Shahidul Hassan is assistant professor
of public management at the John Glenn
School of Public Affairs (The Ohio State
University). His research focuses on the role
that managerial practices play in improving
motivation, commitment, and performance
of public sector employees. His research
works have appeared in the Journal of
Managerial Psychology, Journal of
Leadership and Organization Studies,
International Public Management
Journal, and American Review of
716 Public Administration Review • September | October 2013
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 73, Iss. 5, pp. 716–725. © 2013 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
The Ohio State University
is article examines how greater role clariﬁ cation
may be associated with increased work satisfaction and
decreased turnover rates in workgroups. ese linkages are
examined with the use of multivariate analysis of vari-
ance and hierarchical regression analysis for data collected
during two time periods from multiple sources: personnel
records and an organizational survey of 1,699 employees
working in 45 geographically distributed oﬃ ces in a state
government agency. Results indicate that oﬃ ces with a
high level of role clariﬁ cation had signiﬁ cantly higher
levels of work satisfaction and lower rates of turnover.
Additionally, the eﬀ ects of role clariﬁ cation on work sat-
isfaction and turnover behavior were mediated by overall
role clarity perceived in these oﬃ ces. e implications of
these ﬁ ndings for eﬀ ective management of workgroups in
government agencies are discussed.
The institutional context in which public
organizations operate has important impli-
cations for their day-to-day operations and
performance (Perry and Rainey 1988; Rainey and
Steinbauer 1990; Wamsley and Zald 1973). Public
agencies deal with complex policy problems, pursue
value-laden goals, and provide services for which clear
performance criteria are not readily available (Allison
1983; Dahl and Lindblom 1953; Wildavsky 1979;
Wilson 1989). Public organizations also need to
attend to competing demands from various stakehold-
ers and interest groups (Lowi 1979; Rainey 1993;
Ring and Perry 1985). Public management scholar-
ship suggests that a lack of clear performance criteria,
policy complexity, and competing demands from
stakeholders lead to goal ambiguity (Chun and Rainey
2005), which, in turn, creates
substantial role ambiguity for
employees working in public
agencies (Wright 2004). Erera
(1989), for example, found that
vagueness and constant change
in state policies caused consid-
erable role ambiguity among
managers in a state agency.
Pandey and Wright (2006)
found that a lack of clarity in organizational goals
directly as well as indirectly (by increasing procedural
constraints) increased role ambiguity among managers
in health and human services agencies.
e consequences of high levels of role ambiguity
have important cost implications for public agen-
cies. While a certain level of role ambiguity is likely
to exist in all jobs and may even be beneﬁ cial in
terms of increasing employee creativity and learning
(Savelsbergh et al. 2012), a high level of ambigu-
ity regarding job goals and performance expecta-
tions creates stress and frustration among employees
(Schaubroeck et al. 1993) and may inﬂ uence them to
leave the organization (Jung 2011). Organizational
research indicates that work stressors, including role
ambiguity and role conﬂ ict, contribute negatively to
employee mental health (Ganster and Schaubroeck
1991). Role ambiguity has also consistently been
shown to have a negative inﬂ uence on a wide range of
beneﬁ cial employee dispositions, including job satis-
faction, organizational commitment, and job involve-
ment (Fisher and Gitelson 1983; Jackson and Schuler
1985). More importantly, research indicates that
ambiguity about job goals and performance expecta-
tions lowers employee job performance (cf. Tubre and
Given the widely acknowledged costs associated with
role ambiguity, it is surprising that few studies in pub-
lic management have investigated how to enhance role
clarity in public organizations. Speciﬁ cally, research
has yet to examine whether managerial practices can
attenuate the adverse eﬀ ects
of role ambiguity on organiza-
tional outcomes. e present
study was designed to examine
how role clariﬁ cation may aﬀ ect
perceived role clarity, work
satisfaction, and turnover rates
in distinct oﬃ ces or workgroups
in a government agency. Based
on role theory (Graen 1976;
e Importance of Role Clariﬁ cation in Workgroups:
Eﬀ ects on Perceived Role Clarity, Work Satisfaction,
and Turnover Rates
e present study was designed
to examine how role clariﬁ ca-
tion may aﬀ ect perceived role
clarity, work satisfaction, and
turnover rates in distinct oﬃ ces
or workgroups in a government
The Importance of Role Clariﬁ cation in Workgroups: Effects on Perceived Role Clarity, Work Satisfaction, and Turnover Rates 717
work practices can also increase role ambiguity (Jimmieson, Terry,
and Callan 2004; Lyons 1971). Additionally, lack of managerial
communication or poor communication may lead to increased role
ambiguity among employees (House and Mitchell 1974; House and
Rizzo 1972; Lyons 1971).
High levels of role ambiguity have detrimental eﬀ ects on cooperative
attitudes and behaviors of employees (Jackson and Schuler 1985;
Tubre and Collins 2000). Role ambiguity increases stress because
concerns about how to perform job roles and obtain valued out-
comes (both material and social) often cause frustration and anxiety
among employees. It can also lead to, as previously noted, a lack of
employee commitment and involvement and diminished employee
performance (Jackson and Schuler 1985; Schaubroeck et al. 1993;
Tubre and Collins 2000). Additionally, incongruity between
received role requirements (i.e., role conﬂ ict) can lower perceptions
of self-competence and engender frustration and dissatisfaction
among employees. Kahn and colleagues (1964) suggested that when
employees experience high levels of role ambiguity and role conﬂ ict,
they will try to reduce the associated stress by avoiding the job situa-
tion through chronic absence or leaving the organization.
