Delegation of Authority – A Step-by-Step Guide

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What is Delegation of Authority? 

As we progress in our professional careers and rise through the ranks, what we need to accomplish becomes broader and more significant. Therefore, given the importance of time management, we are assigned a team to help us execute our tasks. As managers, we have to delegate authority to our teams to accomplish tasks on our behalf. 

Delegation is about transferring the authority and the responsibility of our jobs to other individuals for successful execution. There are three intrinsic elements involved in the delegation of authority

  1. Authority

In an organization, authority is the power to utilize and allocate resources efficiently and accomplish all stated objectives. Authority must be well-defined to make sure that individuals are completely clear about it’s nature and scope.  Authority comes with responsibility for tasks to be completed successfully. 

  1. Responsibility

Authority always comes with responsibility. The individuals or teams to whom authority is delegated must have complete clarity about the nature and scope of that authority and the responsibility for the task assigned to them. There is a risk of conflict when someone is given too much power with too little responsibility or, conversely, responsibility without adequate authority. While authority always flows top-down, responsibility can flow bottom-up as well. Middle and lower-level management hold more responsibility.  

  1. Accountability

Unlike authority and responsibility, one cannot delegate accountability. Accountability is an embedded feature of the task. It begins when a task is assigned to a manager and continues to flow down to the person or persons responsible for accomplishing the task. A manager can delegate the authority and the responsibility, but he or she continues to be bound by accountability for the job’s satisfactory completion.

 The Key Features of Delegation of Authority 

How delegation of authority takes place can vary depending on the management style and the manager’s discretion. But there are certain essential features of the process that one must, as a manager, keep in mind while delegating authority to their teams. 

  • Delegation involves the transfer of power to an associate to pursue a task independently but within the manager’s limits. The individual or team receiving the authority must comply with the manager’s directions and processes.  
  • The authority delegated can be expanded or withdrawn, depending on the progress or the given assignment’s lack of progress. 
  • The manager or superior can only delegate the authority that they possess. There is no question of assumptions or presumptions about the authority’s scope, either by the manager or the employee. Both should ensure that they have complete clarity.
  • Similarly, managers cannot assume that they are entirely free from responsibility for accomplishing tasks by delegating their authority to an associate. Managers will still be accountable for the satisfactory completion of the assigned responsibilities.
  • The delegation of authority itself may be communicated as an oral instruction or in written form and specific or general. Either way, there must be complete clarity in communication. It is imperative that the manager cross-checks with the employee or employees, if the nature and scope of the authority has been clearly understood.
  • Delegation of authority must always adhere to the norms and policies of an organization. For example, suppose the task involves analyzing sensitive information above an employee’s grade. In that case, a manager cannot unilaterally overrule that policy under the garb of providing authority.

 In Conclusion

Delegation of authority is essentially about dividing workload effectively to ensure that organizations reach their goals and ensure constant progression and development. It is all about entrusting someone else to share parts of your duties. Therefore, the delegation of authority is one of the most important responsibilities of managers. There can be severe consequences for an organization if it is handled inappropriately, without due diligence.