The social psychology of role has been extensively researched in psychology. Elliot Jacques in his book, Social Power and the CEO, discussed how role in organizations, clarity regarding accountability and authority, and cognitive complexity (Jacques refers to it as strata) account for higher performance more than other constructs such as personality, motivation and so forth. In addition, role is more predictive of behavior than the previously mentioned constructs. Role is defined in Jacques’ business applications as front line producers, supervisors, managers, vice presidents and CEOs. Those with the budget authority are accountable to the level above them. When roles are collapsed (one person from a higher role also functioning in a lower role) performance can suffer in the organization due to a number of issues that arise such as “being spread too thin”, confusion from subordinates regarding which role, therefore, which authority their boss is operating from, which accountability should be assigned to the person by upper management, having title with no authority (e.g., being a director, an assistant vice president, assistant medical director, captain in a fire department (leads the team, no authority to deselect, veto a new hire, no budget). These problems result in inaction, misallocation of resources, consensus decision making (one of the worst ways to run a business as decisions are political, not informed per se for better business results), poor morale on the part of those who appear to have authority and do not, yet are still held accountable for results. There are many other problems in ill defined vertical accountability and authority. The senior staff in the MINES BizPsych division regularly consult on managerial hierarchy and organization design problems related to the above problems.
The second area that is associated with numerous referrals relates to cross functional (dysfunctional) communication between departments related to accountability and authority. I will address this topic in my next blog.
Have a day filled with clarity in your role (s)!
Robert A. Mines, Ph.D.
CEO & Psychologist
MINES and Associates