Impact of Role Clariﬁ cation on Perceived Role Clarity
Role clariﬁ cation is a task-oriented leader behavior that is targeted
toward providing cognitive structures to subordinates about how
they can attain their job goals (House 1996; Yukl 2010). While
the main purpose of role clariﬁ cation is to guide and coordinate
subordinate work activities and make sure subordinates know what
they need to do, it also includes setting task objectives in work-
groups. Yukl and colleagues (Yukl 2010; Yukl, Gordon, and Taber
2002) noted that setting speciﬁ c task objectives directs subordinates’
eﬀ orts toward performance of important duties and responsibilities,
encourages search for eﬃ cient ways of doing work, and facilitates
evaluation of performance by providing a benchmark against which
to compare it.
Role clariﬁ cation is a core component of initiating structure, one
of the two key leader behavior dimensions3 identiﬁ ed in the Ohio
State leadership studies (Fleishman 1953; Fleishman and Harris
1962; Stogdill, Goode, and Day 1962). Role clariﬁ cation also is the
primary component of directive behavior in the path-goal theory
of leadership (House 1971; House and Mitchell 1974). Although
research on the consequences of using initiating structure was
inconclusive, studies on role clariﬁ cation found stronger results
(Fisher and Edwards 1988; Podsakoﬀ et al. 1995; Woﬀ ord and Liska
1993). Several studies showed that role clariﬁ cation is an important
determinant of managerial eﬀ ectiveness (Kim and Yukl 1995; Yukl
and Van Fleet 1982). Additionally, laboratory and ﬁ eld experiments
have consistently found that setting speciﬁ c and challenging goals
results in higher levels of individual and group
performance (Locke and Latham 1990).
e eﬀ ect of role clariﬁ cation on perceived role
clarity in workgroups may depend on several
situational factors, such as employee skill
level, experience, and job complexity (House
1996; House and Mitchell 1974). Workgroups
that are designed to accomplish complex and
Kahn et al. 1964; Katz and Kahn 1978) and path-goal theory of
leadership (House 1971, 1996; House and Mitchell 1974), role
clariﬁ cation in this study is anticipated to have an indirect positive
eﬀ ect on work satisfaction and an indirect negative eﬀ ect on turno-
ver behavior by improving perceived role clarity in workgroups.
ese linkages are examined with multivariate analysis of variance
(MANOVA) and hierarchical regression analysis with data that were
collected during two time periods using a survey and personnel
records of 1,699 employees working in 45 geographically distrib-
uted oﬃ ces in an agency in state government. e following section
draws from the extant organizational research to develop theoreti-
cal arguments and a set of testable hypotheses about how greater
role clariﬁ cation may be associated with increased work satisfaction
and decreased turnover rates by improving perceived role clarity in
Theory and Hypotheses
Organizational scholars have long suggested that the development
and maintenance of roles are critical to the socialization, perform-
ance, and well-being of employees in organizations (Graen 1976;
Kahn et al. 1964; Katz and Kahn 1978). Roles basically are a set of
activities or behaviors that are expected by relevant organizational
constituents from a person holding a particular position in an
organization (Graen 1976; Katz and Kahn 1978). Organizations
tend to divide complex tasks into specialized activities, assign the
activities to speciﬁ c roles, and then integrate the outputs of those
activities into ﬁ nal goods and services (Katz and Kahn 1978). e
formal speciﬁ cation of role requirements is intended to provide
guidance and direction to employees about how to carry out their
work activities, as well as to hold them accountable for speciﬁ c levels
of performance (Rizzo, House, and Lirtzman 1970).
Role theory suggests that role making is a dynamic process involving
an employee and his or her direct supervisor1 whereby the employee
acquires knowledge about the demands and constraints placed on
his or her behavior, receives feedback regarding his or her behavior
in the role, accepts a pattern of behavior, and modiﬁ es it over time
(Graen 1976; Katz and Kahn 1978; Naylor, Pritchard, and Ilgen
1980). Roles are seldom fully speciﬁ ed in advance for organiza-
tional members (Schaubroeck et al. 1993). In addition, role-making
processes can be complicated by poor communication between role
senders2 and role receivers, as well as by turbulence within an organi-
zation’s task environment that requires constant modiﬁ cations in
roles (Katz and Kahn 1978; Schaubroeck et al. 1993). Role ambi-
guity occurs when roles are not suﬃ ciently articulated in terms of
domain, methods of fulﬁ llment, and consequences of role perform-
ance (Kahn et al. 1964; Schaubroeck et al. 1993).
Kahn and colleagues (1964) identiﬁ ed three organizational factors
that may contribute to greater role ambiguity: (1) organizational
complexity, (2) organizational change, and
(3) managerial communication. Increased
organizational complexity in terms of higher
levels of centralization, formalization, and
goal ambiguity can lead to greater role ambi-
guity (House and Rizzo 1972; Morris, Steers,
and Koch 1979; Nicholson and Goh 1983;
Pandey and Wright 2006). Organizational
changes that require frequent restructuring of
Workgroups that are designed
to accomplish complex and
nonroutine tasks, for example,
may require more role clariﬁ ca-
tion than workgroups that carry
out routine or simple tasks.
718 Public Administration Review • September | October 2013
may also inﬂ uence members to cognitively as well as behaviorally
disassociate from the workgroup. e relationships between role
ambiguity and job satisfaction and between role ambiguity and
turnover have been studied extensively in organizational research.
