when it comes to clearly defining staff positions and roles, and especially when there has been staff cut backs. Professional boundaries can become blurred and expectations on certain staff members can become unrealistic. Another common occurrence when a business is stressed is that it can neglect to act appropriately when it does become obvious that staff are struggling. Business owners and management are often very stressed and overwhelmed themselves and can mistakenly see stressed staff members as an inconsiderate burden on the company. Important staff issues and dysfunctional interpersonal systems then get brushed under the carpet.

Unfortunately when staff needs are ignored the business only becomes more stressed in the long term. A lack of clearly defined and realistic staff roles and duties is a major contributing factor to staff burnout. A struggling business is only going to find it more difficult to deal with staff sick leave, breakdowns, retraining new staff and accommodating dysfunctional staff dynamics. In fact, it is not unusual for staff to become “scapegoated” as unconsciously it is easier to see the problems as a “difficult staff member” than the decline of a whole business.

This is why it is vital to step back, breathe and LOOK when a business is feeling the pressure! When a business is stress is the perfect time to explore and define staff boundaries and clarify staff positions and roles. As a general rule, the clearer staff positions are defined, and the happier and healthier the staff are, the higher functioning business can be. Business owners and managers who look after their staff and who take responsibility for clearly defined staff roles, tend to cope better in a challenging and unpredictable economic market.

This is just one more action a stressed business can make to enhance its mental health. Next time we are going to look at how to introduce new systems and initiatives into an existing business that is stressed. The more effective changes can be made in a business, the more likely it will adapt to our constantly changing economic market.

6 Responses to “Psychology in Business Series 2011:Clearly Defined Staff Roles”

  • neroli makim:

    Hi Vanessa, great article 😉 Stress also shuts down creativity immediately, and businesses that take measures to reduce stress will have much happier, healthier & more creative staff. Hope people take notice of your advice, cheers, neroli

    • Vanessa:

      Hi Neroli, thanks for for your comment. Your right, stress does shut down creativity as well as shutting down the ability to look laterally at challenges and make successful decisions. Regular stress reduction techniques, combined with effective action can eventually guide a business out of trouble.

  • Adam Bean:

    Hey Vanessa

    Clearly defined roles are a must. How can we hold someone accountable for what they are suppose to do, if they don’t even know what they are suppose to be doing! If avoids the old, I thought that was someone else’s job as well.

    When people have a clear direction, and know exactly where they are heading, it definately reduces the stress levels.

    Cheers Beanie

    • Vanessa:

      Hi Beanie, so true!!! And it seems really obvious but it’s amazing how much I see and hear about people in positions with incredibly loose or inappropriate boundaries. It’s definitely something I often hear in counselling people with stress conditions due to company stress.

  • Lisa Murray:

    Hi Vanessa
    Thank you for sharing… I work a lot with stressed business owners and am also seeing how important it is to have clearly defined roles in fast growing businesses – they have a different kind of stress and often the roles continue to change… Role definition is very useful for making sure that the right people are in the right place as the business expands… everyone being and doing everything does not a blissful workplace make!!

    Would love to catch up


    • Vanessa:

      Hi Lisa, thank you for leaving a comment, I really value your insights! I hear you are seeing the same thing thing happen in stressed business’ where roles are blurred. It’s interesting to hear about rapidly growing business and role definition. Today’s economic market is different from ever before. What seemed like steady big business is becoming unstable and some newer businesses are growing with rapid speed due to social media and internet leverage. Clear roles and boundaries are even more important than in the past in business due to the rapid change business can take these days.


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