ABSTRACT: We examine the potential human cost of multiple role expectations. Based on a survey of middle‐level managers, and drawing on role theory to develop testable hypotheses, we show that expecting innovation and empowerment alongside budget‐goal attainment may increase levels of role conflict, leading to a decrease in performance. Through field research we explore the coping strategies that may be invoked to deal with such psychological role conflict. We find that coping may be assisted by having responsibility for discretionary budgets, which allows managers to make trade‐offs involving the budget in response to multiple role expectations. In addition, we show that high‐performing managers are better able to cope with simultaneous expectations of innovation, empowerment, and budget‐goal attainment than low‐performing managers. Overall, our analysis suggests that positive outcomes may result from establishing forces for “creative innovation” alongside “predictable goal attainment” (Simons 1995), but only for a subset of managers who are able to cope with multiple, conflicting role expectations.

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