A meta-analysis by Abramis (1994) showed a negative correla-
tion between role ambiguity and job satisfaction. Another meta-
analysis found a negative relationship between role ambiguity and
turnover behavior (Griﬀ eth, Hom, and Gaertner 2000). Studies
in public management also found a negative connection between
role ambiguity and job satisfaction (Kim and Wright 2007; Wright
and Kim 2004; Wright and Davis 2003) and a positive connection
between role ambiguity and turnover intention (Jung 2012; Kim
and Wright 2007) at the individual level of analysis. But very little
research in public management has examined the linkage between
role ambiguity and turnover behavior of employees. One study
found a positive association between role ambiguity and turnover
rates in federal agencies (Jung 2011). Based on these results and
arguments from role theory, the following two hypotheses are
tested in this study:
Hypothesis 2: Oﬃ ces with a high level of role clarity will
have higher levels of work satisfaction than oﬃ ces with a low
level of role clarity.
Hypothesis 3: Oﬃ ces with a high level of role clarity will
have lower rates of turnover than oﬃ ces with a low level of
Impacts of Role Clariﬁ cation on Perceived Work Satisfaction
and Turnover Behavior
Role clariﬁ cation is likely to enhance work satisfaction and reduce
turnover rates by increasing role clarity perceived in workgroups.
Speciﬁ cally, the eﬀ ects of role clariﬁ cation eﬀ orts on work satisfac-
tion and turnover behavior in this study are expected to be medi-
ated by overall role clarity perceived in the oﬃ ces. Two hypotheses
concerning these relationships were formulated based on the works
of House and colleagues (House 1971, 1996; House and Mitchell
1974; House and Rizzo 1972) that suggested that clarifying job
duties and performance expectations reduces stress, which, in turn,
enhances employee satisfaction and decreases employee work with-
While the eﬀ ects of role clariﬁ cation on work satisfaction and
turnover behavior have not been thoroughly investigated in previous
studies, a positive connection between initiating structure4 and work
satisfaction has been found in research in business and industry
settings (Judge, Piccolo, and Ilies 2004). Research has also shown a
negative relationship between instrumental or task-oriented mana-
gerial communication and employee turnover behavior (Griﬀ eth,
Hom, and Gaertner 2000). Additionally, a recent public sector
study found a negative correlation between
a measure of eﬀ ective leadership, which
comprised aspects of role clariﬁ cation, and
employee turnover behavior (Grissom 2012).
However, no previous study has investigated
whether role clarity mediates the eﬀ ects of role
clariﬁ cation on work satisfaction and turnover
rates in workgroups. Hence, the following two
hypotheses are tested in this study:
nonroutine tasks, for example, may require more role clariﬁ cation
than workgroups that carry out routine or simple tasks. Additionally,
workgroups with highly experienced members may require less
role clariﬁ cation than workgroups with a large number of new or
inexperienced members. Nevertheless, role clariﬁ cation is likely to be
important in enhancing role clarity in workgroups especially when
there is substantial uncertainty about work objectives and perform-
ance expectations (Yukl 2010). Such conditions are likely to be more
prevalent in government work settings because public organizations
often need to deal with complex problems and provide services for
which there are no clear performance criteria (Allison 1983; Dahl
and Lindblom 1953; Wildavsky 1979; Wilson 1989).
Although the connection between role clariﬁ cation and role clarity
has not been thoroughly investigated in research in public manage-
ment, studies by Wright and colleagues (Kim and Wright 2007;
Wright 2004; Wright and Davis 2003) found that performance-
oriented feedback enhances employee role clarity in public organiza-
tions. Additionally, survey studies in business and industry settings
have consistently found a negative connection between role clariﬁ ca-
tion and role ambiguity at the individual level of analysis (Woﬀ ord
and Liska 1993). Several ﬁ eld experiments also showed that role
clariﬁ cation has a negative impact on role ambiguity (Quick 1979;
Schaubroeck et al. 1993). Following these results, a positive associa-
tion between role clariﬁ cation and role clarity at the workgroup level
is anticipated in this study.
Hypothesis 1: Oﬃ ces with a high level of role clariﬁ cation
will have higher levels of role clarity than oﬃ ces with a low
level of role clariﬁ cation.
Linkages between Role Clarity and Perceived Work
Satisfaction and Turnover Behavior
Rizzo, House, and Lirtzman (1970) suggested that when employees
are unaware of what is expected of them, they may hesitate to act,
show a lack of self-determination, and feel unable to make a diﬀ er-
ence in achieving the organization’s goals. Yukl (2010) noted that
even highly competent and motivated employees may fail to achieve
a high level of performance if they are unsure about their work goals
and responsibilities. Katz and colleagues (1964) asserted that unclear
role expectations may increase employee work withdrawal behaviors,
including absenteeism and turnover.
Research on small groups indicates that role clarity is essential for
the eﬀ ective functioning of workgroups (Bray and Brawley 2002).
As previously noted, roles are a set of prescriptions that deﬁ ne the
behaviors that are expected from a member of a workgroup (Katz
and Kahn 1978). Clear knowledge about these behavioral expecta-
tions is important for a group member to eﬀ ectively perform his or
her work, as well as to coordinate work activities within the group.
