Everything you need to know about delegation of authority. Sharing of work and authority, between a manager and his subordinates, is known as delegation.

The process of delegation enables a person to assign work task to his subordinate and give them necessary authority to accomplish it successfully. It helps in completing the work in time, reduces the workload of managers and motivates and develops subordinates.

In other words, delegation is a process that enables a person to assign a work to others and delegate them with adequate authority to do it.

Koontz and O’ Donnell state that, “The entire process of delegation involves the determination of results expected, the assignment of tasks, the delegation of authority for accomplishment of these tasks and the exaction of responsibility for their accomplishment.”


Learn about:

1. Meaning of Delegation 2. Features of Delegation 3. Forms 4. Process 5. Aspects 6. Methods 7. Effective Delegation 8. Factors Affecting 9. Proper Guidelines for Securing Effective Delegation

10. What can be Delegated? 11. Difficulties 12. Barriers 13. Overcoming Barriers to Delegation 14. Significance 15. Can Both Authority and Responsibility be Delegated? and Other Details.

Delegation of Authority: Meaning, Features,Forms, Process, Aspects, Methods, Factors, Significance, Advantages

Delegation of Authority – Meaning and Definitions by Various Authors: Lounsbury Fish, Martin, Bartol, Pearce and Robinson

If all organisational activities, strategic and routine, could be managed by the top executives, the need for formal organisation structure with functional departments, staffed with people of different calibre, carrying out different activities would not have arisen. Since it is not possible, because of physical and mental limitations, for one person to perform all activities with respect to all functional areas, it becomes necessary that he gives part of his work load to subordinates along with commensurate authority to carry out the assigned task.


Every type of task cannot be assigned to subordinates. Managers have to choose between tasks that can be performed by subordinates and those which have to be carried out by them only. Thus, the entire workload is divided into units, part is assigned to subordinates with authority to carry out the assigned task. This division of work and its assignment to people down the scalar chain is called delegation. “Delegation is a process the manager uses in distributing work to the subordinates.”

Management is the art of getting things done through others which is possible if they delegate the authority and responsibility. Delegation is an important skill that manager must have to effectively manage his organisation. Allen puts it very aptly, “How well a manager delegates determines how well he can manage.” Delegation creates healthy atmosphere in the organisation. Companies identify capabilities of managers by judging their skills in how effectively they get the work done by the process of delegation.

“An individual is only one manpower. Single-handed, he can accomplish only so much in a day. The only way he can achieve more is through delegation through dividing his load and sharing his responsibilities with others.” — Lounsbury Fish

It is “the assignment of part of a manager’s work to others along with both the responsibility and the authority necessary to achieve expected results.” — Martin and Bartol


“Delegation is the process by which a manager assigns tasks and authority to subordinates who accept responsibility for those jobs.” — Pearce and Robinson

Delegation of Authority – Features

Delegation has the following features:

1. Delegation is a process – Managers delegate tasks to subordinates in a sequential order of steps.

2. On-going process – Delegation is a continuous process. Managers continue to delegate tasks and get them delegated by their superiors to achieve the organisational goals.

3. It is an art, not science – When delegator delegates to subordinates, it does not necessarily mean that subordinates will perform those tasks well. There is no cause and effect relationship between the task assigned and their actual performance. Delegation is, thus, not a science. It is the art of how and what manager delegates to subordinates.

4. Delegation of authority and not accountability – Managers can only delegate work and authority to perform that work to subordinates. Delegation does not mean that managers are not accountable to their superiors for the task assigned to subordinates. They remain accountable for the tasks assigned to subordinates and are answerable to their superiors for its performance.

5. Necessary organisational activity – Managers cannot avoid delegation. They cannot perform all the tasks themselves. They have to master the art of delegation that is, how to delegate and what to delegate. Corporate performance is judged by how good the managers are in getting the work done through others by the process of delegation.

6. It has different forms – Delegation can take different forms. It can be downward, upward or lateral.

Delegation of Authority – 3 Important Forms: Top to Bottom Delegation, Bottom to Top Delegation and Lateral Delegation

Delegation can take three forms:


1. Top to Bottom Delegation:

The process of delegation where superiors delegate workload to subordinates is top to bottom delegation.

2. Bottom to Top Delegation:

This form of delegation recognises the importance of informal groups in the formal organisation structures. The force of attraction of group members is so strong that if they have to obey the superior or group members, they may choose the latter. Managers have to be careful in issuing orders/directions to subordinates to carry out the delegated tasks.


They should motivate subordinates as members of the group and not individual members. According to Allen, “to the extent that the manager convinces the members of the group that their needs, his own, and those of the company coincide, he can motivate them to produce according to the standards he sets.”

3. Lateral Delegation:

When managers delegate authority to subordinates in the hierarchy, subordinates further delegate the tasks informally to people at the same level in other units. For example, if general manager of sales department asks sales manager to compile the figures of sales and sales personnel for the month of January, the sales manager will seek the assistance of finance manager and personnel manager. Thus, authority and responsibility delegated to sales manager is shared by him with managers of other departments working at the same level. This is a form of lateral delegation. Peer groups in this case come together and carry out the task as a team.

