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What is Role Conflict and Why does it occur?

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The term “role” describes a set of expected actions and obligations a person has for his or her position in life and relationships with others. We all have multiple roles and responsibilities in our lives,  from sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, spouses and partners to friends, and even professional and social ones.

The role not only provides a blueprint to guide the action, but also describes the goals to pursue, the tasks to perform, and the course of action for a particular scenario.

What is role conflict?

Role conflicts represent role-to-role conflicts that correspond to two or more statuses held by an individual. As we try to accommodate the many stats we hold, we experience role conflicts when we feel pulled in different directions.

The most obvious example of role conflict is the conflict between work and family, or the conflict felt when torn between family and work responsibilities. For example, consider a mother who is also a doctor. She is likely to have to work long hours in the hospital and may even call several nights a week to separate her children from her children. Many who have fallen into this situation say they are inconsistent and desperate about their situation. In other words, they experience role conflicts.

Why does role conflict occur?

Role conflicts occur when conflicting demands are placed on an individual in relation to work or position. People experience role conflicts when they feel that they are being pulled in different directions in an attempt to accommodate many of their stats. Role conflicts can be both short-term and long-term and can also be linked to contextual experiences.

There are two types of role conflict :

1. Intra-role conflict

2. Inter-role conflict

Intra-role conflicts

Conflicts within roles occur when the demand is in a single area of ​​life, such as at the workplace. For example- two managers may ask an employee to complete a task, and both cannot be completed at the same time.

Inter-role conflicts

The conflict between individuals is due to differences in their goals and values. It refers to conflicting expectations from different roles within the same person. Inter-role conflicts are work-to-family conflicts that occur when work responsibilities clash with family obligations and family-to-work conflicts that occur when family responsibilities clash with work responsibilities.

Techniques to minimize conflicts

  • Focus on what is said, not on how it is said.
  • Do not formulate a response right away, first listen carefully.
  • Clarify and reflect on what you are hearing.
  • Don’t respond to high-intensity, emotional words.
  • Monitor your non-verbal “leakage.”
  • Recognize emerging needs and interests of another person.
  • Excuse yourself for a “time-out” if emotions are escalated.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1: How can we overcome role conflict?


Communication is an important factor in managing role conflicts in the workplace. Clear communication of expectations is important in dealing with conflicting roles. 

Question 2: What are the effects of role conflict?


The adverse health effects that role conflicts can cause include depression, anxiety, burnout, and physical symptoms. In addition, role conflicts are associated with various negative attitudes towards work and ineffective work behavior. General dissatisfaction with work. Dissatisfaction with the work task.

Question 3: How does role conflict arises in a group?


Role conflicts occur when employees are assigned different incompatible roles at the same time, or when that role overlaps with another employee or workgroup role. The greater the role conflict, the more likely a worker will experience work-related stress.

Last Updated : 03 Aug, 2022
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