This study aims to clarify the relationship between changes in role ambiguity and turnover intentions. The authors propose that increases in role ambiguity over time can bias employees’ interpretations such that they come to view more relationship conflict at work. Because of the importance of social relationships at work, the authors propose that these increases in perceptions of relationship conflict mediate the positive effect of increases in role ambiguity on turnover intentions.
This study is a two-wave longitudinal analysis of survey responses obtained from 146 employees working in the health-care sector over a three-year period. Structural equation modeling of cross-lagged correlations was used to test the hypothesized model.
The positive relationship between increases in role ambiguity and turnover intentions over time is mediated by increases in relationship conflict. Results provide an integrative explanation of the phenomenon, uniting role theory, conflict theory and turnover theory.
Measures were all self-reported, and the non-experimental nature of the research design precludes causal interpretations. Future research should incorporate sources of measurement other than the focal employee and include additional variables presumed to operate in explaining these effects.
Results highlight the need to monitor changes in employees’ role ambiguity beliefs over time. They also point to conflict management interventions as a potential means of reducing turnover intentions among employees who experience role ambiguity increases.
The longitudinal examination of changes in these variables yields new insight into the nature of the relationships between role ambiguity, conflict and turnover intentions.
The authors wish to acknowledge the financial support for this study provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada.
Hill, K., Chênevert, D. and Poitras, J. (2015), "Changes in relationship conflict as a mediator of the longitudinal relationship between changes in role ambiguity and turnover intentions", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 44-67. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCMA-11-2013-0091
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