Delegation of Authority – Concept, Features, Advantages and Barriers

The process of assignment of specific work to individuals within the organization and giving them the right to perform those works is delegation. Delegation of authority is one of the most significant concepts in management practice, which affects managerial functions. Management is the art of getting things done through others and delegation means to get the results through the subordinates. The expansion of business volume and diversification of line of business makes it impracticable to handle all the business by a single manager. Therefore, the concept of delegation of some managerial authority to subordinates comes into practice in present day business organizations. Here, the manager delegates some of his authority to his subordinates. This helps in developing a feeling of dedication to the work among the subordinates. The top level management plays only the role of a supervisor and visits them to provide guidance, suggestions and instructions. It minimizes the work load of the top manager and also develops the overall working efficiency of the organization.

Therefore, delegation of authority is assigning work to others and giving them the required authority to perform the assigned task effectively. The concept of delegation has been developed due to the increase in the size of business and its complexity. A manager needs to delegate some of his authority to subordinates along with a specified responsibility. It is necessary to complete the work efficiently and effectively.

Features of Delegation of Authority

Delegation of authority possesses the following features:

  1. No Delegation of  Total Authority – A manager cannot delegate his/her total authority to the subordinates.He/she can delegate only a portion of it. A supervisor’s status would be affected if he/she delegates total authority to the subordinates. It is not possible and is also not allowed by the management concept.
  2. Delegation of only that Authority that a Manager has – A manager cannot delegate the authority to a subordinate which he himself does not possess.It means that no one can give what he has not got. This feature is based on legality.
  3. Representation of the Superior – Delegation of authority to subordinates 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 would have behaved and acted.
  4. Delegation for Organizational Purpose – A superior delegates his authority to a subordinates only for organizational purposes. He cannot delegate the authority to fulfill his personal objectives.
  5. Restoration of Delegated Authority – Authority once delegated may be enhanced or reduced on the basis of nature of duties and its effectiveness. It may be completely withdrawn in case of ineffectiveness and termination of subordinates from the organization. Therefore, a manager does not permanently delegate his authority.
  6. Balance of Authority and Responsibility – A manager has to delegate authority to the subordinates on the basis of weight of responsibility to him. The assignment of responsibility to a subordinate without proper authority becomes worthless because that subordinate cannot perform the functions independently and efficiently.
  7. No Delegation of Responsibility – A manager can delegate authority to his subordinates in accordance with assigned responsibility, but the final responsibility, however, lies on him. He cannot escape from his responsibilities.

Advantages of Delegation of Authority

The following are the major advantages of delegation of authority:

  1. Minimize Work Load 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 in managerial and creative functions. In this way, delegation of authority helps in improving managerial efficiency and effectiveness.
  2. Benefit of Specialization – Specialization is the means of success in a dynamic environment.The management delegates authority as well as responsibility to subordinates on the basis of their ability and knowledge. This contributes in the development of the concept of specialization among the subordinates.
  3. Motivation and Morale – Delegation of authority develops among the subordinates a feeling of status and prestige. It helps to improve their working efficiency. It also promotes a sense of initiative and responsibility among them. This ultimately leads to maintenance of high morale on the part of subordinates. This motivation and morale of subordinates encourages them to develop their effort towards the achievement of common goals.
  4. Training and Development – Delegation of authority provides a background for training and development of subordinates. The manager delegates some of his authority as well as responsibility to the subordinates in accordance with their ability. 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 environment provides a framework for the development of managerial ability among the subordinates.
  5. Facilitates Growth and Expansion – Delegation of authority facilitates growth and expansion of business activities. It provides flexibility in the organizational structure. According to the requirement, more layers can be added to the existing organizational structure through the process of delegation.
  6. Quicker and Better Decision – Delegation of authority ensures a quicker and better decision. Subordinates get the authority to decide on the matters of their own area by remaining within the limitations. Here, subordinates can take quick decisions without consulting the superior. Decision making is also better because subordinates are closer to the reality of the situation.
  7. Basis of Organizing – Delegation of authority is the basis of forming an organizational structure. The number of layers in the organizational structure depends upon the nature of delegation of authority and responsibility. In a similar way, the functioning of the enterprise is not possible without an organizational structure. Therefore, the management has to first decide on the layers of delegation of work, authority and responsibility and then proceed with the formation of organizational structure.

Barriers to Delegation of Authority

The following are the common barriers in delegation of authority:

  1. Reluctant to Delegate – Some managers are reluctant to delegate authority to subordinates. They believe that they can take a better decision than their subordinates. This belief is often found among those managers who have been recently promoted and those having superiority complex. They have no proper plan to delegate authority. In such a situation, subordinates will have less work and lose the commitment to implement the managers decisions.
  2. Fear of Losing Importance – Managers who feel comfortable with authority, fear to delegate authority. They feel that it will diminish their importance. Such managers delegate only that part of authority to subordinates which relates to their job responsibility. They retain their authority as a positional superior of an organization.
  3. Loss of Control – Some managers opine that they will lose control by delegating authority to their subordinates.They feel that if they delegate authority to their subordinates, they would not be sure to achieve assigned responsibilities from subordinates. Such fear is reasonable in case managers are incapable of getting the jobs done from others.
  4. Mutual Distrust – Managers are often reluctant to delegate authority to subordinates if there is an environment of distrust in the organization. A manager must have confidence in his own ability to help, guide and control his subordinates before delegating authority. If a manager does not have the ability to make a sound decision he does not believe in his subordinates. He does not want to take risk to get jobs done from others.
  5. Fear of Subordinates – Managers are reluctant to delegate authority if they fear that it will expose their shortcomings. They feel that their subordinates will perform better and may create problems in their own career. They have no self-confidence and do not want to face the competitive environment.
  6. Incompetent Subordinates – Some subordinates are often unwilling to accept delegated authority because of lack of self-confidence. They fear of 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.
  7. Lack Of Motivation – Lack of motivational environment discourages subordinates to take responsibility and accept authority. Such environment is found in organizations where there is lack of reward and judgement system.

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