Failure to delegate is probably the most frequent reason that supervisors fail. Delegation is an art. Unfortunately, it does not come naturally for many people. In its most common use, delegation refers to the delegation authority. To delegate authority means to grant or confer authority from one person to another. Generally authority is delegated in order to assist receiving parties in completing their assigned duties. For example, a supervisor may give employees the authority to organize their own work, as long as they meet the production requirements.

There is considerable debate about the delegation of responsibility. Some people say you can delegate responsibility, while others say you can`t. A close analysis of the issue generally reveals that the debate is more a communication problem than a misunderstanding of the concepts involved. Those saying that responsibility cannot be delegated support their position by stating that supervisors can never shed the responsibilities of their jobs by passing them onto their employees. Those saying that responsibility can be delegated justify their position by pointing out that supervisors can certainly make their employees responsible for certain actions. Both parties are correct! Supervisors can delegate responsibilities in the sense of making their employees responsible for certain actions. However, this delegation does not make supervisors any less responsible. Thus, delegation of responsibility does not mean abdication of responsibility by the delegating party. Responsibility is not like an object that can be passed from individual to individual.

Successful delegation involves three basic steps: (1) assigning work to the different members of the work group, (2) creating an obligation (responsibility) on the part of each employee to the delegating supervisor to perform the duties satisfactorily, (3) granting permission (authority) to take the actions necessary to perform the duties. Thus, successful delegation involves the delegation of both authority and responsibility.

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