When group members do not clearly under-
stand their responsibilities, they may under-
estimate their ability to achieve their group’s
goals (Bandura 1997), leading to a low level
of group performance (Bray and Brawley
A high level of role ambiguity is likely to
increase dissatisfaction in workgroups. It
A high level of role ambiguity
is likely to increase dissatisfac-
tion in workgroups. It may also
inﬂ uence members to cogni-
tively as well as behaviorally dis-
associate from the workgroup.
The Importance of Role Clariﬁ cation in Workgroups: Effects on Perceived Role Clarity, Work Satisfaction, and Turnover Rates 719
were expected to do in their job and understood which of their
job duties were more important than others. Role clariﬁ cation was
assessed with four items (α = .84) that captured the extent to which
managers (1) clearly expressed work and performance expecta-
tions to subordinates, (2) adequately instructed subordinates about
how to carry out their work activities, (3) informed subordinates
about organizational issues or changes, and (4) provided feedback
to subordinates when they performed their job well. Work satisfac-
tion was measured with two items (α = .79) that were derived from
the Michigan Organizational Assessment Questionnaire. ese
two items have been used to measure work satisfaction in several
recent studies (Hassan and Rohrbaugh 2011; Shim and Rohrbaugh,
Oﬃ ce-level employee turnover records for 2009 were collected
in 2010 from 45 of the 65 oﬃ ce locations. e agency could not
provide disaggregated turnover data for employees in 19 oﬃ ce loca-
tions. e unavailability of turnover data from 19 oﬃ ce locations
resulted in a reduction of the sample size from 2,136 to 1,699, a
retention rate of almost 80 percent. e demographic characteristics
of these respondents were in no way diﬀ erent from respondents
who participated in the survey. e numbers of employees in the
45 oﬃ ces ranged from 3 to 167; 16 oﬃ ces were described by fewer
than 10 employees, while 11 oﬃ ces were described by more than 50
employees. Employee turnover rates were calculated by dividing the
sum of voluntary separations by the total number of employees in
each oﬃ ce.
Research indicates that various individual and group characteristics
may inﬂ uence employee satisfaction and turnover behavior (Cho
and Lewis 2012; Griﬀ eth, Hom, and Gaertner 2000; Grissom 2012;
Kellough and Osuna 1995; Shaw et al. 1998). Hence, oﬃ ce size
(i.e., total number of employees in each oﬃ ce) and mean position
tenure were included as control variables in the data analyses. ese
two variables were included in the analyses because larger oﬃ ces,
for instance, may experience more employee turnover than smaller
oﬃ ces. Oﬃ ces with more experienced employees may require less
role clariﬁ cation than oﬃ ces with less experienced employees.
Additionally, because the level of role clarity in workgroups may
depend on employee skill level and job complexity, the percentage
of professional employees working in the oﬃ ces was included as a
Hypothesis 4: e inﬂ uence of role clariﬁ cation on work
satisfaction will be mediated by overall role clarity perceived
in oﬃ ces.
Hypothesis 5: e inﬂ uence of role clariﬁ cation on turn-
over rates will be mediated by overall role clarity perceived in
Method of the Study
Sample and Procedures
e ﬁ ve research hypotheses were tested using data that were col-
lected during two time periods from two diﬀ erent sources: person-
nel records and a survey of employees working in 65 geographically
dispersed oﬃ ces of a government agency with 11 distinct divisions
of operation. e agency was responsible for maintaining and
administering the states’ accounting, payroll, and retirement systems
for public employees. e agency also was responsible for review-
ing states’ contracts and conducting audits of other state agencies
and public beneﬁ ciaries, as well as overseeing the ﬁ scal aﬀ airs of
local governments (including one of the largest municipalities in
the United States). e survey was designed and distributed to a
population of 2,614 employees in the spring of 2008 to collect data
regarding their perceptions of managerial practices and their work
climate. Responsibility for the internal distribution and collection of
the survey was assigned to division managers. Prior to distributing
the survey, the research team and division managers clearly com-
municated the purpose of the study to all participants, the voluntary
nature of their participation, and the complete anonymity and
conﬁ dentiality of their responses. Altogether, 2,136 usable ques-
tionnaires were returned, for an overall response rate of 82 percent;
response rates by division ranged from a low of 70 percent to a high
of 100 percent.
Approximately 87 percent of the survey respondents identiﬁ ed
themselves as Caucasian, 8 percent as African American, 3 percent
as Asian, 2 percent as Hispanic, and 1 percent as Native-American;
these percentages matched exactly the distribution generated from
agency personnel records. Approximately 60 percent of the respond-
ents were female and 40 percent male, nearly matching agency
records of 59 percent female and 41 percent male. With regard to
position description, 31 percent of the respondents reported that
their job was best described as clerical and 66 percent as profes-
sional. e majority of the professional employees in the agency
were accountants, auditors, business analysts, lawyers, information
technology specialists, and managers. e mean age of the respond-
ents was 45.6 years; their mean tenures in their position, division,
and agency were 4.8 years, 9.8 years, and 11.6 years, respectively; all
three tenure distributions were skewed positively.
All of the survey items were measured either on a six-point (coded
1–6) strength of agreement (strongly disagree, generally disagree,
disagree a little, agree a little, generally agree, and strongly agree) or
on a ﬁ ve-point (coded 0–4) frequency of occurrence (almost never/
never, rarely, sometimes, often, and almost always/always) scale (see
table 1 for a complete list of the survey items used in this study).
