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communicated roles should be functional for their respective context. For instance,

coming up with creative ideas in a largely bureaucratic context is probably not going to

be viewed favorably. By the same token, overly strict rule observation in a company that

heavily depends and innovative and creativity would not qualify as a functional role.

These examples illustrate how the functionality of a specific role depends on the context.

From a social cognitive perspective, organizational roles are not only the product

of the person but are also a function of the social environment and, as a result, are

inextricably bound to the social context (Biddle, 1979; Ilgen & Hollenbeck, 1991; Van

Dyne, Cummings, Parks, 1995). Roles are the organizing structures of knowledge and

information about the appropriate role behaviors in social situations and prompt the

individual to act in a relatively automatic manner (Biddle, 1979; Fiske & Taylor, 1991).

Therefore, it seems warranted to understand what factors in the social environment create

specific roles.

Here, I focus on roles from a social cognitive perspective, proposing that the

social context has an important bearing on the received role (Salancik & Pfeffer, 1978).

Work by Ilgen and Hollenbeck (1991) has elaborated on the distinction between formal

job descriptions and roles in order to illustrate why and how roles in the workplace are

different from jobs. Ilgen and Hollenbeck pointed out that their “interest is in the

dynamic interaction between characteristics of the physical and social environments of

individuals with the persons themselves and with the behavioral and attitudinal

consequences of such interactions.” (1991: 166). The environment in which jobs exist is

subjective, interpersonal, and dynamic, which brings up the issue of emergent task

elements (task elements added to the job of the incumbent through a variety of social


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