Delegation of Authority – Top 7 Steps Involved in the Process of Delegation: Determine the Goals, Define Responsibility, Define Authority, Train Subordinates and a Few Others

Process of Delegation:

The process of delegation involves the following steps:


Step # 1. Determine the Goals:

The first step of delegation is to establish the goal or objective of the position/post so that the person determines the need for delegation. If delegation is initiated in the sales department, the objective should be made clear; sales promotion or sales retention.

Step # 2. Define Responsibility:

Once requirement of the job is defined, responsibility of different individuals is determined in terms of tasks assigned to them. This helps them to know their bosses and subordinates to whom they can issue instructions.

Step # 3. Define Authority:

The job having been assigned, authority is given so that people can discharge responsibilities related to that job.


Step # 4. Motivate Subordinates:

The duty of manager does not end by delegating authority and responsibilities to subordinates. He makes sure that subordinates willingly contribute to the job assigned so that organisational goals can be optimally achieved. Managers motivate the subordinates to work with zeal and enthusiasm. They use financial and non-financial (participative decision-making, recognition etc.) incentives to motivate the subordinates.

Step # 5. Hold Accountability:

Whatever the nature and extent of delegation, managers continuously monitor the activities of subordinates to review their progress and provide guidance, whenever necessary. They hold them accountable for the work assigned but remain ultimately accountable to their superiors for successful completion of the task and its coordination with the overall organisational work.

Step # 6. Train Subordinates:

Despite the authority commensurate with responsibility, subordinates may not be able to effectively carry out the delegated tasks. Managers, therefore, organise training programmes to enhance their knowledge on the tasks assigned.


Step # 7. Establish Control:

Specific standards of performance are framed so that subordinates can assess their performance against standards, control their activities and coordinate them with goals of the organisation.

Delegation of Authority – 3 Unique Aspects of Delegation: Assignment of Responsibility, Grant of Authority and Creation of Accountability

The entire process of delegation covers:

i. The determi­nation of expected results,

ii. Assignment of task or responsi­bility or work,

iii. Delegation of authority for achieving the task and


iv. Accountability, i.e. exaction of responsibility for its accomplishment. In the process of delegation, three actions are involved.

They are three unique aspects of delegation:

(1) Assignment of Responsibility:

A manager assigns a certain function, work or duty to his subordinate for perfor­mance. This is termed as assignment of responsibility. It is a creation of an obligation to perform the assigned duties. Res­ponsibility arises from the superior-subordinate relationship. Responsibility is spoken of as being created rather than dele­gated.

(2) Grant of Authority:

A manager grants authority, i.e., rights and powers to be exercised by the subordinate. Authority is derived from responsibility. It is the right to perform certain assigned work or duties. It also implies power, i.e., ability to do certain things. It is the power to order or command and is duly delegated or transferred from the superior to the subordinate in order to enable him to discharge his or her responsibility for the assigned work or duties.


The superior may transfer certain rights such as the right to spend money, to direct the work of others, to use materials, and to take other necessary steps to fulfil the duties or responsibilities. There must be a balance between responsibility and authority for organisational efficiency and economy.

The superior should delegate sufficient authority to do the assigned work. We consider authority as the institutionalised right to make deci­sions and issue orders on behalf of the organisation.

(3) Creation of Accountability:

Just as responsibility arises from work, and authority arises from responsibility, account­
ability is logically derived from authority. Once, a subordinate is entrusted with responsibility to perform certain jobs and he or she is given sufficient authority to perform the assigned work, the final phase in delegation (or basic organisation rela­tionship) is holding the subordinate answerable or accountable to his or her superior for fulfilling the assigned responsibility, i.e., obligation to perform the assigned duties.

Accountability is defined as a system of management which assigns certain responsibilities to line or staff personnel and, in turn, expects them to be accountable or answerable for the accomplishment of stated objectives within their area of responsibility.

Please note that authority flows downwards, whereas accountability flows upwards through the chain of command or through the organisation pyramid. Each manager from the bottom is held accountable to his or her superior. The downward flow of authority and upward flow of accountability must have parity or equality at each position in the management hierarchy. Again a subordinate is accountable to only one immediate su­perior and no more, i.e., one superior to each subordinate. Single accountability improves discipline and promotes co­ordination.

These three attributes or components of delegation (Res­ponsibility-Authority-Accountability) are like three legs of a stool. Each depends on the others. No two can stand alone.

If one leg of a stool is weaker or shorter, the stool of dele­gation will be unstable. In effective delegation, all the three attributes are equal, inter-related and inter-dependent. They are all equally important. In practice it is impossible to split the process of delegation. For instance, assignment of responsi­bility (work or duties) is meaningless in absence of authority because it simply cannot be performed.

Once a manager has assigned responsibilities to his subordinate, and has delegated authority to him, accountability has to be exacted from the subordinate.

i. Responsibility:

Let us define responsibility as ‘the obli­gation of a subordinate to whom a superior has duly assigned a duty or a task to perform the services needed’. Thus it means an obligation to carry out certain activities with accountability for performance. In organisations, responsibility is the duty to perform tasks, functions, or assignments by a member of an organisation.

ii. Authority:

Managerial authority is the right to act, to command, to motivate, to direct others and to exact obe­dience. It is also the right of making decisions, giving orders and seeing that they are carried out. Please note that the authority is delegated from above, but to be meaningful, it needs acceptance from below, i.e. by your subordinates. A ma­nager has the authority (right) to do something and also the power (ability) to do it. It is presumed that a manager is granted equal authority and power. Then only he can accom­plish performance of work through others and achieve planned objectives.

iii. Accountability:

Accountability is the liability created for the use of authority. It is the answerability for performance of the assigned duties. It is concerned with the fact that each person who is given authority and responsibility must recog­nise that his boss will judge the quality and the result of his performance.

