Role ambiguity—the extent to which one’s work responsibilities and degree of authority are unclear—is one of the most widely studied work stressors. Because it represents a subjective perception of one’s work situation, role ambiguity is typically assessed using employee self-reports. Typical self-report role ambiguity items include “The requirements of my job aren’t always clear” and “My job duties are clearly defined” (note that the second example item is reverse-scored). Some researchers refer to role ambiguity by its polar opposite, role clarity.

Employees who experience role ambiguity feel uncertainty about which behaviors are and are not appropriate. They may wonder, for example, whether they are engaging in inappropriate work behaviors, or they may wonder whether they are failing to engage in appropriate work behaviors. Most employees find ...

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