Responsibility, Authority, and Delegation

"Responsibility, Authority, Delegation"Definition of Responsibility:

Responsibility is the obligation to perform assigned activities.

Definition of Job Description:

A job description is a listing of specific activities that must be performed to accomplish some task or job.

Three areas related to responsibility are:

  • Dividing job activities
  • Clarifying Job Activities of Management
  • Beeing responsible

Dividing job activities:

Organizing involves dividing job activities among a number of people.
The functional similarity method suggests four basic interrelated steps to divide job activities:

  • Examine management system objectives
  • Designate appropriate activities that must be performed to reach those objectives
  • Design specific jobs by grouping similar activities
  • Make specific individuals responsible for performing those jobs

Sequence of Activities for the Functional Similarity Method of Dividing Job Activities:

  • Examine Objectives
  • Designate Activities Necessary to Reach Objectives
  • Design Jobs by Grouping Similar Activities
  • Make Individuals Responsible for Performing Jobs

Three additional guides include for dividing job responsibilities:

  • Avoid overlapping responsibility, which exists when more than one individual is responsible for the same activity.
  • Avoid responsibility gaps, which exist when certain tasks are not included in the responsibility area of any individual.
  • Avoid creating job activities that do not enhance goal attainment.

Clarifying Job Activities of Management:

Clarifying job activities is probably more important than dividing the job activities because managers affect greater portions of resources within the management system.

Management Responsibility Guide:

A management responsibility guide is a tool that can be used to clarify the responsibilities of various managers in the organization. A management responsibility guide assists organization members by:

  • Describing the various responsibility relationships existing in their organization.
  • Summarizing how the responsibilities of various managers within their organization relate to one another.

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Seven responsibility relationships among managers, as used in management responsibility guide:

  1. General responsibility
  2. Operating responsibility
  3. Specific responsibility
  4. Must be consulted
  5. May be consulted
  6. Must be notified
  7. Must approve

Beeing responsible:

Responsible managers perform the activities they are obligated to perform. A manager’s degree of responsibility may be assessed by analyzing his or her:

  • Attitude toward and conduct with subordinates
  • Behavior with upper management
  • Behavior with other groups
  • Personal attitudes and values

Definition of Authority:

Authority is the right to perform or command.

Acceptance of Authority:

The positioning of individuals within an organization chart indicates the relative amount of authority delegated to each individual. According to Chester Barnard, authority exists and will exact obedience only if it is accepted.

Barnard defines authority as the character of communication by which an order is accepted by an individual as governing the actions the individual takes within the system.

Barnard maintains that authority will be accepted only under the following conditions:

  1. The individual can understand the order being communicated.
  2. The individual believes the order is consistent with the purpose of the organization.
  3. The individual sees the order as compatible with his or her personal interests.
  4. The individual is mentally and physically able to comply with the order.

According to Barnard, a manager’s commands will be more acceptable over the long run if:

  • Formal channels of communication are used by the manager and are familiar to all organization members.
  • Each organization member has an assigned formal communication channel through which he or she receives orders.
  • The line of communication between manager and subordinate is as direct as possible.
  • The complete chain of command is used to issue orders.
  • Managers possess adequate communication skills.
  • Managers use formal communications lines only for organizational business.
  • A command is authenticated as coming from a manager.

Types of Authority:

  • Line authority
  • Staff authority
  • Functional authority

Line authority:

Line authority is the right to make decisions and to give orders concerning the production, sales, or finance related behavior of subordinates.

Staff authority:

Staff authority is the right to advise or assist those who possess line authority.

Roles of Staff Personnel:

  • The advisory or counseling role
  • The service role
  • The control role

Conflict in Line-Staff Relationships:

From a line personnel viewpoint, conflict occurs because staff personnel tend to assume line authority, do not give sound advice, steal credit for success, do not keep line personnel informed, and do not see the whole picture.

From a staff personnel viewpoint, conflict occurs because line personnel do not make proper use of staff personnel, resist new ideas, and do not give staff personnel enough authority.

Functional Authority:

Functional authority is the right to give orders within a segment of the management system in which the right is normally nonexistent.

Functional authority generally covers only specific task areas and is operational only for designated amounts of time.

Definition of Accountability:

Accountability is the management philosophy that individuals are held liable, or accountable, for how well they use their authority or live up to their responsibility of performing predetermined activities.

Implied in the accountability philosophy are  rewards and punishments depending on the performance level of predetermined activities.


Delegation is the process of assigning job activities and related authority to specific individuals in the organization.

Steps in the Delegation Process:

Newman and Warren identify three steps:

  • Assigning specific duties to the individual
  • Granting appropriate authority to the subordinate
  • Creating the obligation for the subordinate to perform the duties assigned

Obstacles to the Delegation Process:

  • Obstacles related to the supervisor.
  • Obstacles related to subordinates.
  • Obstacles related to organizations.

Advantages of Delegation:

  • Improved subordinate involvement and interest
  • More free time for supervisor to accomplish tasks
  • Subordinates can assist in completing tasks the manager would not otherwise have time to do.

Potential disadvantages:

Possibility a manager may lose track of the progress of a task once it has been delegated

How managers can minimize effects of obstacles:

  • Continually strive to uncover any obstacles to delegation
  • Recognize that obstacle may be deeply ingrained and therefore require long-term time and effort
  • Specific managerial actions are needed to overcome obstacles.

Koontz, O’Donnell, and Weihrich point to certain key critical managerial characteristics:

  • Willingness to seriously consider the ideas of others
  • The insight to allow subordinates the free rein necessary to carry out their responsibilities
  • Trust in the abilities of subordinates
  • Ability to allow people to learn from their mistakes without suffering unreasonable penalties for making them

Definition of Centralization:

Centralization refers to the situation in which a minimal number of job activities and a minimal amount of authority are delegated to subordinates.

Definition of Decentralization:

Decentralization refers to the situation in which a significant number of job activities and a maximum amount of authority are delegated to subordinates.

Decentralizing an Organization:

Specific factors to determine the amount of decentralization include:

  • What is the present size of the organization?
  • Where are the organization’s customers located?
  • How homogeneous is the product line of the organization?
  • Where are the organizational suppliers?
  • Is there a need for quick decisions in the organization?
  • Is creativity a desirable feature of the organization?

Guidelines for Decentralization:

Massey-Ferguson uses three guidelines:

  • The competence to make decisions must be possessed by the person to whom authority is delegated.
  • Adequate and reliable information pertinent to the decision is required by the person making the decision.
  • If a decision affects more than one unit of the enterprise, the authority to make the decision must rest with the manager accountable for the most units affected by the decision.

Management Responsibilities:

Not all activities are eligible for decentralization. The following are responsibilities reserved for management and not delegated at Massey-Ferguson:

  • Determining overall objectives
  • Determining policies that guide the company
  • Control of change in the company
  • Product design
  • Planning for achievement of objectives
  • Final approval of corporate plans
  • Decisions pertaining to availability of funds
  • Capital investments


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