In any social system, such as the family, club, religious community, work organization, etc. individuals have certain obligation towards the system, which in turn gives each one of them a defined place in the society. This system of mutual obligations can be called a role and the individual’s place a position or an office.

Role is the position one occupies in a social system, as defined by the functions one performs in response to the expectations of the ‘significant’ members of a social system, and one’s own expectations from that position of office.

Role and office (or Position), though two sides of the same coin, are however, two separate concepts. According to Katz and Kahn, “office is essentially a relational concept, defining each position in terms of relationships to others and to the system as a whole.”

While office is a relational and power-related concept, role is an ‘obligational’ concept. Office is concerned with the hierarchical position and privileges, while a role is concerned with the obligations of position. Exhibit 1 distinguishes between these two concepts. While office is a point in the social structure , defining an office holder’s power, role is the integrated set of behaviours expected from a person occupying that office.

Office and Role1

Figure 1 reflects Organization as a Structure of Offices/Positions and Figure 2 reflects Organization as a System of Roles

organisation as structure of Office position

Organisation as a System of Role

The concept of role is vital for the integration of the individual with an organisation. The individual and organisation come together through a role. As shown in Figure-3 the organisation has its own structure and goals. Similarly, the individual has his personality and needs (motivations). These interact with each other and to some extent get integrated in a role. Role is also a central concept in work motivation. It is only through a role that the individual and an organisation interact with each other, as shown in Figure-4.

 Role as an integrating point of individual and organisation


Our organization ECO-CARE AND AWARE ( is a no-profit organization providing training and support service / consultancy to Developmental Sector. Support services includes planning and formulation of developmental projects, technical support during implementation, Monitoring & Evaluation, Training and Capacity Building, Research & Study, Micro Planning & PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal). The organization caters its best services for the judicious use of Natural, Human and Physical resources.

The areas of activities include Environment, Watershed Development, Biodiversity, Sanitation, Minor Irrigation, Biotechnology, Sustainable Agriculture, Horticulture, Capacity Building, Training and Awareness. The organisation has professionals from all the above fields and for each professionals their role is clearly defined. And some cases we need to have interaction and mutual dependency within the organization for completing the specific project or assignment.


The performance of a person working in our organisation depends on his potential effectiveness as a person, his technical competence, his managerial experience, etc. as well as the way the role which he performs in the organisation is designed. It is the interaction of the two (the person and the role) that ensures the person’s effectiveness in the organisation. Unless the person has the requisite knowledge, technical competence, and the skills required for the role, he cannot be effective. But equally important is how the role which he occupies in the organisation is designed. If the role does not allow him to use his competence, and if he constantly feels frustrated in the role, his effectiveness is likely to be low. The integration of the person and the role comes about when the role is able to fulfill the needs of the individual, and when the individual is able to contribute to the evolution of the role. Our organisation takes care of this and maintains a balance of this.

The more we move from role taking (responding to the expectations by various other persons) to role making (taking initiative in designing the role more creatively in a way that the various from others as well as of the role occupant are integrated), the more the role becomes effective. Effectiveness of a person-in-a-role-in-an-organisation, therefore may depend on his own potential effectiveness, the potential effectiveness of the role and the organizational climate. The potential effectiveness of a person can be called efficacy. Personal efficacy would mean potential effectiveness of a person in personal and interpersonal situations. Role efficacy means the potential effectiveness of an individual occupying a particular role in an organisation. Role efficacy can be seen as psychological factor underlying the role effectiveness. In short efficacy is potential effectiveness.


Role efficacy means the potential effectiveness of an individual occupying a particular role in an organisation. Role efficacy has several aspects. The more these aspects are present in a role, the higher the efficacy of that role likely to be. These aspects can be classified into three groups, or dimensions i.e. Role Making, Role Centering, Role Linking.


1) Self-role Integration : Every person has his strength-his experience, his technical training, the special skills he may have, some unique contribution he may be able to make. The more the role a person occupies provides an opportunity for the use of such special strengths, the higher the efficacy is likely to be. This is called self-role integration. The self of a person and the role get integrated through the possibility of a person’s use of his special strengths in the role. In one organization, a person was promoted to a responsible position. This was seen as a convertible reward and the person was quite happy in getting such a well deserved promotion. However he soon realizes that in this new position he occupied, he was not able to use his special skills of training, counseling, and organizational diagnosis. In spite of his working well in the new role his efficacy is not as high as it was in previous job. Later when the role was redesigned to enable him to use his rare skills, his efficacy went up. Our organization takes care to redesign the role as per the new professional within that job objective so as to improve the efficacy of the professional and also the performance of the organization as a whole.

2) Proactivity : A person who occupies a role responds to various expectations people in the organization have from that role. This certainly gives him satisfaction, and it also satisfies others in the organization. How ever if he is also to take initiative in starting some activity, his efficacy will be higher. The reactive behavior (responding to the expectation of others) helps a person to be effective to some extent, but proactivity (taking initiative rather then only responding to others expectation) contribute much more to efficacy. Our organization at this situation provides ample opportunity facilitating such initiative of our professionals.

3) Creativity : It is not only the initiative which is important for efficacy. An opportunity to try new and unconventional ways of solving problems or an opportunity to be creative is equally important. Our organization promotes creativity and innovation. Rather than being routine of the previous methods our professionals have freedom to take different way to do the things and can design and try their creative initiative.

4) Conformation: In general, if people in an organization avoid problems, or shift the problems to some other people to solve them, their role efficacy will be low. The general to confront the problem to find relevant solution contributes the efficacy. When people facing interpersonal problems sit down, talk about these problems, and search for solutions, their efficacy will be higher as compared with the situations in which they either deny such problems or refer these to their higher officers.