Each member in an organisation is obliged to report to his superior how well he has exercised his respon­sibility and the use of his authority delegated to him. Account­ability is always upward.

Authority, power, responsibility and accountability for every position and person in the organisation must be balanced if we desire a stable equilibrium. Manager must seek such a balance for himself and also for his subordinates.

Delegation of Authority – 4 Important Methods to Ensure Better Result: Administration Delegation, Geographical Delegation, Functional Delegation and Technical Delegation

In a big manufacturing concern the following may be the methods of delegation of authority to ensure better result, unified direction and command and effective delegation.

(1) Administration Delegation:

When a few of the administrative functions are delegated to sub-ordinate staff, it is called administrative delegation. These functions are generally of routine nature, e.g. to maintain discipline, to supervise the work, to recommend for the reward or punishment etc.

(2) Geographical Delegation:

When the work of enterprise is located at different distant places it is not possible for an executive to manage the whole affairs single handed. He then proceeds to delegate his authority to those who are posted at the places where physically he cannot be present round the year. This is known as geographical method of delegating the authority.

(3) Functional Delegation:

When the enterprise is organized on the basis of functional organisation, the delegation of authority is also done on the functional basis. All the heads are given to manage their departments according to their skill, knowledge and experience of course; they are accountable to the Chief Executive.

(4) Technical Delegation:

This method of delegation authority is based on technical knowledge and skill. Here the authority is delegated in order to get the advantages of expert and experienced hands and their technical skill.

Delegation of Authority – Effective Delegation

It takes two parties for delegation to be effective-a superior willing to delegate and give his subordinates real freedom to achieve delegated tasks and a subordinate willing to assume added responsibilities, develop solutions to problems independently and learn through the, painful though, process of trial and error.

The barriers to delegation, as we have seen, are purely psychological and can be reduced through improved communication between managers and subordinates leading to better understanding. The following guidelines have been advanced by different writers to help managers delegate effectively.

The Subordinate:

1. Select subordinates in the light of the task to be performed. Provide guidance, help and information to them. Maintain open lines of communication.

2. Do not be overawed by the errors committed by subordinates. Remove the elements of fear and frustration. Allow them to learn through mistakes. One does not learn to play tennis/cricket by reading a book- Require completed work.

3. Allow the subordinates to see the big picture. The subordinate needs to know why his work is both necessary and important.

4. Provide sufficient authority to subordinates for accomplishing goal assignments.

5. Reward acceptance of responsibility. Perspiration does not go very far without a little inspiration.

The Organization Culture:

1. Create an atmosphere of trust and risk taking.

2. Use constructive criticism to help the subordinate grow.

3. All delegations should be in writing.

The Authority Structure:

1. Equate authority with responsibility; too much authority may be abused; too little authority may frustrate the subordinates.

2. Restrain any inclination to override, interfere with or undermine the delegation.

The Control Systems:

1. Prevent illegitimate usurpation of authority by establishing broad controls.

2. Provide standards so that the subordinate can measure and evaluate his performance against the standard.

It would seem easy and simple to delegate the task to subordinates observing the above guidelines. But as rightly pointed out by Robert Fulmer; delegation is almost never simple. It is in fact, a skill that separates men from the boys in management. Delegation demands a closer look at all the contingent factors like size, task complexity, costliness of the decision, organizational culture, qualities of subordinates etc.

The subordinate must be willing to make a determined effort and the supervisor must be willing to extend freedom and cooperation, in turn. Koontz and O’ Donnell have listed some personal qualities that can contribute to effective delegation.

An Effective Delegator Should:

I. Give other peoples’ ideas a chance.

II. Allow subordinates to take decisions independently.

III. Be a patient counselor and not a ‘hovering hawk’.

IV. Repose confidence and trust in subordinates.

V. Know how to use controls judiciously.

Delegation of Authority – Factors Affecting Delegation of Authority from 3 Aspects: Delegator’s Aspect, Delegant’s Aspect and Organisational Aspect

The factors that affect the delegation of authority can be standard from three aspects.

These are:

i. The delegator’s (Superior’s) and (Sub-Ordinates) aspect

ii. The delegant’s authority

iii. The organizational aspect

i. The Delegator’s Aspect:

A manager may not delegate authority effectively when he has a love for authority, fear of sub-ordinates advancement, fear of his shortcomings being exposes and a negative attitude towards employees. In addition, the personality traits of a manager and experience may also effect the delegation of authority.

Love for Authority:

An autocratic manager is not very likely to delegate authority to his sub­ordinates such a manager likes to make his importance felt by forcing sub­ordinates to approach him often to get inner decisions approved. A manager may also not delegate authority to his sub-ordinates if he likes to maintain a tight control over his activities.

