Everything you need to know about the authority, responsibility, accountability in management.
Authority – ‘Authority’ means ‘Legal or rightful power, a right to command or to act’. Applied to the managerial jobs, the power of the superior to command the subordinate to act or not to act in a particular manner, is called the ‘authority’.
Responsibility – It is an obligation of a sub-ordinate to perform assigned duties. It is always bonded between superior and sub-ordinate. When superior assigns any duty or work to sub-ordinate by his authority it becomes a responsibility on the part of sub-ordinate to perform that duty.
Accountability – Accountability is the obligation to carry out responsibility and exercise authority in terms of performance standards established. Accountability is most meaningful if standards for performances are predetermined and if they are fully understood and accepted by the subordinates.
Authority, Responsibility and Accountability in Management
Authority, Responsibility and Accountability – With Explanation
In management science authority, responsibility and accountability are three terms around which the whole set of managerial activities cluster. Beyond these three terms managerial activities may be reduced to a farce. These three terms are positively correlated and are at the same time not understood in their proper perspective.
In the following lines, their explanation has been given:
Chester Barnard has defined authority as a character of “an order in the informal organisation by virtue of which it is accepted by the members of that organisation as governing the action, that is governing or determining what they are to do or not to do, so far as the organisation is concerned.”
According to George R. Terry—”Authority is official and legal right to command action by others and to enforce compliance.— In this way authority is exercised”—(i) by making decision, and (ii) by seeing that they are carried out through, (a) persuasion, (b) sanctions, (c) requests, and (d) even coercion, constraint or force.
In ordinary sense of the term responsibility denotes an obligation of an individual to do his assigned job satisfactorily to the best of his ability. However, responsibility is always result-oriented so far as the management is concerned. From management’s point of view as George R. Terry has put it -“Responsibility is the obligation of a person to achieve the results mutually determined by means of participation by his superiors and himself.”
Responsibility comes to an individual as soon as he accepts a job to be performed by him. To achieve objectives of an enterprise is an obligation which is usually accepted by the worker. It is his obligation which commensurate with responsibility. In order to enable the sub-ordinate to perform his responsibility well, the superior must clearly tell the former as to what is expected of him. In other words, the delegant must determine clearly the task or duty that is assigned to the delegate.
The duty must be expressed either in terms of function or in terms of objectives. If a sub-ordinate is asked to control the operation of a machine, the duty is in terms of function. But if he is asked to produce a particular number of pieces of a product, the duty is in terms of target or objective. Determination of duties in terms of objectives will enable the sub-ordinate to know by what standards his performance will be evaluated.
Responsibility is a derivative of work to be performed and authority is derived from responsibility, accountability in turn, is a logical derivative of authority. When a sub-ordinate is given an assignment and is granted the necessary authority to complete it, the final in basic organisation relationship is holding the subordinate responsible for results. In other words, the sub-ordinate undertakes an obligation to complete the assignment by the fair use of authority and account for the discharge of responsibility assigned.
Responsibility is always accountable. One is always answerable to his superiors for the work which he has accepted to perform. Responsibility and accountability are not synonyms but are two terms. Responsibility, if accepted, has to be fulfilled. How has it been fulfilled? What have been the results? Whether orders and instructions issued have been followed in fulfilling the responsibility? These questions are to be answered by the individual before he satisfies himself and his superiors that he has accomplished the job.
Answerability to the superiors regarding completion of the job in conformity with the directions is called accountability.
Accountability is the obligation to carry out responsibility and exercise authority in terms of performance standards established by the superior. Creation of accountability is the process of justifying the granting of authority to a sub-ordinate for the accomplishment of a particular task.
In order to make this process effective the standards of performance should be determined before assigning a task and should be accepted by the sub-ordinate. An important principle of management governing this basic relationship is that of single accountability. An individual should be answerable to only one immediate superior and no more.
Difference between the Three Terms:
The three terms, Authority, Responsibility and Accountability are inter-related. Authority denotes granting of power. Responsibility indicates to satisfactory completion of obligation and accountability refers to answerability regarding one’s work and conduct.
Authority could be delegated, however, responsibility can be shared but cannot be delegated. Accountability neither can be shared nor delegated. One has to answer about his work and conduct.
The three terms go together. Authority and responsibility follow each other. Responsibility without authority is as meaningless as authority without responsibility. Both should be there. One alone cannot move. Similarly, accountability follows responsibility.
The accountability arises only because there is an authority, the aim of which is to get the decision carried out with fuller responsibility. Likewise accountability is needed because objectives are to be attained. Accountability makes over conscious of his responsibilities without which one may go stray and shirk his responsibility.
A. Mc. Farland has put it-“Accountability refers the fact that each person who is given authority must recognize that the executive above him will judge the quality’ of his performance.
