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11 Role clarity for good mental health

Clear understanding of roles, responsibilities and accountabilities, and regular conversations is part of good work and contributes to good mental health outcomes in the workplace.

Why it matters

Employees who are not clear about their role can experience disengagement and a decline in performance, and can become frustrated. Role ambiguity is a significant risk factor to mental ill health and may lead to psychological injury. On the other hand, having role clarity leads to engagement, job satisfaction, commitment and productivity, all of which are good for mental health.

Role clarity is also important from a whole of APS perspective. The APS Blueprint for Reform outlines the benchmark for a high performing public service, including strong leadership and strategic direction.1 Clarifying the roles of APS employees and addressing gaps in capability contributes to a high performing public service.

‘Employees need to know what is expected of them in order to feel effective and productive in the workplace.’

Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace2

How it’s done

Clearly outline the role and inherent requirements of the position in the recruitment process. This will help you to match the skills of the individual to the job. Avoid situations where an employee takes on dual roles which may lead to conflicts of interest and potential role conflict.

Be clear with the employee about what they are responsible for and what the desired outcomes are. This achieves greater overall role clarity rather than simply providing a list of tasks to complete. Having strong role clarity will significantly help employees in managing the demands of their role.

Provide clarity about the links between organisational objectives and the employee’s role. Discuss the organisational structure, strategic plans and any relevant business or team plans. Use team meetings to discuss how each role contributes to the goals of the team.

Regularly review roles and modify where necessary in consultation with the employee. Consider the health and safety risks of particular roles on employees, especially any health and safety risks that could arise from a change in role or for an employee with a mental health condition.

Ensure employees have the appropriate skills and training to perform their position effectively. Consider how the employee’s unique set of skills and training shape the role.

Use the APS Integrated Leadership (ILS)3 to map the capabilities required for the position to the specific role of the employee. When an employee is transitioning to a higher position, use the ILS to explain how the role changes in response to increasing complexity. Refer to your agency’s Work Level Standards for the ‘whole of job’ requirements and expectations of employees at each classification level.

Provide regular feedback to employees about their performance in the role and address any role concerns early.

Clearly communicate with employees about organisational objectives and roles during times of change.

Useful tools

Other relevant information sheets:

Footnotes

1 Advisory Group on Reform of Australian Government Administration 2010, Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra, p. viii.

2 Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace (Canada), Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, viewed 15 April 2013.

3 Australian Public Service Commission, Integrated Leadership System, viewed 15 April 2013.