As people advance in their careers, their duties and responsibilities increase. As they rise in the ranks, more is expected from them and eventually, a point comes when the number of hours in a day isn’t sufficient enough to meet their targets.
Climbing up the organizational hierarchy means managers and leaders have a lot more on their plate. And that is when the need to delegate tasks comes in. To be able to assign tasks effectively is a valuable skill. Managers can delegate authority to their subordinates and follow up to ensure that all the tasks are completed accordingly.
In this article, you will explore delegation of authority, its features, importance, and principles.
What Is Delegation of Authority?
Delegation of authority is transferring the responsibility of a task to another individual. As a manager when you delegate authority you also share authority with your subordinates and hold them accountable for their actions. When you delegate authority, you are basically entrusting others with parts of your job and making them responsible to accomplish them.
There are three elements to a delegation of authority:
Authority is the power a manager has to delegate tasks, allocate resources efficiently, make decisions, and have the right to give orders to others in order to meet company goals. It flows from top to bottom and managers have it more.
Responsibility is the duty of an individual to complete the tasks given to them. It should be given with adequate authority or it will lead to dissatisfaction and frustration. It goes from bottom to top with middle and lower-level management having more.
This is the process of providing explanations for not achieving the desired outcomes. Unlike responsibility and authority, accountability cannot be delegated. In fact, it comes hand in hand with responsibility. An employee responsible for a certain task automatically becomes accountable for the results.
Let’s now look at some of the features of delegation of authority.
Features of Delegation of Authority
There are six features of delegation of authority:
- Delegation of authority is about giving power to a subordinate to act independently but within the parameters set by the manager.
- When delegating authority, a manager shares some authority with the subordinates. It doesn’t mean that they have completely given up their authority. The authority is shared so that the subordinates can fulfill their responsibility with due diligence.
- Authority once delegated can either be contracted or expanded depending upon the manager and scope of the work.
- A manager can only delegate authority that they possess. And as mentioned in the second point, authority is not shared completely.
- It can be delegated in either written or verbal form.
- The delegation of authority must comply with all company policies, rules, and regulations.
Ways to Delegate Authority
There are several ways of delegating authority to your employees:
One way of delegating authority is by delegating the supervision of a department. For instance, as a CEO, you can delegate the authority of the entire marketing department to the marketing manager.
You can assign authority to a team for a certain project. For instance, a marketing director can assign an advertising campaign project to a project manager. The project manager can then take copywriters and designers on board and assign tasks accordingly.
Another way of delegating authority is to allow employees to make certain decisions so that you may focus on other tasks. For example as an HR manager, you can delegate the authority of hiring employees to a senior HR associate.
If you’re working on a certain project, you can authorize employees to conduct detailed research on the project. For instance, you can ask your department’s analyst to research demographic statistics for the upcoming advertising project’s audience.
You can also assign administrative tasks to other employees. For instance, as a marketing manager, you can assign the duty of scheduling meetings and follow up on emails to a marketing assistant.
How to Delegate Authority
In order to successfully delegate tasks, you have to set the right expectations, monitor progress, and evaluate results. Below are a few steps for effective delegation of authority:
Assign tasks as per the experience of an employee. Define the scope of the task and match it with the experience and expertise of the employees.
As soon as you assign the tasks, set clear expectations and mention the deadlines. Setting expectations right at the beginning provides the guidance that will help them meet the goals efficiently.
It is a good practice to request updates from employees regularly or bi-weekly. This will keep you informed on their progress and will also highlight the problems and obstacles that may arise. You will be able to extend help and provide guidance along the way which will ensure timely completion of the project or task at hand.
Constant evaluation of your team’s work is important to ensure that work is done completely. For a temporary delegation of authority, a one-time evaluation may work. But for a permanent delegation of authority, you need to keep analyzing and evaluating work on an ongoing basis.
The Importance of Delegation
There are several benefits of delegation of authority:
- Delegation improves task efficiency and an organization’s overall income.
- It empowers employees within the organization boosting their confidence.
- By delegating authority, you empower your team and builds trust.
- Delegation is a way of developing employees as it motivates them to be responsible and accountable for their work.
- As a leader, you will learn to observe and analyze your employees better. Based on your skills, you will be able to delegate tasks to others in a better way.
- As a manager, when you delegate tasks you are basically reducing your workload to focus on tasks that require your expertise.
- Delegation of authority motivates and inspires employees to demonstrate honesty and commitment to their work, managers, and organization.
Why Do Some Managers Fear Delegating?
A good manager believes in developing their employees’ strengthens and career aspirations and tries to find relevant tasks to delegate them. As mentioned above, delegating tasks lightens a manager’s burden and builds an employee’s skill set. However, some managers either fear or do not prefer to delegate tasks. Let’s have a look at some of the reasons:
Fear of Being Outperformed
Sometimes managers feel threatened by their subordinates. They fear that their subordinates might complete the task faster and in a better way. This fear stems from their own insecurity and doubts regarding their capabilities. Managers do not want others in the company to notice this or sing praises of their subordinates. Consequently, they prefer to not delegate tasks at all.