Davis and Filley also agree with its each (organisation) member is obliged to report to his superior how well he has exercised his responsibility and the use of the authority delegated to him.”
Thus, it can be said that a man cannot reduce his responsibilities by delegation, he also cannot reduce his accountability to higher authority through delegating. A man will still be accountable directly to his superior for the authority he has delegated and for the tasks he has assigned to his subordinates.
Authority, Responsibility and Accountability in Management – With Features
Authority, responsibility and accountability are very popular and widely used terms in management. These are the basic premises of the process of managing. No organization can do anything without delegation and assignment of responsibilities to various positions and jobs. So the necessity here arises to know about these to three terms in detail.
Authority is one of the thickest semantic jungles in management literature. The meaning of authority is not simple and clear. Some scholars identify authority with competence, others with right and leadership. Some scholars say that authority is the power to make decisions and some opinion that it is a right and power to influence others. Some say it right to act. So here are some specific definitions of authority given by eminent scholars to understand the meaning of authority in different angles.
According to Koontz and O’Donnell- “Authority is the power to command others to act or to act in a manner deemed by the possessor of the authority to further enterprise or departmental purpose”.
According to Henry Fayol, “Authority is the right to give orders and power to exact obedience”.
According to Herbert G. Hicks “Authority is the right that a manager has to request a sub-ordinate to do something to accomplish organization goals”.
Davis and Filley say “Authority consists principally of the rights to decide and command”.
According to Simon, “Authority may be defined as the power to make decisions which guide the actions of others”.
Thus, by observing above cited definitions one can conclude that authority involves three elements viz., power to use directions and make decisions, the right to compel for its obedience and the power to influence the behaviour or actions of the sub-ordinates. So with the above discussion one can say that without authority, a manager ceases to be a manager. This authority holds the organization together.
Features of Authority:
On the basis of above definitions, the following features of authority can be identified:
1. It is the power to make the decisions and to see that they are carried out in the right time in the right way.
2. It is the relationship between two individuals i.e., superior and sub-ordinate.
3. Authority is exercised to achieve organizational goals.
4. It is a legitimate right and given to position i.e., formal.
5. Authority is key to the managerial job.
6. Authority can be delegated.
7. The exercise of authority is always subjective.
Source of Authority/Theories of Authority:
There are mainly three schools of thought regarding the source of authority.
They are as follows:
1. Formal or Classical Authority Theory:
This is also known as top- down authority. According to this theory, authority originates at the top of an organization and flows downward through the process of delegation. Every manager in the organization has only that much authority which has been delegated to him by his superior. He derives his authority from his formal position in the organization. Authority is concentrated at the top.
It travels down the scalar chain and each person enjoys formal authority is known as formal authority in the scalar chain. Therefore, the authority is known as formal authority. Such authority may be called traditional and legitimate. It always flows downwards from top to bottom of the organization. It creates superior sub-ordinate relations.
2. The Acceptance Theory:
This theory was first formulated by Mary Parker Follett and later popularized by Chester Barnard and Simon. They hold the view that the authority is the relationship that exists between individuals when one accepts the directive of another. In other words, a communication carries authority if it is accepted by the recipients as authoritative. Thus, this expression of the source of authority of the manager is the acceptance by his sub-ordinates.
This expression of the source of authority is based on the behavioral approach of management. It shows that the manager has no real authority until and unless the individual sub-ordinate confers it upon him. A sub-ordinate accepts the authority of his superior because of certain factors obeying out of superiority, responding to the quality of leadership representing the duly constituted authorities, obtaining rewards and incentive from his superior, contribution to the realization of organization objective.
Thus, the acceptance theory permits attention to the legal and social basis for authority. It depends to a large extend on the personal traits of leadership, ability to persuade others to work well to accomplish organization goals. The value of the acceptance theory lies in its recognition of the individual’s decision on whether he will act on a communication he receives.
A manager who has never thought about whether his orders will be followed or not and who has never considered ways of increasing understanding and acceptance of these orders, is not likely to be effective.
3. Competence Authority Theory:
According to this theory, an individual derives authority from his personal competence and charisma. According to Urwick, formal authority is conferred by organization; technical authority is implicit in a special knowledge or skill whereas personal authority is conferred by superiority or popularity. Thus, a person may get his order accepted not because he is having any formal authority, but because of his personal qualities. These qualities include technical competence and social prestige in the organization.
For example, if a person is expert in a particular field of knowledge, other people seek his guidance and follow his advice as if that were an order. Similarly, in other social groups people with charisma have the same authority.
4. Authority of Situation:
This theory also formulated by Follett. It applies to situations of emergency or crisis where action is to be taken immediately. The person who is involved in that emergency situation exercises the authority to handle that situation, though it is not formally delegated to him through the chain of command. For example, if there is fire in the office, the workers present at that situation can use the alarm bell to indicate the emergency situation without having a formal authority to use the bell. Thus, here the worker is using bell without formal authority.