Steers’s (1975, 1976) Task-Goal Attribute Scales provided the basis
for the three-item measure of role clarity (α =.73). ese three items
captured the extent to which employees were clear about what they
Table 1 CFA Results: Standardized Factor Loadings
Factor Loading (λ)
Role clariﬁ cation
My supervisor clearly expresses work expectations to me. .78
My supervisor keeps me “in the loop” about issues that
affect my work. .76
I am told by my immediate supervisor when I do a good job. .70
My supervisor properly instructs me regarding how to do my
I know exactly what I am supposed to do on my job. .66
I understand fully which of my job duties are more impor-
tant than others. .64
My responsibilities at work are very clear and speciﬁ c. .78
I am very satisﬁ ed with the kind of work that I do. .80
At the end of the day, I feel good about the work that I do
720 Public Administration Review • September | October 2013
group variances with an expected variance under the null hypoth-
esis of no agreement. Two main advantages in using the rwg index
are that (1) it does not depend on the between-groups variance
and thus is particularly useful when the group means are restricted
in their range, and (2) it provides an agreement measure for each
group rather than one summary for the entire sample (Cohen,
Doveh, and Eick 2001).7 Although there is no clear standard for
acceptable levels of inter-rater agreement, a value of .70 or higher
for the rwg index is considered desirable (Janz, Colquitt, and Noe
1997). e calculated median rwg values for role clariﬁ cation, role
clarity, and work satisfaction were .79, .86, and .70, respectively,
which indicated suﬃ cient within-group agreement in perceptions of
the three measures.
Descriptive Statistics and Results of Correlation Analyses
Table 2 provides descriptive statistics and correlation coeﬃ cients
of the measures included in the present study. e mean position
tenure of employees in the oﬃ ces was close to ﬁ ve years, and the
standard deviation was 3.49 years. On average, each oﬃ ce had
approximately 37 employees, and 60 percent of the employees were
professionals. e minimum rate of annual turnover in the oﬃ ces
was zero; the maximum was .33. On average, 11 percent of employ-
ees from each oﬃ ce had voluntarily left the organization by the end
of 2009. As indicated in table 2, role clariﬁ cation had a positive
correlation with role clarity perceived in the oﬃ ces (r = .49, p <
.01). Additionally, measures for role clariﬁ cation, role clarity, and
work satisfaction had signiﬁ cant negative correlations with turnover
rates in the oﬃ ces (rs = –.33, –.49, –.32, respectively, p < .05). e
results also showed that role clariﬁ cation scores were lower in larger
oﬃ ces (r = –.34, p < .05) and higher in oﬃ ces with a larger number
of professional employees (r = .27, p < .05).
Tests of the Research Hypotheses
A three-step analytical procedure was undertaken to test the hypoth-
eses identiﬁ ed for the present study. Initially, the 45 oﬃ ces were
divided into three groups with low (turnover rates = .00 to .07, n =
15 oﬃ ces), moderate (turnover rates = .08 to .14, n = 17 oﬃ ces) and
high (turnover rates = .15 to .33, n = 13 oﬃ ces) rates of turnover.8
A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) test was performed
to assess direct connections between role clariﬁ cation, role clarity,
and work satisfaction and turnover rates in the oﬃ ces. Next, assum-
ing a positive result from the ﬁ rst step, univariate F statistics were
examined for the three measures with respect to low, moderate, and
high rates of turnover. Finally, hierarchical regression analyses were
performed to examine direct and indirect eﬀ ects of role clariﬁ cation
on perceived role clarity and work satisfaction and turnover rates in
the oﬃ ces.
control variable as well. e rationale was that oﬃ ces with a high
number of professional employees were likely to perform more com-
plex or nonroutine tasks and therefore might have less role clarity
than oﬃ ces with a high number of clerical or support employees.
Psychometric Properties of the Measures
Conﬁ rmatory factor analyses (CFA) were conducted to assess the
discriminant validity of the study measures. is study relied on one
measure of parsimony ﬁ t—root mean square error of approximation
(RMSEA)—and two measures of relative ﬁ t—comparative ﬁ t index
(CFI) and Tucker Lewis ﬁ t index (TLI)—to assess validity of the
measures. A reasonable ﬁ t is indicated by CFI and TLI values of .90
or greater and RMSEA value of .08 or less (Hu and Bentler 1995).
e CFA results indicated that the three-factor measurement model
provided a good ﬁ t to the data (χ2 = 221.20 , p < .05, RMSEA =
.07, CFI = .97, TLI = .94). Standardized factor loadings (lambdas)
for all items were .60 or greater (see table 1), and factor intercorrela-
tions were below .65. Additionally, a sequential chi-square diﬀ erence
test was performed to examine whether the proposed three-factor
measurement model provided a better ﬁ t to the data than alterna-
tive one-factor and two-factor models. e results indicated that the
one-factor model ﬁ t the data signiﬁ cantly worse than the proposed
three-factor model (Δχ2 = 1052.8, p < .05, RMSEA = .17, CFI =
.79, TLI = .64). e three-factor model also ﬁ t the data signiﬁ cantly
better than the two-factor model, in which the correlation between
role clariﬁ cation and role clarity was set to one (Δχ2 = 525.8, p <
.05, RMSEA = .13, CFI = .87, TLI = .79). ese results indicated
suﬃ cient discriminant validities for the three measures. Moreover,
poor ﬁ t of the one-factor model suggested that common method
bias did not materially aﬀ ect the data collected through survey in
the ﬁ rst phase of this study.5
Data Aggregation for Ofﬁ ce-level Analyses
e compatibility principle regarding unit of analysis suggests
that when the outcome variable is measured at the group level, the
predictor variables should also be measured at the same level (Ajzen
2005; Pugh and Dietz 2008). Because turnover behavior in this
study was measured at the workgroup or oﬃ ce level,6 scale scores for
role clariﬁ cation, role clarity, and work satisfaction were aggregated
at the oﬃ ce level to test the ﬁ ve research hypotheses. Several recent
studies in public management have also relied on this approach
to assess relationships at the group level (Fernandez, Cho, and
Perry 2010; Hassan and Rohrbaugh 2012; Jung 2011; Rubin and
Kellough 2012; Shim and Rohrbaugh, forthcoming).