Fear of Sub-Ordinates’ Advancement:

The fear of a sub-ordinates advancement also affects the manager’s ability to delegate authority effectively. A manager may not delegate authority effectively due to two reasons. Firstly, superior may fear that the competence and the good performance of the sub-ordinate might earn him a promotion as a result of which, he would lose good sub-ordinates.

Secondly, the superiors may also fear that the sub-ordinates may excel in his job to such an extent that he may become a contender for the manager’s position, status and title.

Fear of Exposure:

A superior may not delegate adequate authority fearing that his managerial shortcomings would be exposed if he does. This generally is the case when the procedures and practices followed by the superior are not very good. Thus, the fear of exposure of their shortcomings may make managers ineffective in delegating authority.

Attitude towards Sub-Ordinates:

Delegation of authority requires a certain amount of trust between the superior and his sub-ordinate. Therefore, the superior attitude towards his sub-ordinates and the sub-ordinates attitudes towards the superior are important for delegation. Lack of confidence in sub-ordinates is a major factor that effects delegation of authority. The lack of confidence may be justified if the sub-ordinates are also lacking in knowledge and skills.

Personality Traits and Experiences of the Superiors:

The personality traits and experiences of a superior affect the way in which he delegates authority to his sub-ordinates. For instance a superior who has been delegated adequate authority in his or her own career or who has worked up his way up from the ranks, is likely to delegate authority. On the other hand, autocratic managers are less likely to delegate authority.

ii. The Delegant’s Authority:

Delegation of authority is not only affected by various factors pertaining to the delegator, but also by factors is discussed below:

Fear of Criticism:

The sub-ordinate may not accept delegated tasks if he suspects that the credit for success will be taken by the boss and criticism for failure will be directed toward him. The fear of criticism also makes a sub-ordinate reluctant to accept authority.

Lack of Information and Resources:

Sub-ordinates are reluctant to accept delegation when they do not have adequate information and resources. When tasks are not clearly defined, when adequate authority is not delegated. When instructions are vague and resources are scarce, sub-ordinates are unlikely to do a good job and their enthusiasm for delegated work dwindles.

Lack of Self-Confidence:

Sometimes, sub-ordinates may refuse to take up delegated tasks as they may lack confidence in themselves. Fear of criticism and/or dismissal from service for committing mistake prevents them from accepting additional responsibilities.

Absence of Rewards and Incentives:

Many sub-ordinates may be unwilling to take up additional responsibilities and pressure unless they receive some rewards and incentives for satisfactory performance. Therefore, all companies should develop a system of rewards and incentives.

iii. The Organizational Aspect:

Apart from the personal factors of delegators and delegants, delegation of authority also depends on certain organizational aspects. The various organizational factors that affect the delegation of authority include the organization’s policy towards centralization or decentralization, availability of managerial personnel, the type of control mechanisms adopted by the organization, the management philosophy etc., unfavourable organizational factors may adversely affect the delegation of authority.

Delegation of Authority – Proper Guidelines for Securing Effective Delegation

Proper guidelines must be taken into consideration before delegating any authority to anyone.

Following are the important guidelines for having effective delegation:

(1) There Must be Proper Planning:

An executive must plan beforehand as to what is to be achieved, if delegation of authority is made. He should define clearly the objectives to be achieved and the functions to be performed by delegating the authority.

The job should be designed and divided in such a way as to achieve the objectives. The subordinates must understand clearly what activities they must undertake and what delegator expects from him.

(2) There Must be Parity of Authority and Responsibility:

Proper balance must be maintained between authority and responsibility. Responsibility without sufficient authority will made the sub-ordinate ineffective because he cannot have proper control over the operation of activities and he cannot perform his duties well.

Further, authority without responsibility will make the sub-ordinate irresponsible. Parity between authority and responsibility cannot be measured mathematically. The two must move together because the two relate to the same assignment.

(3) Dual Sub-Ordination be Avoided as far as Possible:

The sub-ordinate should be accountable to their seniors. If he is to report to two bosses for the same job, it will give rise to confusion and conflict and in such cases his loyalty may be divided.

(4) Limits of Authority Should be Clearly and Well Defined:

The limits of authority of each sub-ordinate should be well defined so that there may not be misuse of authority. Limits of authority allow the sub-ordinate to take initiative and freedom of action within the limits. Any matter beyond his authority be referred to the superior.

(5) Sub-Ordinate Must Work Within the Delegated Authority:

Once a sub-ordinate is assigned work and delegated authority, he should be allowed to take decision relating to matter within his jurisdiction. Only the matters beyond the scope of subordinates authority be dealt with by the superior. They should confine themselves to the exceptions.

(6) Effective and Free Flow of Communication between the Delegator and the Delegated is Essential to Make the Delegation Effective:

This will help the superior to give clear and precise instructions and the sub-ordinate may seek the necessary clarifications and guidance. Accurate and timely information should be available to the executives so that any obstacle may be removed in the way of performance of the assigned task to the sub-ordinate.

(7) For Proper Delegation Motivation through Positive Incentives be Given to Subordinate:

This will be helpful in accepting the responsibility happily and can show excellent performances. Incentives may be monetary or non-monetary. For some subordinates, recognition and praise may be important incentive, while monetary incentive like reward for better performance may be important for others.