5) Centrality : If a person occupies a particular role in the organization generally feels that the role he / she occupies is central in the organization, his/her role efficacy is likely to be high. Every one working in an organization want to feel that his/her role is important. If persons occupying the various posts feel that their roles are peripheral i.e. they are not much important, their potential effectiveness will be low. This is true not only of persons at higher level in the organization but also about people at lower level. So our organization takes care how even the lower level workers also feel that their roles are important.

6) Influence : A related concept is that of influence or power. The more influence a person is able to exercise in the role, the higher the role efficacy is likely to be. One factor which may make roles in public sector or civil service more efficacious is the opportunity to influence a larger sector in the society. On the other hand if he feels that he has no power in the role he occupies in the organization he is likely to have low efficacy.

7) Personal Growth : One factor which contribute effectively to role efficacy is the perception that the role provides the individual an opportunity to grow and develop. There are several examples of people leaving one role and becoming very effective in another primarily because they feel that they have more opportunity to grow in the latter. One head of the training institute accepted the position by taking a big financial cut in his salary mainly because he felt that he had nothing more to learn in the previous role, he had opportunity to go further. Our organization takes care of the options of personal growth and learning environment.


8) Inter-role linking : Linkage of one’s role with other roles in the organization increases efficacy. If there is a joint effort in understanding problems, finding solutions etc. the efficacy of the various roles involves likely to be high. Of course the presumption is that people know how to work effectively. Similarly if a person is a member of a task-group set up for specific purpose, his efficacy, with other factors being common is likely to be high. The feeling of isolation of a role (that a person works without any linkage with other roles) reduces role efficacy.

9) Helping Relationship : In addition to inter-role linkage, the opportunity for people to receive and give help also increase role efficacy. If persons performing a particular role feel that they can get help from some source in the organization, whenever they have such a need, they are likely to have higher role efficacy. On the other hand, if there is a feeling that either no help is given when asked for, or that the respondents are hostile, role efficacy will be low. Our organization always maintains a mutually helping environment in order to increase role efficacy.

10) Superordination : A role may have linkage with systems, groups and entities beyond the organization. When a person performing a particular role feels that what he does as a part of his role is likely to be of value to a larger group, his efficacy is likely to be high. The roles which gives opportunity to role occupants to work for super ordinate goals have very high role efficacy. Our organization as a no-profit organization is promoting this intrinsic super ordination by involving in philanthropic, social welfare no-profit activities.

Regarding the personal profile of role efficacy, research has shown that persons with high role efficacy seems to relay on their own strengths to cope up with problems, they are active and interact with people and the environment and persist in solving problem mostly by themselves and sometimes by taking help of other people. They show positive approach and behavior and feel satisfied with life and with their fobs and roles in their organization.


One can plan to increase role efficacy of one’s own role, as well as those of one’s employees. Some practical methods as followed by our organization to increase the role efficacy of the employees :

Self-role Integration :

  1. work with the employees in redesigning their roles in which their strengths can be utilized.
  2. Recommend replacement of a misfit in a job which can use his assets.

Proactivity :

  1. Minimise supervision of employees and encourage them to ask for your help when they need such help.
  2. Reward initiative of employees
  3. Listen to the employees and give respects to their views, and use these wherever possible.
  4. Arrange for visits of the employees to other organization.

Creativity :

  1. Encourage our employees to give ideas to solve problems.
  2. Create a climate which encourage people to generate ideas without fear of being criticized.
  3. Appreciate and use new ideas given by employees.
  4. Encourage and reward suggestions to solve problems.

Confrontation :

  1. take the employee into confidence while confronting a problem
  2. Support the action taken by employee if it is within the rules and procedure.
  3. Appoint a task group for a problem making decision.
  4. Use failure of an employees as an experience and help him to learn from it.
  5. Encourage employee to bring problems.
  6. Anticipate problems in collaboration with your employees.
  7. Encourage subordinate to solve problem and report to you.
  8. Follow the ‘buck stops here’ dictum.

Centrality :

  1. Communicate the importance of the roles to their incumbents (the critical contribution of the roles)
  2. Communicate the importance of the roles as perceived by the others.
  3. Give enough freedom to each employee to set his objectives and decide ways of achieving them.
  4. Give increasingly difficult and Challenging responsibilities.

Influence :

  1. Delegate enough authority
  2. Give relevant details of decisions made
  3. Send good ideas of employees to higher management.
  4. Give feed back to employees on their suggestion
  5. Be willing to accept mistake.

Growth :

  1. Appreciate employee’s work.
  2. Do not snub the employees for their shortcomings but cooperate to improve them.
  3. Delegate to them increasingly difficult and Challenging tasks.

Inter-role Linking : 

  1. Encourage employees to seek /render cooperation with department.
  2. Encourage employees to solve problems by working with their peer-level colleagues( and not refer the problems to higher authority unless it needs such intervention. )

Helping :

  1. Encourage the employees to respond to requests by other departments.
  2. Encourage them to seek help from peers from other department.
  3. Seek helps of the employees in the areas they can contribute.
  4. Encourage our employees to come to higher office for help and the later to respond them positively.

Superordinating :

  1. Encourage the employee to understand and appreciate the contribution of their role to the society.
  2. Help the employees link (and see the linkage) of objectives of their roles with organizational objectives.
  3. Encourage them to include in their roles what may be useful for a larger section
  4. Encourage team work
  5. Communicate accessibility to the employees. 
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