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All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages (Shakespeare in ‘As You Like It’, Act 2, scene 7, 139–143)
The concept of role is an important tool that can be made use of in the study of bureaucracy. Through the individual actually involved, the role he performs helps us to understand the 'basic content and processes in the bureaucratic situation' (Reissman quoted in Stein et al 1961). Workers employed in industrial situations, from the time they clock in, till the time they clock out, are entrusted with a set of activities associated with their jobs. It becomes necessary for the
modern industry to employ the 'formal socializing process (Bakke 1953), so that the workers carry on imprint of the image of the organization. However, a 'personalizing process' (Bakke 1953) in which the individuals endeavour to impose their image on the organization may be seen as operating simultaneously. The status and role, the obverse and reverse, are the products of the 'process of fusion' (Bakke 1953), which prescribe the performance expected of individuals in the employ of the organization. Role Conception is an important aspect of one's participation in a work organization, since it is recognized that the role performance in an organization is not precisely according to the blue-print of the organization, nor does it closely correspond to the rational rules and procedures established within an organization. On the other hand, it is recognized that the role performance is very much determined by the type of role conception one has of one's role. It is one's role conception that becomes crucial in explaining one's relations with others within the organization. Role Conception itself is influenced by a number of factors. Among them, the more significant are, one's position within the organisation, the
professional or technical skill that one has, and the kind of opportunity one gets for utilizing one's abilities and skills in the position that one occupies within the organization. The above are some of the significant factors within the work organization, which play a vital role in explaining the kind of role conception that one has. Another set of factors that may also have an important influence over one's role conception pertains to the larger society. It is from a specific 'social milieu’ that one derives one's occupational values and role expectations. In that way, each member of an organization is associated, both directly and indirectly, within, as well as outside the organization, with members and non-members whose influence upon the behaviour of the members may at times be pronounced. These constitute the 'role-set' (Merton 1959). The 'roleset' is after all, the 'dialectic personal growth or the dialogue of the self and others... the give and take between the individual and his fellows (Baldwin 1961). The members and non-members who make up the role set of a Worker, hold certain expectations of him/her, since the worker's role performance or behaviour has consequences for
them. Role expectations held by some constituents of an individual's 'role-set' at times go far beyond the job description. Since they may have an interest, conformity with the expectations, both written and unwritten, is sought to be brought about by 'role pressures'. Though the worker reels under role pressures, sanctions and penalties, perceived as a consequence of following conflicting role expectations prove to be a major basis for ensuring compliance with the requirements of the formal organization. In that way, role pressures may be seen as partial determinants of the behaviour of the worker. The motivation, however, for proper role performance, might perhaps, stem from the intrinsic satisfaction that one derives from the role content. Though jobs carry very few prestige differentials, forfeiture of workers' control over the pace of their work, lack of scope for exhibiting ability and creativity, and close supervision are conducive to low role conception. Role conception increases with the control over work pace increasing. Role conception can be seen as decreasing with the amount of close supervision increasing. In other words, high role conception and close supervision are inversely correlated,
whereas, there is positive correlation between high role conception and the realised need for control. Workers' conception about their choice of the Company for whom they work is intended to establish a linkage between their role in the Company, and whether they view their own roles as meaningful and rewarding or just a meaningless and routine. The workers' image of the Company is very much determined by the way their role in the Company is viewed. The findings about the way the workers view their own Company in terms of their own conception of their role could be interpreted A worker who is able to perform his role with the requisite kind of technical competence might feel secure. But otherwise, he is likely to be haunted by a feeling of insecurity born of inadequacy of technical competence. In that way, the major link is between skills, its utilisation, the job challenges and job rewards on the one hand, and the development of a positive role conception leading to an overall sense of job satisfaction on the other. It is to be admitted that a positive role conception of the worker depends upon the interaction between the demands of the job and
the education and skills brought to the job by the worker. Apart from the worker's expectations, the challenges of the work assignment go to influence the level of role conception. A link between the skill level of the job and the challenges the job offers can be established as jobs requiring higher skills provide opportunities for the challenges. Since men thrive 'in meeting occupational challenges'(Kohn and Schooler 1973), jobs can be seen to have 'a substantially greater impact on men's psychological functioning than the reverse' (Kohn and Schooler 1973). The opportunities for skill utilisation and on the job acquisition of skills are vital components, which may suffer serious constraints. The nature of operations and the technology employed may be such that they do not offer scope for the workers to try out new ideas. One consequence is a kind of negative role conception in which workers whose skills are under utilised, and who are not facing problems that come up as a Challenge in their work. In line with Quinn and Mandilovitch (1975) investigation, 'challenge index' for test of the utilisation of skills can be constructed. In an effort to observe and account for the observed
differences in workers' role conception, questions dealing with work role may be addressed to the workers through the interview schedule. The responses to these questions taken together would yield a measure of what may be termed as 'role conception'. The importance of role conception, as derived through responses to the twelve question items as stated above,lies in the fact that it will provide us with a measure of the degree of favourableness, or otherwise, of the workers' relationship with the various elements of the work situation. It may be pointed out that the workers' role conception is determined not only in terms of the characteristics of the work situation, but also in terms of the differentiation of skills and positions relating to the workers. We may now consider what questions may be fairly appropriate to elicit responses that would reflect the role conception of the workers. The set of question items is given below; 1. Do you think the Company is the best place for a person in your position? 2. How secure do you feel in your job here? 3. Do you often face problems that come up as a
challenge in your work? 4. What steps do you take when you are faced with such problems? 5. Is your job too routine and simple as not to call for your special abilities? 6. Does your work ever give you a chance to try our new ideas? 7. Have you enough freedom on the job? 8. Do you ever feel pushed about in your work? 9a.Do you feel you like the actual work you do? 9b.How frequently do you feel as you do? 10.How strongly do you feel that the work you do contribute to the success of the Company? 11.How would you rate your own professional skills in relation to your work? 12. What degree of professional skill does your work demand? ************* (To be continued) Reference: International Bibliography of Social Sciences: Sociology, Volume XLV 1995, page 243
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