(8) Proper Selection and Training of Personnel:

Selection of personnel to various jobs should be fair and just. It should not be arbitrary but it must be based on certain principles. Only right persons should be placed on the right job.

The person selected must also be given proper training to enable him to handle the post efficiently and to perform the assigned job properly. Proper selection and training helps to develop their self-confidence and morale.

(9) Proper Control Techniques be Developed:

In a good organisation proper control techniques should be developed and major deviations from standard should be checked. There should be no interference in day-to-day functioning of sub­ordinates.

Delegation of Authority – 5 Important Rules to be Followed while Delegating

To maintain a better control over the operations and a common belief of the executives that their subordinates are not capable of, to discourage the delegator to delegate his authority, to someone working with or under him. But an atmosphere of teamwork and mutual confidence encourage delegation.

Given that the atmosphere of teamwork is there, mutual confidence is also pervading, a sense of independence in attainment of common goals and a free interchange of ideas and suggestions are present but a pertinent question still remains unanswered as to what really can be delegated? What to delegate and when to delegate are two ticklish questions which a delegator has to answer to himself within the framework of the organisation?

Usually work relating to routine matters is delegated. The sub-ordinate who enjoys the confidence of delegator or the sub-ordinate to whom a particular work is assigned is generally the delegate. Louise A. Allen has suggested certain guidelines for an executive in this respect.

An executive according to him can follow the under mentioned rules while delegating:

(1) Established goals are to be attained.

(2) Define and enumerate the authority which the delegate can exercise and the responsibility he is to shoulder.

(3) Motivate the sub-ordinate (delegate) and provide him sufficient guidance. If necessary proper and adequate training should also be given to the delegate before authority is delegated to him.

(4) Ask for the completed work. In between if any help is needed by the delegate he should be provided with such help either directly through someone who knows the work and is willing to help.

(5) Establish adequate control so as to supervise and provide necessary guidance.

The executive reserves the authority arid keeps almost all the decision making authority with him. He delegates the authority of execution to his subordinates so that they may work out the details and work according to the directions given to them.

Delegation of Authority – Difficulties that Arises out of Fear

There is a fear aspect in delegation which plays a dominant role in a decision as to “What to delegate” and “to whom to delegate”. Executive knows for certain that once authority is delegated they will loose the grip over their subordinates and also control over the operations. It is natural that the executives may not like to loose either the grip or control over the operation.

But the important psychology is that by their nature executives have no confidence in their subordinates. They feel that the subordinates are not capable of shouldering the responsibility; therefore, the question of delegation of authority does not arise.

Sometimes, executives suffer from inferiority psychosis. They know for certain that though they occupy a position of strength but their knowledge and skill are not upto the mark. Their subordinates are well equipped and thus they may do the assigned job well. No executive would like to delegate when he feels that his sub-ordinate may surpass him.

From the above discussion we may come to a conclusion that there are three types of fear which discourage delegation and thus create difficulties in delegation.

They are:

(1) Fear of loosing the grip and control over the operations;

(2) Fear of not a better performance by the sub-ordinate to whom the authority may be delegated; and

(3) Fear of better performance by the sub-ordinate to whom the authority may be delegated.

The above difficulties arise out of:

(a) Lack of mutual confidence;

(b) Non-existence of atmosphere of team work;

(c) No independence in thinking and behaviour;

(d) No proper and ambiguous definition of common goals to be achieved;

(e) No inter-exchange of ideas and suggestions;

(f) No favourable management climate;

(g) Existence of element of fear and frustration; and

(h) Incapable hands manning the executive positions.

Delegation is an important managerial technique. Every effort should be made to encourage delegation. This creates a sense of belonging among subordinates. It develops the personality of the subordinates and helps in evaluating the managerial performance. It also induces a sense of security among both the executives and their subordinates. A favourable management climate should be created for encouraging delegation.

Delegation of Authority – 8 Crucial Barriers to Effective Delegation: Lack of Confidence in Subordinates, Lack of Confidence in Self, Fearing of Losing Control and a Few Others 

In spite of delegation as an important process of management, few managers do not believe in delegation. It does not mean that they do not want to believe in delegation, but there are several barriers to this process.

The following are some of the barriers in effective delegation:

1. Lack of Confidence in Subordinates:

Some managers are not willing to delegate because they do not have confidence in their subordinates. They feel that it is better to do it them-self rather than wasting energy in correcting the mistakes of subordinate.

2. Lack of Confidence in Self:

The lack of confidence in self makes a manager not to disclose the power to subordinates. They fear about the exposure in the department. These managers include generally those who promote themselves the most talented ones but actually they are inefficient. This becomes more serious for superior when they get more talented subordinates. They fear that after being exposed, they may lose the position.

3. Lack of Confidence in System:

There are so many managers who do not believe in the system. They think if authority will be delegated to subordinates, then they will get back support from the system, especially immediate superior. If something happens wrong, they fear of responsibility fixing.

4. Fear of Losing Control:

Some managers are always having a concern of losing control over the job. Hence, they do not want to delegate the authority. They keep authority with them and told subordinate to follow them mechanically without intellectual input.

5. Lack of Coordination:

Sometimes, the lack of coordination between subordinate and superior also works a barrier of delegation. The subordinate need a moral support and to develop coordination between the superior and subordinate. In absence of coordination, the effective delegation is not possible.