All the above theories have their utility. Formal authority is basic to managerial job. Acceptance authority are the products of leadership. Thus, authority is generated from all sources.
Kinds of Authority:
There are three types authority which are discussed here under:
1. Line Authority:
This authority is exercised by the managers by virtue of their position. It is the right to issue orders, instructions and decisions to be implemented by the people down the hierarchy. Organizational objectives can be achieved through this authority. It flows from top to bottom and creates superior- sub-ordinate relationships (scalar chain).
2. Staff Authority:
This authority is exercised by staff specialists who do not form part of the formal chain of command. With increase in size of the organizations, line managers find it difficult to deal with every situation on their own. Staff specialists, therefore, counsel, assist and advise the line managers on various matters.
3. Functional Authority:
Every departmental head controls the activities of his department and is assisted by various staff specialists in doing so. The staff specialists do not enjoy line authority over people of line departments but they are experts in their area of specialization and exercise authority (over managers of other departments), which is formalized on account of their expertise and competence. This is known as functional authority.
Restrictions to Authority:
The use of authority by a manager over his sub-ordinates is restricted by the following factors:
1. Legal Constraints:
A manager’s authority is restricted by the enterprise goals, objectives, politics, programmes and procedures etc. These all the governed by the articles and memorandum of association which are governed themselves by the commercial and industrial laws of the country. Every manager, at any level in the organization, must respect these laws, traditions and restrictions.
2. Natural or Biological Limitations:
No sub-ordinate can be ordered to do a job which is impossible to be performed due to biological limitations. For example, one can hardly order a person to walk up to side of a building or do such impossible things.
3. Physical Limitations:
Physical limitations such as climate, geography, chemical elements and so on put limits on authority, for example, an order to make gold from copper will be ineffectual.
4. Technological Limitations:
There are technological limits on authority too. Until and unless any performance is technically possible, an order to do any such work would be finite.
5. Authority Delegation Limitations:
They extend of delegation of authority also restricts the authority of a manager. Generally, the authority to make decisions or the right to command decreases as it proceeds from the highest to lowest level of any organization.
6. Social Constraints:
Social factors impose restrictions on the exercise of authority by a manager. For instance, the task assigned to employees must conform to the group’s fundamental social beliefs, norms, codes and customs.
7. Organizational Limitations:
A manager’s authority is restricted by the objectives, policies, rules of the organization as laid down in memorandum of association, trickles of association, partnership agreement, policy manual etc.
8. Economic Constraints:
Market forces and other economic conditions restrict managerial authority. A sales manager cannot ask his sales persons to sell products at a higher price in a highly competitive market.
9. Limited Span:
A manager’s authority is limited because there is a limit on the number of sub-ordinates which he can effectively supervise. A manager cannot take decision about unlimited number of sub-ordinates.
Factors Affecting the Limits of the Authority:
Factors affecting limits of authority of a manager can be seen in the following are:
1. Government rules and regulations
2. Collective bargaining and agreements
3. Dealer, supplier and customer agreements
4. Social beliefs, goals habits and customs
1. Corporate laws and organization chart
3. Policies, rules and regulations
4. Position description
It is an obligation of a sub-ordinate to perform assigned duties. It is always bonded between superior and sub-ordinate. When superior assigns any duty or work to sub-ordinate by his authority it becomes a responsibility on the part of sub-ordinate to perform that duty.
According to Webster- “Responsibility is that for which one is responsible on accountable”.
According to Knootz and O’Donnell- “Responsibility may be defined as the obligation of sub-ordinate to perform assigned and implied duties”.
According to Hicks- “Responsibility is the obligation to do something”.
According to R.C. Davis, – “Responsibility is the obligation of an individual to perform assigned duties to the best of his ability under the direction of his executive leader”.
Thus, responsibility has these elements i.e., it is applied to a subordinate, it essence is obligation to perform work and it arises out of superior and sub-ordinate relationship.
1. It can be assigned to human beings only not to non-living things such as machines.
2. It arises out of superior and sub-ordinate relationships.
3. It may be a continuing obligation on confined to the performance of a single person.
4. It may be defined in terms of functions or targets or goals.
5. Essence of responsibility is to perform duty assigned to him.
6. It is a derivative of authority.
7. It is an absolute and cannot be delegated.
8. It flows upward (i.e., sub-ordinate is responsible to his superior).
9. Accountability arises out of responsibility and the two go together.
Forms of Responsibility:
This responsibility can be of two types:
(i) Operating Responsibility and
(ii) Ultimate Responsibility.
(i) Operating Responsibility – It is the obligation of an employee to carry out the assigned tasks.
(ii) Ultimate Responsibility – It is the final obligation of the manager who ensures that the task is done efficiently by the employees.
