The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a role as:
- a character assigned or assumed or b) a socially expected behavior pattern usually determined by an individual’s status in a particular society or c) a part played by an actor or singer
- a function or part performed especially in a particular operation or process
Within any organization, team members have both assigned or formal functional roles, as well as informal roles that they play within the group. Role Theory can help us to understand this further…
“Role theory is a concept in sociology and in social psychology that considers the most everyday activity to be the acting-out of socially defined categories (e.g., mother, manager, teacher). Each role is a set of rights, duties, expectations, norms, and behaviors that a person has to face and fulfill. The model is based on the observation that people behave predictably, and that an individual’s behavior is context-specific, based on social position and other factors.”
In a virtual team, members may have 2 or more types of the role including:
Functional Role – their job title, job description and the function they perform within a team e.g. Marketing Director, Accounts Executive, Janitor.
Social Role – an informal function that they have as a personality within the social group e.g. mediator, catalyst, provocateur, agony aunt, visionary.