6. “I Can Do Better” Approach:

Being confident is always a desirable characteristic in a manager, but the overconfidence of being the best to deliver on job becomes dangerous sometime. This creates hindrance in delegation. Few people do have this approach of thinking “I can do it better”. The delegation gives an opportunity to learn to get things done through and with people.

7. Responsibility vs Accountability:

The delegation ensures the responsibility of subordinates. It does not mean that if subordinate makes mistake in decision making, the superior will not be held responsible. Subordinate may be accountable for the decision, but the ultimate responsibility is of the superior.

8. Inability to Establish a Channel:

In some cases, the manager fails in establishing proper channel of delegation. It may be due to boss-subordinate relationship or uncertain system response. This is also a barrier to effective delegation.

Delegation of Authority – 10 Important Measures to Overcome Barriers to Delegation: Confidence in Subordinates, Communication, Motivation, and a Few Others

Barriers to delegation can be overcome through the following measures:

1. Accept the Need for Delegation:

When superiors are reluctant to delegate because they want to do things themselves rather than allowing subordinates to do, they should realise the need for delegation. In fact, more the delegation, more successful will be an organisation.

2. Confidence in Subordinates:

Rather than feeling that subordinates are not capable of accepting responsibilities so that delegator does not take the risk of delegation, the delegator should understand that a man learns through mistakes and if he commits mistakes, he will try to find solutions to the problems also. If subordinates make mistakes, superiors should guide them rather than not delegate at all.

3. Communication:

Where delegation becomes ineffective because subordinates do not have information for making decisions, an effective system of communication should be developed so that information flows freely from superiors to subordinates. Delegatees should be allowed to freely discuss the problems with the delegators.

4. Motivation:

Subordinates should be motivated to accept the responsibilities by providing financial and non-financial rewards like recognition, status etc.

5. Effective System of Control:

Since ultimate responsibility for work assigned is that of the delegator, he should ensure that subordinates perform well by setting standards of performance against which actual performance shall be measured. Delegator should check the activities of delegatees rather than not delegate at all.

6. Choose the Right Person for the Right Job:

Lack of confidence in subordinates can be overcome by dividing the work into units and sub-units and assigning to persons most suitable for the job. There should be proper matching of the job and the persons performing those jobs. Qualification of the delegatee should match the requirement of the job. ‘Round pegs in the round holes’ makes delegation effective as right job will be given to the right person.

7. Freedom to Subordinates:

When managers accept the need for delegation, they should also give freedom to subordinates to make decisions with respect to the delegated tasks. Rather than not delegating or delegating less responsibility, for the fear of subordinates making mistakes, managers should give the subordinates authority to find solutions to problems and learn not to make mistakes in future.

8. Clarity of Tasks:

The responsibilities or tasks delegated to subordinates should be clearly defined in terms of results expected out of those tasks. Knowing their job and goals to be achieved out of them will enable the subordinates perform the delegated tasks better.

9. Monitoring the Critical Deviations:

Subordinates may make mistakes, however efficient they are at work. Superiors should overlook minor deviations with respect to delegated tasks and focus on major deviations in the tasks assigned. This promotes better response and a sense of responsibility amongst employees.

10. Develop Trust and Confidence in Subordinates:

Delegation is a continuous process. Managers should praise the work of subordinates when they perform well. They should delegate them more tasks and express trust and confidence in them. This will boost their morale to perform better in future.

Delegation of Authority – Significance

Delegation of authority is a process by which the organisation’s formal right to command as vested in the top management is partially passed down the chain of command in a graded manner by creation of a hierarchy of managerial positions.

All managerial positions in the hierarchy are vertically tied together through authority-responsibility relationships and these relationships are created by the process of delegation of authority. Each managerial position in the organisation is a cluster of rights, roles, responsibilities, relationship and obligations which demand the person occupying that position to function in certain ways.

Delegation of authority is an essential tool for effective organisation. Every executive has to perform wider range of activities. His scope of authority is wide enough but his capacity to work and supervise is limited, so it is always in the interest of the organisation that the routine, ordinary and general work should be delegated to competent subordinates.

This will result in the effective accomplishment of work on the one hand and on the other hand it will increase efficiency of the executive. The manager will be in a position to get a major part of work done by competent subordinates, and he will multiply himself as regards the quantity of work done on his behalf by delegatees.

Delegation of authority is a must for better management. Once a man’s job grows beyond his personal capacity, his success lies in his ability to multiply himself through other people. How well he delegates determines how well he can manage. Andrew Carnage, a leading industrialist of America once remarked, “when a man realises he can call others in to help him to do job better than he can do it alone, he has taken a big step in his life”.

Delegation is an important managerial skill requiring a manager to:

(i) Size up his total workload in operational terms,

(ii) Divide his total workload into sub-tasks,

(iii) Separate the sub-tasks which he has to retain for himself from those which he can assign to his subordinates,

(iv) Work out the authority content required to carry out the assignable sub-tasks,

(v) Distribute the assignable sub-tasks together with the authority content among his subordinates,

(vi) Make his subordinates individually accountable to him for carrying out the assigned tasks and for exercising the delegated authority, and

(vii) Instruct, guide and motivate the subordinates in discharging their responsibilities.

Delegation of Authority – Can Both Authority and Responsibility be Delegated?

