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Reducing the harmful effect of role ambiguity on turnover intentions: The roles of innovation propensity, goodwill trust, and procedural justice

Dirk De Clercq (Goodman School of Business, Brock University, St Catharines, Canada)
Imanol Belausteguigoitia (Centro de Desarrollo de la Empresa Familiar, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), Mexico City, Mexico)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 4 September 2017




The purpose of this paper is to investigate how employees’ perceptions of role ambiguity might increase their turnover intentions and how this harmful effect might be buffered by employees’ access to relevant individual (innovation propensity), relational (goodwill trust), and organizational (procedural justice) resources. Uncertainty due to unclear role descriptions decreases in the presence of these resources, so employees are less likely to respond to this adverse work situation in the form of enhanced turnover intentions.


Quantitative data came from a survey of employees of a large organization in the distribution sector.


Role ambiguity enhances turnover intentions, but this effect diminishes at higher levels of innovation propensity, goodwill trust, and procedural justice.

Research limitations/implications

The findings reveal several contingencies that attenuate the positive effect of role ambiguity on the desire to leave the organization. However, this study relies on the same respondents to assess all the focal variables, and it lacks a direct measure of the mechanisms by which the contingent factors mitigate the relationship between role ambiguity and turnover intentions.

Practical implications

Organizations that fail to provide clear role information to employees can counter the resulting uncertainty with relevant personal, relational, and organizational resources.


This investigation shows how employees’ negative reactions to role ambiguity (turnover intentions) can be mitigated by three uncertainty-reducing resources: personal joy from developing new ideas, the extent to which relationships with colleagues is trustworthy, and perceptions that organizational procedures are fair.



De Clercq, D. and Belausteguigoitia, I. (2017), "Reducing the harmful effect of role ambiguity on turnover intentions: The roles of innovation propensity, goodwill trust, and procedural justice", Personnel Review, Vol. 46 No. 6, pp. 1046-1069.



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