Role conflict, which occurs when employees experience incompatible work demands, is a widely studied work stressor. A work stressor is any aspect of the work environment that requires an adaptive response from employees and has the potential to cause poor health. In addition to role conflict, other work stressors include role ambiguity, interpersonal mistreatment at work, and the presence of an unreasonable workload. The negative health outcomes produced by stressors—anxiety, depression, and physical symptoms, for instance—are called strains.

Role conflict is generally conceptualized as a type of perception a worker has of his or her work environment. As such, worker self-reports are typically used to assess role conflict. Prototypical role conflict items include “In my job, I often feel like different people are ‘pulling me in ...

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