Delegation of Authority

Delegation of Authority Meaning, Definition, Need

Table of Contents:-

  • Delegation of Authority Meaning
  • Delegation of Authority Definition
  • Need of Delegation
  • Principles of Effective Delegation of Authority
  • Elements of Delegation of Authority

Delegation of Authority Meaning

Delegation of authority means giving authority to another person, to perform a particular task. Therefore, delegation is a process of sharing work and authority between a manager and subordinates. It is an important process to manage the activities of an organisation thoroughly.

Delegation means passing on to others a share in the four elements of the management process, that says, in the command of the activities of other people and in the responsibility for the decision that determines the planning, coordination and control of the activities of such other people.

Delegation of Authority Definition

According to E.F.L. Brech, “Delegation means the passing on to others of a share in the four elements of the management process; that is to say, in the command of the activities of other people and in the responsibility for the decision that will determine the planning, coordination and control of the activities such other people”.

According to O’Donnell and Koontz, “The whole process of delegation involves the determination of reach expected, the assignment of tasks, the delegation of authority for the accomplishment of these tasks, and the exaction of responsibility for their achievement”.

Delegation helps in finishing the work on time, reduces the workload of managers, and motivates and develops coworkers. It is a process that allows an individual to distribute work to other people and empower them all with fair authority to do their work.

Delegation of Authority Need of Delegation

In the following section, we have explained the reasons for delegation.

    1. Reduces Load to Managers
    2. Basis of Superior-Subordinate Relations
    3. Improves Managerial Effectiveness
    4. Motivates Subordinates
    5. Develop Managers
    6. Facilitates Organisational Growth

1) Reduces Work Load to Managers

Delegation of authority allows a manager to share his workload with his subordinates. By passing on some of his work to the subordinates, the manager can focus on more important aspects of his work.

2) Basis of Superior-Subordinate Relations

Managers establish superior-subordinate relations through the process of delegation of authority. The flow of authority from the top-level management to lower levels is directed and controlled by the method of delegation.

3) Improves Managerial Effectiveness

The manager who is responsible for delegating authority can perform much more than the one who does not. This is because the manager who delegates can get some work done by his subordinates and can focus on major matters that need his attention, can make relevant decisions and act accordingly.

4) Motivates Subordinates

Delegation of authority refers to the division of authority among the employees in an organization along with the responsibility. As a result, apart from getting some freedom employees do feel that they are important. They feel motivated towards their work for better performance. They are also likely to use their skills and abilities to get their work done properly.

5) Develop Managers

Managers are responsible for the delegation of authority in the organisation as a source of development and training for the employees. It opens up opportunities for managers to acquire leadership moreover other skills and competence.

They are expected to use their authority, handle circumstances and solve managerial problems. They are also expected to get things done by their employees, by guiding and motivating them.

6) Facilitates Organisational Growth

Delegation of authority at all levels of management encourages the growth and development of the organisation. This is because the division of work implicit in delegation helps the company to formulate more managerial tasks for assuming additional workload of development and growth.

New units and departments can be created and managers can be appointed who will have delegated authority to regulate them. 

Principles of Effective Delegation of Authority

The basic principles of delegation are as follows:

    1. Authority should be Commensurate with Responsibility
    2. Tolerance of Mistakes
    3. Interference should be Minimum
    4. Adequate Controls should be Established
    5. Goals should be Predetermined
    6. Rules, Policies and Procedures should be Established to Guide Decisions
    7. Delegation should be Rewarded
    8. Upward Delegation should not be Allowed

1) Authority should be Commensurate with Responsibility

The authority delegated to an executive should closely align with their responsibilities. It should be reasonable and sufficient, allowing them to make decisions and take actions essential for effective job performance.

While some argue that an executive should only receive as much authority as they can handle, it is equally asserted that if an executive cannot manage morality effectively, they are up to be the accompanying responsibility. Some experts advocate for the principle that authority should be equal to commitment.

2) Interference should be Minimum

Once an executive has delegated authority to a subordinate to make certain decisions, the temptation to ‘tell them what, when, and how to do’ should be resisted. Of course, a decision proves too complex for the subordinate to handle.

