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
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