Authority is the right or power granted to an individual to make possible for him to do the work effectively. The right to procure or to use raw materials, spend money, hire people, etc. has to be delegated to the persons to whom work is assigned. That means, authority can be delegated. But responsibility in the sense of accountability cannot be delegated. It is an obligation to carry out the task assigned and exercise authority judiciously.

The extent of accountability depends upon the extent of delegation of authority. Responsibility or accountability cannot be delegated. A manager can delegate authority but he cannot delegate his responsibility to do the job. He remains accountable for the results of the subordinates. The accountability of the superior for acts of his subordinates is unconditional. Accountability moves upward because a person is always accountable to the executive who delegated authority to him. On the other hand, the flow of authority is downward.

Accountability cannot be delegated. Though it is incurred as a result of assignment of duty and conferring of authority, accountability in itself cannot be delegated. The delegate cannot abdicate responsibility. He remains accountable to his superior for that which the latter has delegated to him. Since accountability cannot be delegated, the accountability of persons higher in the hierarchy for the acts of the subordinates is unconditional. This can be illustrated by an example of three executives representing different levels of management.


As shown above, A is the chief boss. B is A’s subordinate and C is B’s subordinate. B delegates authority and responsibility to C. In this process, C becomes accountable to B. In spite of this, B continues to be accountable to A for even that portion of responsibility which he has delegated to C. He cannot be free on the pretext that it was the responsibility or the liability of C because he had put that portion of his responsibility to him. B may however hold C accountable and may take the severest action against him to the point of termination of his services because of negligence of duty.

This illustration also shows that authority flows downward and accountability flows upward. The subordinate will be accountable to his boss who is over him in hierarchy of organisation.

Delegation of Authority – Top 6 Advantages: Basis of Effective Functioning, Reduction in Managerial Load, Benefit of Specialised Service and a Few Others

Delegation offers several advantages. Important amount these are as follows:

1. Basis of Effective Functioning:

Delegation provides the basis for effective functioning of an organisation. It establishes relationships through the organisation and helps in achieving coordination of various activities in accomplishing enterprise objectives.

2. Reduction in Managerial Load:

Delegation relieves the manager of the need to attend to minor or routine types of duties. Thus, he is enabled to devote greater attention and effort toward broader and more important responsibilities.

3. Benefit of Specialized Service:

Delegation enables the manager to benefit from the specialised knowledge and expertise of persons at lower levels. Thus, purchasing may be delegated to the purchase manager, sales to the sales manager, advertising to the advertising manager, accounting to an accountant, legal matters to a lawyer, and personnel functions to a personnel manager.

4. Efficient Running of Branches:

In the modern world, where a business rarely confines its activities to a single place, only delegation can provide the key to smooth and efficient running of the various branches of the business at places far and near.

5. Aid to Employee Development:

Delegation enables the employees of business to develop their capabilities to undertake new and more challenging jobs. Also, it promotes job satisfaction and contributes to high employee morale.

6. Aid to Expansion and Diversification of Business:

With its employees fully trained in decision-making in various fields, the business can confidently undertake expansion and diversification of its activities. Because, it will be already have a competent team of contented workers to take on new responsibilities.

Delegation of Authority – 12 Major Limitations

There are certain conditions in a business system, both internal and environmental, those evoke tendencies toward centralization and work against decentralization and delegation of authority and responsibility. Some of them reflect wider, uncontrollable forces; others are open, relatively, to manipulation.

(i) Some decisions are irreversible, especially in the short run; others can be reversed or corrected but at a high cost in terms of money or embarrassment. This is so, regardless of the size of the commitment which may be large, medium or even small. An example is say, when a dealership has to be awarded to one among an excluded category.

(ii) Some decisions involve large commitments in terms of money, time or direction, or a combination of them. Even an initial move (not so large in itself) can trigger off the wide commitment chain. It is unsafe to delegate such initial decisions to juniors.

(iii) Certain decisions are apt to create an uncomfortable precedent-being off the track or running counter to recognized enterprise policy. Regardless of the individual content (importance) of such decisions, they are better retained at a high level.

(iv) A certain decision, of not moment in so far as it goes, might create repercussions – a chain reaction elsewhere. An example is the waiver of the minimum educational qualification of a worker of a factory for his promotion. The repercussions may extend throughout the industrial relations climate of the enterprise: Such a decision should not be delegated.

(v) Decisions where the personal (semi-judiciary) judgment of the senior is called into play. An example is passing of orders of major punishments on grounds of discipline – involving, say, dismissal or termination of service. The decision may be retained at a high level regardless of the level of employees concerned.

(vi) The traditional makeup of the enterprise influences the degree of decentralization and delegation. With a series of able and authoritarian administrators at the top dominating an enterprise, say, for a half a century, the tradition is likely to release tendencies against decentralization and delegation.

(vii) In enterprises owned and managed by a dynasty or familial group decentralization tends to be confined to members of the family. The nodal points of decision and control remain in the hands of a few. Professionalization of management, in such a situation, has impact on the lower routine echelons of management and on the advisory specialist services.

(viii) Policy decisions are usually retrained at higher management levels. Besides the principles of size and commitment, this is also conditioned by the need to observe uniformity.