Methodologists have suggested that suﬃ cient between-group vari-
ability and within-group agreement must be demonstrated before
any study of relationships between constructs at the group level
(Hoﬀ man 2002). Between-group diﬀ erences typically are assessed
with an examination of F statistics from one-way analysis of vari-
ance (ANOVA) across the intended groups. In the present study,
there was an ANOVA result for each of the three measures across 45
oﬃ ces. All F statistics were signiﬁ cant (p < .05), indicating that the
three measures varied appropriately by oﬃ ce location. In addition,
within-group agreement in the three measures was assessed by exam-
ining values for the rwg index developed by James, Demaree, and
Wolf (1984). e rwg index was originally developed as a measure of
inter-rater reliability. It is estimated by comparing observed within
Table 2 Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlation Coefﬁ cients
Measures Mean SD 1 2 3 4 5 6
.60 .24 —
4.69 3.49 .02
Ofﬁ ce size 37.09 45.94 –.06 .03
Role clariﬁ cation 3.88 .38 .27* –.19 –.34*
Role clarity 4.50 .28 –.01 .09 –.24 .49**
Work satisfaction 4.88 .40 .06 –.18 –.31* .61** .70**
Turnover rates .11 .09 .09 –.12 –.06 –.33* –.49** –.32*
**p < .01; *p < .05; N = 45.
The Importance of Role Clariﬁ cation in Workgroups: Effects on Perceived Role Clarity, Work Satisfaction, and Turnover Rates 721
Scheﬀ e’s post hoc comparisons also revealed that oﬃ ces with a high
rate of turnover had a signiﬁ cantly lower level of work satisfaction
than oﬃ ces with a low rate of turnover.
A four-step procedure proposed by method-
ologists (Baron and Kenny 1986; Judd and
Kenny 1981; MacKinnon, Fairchild, and
Fritz 2007) was followed to examine direct
and indirect eﬀ ects of role clariﬁ cation on
work satisfaction and turnover behavior in
oﬃ ces.9 Table 4 presents the results of media-
tion analyses. Figure 1 provides a graphical
representation of the results of hierarchical
regression analyses.10 As indicated in table 4, role clariﬁ cation was
found to be a signiﬁ cant predictor of perceived role clarity in the
oﬃ ces (β = .54, p < .01; R2 = .22, F = 4.45, p < .01). Role clariﬁ ca-
tion also had a positive eﬀ ect on work satisfaction (β = .59, p < .01;
R2 = .35, F = 6.90, p < .01). When role clarity was included in the
second step of regression analyses, the coeﬃ cient for the direct eﬀ ect
of role clariﬁ cation on work satisfaction became smaller in magni-
tude (β = .28, p < .05), which indicated that role clarity partially
mediated the eﬀ ect of role clariﬁ cation on work satisfaction. Role
clarity explained an additional 22 percent of the total variance in
work satisfaction (ΔF = 23.45, p < .01). As shown in table 4, role
clariﬁ cation was found to have a signiﬁ cant negative impact on
turnover rates in the oﬃ ces (β = –.49, p < .01; R2 = .13, F = 2.74,
p < .05). Role clarity had a signiﬁ cant negative eﬀ ect on turnover
rates in the oﬃ ces, as well (β = –.39, p < .05). When role clarity was
included in the second step of regression analyses, the inﬂ uence of
role clariﬁ cation on turnover rates became nonsigniﬁ cant, which
indicated that role clarity fully mediated the inﬂ uence of role clariﬁ -
cation on turnover rates. Role clarity explained an additional 11 per-
cent of the total variance in turnover rates in the oﬃ ces (ΔF = 6.31,
p < .01). ese results provided support for all ﬁ ve hypotheses.11
Limitations of the Study
Before discussing the implications of this study, it is important to
note its limitations. Because data for role clariﬁ cation, role clarity,
and work satisfaction were collected from the same source and at
MANOVA results supported the anticipated connections between
role clariﬁ cation, role clarity, work satisfaction, and turnover
behavior in oﬃ ces. Hotelling’s trace (T = .40, F = 2.66, p < .05)
and Wilks’ lambda (λ= .70, F = 2.69, p < .05) were both statistically
signiﬁ cant for the combination of the three
measures. is result led appropriately to an
examination of the three univariate F statis-
tics, as shown in table 3. All three F statistics
were statistically signiﬁ cant (p < .05). Scheﬀ e’s
post hoc comparisons suggested that manag-
ers in oﬃ ces with low and moderate rates of
turnover were signiﬁ cantly more active in
clarifying subordinates’ roles and responsibili-
ties than those in oﬃ ces with a high rate of turnover. In addition,
oﬃ ces that experienced a low rate of turnover had signiﬁ cantly
higher levels of role clarity than oﬃ ces with a high rate of turnover.
