What is Authority Delegation? Definition, Features, Barriers, and Pros/Cons

What is Delegation of Authority?

Delegation of authority means assigning work to subordinates and giving them the necessary authority to do the assigned work effectively and efficiently. Delegation means the assignment of specific works to individuals within the organization and giving them the right to perform those works.

In this process, a manager delegates some of his authority to his subordinates along with a specified responsibility to complete the work efficiently and effectively.

The top-level executive assigns duties, responsibilities, and authority to those subordinate managers who the chief executive expects will aid him in doing the work.

Just like when we have various tasks and responsibilities in our life, we often delegate our work to our brothers and sisters or siblings in other to reduce our workload and achieve effective results. The same happens in organizations but here delegation is done officially. A single manager can not perform all the work of the organization. That’s why the delegation takes place.

Delegation of authority is one of the most important concepts in management practice, that affects managerial functions. Management is the art of getting things done by others and delegation is the means to get results through the subordinates.

The expansion of business volume and diversification in line of business makes it impracticable to handle all the business activities by a single manager. Therefore, the concept of delegation of some managerial authority to the subordinates comes into practice in present-day business organizations. Here, the manager assigns some of his authority to his juniors.

This delegation helps to develop a feeling of dedication to the work among the subordinates. Also, the subordinates get a chance to show their competencies to the manager and enhance their skills. The top-level management only plays the role of supervisor and visits them to provide guidance, suggestions, and instructions. It minimizes the workload of the top manager and increases the overall working efficiency of the organization.

While delegating the authority a manager must consider the three elements of delegation: authority, responsibility, and accountability. Authority means the power of decision-making, responsibility means the number of tasks a subordinate has to complete, and accountability means the responsibility of the subordinate for the given task results.

The main feature of the delegation of authority is that a manager does not transform his authority completely, it only transfers the amount of his authority that is required to complete the given task, and it did for a certain time period after the period completed the given authority can be restored.

Also Read: What is Chain of Command? Definition, Types, Components, and Importance


Definitions of Delegation of Authority

  • Ricky W. Griffin – Delegation is the process by which managers assign a portion of their total workload to others.
  • Stoner, Freeman, and Gilbert – Delegation is the act of assigning formal authority and responsibility for the completion of specific activities to a subordinate.
  • Theo Haiman – Delegation of authority merely means granting of authority to subordinates to operate within prescribed limits.
  • D. E. McFarland – Delegation is that part of the organization process by which an executive makes it possible for others to share the work of carrying out the company’s purpose. It also includes the process of assigning duties, responsibility, and authority to those who he expects will aid him in doing the work.

Characteristics of Delegation of Authority

The followings are the main features of authority delegation.

Also Read: What is Departmentalization? Definition, Types, Advantages, and Techniques

No Delegation of Total Authority

A manager can not delegate his total authority to his subordinates. He can only delegate a portion of his authority. A superior status can be affected if a manager delegates total authority to the subordinates. It is not possible and not allowed by the management concept.

Delegation of Only That Authority That A Manager Has

A manager can not delegate that authority to a subordinate which he himself does not possess. It means no one can give what he has not got.

Representation of Superior

Delegation of authority to a subordinate represents the superior in the subject matter which is delegated to him. In such a case, a subordinate is supposed to behave and act in the same manner in which the superior has behaved and acted.

Delegation For Organizational Purpose

A superior delegates his authority to a subordinate only for organizational purposes. He can not delegate the authority to fulfill his personal objectives.

Restoration of Delegated Authority

Authority is delegated for a certain time period. And, it can be withdrawn from the subordinates in case of ineffective use of authority. So, a manager does not permanently delegate his authority.

Balance of Authority and Responsibility

A manager has to delegate only that amount of authority that is sufficient to fulfill the given responsibility. Otherwise, sufficient authority without responsibility can be misused or creates problems.

No Delegation of Responsibility

A manager can delegate authority to his subordinates by assigned responsibility, but the final responsibility, however, lies on him. He can not escape from his responsibilities.

7 Advantages of A Good Delegation of Authority

Delegation of authority extends the personal capacity of the manager and helps him expand his ability through subordinates’ support which is essential for the organizational objectives. The following are the major advantages of the delegation of authority.

Minimize the Workload of Managers

Delegation of authority minimizes the workload of managers. They can assign regular and routine nature of work to their subordinates while they concentrate more effectively on managerial and creative functions.