Lack of Trust
At times, managers don’t trust their employees completely. They feel that their subordinates will not turn in the assignment on time or make blunders. As a result, they find it easier to do the task themselves rather than take the blame for others later on.
Shortage of Time
Sometimes, it’s neither the threat nor the lack of trust that stops a manager from delegating. It is their own mismanagement of time that prevents them. Managers feel so overwhelmed because of their workload that they find it easier to do the task themselves. They feel that explaining the task and responsibilities to someone else is time-consuming.
Need for Control
Some managers prefer maintaining control over others. such managers want a task to be done in a specific way. They feel that in order to maintain their control over their subordinates, they have to keep the ropes in their own hands. These managers fear that delegation of authority might lead to power and control slipping from their hands.
Difference Between Authority and Responsibility
Employees often confuse authority with responsibility. We have gathered the differences between the two in the table below:
|A right to command to others or subordinates||The obligation of a subordinate to complete the task assigned to them|
|Authority stems from the position of a person||Responsibility is the result of the relationship between a superior and subordinate|
|It is mobile. It can be transferred from one person to another.||Responsibility is static and cannot be transferred|
|Flow from top to bottom||Flows from bottom to top|
Difference Between a Delegation of Authority and Decentralization
By now you must be clear that one person cannot perform all duties and responsibilities and that is where the concept of delegation came in. But let’s not overlook the concept of decentralization too. Let’s learn some of the key differences between the two.
But first, what is decentralization?
Decentralization is the systematic distribution of power throughout the corporate ladder. It is when the top management disperses the power to the lower-level management.
Delegation and decentralization are often used interchangeably but are not the same. The table below will give you more clarity:
|BASIS FOR COMPARISON||DELEGATION||DECENTRALIZATION|
|What is it?||Management Technique||Explanation of management|
|Accountability||Superiors are accountable for subordinates’ actions||Department heads are accountable for the actions of concerned departments|
|Requirement||Important for all organizations||Not necessary for all organizations to adopt this|
|Liberty of Work||Subordinates are not given full liberty||A reasonable amount of freedom exists|
|Control||The superior or manager has the ultimate authority||The top management has the complete control|
|Relationship||Creates superior-subordinate relationship||Creates semi-autonomous units|
Principles for Delegation of Authority
In order to successfully delegate authority, a manager should follow the principles below:
- Define the duty with clarity
- Command the subordinate yourself and not let another subordinate do it
- Define the authority and responsibility clearly to a subordinate before assigning a task
- As a manager delegation of authority doesn’t rid you of the primary responsibility. Therefore, keep supervising and provide guidance to your subordinates.
- Have clear communication with the subordinates before delegating them any task
- Assign only those tasks that a subordinate can perform. Keep an out for their skillset and expertise.
- Assign limited authority to your subordinates. Giving them complete authority will only pave way for trouble.
Delegation of Authority: Preparation Checklist
- Keep a positive delegation attitude. Analyze and question every task you have been doing for years. Question yourself frequently, “Who else can do this?”
- Be result-oriented. Delegate tasks with the intention of accomplishing the desired outcome and not just brush off the extra load off your shoulders.
- Be careful in selecting the person to whom you’ll be delegating a certain task. Have more than one criteria when choosing such as the required skill set, experience, extra bandwidth, ability to multitask, and so on and so forth.
- Consult others before delegating a certain task. Take input from others about what to change, when to assign the task, etc.
- When assigning a task, define the deadline and set a schedule of when you’ll be reviewing the progress.
- Train your subordinates and provide them the necessary guidance along the way. Also, give them some room to think creatively and independently. Too much control can be overkill.
- Clarify the authority level such as how much power will they require, type of power, etc.
- Keep monitoring progress. don’t forget that as a manager, you will still be responsible for the success and failure of the assigned task. Therefore, maintain control of the situation.
- Give feedback. Apart from highlighting the areas of improvement, appreciate them for the progress they have made along with positive reinforcement and coaching.
- Keep track of the lessons learned. Lessons learned by the employees and you. it is important to document these lessons so that you can change and improve as and when needed.
- Evaluate overall performance at the end of the task. Let your subordinates know where they did well and what needs to be improved. Evaluate yourself based on how accurate you were in delegating the task to the right person.
Delegation of Authority Is the Roadmap to Success
Hopefully, by now you are clear about the importance of the delegation of authority and the role it plays in developing an organization and its employees.
We recommend that you implement the steps and principles highlighted in this article when delegating a task to your team.
An important to keep in mind is that delegation will ease your workload. But at the end of the day, you will be responsible for the success and failure of the assigned task.
So, choose wisely among your subordinates.