Unsure About What You Need To Do? Here’s How To Get Your Boss To Clarify Your Responsibilities At Work.

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Unsure About What You Need To Do? Here’s How To Get Your Boss To Clarify Your Responsibilities At Work.
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Unsure About What You Need To Do? Here’s How To Get Your Boss To Clarify Your Responsibilities At Work.

Have you ever felt unsure about your role at work?

You may have a job description from when you were first hired, but it isn’t really relevant to what you’re doing day to day and what is expected of you. You may feel like you are constantly wondering what your responsibilities are and how you contribute to the organization’s success.

Poor role definition comes from unclear objectives, misaligned coworkers’ expectations, and the job’s overall scope. These factors are often amplified by the use of vague language in the initial job description itself.

If you feel that your responsibilities are too ambiguous and that it’s holding you back, you’re not alone.

Here are some of the benefits of clarifying job responsibilities:

1. Greater job satisfaction

One study on analysts demonstrated significantly higher levels of job satisfaction in employees who had a good understanding of their role, their responsibilities, and how these fit into the organization’s mission and success. Having your boss clarify your job responsibilities could help you align with your organization and be satisfied with your performance and contributions.

2. Lower turnover rates

Employees who clearly understand their responsibilities are likely to stay in a role for longer. Turnover costs an organization resources such as time, money, and labor. Clarifying your position with your boss will ensure that you know exactly what is expected of you, and that there won’t be any misaligned expectations.

3. Role clarity correlates to innovative behavior at work.

Innovation is crucial for success in the modern workplace, so it’s pretty essential employees feel inspired and encouraged. While it may seem intuitive that having flexible job roles may encourage employees to innovate, it’s actually the opposite. One study found a direct positive impact on innovative behavior when employees had a good understanding of their role at work.

Less time wasted

4. Less time wasted

When employees are unclear about their roles, they waste time in confusion and procrastination rather than executing the tasks they should be doing. There’s nothing worse than spending your day trying to figure out what you should do next. Time trickles on as you stare at the clock hoping for something to fall in your lap. Role clarity from your boss can help you navigate your workday, making you feel productive and accomplished.

5. Higher level of engagement

When you have a clear understanding of your role and what is expected of you in your position, it is much more likely that you will have a high level of engagement at your organization. Employees who understand their place are more involved and are active contributors. As a result, they contribute to a better functioning company culture and healthy workplace.

Now for the hard part – how do we get our boss to clarify our job responsibilities?

This can be a touchy subject to bring up for many, especially when you’ve been working at your job for a while. You don’t want to sound like you’ve been wasting the organization’s time, or that you haven’t been up to much. Breaching the subject crudely can risk coming across as saying ‘what is it I’m being paid to do again?’; not something you want your boss to hear! As with many things at the workplace, a degree of formality and preparation is required.

To get your boss to clarify your job responsibilities, follow these steps:

1. Review your job description

First things first – take a look at your original job description. Make a list of the tasks you’re regularly doing and see where they match up with the job description. Ask yourself some hard questions such as:

  • Am I doing enough?
  • Am I doing more than I was hired for?
  • What else would I like to do during the week?
  • Where do I want my career to go?

Set up a meeting with your boss

2. Set up a meeting with your boss

If you feel a little lost at work while important stuff seems to happen around you, it may be time to ask your boss more about what tasks and responsibilities you own, and how your role contributes to the success of the organization.

On the flip side, if you’re constantly swamped and doing a lot more than what you were initially hired for, it’s probably time to ask for a promotion to match.

Either way, you need to set up a meeting.

As with any meeting, you want to have a well-thought-out plan and an idea of what you want to cover and how you want to say it.

An excellent way to approach this is to explain that you have gone over your original job description and feel there is a misalignment between what your day-to-day looks like. Ask your boss for clarification on some of the tasks that you aren’t currently executing at work. If you need more training on something, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Your boss will appreciate the initiative that you’ve taken to align your work with your job role.

If you have been going above and beyond what you were originally hired for, don’t hesitate to advocate for yourself. Gather proof of your performance and how it has contributed to the organization’s goals. Ask for what you believe you deserve, whether that’s a raise, an upgraded job title, or other perks.

Ask for more consistent performance recognition

3. Ask for more consistent performance recognition.

Performance recognition is an essential part of any organization and any role – no matter if you’re in a leadership position or if you’re an associate. Getting regular feedback can also help you develop role clarity, which influences your job satisfaction and commitment to your role. When you consistently get feedback on your performance, it reinforces your understanding of what you should be doing.

If you don’t have role clarity, it could be partially due to inconsistent or inadequate performance recognition. Ask your boss if they would be able to provide you with more feedback regularly. You can also prompt them as well if they don’t initiate it.

Here are some examples of how to encourage feedback in a non-pushy way:

  • “Do you have any feedback for me on xyz?”
  • “Did my performance on xyz meet your expectations?”
  • “Is there anything that I can do to improve next time?”

By gaining that feedback, you’ll understand if what you are doing at work is on the right track or if you need to be working differently or accomplishing different things. Ultimately, you will be able to clarify your role from your boss through performance recognition and feedback.

Here’s an example of one organization showing us how it’s done:

At leading digital marketing agency, Column Five Media, clarifying job roles has become a main priority. They advocate for these two tools to accomplish this for every employee:

  • The Contextual Expectations Doc
    • Expanding on a job description document, The Contextual Expectations Doc explains the possibilities of the everyday tasks and clearly outlines what is expected of a role and how it relates to the company’s larger goals.
    • It uses two simple questions:
      • Why is this role important?
      • What does this look like day to day?
  • Job Canvas Doc
    • Each department will have a Job Canvas doc that breaks down the expectations and responsibilities for everyone to see and refer back to.
    • It includes:
      • What level they’re at
      • What is required to move up

Job Canvas Doc

Column Five Media explains that these tools have helped them day to day in 5 ways:

  • Purpose – Their approach has helped their employees find meaning in their everyday work and careers.
  • Transparency – The two documents provide transparency by clearly identifying the expectations and the outline for how decisions are made regarding promotions and raises.
  • Accountability – By having clear expectations accessible to everyone, people know what they own and what they’re on the hook for. It reminds employees why their role is valuable to the organization.
  • Career mobility and raises – The two documents give employees a clear understanding of what they need to do to progress in their careers at the organization.
  • Personal empowerment – These documents allow employees to take control of their careers by knowing what proactive steps to take to further their careers and how they can hone in on their strengths and weaknesses.

If you feel that these actions would greatly impact your organization, why not take the initiative to implement these at work or ask your boss if they believe it would benefit your workplace?


Feeling unsure about your role at work isn’t a great experience for the employee or the organization. Gaining clarification on your position can seem awkward and difficult at first, but if you follow our steps above, you should be on your way to a better work experience and future career!

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