(ix) The growth, diversity and complexity of an enterprise evoke tendencies of decentralization and delegation on functional, territorial or product lines or a combination of the two or more criteria.

(x) Often adequacy of trained and competent managers imposes a constraint on decentralization and delegation. Key positions, in such a situation, tend to be held by a few senior and well- tried executives.

(xi) A situation of flux (may be, in a particular phase of an organization’s life cycle) or a quick change is apt to put a brake on the progress of decentralization and the delegation scheme. A delegation system does not function well unless in a stable system and a comparative monotone of repetitive management.

(xii) The environment, the institutional framework and the laws of the land cast their strong influence on in-company delegation and decentralization. In a controlled system many facets of enterprise operations and decision are bound by regulatory measures and forms of a prescriptive nature.

While, in a situation as this, overall and absolute decentralization is constrained, there is nothing to prevent flow of delegation of authority at the top down the scalar chain.

Delegation of Authority – Problems Faced in the Process of Delegation of Authority

Delegation can be an extremely challenging task if the superior and subordi­nates are not able to understand the roles that they are supposed to play in a constructive way.

The troubles can come from several quarters, as listed below:

1. Reluctance to Delegate:

Managers offer numerous explanations in support of their conservative outlook.

i. Better Performance- I can do it better myself:

Many managers, suffering from a bloated ego. They think that in this world, they can only deliver results and others are incapable of delivering value to customers. Suffering from an inflated sense of self-worth, they prefer to bury themselves with routine work that can be easily assigned to subordinates.

ii. No Trust- I cannot trust others to do the job:

A manager trapped in this fallacy may delegate but continues to peer over the shoulders of subordinates and does not allow others to take independent decisions. He begins to handle everything himself, not trusting anyone and thereby makes it impossible for subordinates to learn and grow.

iii. Subordinate may Get Credit- I’ll lose importance if I let others do the job:

Managers often show great reluctance to delegate portions of their work to subordinates because such an act would dilute their authority and importance in the organisation. Subordinates may learn everything and may even outshine the manager in course of time. They may even be strong contenders for the boss’s job. No manager would like to go this way.

iv. Continuous Guidance Difficult- I cannot coach everything:

Effective delegation requires that the manager must communicate to his subordinate far in advance what is to be done. This may prove to be a troublesome exercise for the executive because he is now forced to think ahead and visualize the work situation, formulate objectives, general plans of action and finally communicate these to his subordinate. Additionally, he is forced to set up a control system so that the subordinates’ action can be monitored. Man­agers, normally, do not enjoy the process of guidance, review and cross-examination that are bound to arise if they delegate work to subordinates.

v. Who will Face the Music?

Even after taking all the necessary precautions, there is no guarantee that delegation will prove to be fruitful. Managers are accountable for the actions of subordinates and this may make them reluctant to take chances. Many are just unwilling to let go and to allow others to commit mistakes.

2. Reluctance to Accept Delegation:

It takes two parties for delegation to be useful—a delegator willing to share his work and a delegatee willing to accept responsibility. Delegation proves to be a futile exercise in such situations where the boss is ready to delegate but the subordinate is unwilling to accept it.

Normally the following of the delegatee attitudes hinder the delegation process:

i. Easy to Ask-‘It is easier to ask the boss’:

Wise decisions are products of hard mental work. It is better to seek the guidance of the boss if a subordinate finds that he can take a problem to his superior and get an answer, naturally he will do so. Sharing the burden with the superior is a safe proposition. Confronting the decision single-handed is nothing but an open invitation to troubles later on.

ii. Fear of Criticism- Why should I stick my neck out for that guy?

If there is failure the superior is likely to direct the arrows of criticism against the subordinates. If delegation proves to be a success then the superior is likely to steal the credit away from the subordinate. The subordinate is always on the losing side. ‘He naturally will be inclined to be cautious and play it safe if he has learned from experience that taking on more risk may result in an embarrassing and unwarranted bawling out’.

iii. Lack of Information Resources- Nobody tells me anything:

Assuming greater responsibilities may be risky in the absence of necessary information and resources. The fears of subordinates in this connection are real. In many cases it is true that their duties are not clearly defined, authority is not specific and instructions are vague. The resources at their disposal may be grossly insufficient to do a good job. Starved of necessary facilities, their enthusiasm gets dampened forcing them to reject further assignments.

iv. Too Heavy- I am already overburdened:

In the absence of adequate rewards for satisfactory performance, subordinates are typically reluctant to assume added responsibilities and subject themselves to emotional pressures. The risk of failure is unpleasant and unless the inducements are attractive, no one is interested in accepting delegated responsibilities. A safe reply would be- I am already over-burdened. Why should I take on more work? To be effective, delegation must be supported by adequate incentives.

v. Lack of Self-Confidence- I don’t have the psychological make-up to shoulder heavy responsibilities:

Sometimes, a subordinate may simply refuse to take the risk of the outcome due to lack of self-confidence. He may not be able to do the task as well as the boss. The fear of criticism arising out of failure may be a strong deterrent preventing him from becoming a candidate for delegatee roles.

Management may have a history of doling out verbal criticisms, negative performance evaluations, even termination notices for those who make mistakes. In such an atmosphere the subordinate is unsure of himself and does not like to have a ‘head on collision’ with delegation.