Essay on Delegation of Authority

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  • Topic: Management, Delegate, Process management
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  • Published : November 4, 2012
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Delegation of Authority|

Bushardt et al. (2010, p. 9) observed that ‘at the core of management practice is a process that involves assigning tasks to others (delegation), granting these individuals the right to accomplish them (authority) and holding them accountable for accomplishing the tasks (responsibility)’. Dunham and Pierce (cited in Bell & Bodie 2012, p. 94) further defined delegation as ‘the process managers use to transfer formal authority from one position to another within an organisation and, thus, to put the authority system they have designed into place’, while authority is often considered to be the ability to demand obedience or influence the actions, opinions and beliefs of others (Lowe 2007). It is the general understanding that a leader who delegates tasks to a subordinate temporarily transfers some degree of authority and almost all the responsibility to complete the tasks; however the leader is still ultimately accountable for completion of the said tasks. This essay will focus on key concepts of accountability, trust, authority – responsibility ‘gap’, empowerment and leadership, all of which impact efficiency in delegation, which will in turn determine the extent of authority managers would need to retain. Literature establishes that managers who delegate authority relinquish control over the resource involved, thereby reducing their total authority (Bushardt, Fowler Jr. & Fuselier 1988, p. 72). In support of this, Bell and Bodie (2009, p. 96) define delegation as the process by which a manager will temporarily transfer formal authority to another position on an indispensable assignment. Kamal and Raza (2011, p. 241) observed that the delegation of authority does not in any way relieve managers of their original responsibilities since each manager is still ultimately responsible for all work delegated. For example, an organisation’s vice-president delegates to the head of the advertising department the responsibility for accomplishing the organisation's advertising, giving the department head authority over a budget and other resources for the advertising tasks (Bushardt et al. 2010, p. 9). Ultimately, it is the vice-president who will be held responsible by the head of the organisation for either the success or failure of the advertising campaign. It is due to this responsibility that managers may tend to have a large supervisory role even after delegation, as they want to keep abreast of the progress made by the subordinates and ensure that decisions are in line with their expectations. In addition to this, many managers are unaware of the process of delegation and that ‘trust’ is the key to effective delegation. When managers delegate, they are essentially assigning to a subordinate authority to make independent decisions on most of the issues associated with the assignment (Bell & Bodie 2012, p. 106). However, as Danby (2009, p. 60) observes, too often managers delegate more in ‘hope’ of results rather than with the confidence that they can reduce uncertainty. Further, Alonso and Matouschek (2007, p. 1071) state that decision rights are rarely delegated without putting in place rules and regulations, that constrain the decisions subordinates can make due to the costs involved, as illustrated in the following example. Although in some firms division managers have almost full discretion in deciding between different investment projects, in most they face a variety of constraints. This not only results in the manager overseeing every decision the subordinate makes, but also stepping in to overrule decisions that are not in line with the manager’s expectations, thus being ineffective in lessening the level of authority exercised by him/ her. On the other hand, if managers select the right people for the job, i.e. delegate assignments to individuals who have the capacity to perform the task, they set themselves up for success (Hunter, 2008). This is further accentuated by the...
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