What are the various Principles of Delegation?

Delegation does not always work as smoothly as the manager might expect it to. To overcome weak delegation and to make delegation more effective, certain guides, rules, or principles are enunciated and followed. Some of the important principles are discussed below:

(i) Clarity of Delegation: Whether specific or general, written or unwritten, a delegation of authority must be very clear in terms of its contents, functional relations, scope, and assignments. The delegate should also be given a clear idea about the tasks assigned, what is expected of the recipient in his own job and how his obligation fits into the general plan. Ambiguity in delegation often leads to poor results and tends to make the delegation less effective.

The principle of clarity of delegation also implies defining in clear terms the horizontal and vertical relationships of the position of each subordinate to the other positions in the organization. That is, every subordinate must know what position in the organization structure exists at his own level and how his position fits in the overall management hierarchy. Thus, every manager must know who is working under him and who are occupying positions higher than him in the organization. This helps him to seek guidance and also to provide guidance in terms of the scalar chain established in the organization.

(ii) Delegation to be Consistent with Results Expected: A manager before proceeding with an actual delegation of authority to the subordinate should know the jobs and results expected of such delegation. He should thereafter delegate only that much authority which is just sufficient to accomplish the results. It is an important guiding principle of delegation and rests on the assumption that goals are set and plans made in advance, and that jobs are set-up to accomplish or implement them. This principle also helps to minimize the dangers of delegating too much or inadequate authority.

(iii) Responsibility cannot be Delegated: Obligation to accomplish the assigned task is absolute and can not be partitioned when authority is delegated to the subordinate. Thus, when the chief executive of a company appoints a sales manager to look after sales, the former does not absolve himself of his responsibility for the same by delegating part of his authority to the latter. The chief executive even after delegation still remains accountable to the Board of Directors for management and supervision of the whole of the enterprise. If this principle is violated, three important consequences will follow:
– If the manager is able to pass on obligation along with a delegation of authority to the subordinates, the rule of a single chain of command will be violated.
– Management at the top shall have a great responsibility and yet not be accountable for the results.
– When a manager is allowed to delegate even his own obligation, there shall be no way of knowing who is accountable for what.

(iv) Parity of Authority and Responsibility: Whenever authority is delegated, responsibility steps in and is coextensive with authority. A subordinate can be held accountable for the tasks assigned to him and to the extent authority delegated for their accomplishment. Accordingly, the sales manager cannot be held responsible for product failures for which he was given no authority. Since both authority and responsibility relate to the same assignment, it is logical that the two should be co-extensive. But this parity is not a mathematical one. There are writers who have challenged the merit of equating responsibility with authority. While accepting the element of truth in this principle, they have raised certain difficulties inherent in the parity.

(v) Exception Principle: A manager can delegates authority to the subordinate to relieve himself of the overload which he thinks can be passed on, in order to push down the process of decision-making as near the source of information and action as possible. In such a case, it is expected that the recipient of authority shall make proper use of it and make all the decisions falling within the scope of his authority. Only in exceptional cases when he fails to make the decision at his level, he should refer the matter to higher-ups for consideration and decision.

(vi) Principle of Functional Definition: To develop departmentation, activities must be grouped to facilitate the accomplishment of goals, and the manager of each sub-division must have authority to coordinate its activities with the organization as a whole. The principle of functional definition also says that the more a position or a department has a clear definition of results expected, activities to be undertaken, organization authority delegated, and authority and informational relationships with other positions understood, the more adequately the individual responsible can contribute towards accomplishing enterprise objectives.

(vii) Scalar Principle: It says that the more clear the line of authority from the top manager in an enterprise to every subordinate position, the more effective will be the responsible decision-making and organization communication. Subordinates must know who delegates authority to them and to whom matters beyond their own authority must be referred.

(viii) Principle of Unity to Command: According to this principle, the more complete an individual has a relationship with a single superior, the lesser will be the problem of conflict in instructions and the greater the feeling of personal responsibility for results. Therefore, in the case of delegation, except for the inevitable instances of splintered authority, the right of discretion over a particular activity will flow from a single superior to a subordinate. Thus, the delegation will be more effective when the subordinate receives orders and instructions directly from one senior. This avoids the problem of confusion, preferences, and divided loyalty.

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