Table 4 Results of Hierarchical Regression Analyses
Role Clarity Work Satisfaction Turnover Rates
Step 1 Percentage of professionals –.17 –1.24 –.10 –.81 .22 1.52
Ofﬁ ce size –.08 –.69 –.13 –.98 –.18 –1.20
Mean position tenure .20 1.49 –.06 –.48 –.21 –1.50
Role clariﬁ cation .54** 3.70 .59** 4.35 –.48** –3.08
Adjusted R2.22 .35 .13
F-ratio 4.45** 6.90** 2.74*
Step 2 Percentage of professionals –.01 –.06 .15 1.10
Ofﬁ ce size –.07 –.70 –.24 –1.54
Mean position tenure –.17 –1.68 –.14 –1.00
Role clariﬁ cation .28* 2.26 –.26 –1.59
Role clarity .56** 4.85 –.39* –2.51
Adjusted R2.57 .23
F-ratio 13.20** 3.72*
** p < .01; *p < .05; N = 45.
Figure 1 Summary of Hierarchical Regression Analyses Results
**p < .01; *p < .05; N = 45.
Oﬃ ces that experienced a low
rate of turnover had signiﬁ -
cantly higher levels of role clar-
ity than oﬃ ces with a high rate
Table 3 Univariate F Tests from MANOVA: Different Rates of Turnover in Ofﬁ ces
(n = 15)
(n = 17)
(n = 13) F-ratio
Role clariﬁ cation 3.97a3.97a3.60b3.99*
Role clarity 4.64a4.51ab 4.34b4.98**
Work satisfaction 5.08a4.84ab 4.71b3.24*
Different subscripts indicate signiﬁ cant differences in turnover rates at p < .05.
**p < .01; *p < .05.
722 Public Administration Review • September | October 2013
clariﬁ cation eﬀ orts can attenuate the adverse eﬀ ects of role ambigu-
ity on work satisfaction and turnover behavior in workgroups. e
results also are promising because the ﬁ ve research hypotheses were
tested with data that were collected from multiple sources and in
diﬀ erent time periods.
e ﬁ ndings also contribute to the emerging literature on mana-
gerial leadership in public organizations. Although managerial
leadership is considered important in improving performance of
public agencies (Rainey and Steinbauer 1999; Terry 1995; Van
Wart 2003), there has been limited research on how speciﬁ c leader
behavior aﬀ ects organizational outcomes. Recent studies have
investigated how transformational leadership practices may lead to
positive outcomes in public organizations (Moynihan, Pandey, and
Wright 2012; Wright, Moynihan, and Pandey 2012; Vigoda-Gadot
and Beeri 2012), but limited research has examined how task- and
relations-oriented leader behaviors aﬀ ect eﬀ ectiveness of workgroups
in public agencies. e current study, therefore, extends the litera-
ture by examining how role clariﬁ cation inﬂ uences work satisfaction
and turnover rates in workgroups in a public agency.
Much of previous research on employee turnover in public agen-
cies focused on intended rather than actual turnover of employees.
e few studies that examined turnover behavior focused primarily
on the impact that demographic factors have on turnover rates in
federal agencies (Cho and Lewis 2012; Kellough and Osuna 1995;
Lewis 1991; Lewis and Park 1989). e present study indicated that
managerial practices may play an important role in reducing turno-
ver of public employees. Speciﬁ cally, the results indicated that an
increase in role clariﬁ cation by one standard deviation resulted in a
decrease in turnover rates by almost half a standard deviation. Given
that the average rate of turnover in the oﬃ ces was 11 percent, the
size of this eﬀ ect may appear relatively small. Nevertheless, even a
slight reduction in turnover could conceivably mean a large savings
in costs because when a skilled employee leaves, an agency not only
loses a source of valuable institutional knowledge but also needs to
spend resources on training a new employee that otherwise could be
used for an important public program (Kim 2005; Moynihan and
Landuyt 2008; Moynihan and Pandey 2008).
Finally, the results of this study have important implications for
public managers’ practice. e ﬁ ndings suggest that reducing role
ambiguity is particularly important for increasing satisfaction and
retention of employees. Managers can take a number of steps to
reduce role ambiguity in their workgroups. Speciﬁ cally, managers
can reduce role ambiguity in workgroups by setting speciﬁ c task
objectives, communicating clearly about performance expecta-
tions, and providing clear direction about
how to accomplish work activities. Keeping
subordinates informed about changes in the
organizational environment that may have
an impact on their work and providing them
with periodic feedback about their perform-
ance are also likely to improve role clarity
in workgroups. While setting task objec-
tives and providing directions and feedback
are important for improving role clarity in
workgroups, it is also important for managers
to recognize that subordinates may vary in
the same time, causal connections between these three variables
could not be ascertained in this study. Relationships between these
variables may involve reciprocal causality over time rather than uni-
directional causality. Future research should examine causal relation-
ships between these variables with an experimental design and use of
e possibility that common source bias inﬂ uenced the research
ﬁ ndings could not be fully ruled out, even though data for employee
turnover were collected from personnel records in the agency. But
steps were introduced in the design of this study to reduce the
potential of common method bias in the results. For example, ano-
nymity of response was assured repeatedly in all correspondence and
evidenced in every aspect of data collection. e particular items
used in the present study were interspersed widely over seven pages
and nine distinct sections in the questionnaire. ese items also
were almost evenly split in the directionality of their wording and
varied response formats were used. Because these steps were taken,
problems of common method bias were attenuated, if not fully
eliminated. e CFA results also provided some assurance that such
problems did not materially aﬀ ect the results.
