Career Development

Delegation of Authority: Definition and Guide

November 27, 2020

Knowing how and when to assign tasks to the right people is a valuable skill. An effective manager can delegate authority to team members and follow-up accordingly to ensure they complete each task as expected. In this article, we will define delegation of authority and explore how to use it in the workplace.

What is delegation of authority?

Delegation of authority is the process of transferring responsibility for a task to another employee. As a manager, you can typically transfer responsibility to any of your direct team members. That employee may then decide to delegate some of those responsibilities among their team members if necessary.

The purpose of delegating authority is to ensure a productive and well-functioning workplace. When done wisely, this process can benefit you, your employees and the business as a whole through:

  • Increased productivity. It allows employees to complete work faster since tasks are spread out among a group of individuals rather than a single individual completing all of the necessary steps. 

  • Continuity.If you are busy with other tasks or absent from work, other employees can complete some or all of your duties to ensure continued productivity and efficiency.

  • Employee development. When you delegate tasks to your team members, employees get a chance to improve their skills and demonstrate their abilities in a specific area, such as leadership and interpersonal skills.

  • Employee motivation.Employees may be more driven to perform at their best when trusted with new responsibilities.

  • Career growth opportunities. Delegating tasks to lower-level employees provides them with the experience and skills development needed for potential promotions within the organization.

Related: How To Become a Successful Team Leader

Ways to delegate authority

There are several ways you can transfer responsibilities to employees depending on the needs of your workplace. You can use the following types of delegation of authority to assign tasks to various team members in the workplace:

Departments

You can delegate the supervision of a particular department to another employee. For example, if you’re a CEO, you could delegate authority over the entire marketing department to the marketing director.

Projects

You can assign an employee or group of employees to complete a specific project from start to finish. With the marketing department, the marketing director could assign an advertising campaign to the project manager, who assembles a team of copywriters and designers to collaborate on the project.

Decision making

You can give one of your employees the power to make certain decisions so that you can focus on other work. For example, as a marketing director, you could delegate authority to the assistant marketing director to hire employees for the department when needed. 

Analysis

When you need more information, you can ask employees to complete detailed research on the topic. If you’re a marketing project manager, you can ask the department’s analysts to research demographic statistics for their advertising campaign’s intended audience. 

Administrative processes

You may also delegate administrative tasks, like data entry to other employees. As the marketing manager, for instance, you may assign client communications (scheduling meetings, follow-up emails, etc.) to a marketing assistant.

In any of these categories, the delegation of authority may be temporary or ongoing. Employees complete temporary tasks on a one-time or short-term basis, while ongoing tasks involve long-term responsibilities that become an essential part of the employee’s role.

Read more: Management Styles: Overview and Examples

How to delegate authority

Successful delegation of authority requires clearly defined expectations, progress monitoring and evaluation of the results. Use the following steps to delegate authority effectively:

1. Assign tasks

Choose the employee or employees to whom the task will be assigned to align the scope of the job with an employee or team of employees with the experience required to complete it.

2. Set clear expectations

Communicate the duties you are assigning to the employee or employees, detail your expectations and set deadlines for any time-sensitive tasks. Clarifying expectations at the beginning provides the guidance they need to start the job right away and complete it correctly and efficiently.

3. Monitor progress regularly

Periodically request updates from your employees to monitor the progress of each delegated task. You may want to schedule regular meetings with your employees to get further details on the tasks they are responsible for. By monitoring progress along the way, you can provide corrections or guidance as needed and ensure timely completion of each task. This step also allows you to remain available should questions or concerns arise.

4. Practice accountability

Evaluate the quality of the work to ensure that your team members complete it correctly. For a temporary delegation of authority, this step may involve a one-time analysis once the task is complete. For an ongoing delegation of authority, you may want to conduct occasional performance reviews to assess the employee’s work. Whether positive or negative, your feedback should be constructive to help them improve their work and develop their skills.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

These steps help to create clear expectations during the transfer of authority in the workplace. Each of your employees should understand precisely how much control they have over the project and what you expect of them. In return, you should provide honest feedback about their performance so the employee can recognize their strengths and improve on future projects.

Using this method for transferring authority creates a mutually beneficial relationship between you and your team members. While you can free up time by delegating a task to another person, your employee can also take on new responsibilities, which can increase their value in the workplace.

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