The benefit of Specialization

The management delegate authority as well as responsibility to the subordinates o the basis of their ability and knowledge. This contributes to the development of the concept of specialization among the subordinates. The development of professionalism among the subordinates helps develop the overall working environment of the organization.

Motivation and Morale

Delegation of authority develops among the subordinates a feeling of status and prestige. It helps to increase their working efficiency. It also promotes a sense of initiative and responsibility among them. This ultimately leads to the maintenance of high morale on the part of subordinates. This motivation and morale of subordinates encourage them to devote their efforts towards the achievement of common goals.

Training and Development

It provides the background for the training and development of subordinates. The subordinates have to perform a task on behalf of the superior and in the same situation, they have to take decisions by using their own ideas and knowledge. This setting provides a framework for the growth of managerial ability between the lower managers.

Facilitates Growth and Expansion

Delegation provides flexibility in the organizational structure. By requirement, more panels can be joined to the existing organization through the means of delegation. It helps in adjusting additional managerial functions that come up due to the expansion and diversification of business.

Quicker and Better Decision

Delegation of authority ensures a quicker and better decision. Subordinates get the authority to decide on the matter of their own area by remaining within the limitations. Here, juniors can take quick choices without asking the superior. Decision-making is also more reliable because juniors are closer to the truth of the site.

Related: What is Decision Making? Definition, Features, Process, and Importance

Basis of Organizing

Delegation of authority is the basis of forming the organizational structure. The number of layers in the organizational structure depends upon the nature of the delegation of authority and responsibility. Similarly, the functioning of the enterprise is not possible without an organizational structure.

Therefore, the management has to first decide on the layers of the delegation of work, authority, and responsibility and then proceed with the formation of the organizational structure.

Related: What is Organizing? Definition, Features, Process, and Importance

Barriers To Delegation of Authority

Delegation of authority among the subordinates is essential, especially, in large organizations for the efficient completion of assigned tasks to achieve the desired objectives. However, in some situations, a delegation of authority may create difficulties. Depending upon the situation, barriers may arise from the both manager and the subordinates.

Following are the common barriers in the delegation of authority, also referred to as the disadvantages.

Reluctant To Delegate

Some managers are reluctant to delegate authority to their subordinates. They believe that they can make better decisions than their subordinates. This belief is often found among those managers who have been recently promoted and those having a superiority complex.

Fear of Losing Importance

Managers, who feel comfortable with authority, fear delegating authority. They feel that it will diminish their importance. Such managers delegate only that part of the authority to subordinates which relates to their job responsibility. They retain their responsibility as a positional superior of an organization.

Also Read: 10 Causes of Conflicts in the Organization

Loss of Control

Some managers opine that they will lose control by delegating authority to their subordinates. They think that if they constitute authority to their assistants, they would not be sure to perform given responsibilities. Such fear is reasonable in case managers are incapable of getting the job done by others.

Also Read: What is Controlling? Definition, Types, and Process

Mutual Distrust

Managers are often reluctant to delegate authority to subordinates if there is an environment of distrust in an organization. A manager must have trust in his own knowledge to help, guide, and control his juniors before assigning authority. If a manager does not have the ability to make sound decisions he does not believe in his subordinates. He does not want to take risks to get jobs done by others.

Fear of Subordinates

Managers are reluctant to delegate authority if they fear that it will expose their shortcomings. Here, they feel that their juniors will perform more reliably and may create problems in their own profession. They do have not self-confidence and do not want to face the competitive environment.

Incompetent Subordinates

Some subordinates are often not willing to accept delegated authority because of a lack of self-confidence. They fear making mistakes in their performance. It is the responsibility of the superior to develop their self-confidence by guiding them and also creating a supportive environment.

Lack of Motivation

The lack of a motivational environment discourages the subordinates to take responsibility and accept authority. Such an environment is found where there is a lack of reward and a justice system. Thus to create a motivational environment the superiors must make a provision of financial and non-financial incentives plan based on the performance of employees.

Related: Motivation – Definition, Features, Types, and Importance

Authoritarian Tendency

The authoritarian leadership style also creates barriers to the delegation of authority. Such managers believe in self-decision, giving instructions, and close supervision to subordinates. They never want to delegate even a small part of their authority. They overburden themselves and can not devote more time to managerial functions.

Also, Consider the Following Barriers to Delegation,

barriers to delegation of authority

Leave a Comment