While oﬃ ce size, mean job tenure, and percentage of professional
employees were included as control variables in the regression analy-
ses, none of these variables had any inﬂ uence on work satisfaction
and turnover rates in the oﬃ ces. Research indicates that a variety of
individual, job, and organization related factors including employee
satisfaction with pay, training, career advancement opportunity,
job characteristics, quality of manager–employee relationships,
workgroup cohesion and diversity, as well as labor market condi-
tions may inﬂ uence employee satisfaction and turnover behavior
(Griﬀ eth, Hom, and Gaertner 2000; Grissom 2012; Jung 2011;
Selden and Moynihan 2000; Shaw et al. 1998). However, these
variables were not included in the analyses because of unavailability
of data. is particular limitation suggests that the indirect eﬀ ects
of role clariﬁ cation on work satisfaction and turnover behavior that
were found in this study should be interpreted with caution and
viewed as not fully conclusive. A fuller understanding of how role
clariﬁ cation aﬀ ects employee satisfaction and retention requires
additional empirical tests of the hypothesized indirect relationships
with a larger number of workgroups from a broader range of public
organizations. Further, given that the sample included 45 oﬃ ces
from a public agency, the regression analyses provided a conserva-
tive test of the hypothesized relationships and the results may have
Implications for Research and Practice
Despite the limitations, the ﬁ ndings can be
considered noteworthy in several ways. e
results provided new insight about how role
clariﬁ cation may lead to beneﬁ cial outcomes
in workgroups. Speciﬁ cally, the results
indicated that clarifying work objectives and
performance expectations improved overall
role clarity perceived in the oﬃ ces, which, in
turn, enhanced work satisfaction and reduced
turnover rates in those oﬃ ces. ese ﬁ ndings
are noteworthy, as no previous study in public
management has investigated whether role
Speciﬁ cally, the results indicated
that clarifying work objectives
and performance expectations
improved overall role clarity
perceived in the oﬃ ces, which,
in turn, enhanced work satisfac-
tion and reduced turnover rates
in those oﬃ ces.
The Importance of Role Clariﬁ cation in Workgroups: Effects on Perceived Role Clarity, Work Satisfaction, and Turnover Rates 723
behavior in the oﬃ ces, but the results indicated no evidence in support of an
interaction eﬀ ect.
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their need for role clariﬁ cation. Experienced employees are likely
to feel less uncertain about their work goals and thus may need
only general directions, whereas new or inexperienced employees
may require more elaborate and speciﬁ c instructions in carrying
out their work activities. erefore, it is important that public
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e author would like to thank John Rohrbaugh (State University
of New York, Albany), Anand Desai ( e Ohio State University),
and the three anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments
and suggestions on this article.
1. Relevant peers and subordinates can also be members of an employees’ role
set (see Graen 1976 for more information about role-making processes in
2. Role senders are members of a focal employee’s role set, which may include his or
her manager, subordinates, and relevant peers (Katz and Kahn 1978).
3. e other key behavior dimension in the Ohio State leadership studies was
4. Role clariﬁ cation is a key component of initiating structure in the Ohio State
leadership studies (Fleishman 1953; Fleishman and Harris 1962; Stogdill,
Goode, and Day 1962).
5. A test of Harman’s single factor also was done to check for the presence of com-
mon method bias in the data. ree factors emerged from the analysis, which
accounted for 68 percent of the total item variance. e largest factor did not
account for a majority of the variance (44 percent), which suggested that same
source bias did not adversely aﬀ ect the data.
6. e research team collected oﬃ ce- rather than individual-level turnover records
because the survey did not have any code/identiﬁ er (to protect the anonymity of
the respondents). Speciﬁ cally, it was not possible to link survey responses with
individual turnover records.
7. e rwg index is calculated using the following formula:
rwg = J * [1 − (savg
2/σ2)]/ [J * [1 – (savg
2/σ2)] + savg
2 is the average of the observed variances on the J items and σ2 is the
variance of a null distribution corresponding to some null response pattern.
8. Oﬃ ces with turnover rates below one-half of one standard deviation from the
mean were categorized as low, above one-half of one standard deviation from the
mean were categorized as high, and within one-half of one standard deviation
from the mean were categorized as moderate.
9. Kenny and colleagues (Baron and Kenny 1986; Judd and Kenny 1981) suggested
that to establish mediation, ﬁ rst, the independent variable (IV) must have a
signiﬁ cant direct eﬀ ect on the dependent variable (DV). Second, the IV should
also have a signiﬁ cant direct eﬀ ect on the mediator variable (MV). ird, the MV
must be signiﬁ cantly related to the DV when both the IV and MV are predic-
tors of the DV. Fourth, the coeﬃ cient relating the IV to the DV in the regression
model in which both the IV and MV are predictors should become nonsigniﬁ -
cant (i.e., full mediation) or become smaller in magnitude (i.e., partial mediation)
than the initial regression coeﬃ cient estimated in step one. Recently, MacKinnon,
Fairchild, and Fritz (2007) suggested that the ﬁ rst step identiﬁ ed by Kenny and
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sary to establish mediation, especially when the goal is to examine indirect eﬀ ects.
10. Because of the small sample size, the regression analyses did not control for the
eﬀ ects of 11 divisions in which the 45 oﬃ ces were located.
11. Supplemental analysis also was conducted to assess whether role clariﬁ cation
moderated the eﬀ ects of role clariﬁ cation on work satisfaction and turnover
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