Elgar Introduction to Theories of Human Resources and Employment Relations
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Elgar Introduction to Theories of Human Resources and Employment Relations

Edited by Keith Townsend, Kenneth Cafferkey, Aoife M. McDermott and Tony Dundon

This Elgar Introduction provides an overview of some of the key theories that inform human resource management and employment relations as a field of study.
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Chapter 19: Using role theory to understand and solve employment relations and human resources problems

Qian Yi Lee, Keith Townsend, Ashlea Troth and Rebecca Loudoun


All employees have a role or even multiple roles to play and in recent decades role theory has assisted a better understanding of how and why people behave in certain ways at work. In addition, their work role may potentially hold various ‘sub-roles’. This chapter explores the development of role theory as it pertains to organizational experiences for employees. Role theory literature in the workplace context is centred around some key concepts including role clarity, role conflict, role ambiguity, and role overload. Looking at the opportunities offered by role theory to address the guiding questions central to this chapter, the authors show that role theory helps understand the many and varied roles that employees play inside and outside the workplace and how interpretations and expectations around these roles influence individual and workplace outcomes.

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