In that case, the superior must assist and guide them or even make the decision themselves if its consequences appear more far-reaching than initially envisioned.

However, these are exceptional situations. In general, once authority has been delegated to a subordinate for decision making, they should be allowed to do so, even if the superior believes they could make better decisions.

The rationale behind delegating authority to the subordinate is to free the superior from making less crucial decisions, considering the broader nature of their responsibilities, rather than assuming the assistant can make superior decisions.

3) Tolerance of Mistakes

The subordinate may, at times, make suboptimal or even incorrect decisions. However, if faced with solid disapproval, they might refrain from making decisions independently and instead choose the safer course of seeking the boss’s guidance.

This not only overburdens the already busy superior but also hinders the subordinate from learning to make sound decisions. This doesn’t imply that the aid should be allowed to make as many mistakes as they want. Instead, it suggests that minor errors should be overlooked, and serious errors should be turned into learning experiences.

4) Adequate Controls should be Established

As an executive can delegate authority but not responsibility, it becomes necessary for them to establish adequate controls to ensure that their subordinates exercise authority properly and achieve predetermined goals. However, it should be borne in mind that rules should not be so detailed and frequent as to inhibit the initiative of subordinates.

5) Goals should be Predetermined

Given that the purpose of delegating authority is to empower subordinates to make decisions and take appropriate actions for job performance, it is essential that their roles be clearly defined and performance goals established.

This directs subordinates’ efforts and enables the superior to determine the kind and extent of delegation. It also facilitates the superior to “manage by exception” and relieves them from detailed supervision.

6) Rules, Policies and Procedures should be Established to Guide Decisions

One challenge in delegation is ensuring that the subordinate uses their authority judiciously and that their decisions align with the broad policies of the organization. This can be addressed by establishing clear guidelines for decision-making through policies, rules, and procedures.

These guidelines provide subordinates with a framework for decision-making and serve as standards for assessing the appropriateness of their decisions.

7) Upward Delegation should not be Allowed

Just as superiors are reluctant to delegate authority, subordinates often hesitate to exercise control. This reluctance may stem from a lack of self-confidence in their abilities, fear of disapproval if decisions do not align with the superior’s viewpoint, or a perception that the superior expects them to seek approval before making decisions.

In such situations, subordinates may resort to upward delegation, referring problems to the superior rather than addressing them at their level. This practice frustrates the very purpose of delegation and puts additional pressure on the limited time of the leader. The superior must disallow subordinates from delegating upward by insisting they make their job-related decisions independently.

8) Delegation should be Rewarded

Organizations should establish a policy of rewarding delegation to encourage executives to delegate adequately and effectively. This can be achieved by including the board as one of the criteria in performance evaluations. Similarly, subordinates should be motivated to assume responsibility and demonstrate initiative in their roles.

Elements of Delegation of Authority

There are three distinct elements of delegation of authority:

a) Assignment of Tasks or Duties

The first step involves the superior (delegator) assigning responsibilities to the subordinate (delegatee). When assigning duties, the delegator must be clear about what tasks should be assigned to subordinates. The work or task is identified and clearly defined before being assigned.

For example, when a sales manager asks his subordinate to set up a divisional sales office, he must clearly explain the objectives, sales territory, etc.

b) Conferment of Power or Authority

Granting authority is the second step in delegation. Authority is defined as the powers and rights granted to another to perform the delegated work. These powers may include the authority to acquire necessary resources for the execution of the designated tasks.

Without adequate authority, the subordinate (delegatee) cannot be expected to perform his tasks. For example, when the sales manager instructs his subordinate to establish a divisional office, he has to give him the right to procure and use necessary resources.

c) Accountability

Once duties are assigned and authority is given to a subordinate, the delegator creates an obligation or accountability for task performance. The obligation to carry out the task and bear responsibility in terms of the established and specified standards is known as accountability.

Thus, accountability is the obligation of an individual to render an account of the fulfilment of his responsibilities to the principal to whom he reports.

The subordinate is always answerable to the superior for the task assigned to him and cannot shift his responsibility to anyone else; accountability is fixed to the position. The superior can control the performance of his subordinates through accountability. The delegate is accountable to his delegator through reports, meetings, and evaluations.

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