Authority Delegation in Organization

Simple as a delegation of authority might appear to be, studies show that managers fail more often because of poor delegation than of any other cause.

For anyone going into any kind of organization, it is worthwhile to study the science and art of delegation.

The primary purpose of delegation is to make organization possible.

Just as no one person in an enterprise can do all the tasks necessary for accomplishing group purpose, it is impossible, as an enterprise grows, for one person to exercise all the authority for making decisions.

As was discussed under the subject of the span of supervision, there is a limit to the number of person managers can effectively supervise and for whom they can make decisions.

How Authority is Delegated in Organizational Hierarchy

Authority Delegation in Organization

Once this limit is crossed, the authority must be delegated to subordinates, who will make decisions within the area of their assigned duties.

Read: Degree of Decentralization – 11 Factors to Consider

Authority is delegated when discretion is vested in a subordinate by a superior.


Superiors cannot delegate authority that they do not have, whether they are board members, presidents, vice-presidents, or supervisors.

Equally clear, superiors cannot delegate all their authority without, in effect, passing on their position to their subordinates.

Read: How Feed-forward Control is Used by Managers

Authority Delegation Process

The delegation process involves three steps:

  1. The Superior assigns responsibility, or gives the subordinate a job to do;
  2. Along with the job” assignment, the subordinate is also given the authority to do the job;
  3. Finally the superior establishes the subordinate’s accountability— that is the subordinate attempts an obligation to carry out the task assigned by the superior.

These three steps do not occur mechanically, however indeed, when a manager and a subordinate have developed a good working relationship, the major parts of the process may be implied rather than stated.

The manager may simply mention that a particular job must be done.

A perceptive subordinate may realize that the manager is actually assigning the job to him.

Read: Why Leaders are Born but Managers are Made

From vast experience with the boss, he may also understand, without being told, that he has the necessary authority to do the job and that he is accountable to the boss for finishing the job as “agreed”.

5 Guides for Overcoming Weak Delegation in Organization

Unclear delegations, partial delegations, delegations inconsistent with the results expected, and the hovering of superiors who refuse to allow subordinates to use their authority are among the many widely found weaknesses of the delegation of authority.

Combine with these weaknesses untrained, inept, or weak subordinates, who go to their bosses for decisions and the shirking subordinates, who will not accept responsibility.

Add to these, the lack of plans, planning information, and incentives, and then all these together will partly explain the failure of delegation.

It shows, as is so generally the case in managing, that delegation does not stand alone but is related to other aspects of the whole system of managing.

But most of the responsibility for weak delegation lies with superiors and, primarily, with top managers.

Authority Delegation in Organization

In overcoming these errors—and emphasizing the principles outlined above—the five following guides are practical in making delegation effective;

  1. Define assignments and delegate authority in the light of results expected.
  2. Select the person in the light of the job to be done. This is the purpose of the managerial function of staffing. It is important to remember that qualifications influence the nature of the authority delegated.
  3. Maintain open lines of communication. This means that there should be a free flow of information between the superior and the subordinate, and subordinates should be furnished with information with which to make decisions and properly interpret the authority delegated.
  4. Establish proper controls. But if controls are not to interfere with the delegation, they must be relatively broad and designed to show deviations from plans rather than interfere with detailed actions of subordinates.
  5. Reward effective delegation and successful assumption of authority.It is seldom sufficient to suggest that authority be delegated, or even to order that this is done. Managers should be ever watchful for means of rewarding both effective assumptions of authority.

Although many of these rewards will be in terms of money, the granting of greater discretion and prestige—both in a given position and in promotion to a higher position—often works as a stronger incentive.

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