AuthorRichard Camp, Marcia Simmering

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Delegation is the process of giving decision-making authority to lower-level employees. For the process to be successful, a worker must be able to obtain the resources and cooperation needed for successful completion of the delegated task. Empowerment of the workforce and task delegation are closely intertwined. Empowerment occurs when upper-level employees share power with lower-level employees. This involves providing the training, tools and management support that employees need to accomplish a task. Thus, an enabled worker has both the authority and the capability to accomplish the work. Although authority can be delegated, responsibility cannot-the person who delegates a task is ultimately responsible for its success. The assigned worker is therefore accountable for meeting the goals and objectives of the task.


Effective delegation can benefit the manager, the employee, and the organization. Perhaps the most important benefit for the company is a higher quality of work. Delegation can improve quality of work by allowing the employees who have direct knowledge of products and services to make decisions and complete tasks. Quality can also improve through enhanced employee motivation. Employees may do a better job because they feel a personal accountability for the outcome, even though responsibility ultimately rests with the individual who made the delegation. Motivation should also be enhanced as delegation enriches the worker's job by expanding the types of tasks that are involved in it.

Managers who delegate effectively also receive several personal benefits; most importantly, they have more time to do their own jobs when they assign tasks to others. Given the hectic nature of managerial work, time is a precious commodity. Effective delegation frees the manager to focus on managerial tasks such as planning and control. Managers also benefit from the development of subordinates' skills. With a more highly skilled workforce, they have more flexibility in making assignments and are more efficient decision makers. Managers who develop their workforce are also likely to have high personal power with their staff and to be highly valued by their organization.


Although delegation can provide benefits to the organization, many managers lack the motivation or knowledge to delegate effectively, and thus delegation (or lack of delegation) may be detrimental to the company. Managers' lack of motivation to delegate may be associated with a number of fallacies associated with delegations. Many managers believe that "if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself." While this is at times untrue, because the ultimate responsibility for a task lies with the manager, this attitude often prevents delegation. Other reasons for a lack of motivation to delegate are lack of trust in subordinates, fear of being seen as lazy, reluctance to take risks, and fear of competition from subordinates. Some of these barriers are correctable through management training and development, but others may not be easily overcome. Mangers may also lack the competencies necessary to delegate effectively. They may choose the wrong tasks

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to delegate, the wrong subordinate to trust, or they may provide inadequate direction to the subordinate when delegating.

Improper delegation can cause a host of problems, primary of which is an incorrectly completed task, which may hurt the overall productivity of the organization. Additionally, the careers of the manager and subordinate may suffer. The manager is likely to take the blame for delegating the wrong task, delegating to the wrong person, or not providing proper guidance. The subordinate may also take the blame for doing the task incorrectly. Thus, poor delegation may detract from the personal success of managers and employees.


Delegation is not difficult. Anyone can give an assignment to someone. However, effective delegation (assigning a task to the correct person) is a highly skilled process that requires planning, thought, and managerial skill.


Two planning activities should be undertaken before delegating an assignment: defining success and assessing...

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