It means to be responsible for explanation to any superior. When a subordinate works under a boss and he is assigned some duties to be performed, he will be accountable for doing or not doing that work. Thus, accountability is a derivative of responsibility. So accountability is the personal answerability for results.
1. It is in fact the legal responsibility.
2. It can neither be shared nor delegated.
3. It always to be assigned duties only.
4. It always from downward to upward.
5. It is different from responsibility.
6. It is unitary in nature i.e., a sub-ordinate under the principle of unity of command is accountable only to one officer who has delegated authority to him. It avoids confusion and conflicts.
Authority, Responsibility and Accountability in Management:
‘Authority’ means ‘Legal or rightful power, a right to command or to act’. Applied to the managerial jobs, the power of the superior to command the subordinate to act or not to act in a particular manner, is called the ‘authority’. In other words, authority is “a superior’s capacity on the basis of his formal position, to make decisions affecting the behavior of subordinates”. Decision making power for the guidance, conduct or behavior of the subordinates is also considered ‘authority’.
Authority vested in a managerial position is the power to use discretion, the power to create and maintain an environment for the performance of individuals working together in groups. It is immaterial whether the authority is exercised through persuasion, coercion or economic and social sanctions or other means. Without such a power to enforce an order, the enterprise may become disorganized and chaos may prevail.
The basic type of authority is line, staff, functional and committee. Line authority channelizes and directs the responses of others. Staff authority is limited to auxiliary and facilitating activities. It does not enjoy right to command. Both staff and functional authorities are subordinate to line authority. Functional authority is limited to a particular specialized area.
Committees are appointed for special purposes and usually on an adhoc basis. They may enjoy any of the line, staff or functional authority. The authority which a committee is likely to exercise largely depends on the authority of the various individuals comprising it, e.g., budget committee, workers committee, etc.
Authority, therefore, is the rightful legal power to request a subordinate to do a certain thing or to refrain from doing so and if he does not follow these instructions the manager is in a position to take disciplinary action and if need be to discharge the subordinates. Authority flows from the superior to the subordinate and gives birth to responsibility.
Responsibility may be defined as the obligation of a subordinate, to whom a duty has been assigned, to perform the duty to the best of his ability. Responsibility should not be considered merely as a desire to co-operate or to advance group objectives. It can be expressed by a list of specific duties which must be fulfilled to accomplish the function. It is what one is expected to do in order to carry out his prescribed job. Responsibility may be continuing or it may terminate with the accomplishment of a single action.
The essence of responsibility is obligation. It arises from the superior-subordinate relationship, i.e., from the fact that someone has the authority to require specified services from another person. Unlike authority, responsibility, though a personal attribute, is absolute and can never be delegated. Responsibility, being an obligation to perform, is owed to one’s superior and no subordinate can reduce his responsibility by delegating to another the authority to perform the duty.
Accountability is the obligation to carry out responsibility and exercise authority in terms of performance standards established. Accountability is most meaningful if standards for performances are predetermined and if they are fully understood and accepted by the subordinates.
Accountability, however, applies to both, the obligation to perform work and to exercise authority. A person can be held accountable only to the extent he has delegated responsibility and authority. Accountability grows out of responsibility and goes hand in hand with it.
1. Accountability cannot be Delegated:
Accountability is incurred as a result of delegation of responsibility and authority. But accountability in itself cannot be delegated. The person making the delegation always remains accountable to his superiors for whatever work he has delegated. Since accountability of higher authority for the acts of subordinates is absolute, most companies agree to this principle, although in practice it is sometimes violated.
2. Accountability is Always Upward:
A person is always accountable to the person who has delegated responsibility and authority to him. Accountability always flows upward. On the other hand, the flow of authority is downwards because it is delegated to the subordinates.
3. Accountability is Unitary:
Each person can be accountable only to one superior for the delegated responsibility and authority. If an individual reports to two principles on the same responsibility, confusion and friction will inevitably result. When this occurs, the subordinate is never certain who will call him to account for a specific activity and since the personalities and demands of different individuals differ widely, he can never hope to satisfy two different people with the same handling of the problem.
Authority, Responsibility and Accountability in Management:
Authority is the key to managerial functions. Authority is a legal power which is possessed by a person from his superior officers and with the help of which he succeeds in getting the things done by his subordinates. If the managers do not possess required authority, they will not be able to perform their duties properly. A manager is in a position to influence his subordinates only by the use of his authority.
It is the authority which enables him to discharge the important functions of planning, coordination, motivation and controlling, etc., in an enterprise. If proper authority is not vested in him, he cannot perform these functions in the required manner and he cannot be held responsible for all these functions in the absence of proper authorities. It is only the authority by virtue of which he dominates his subordinates and gets work done by them.
i. “Authority is the right to give order and the power to exact obedience”. -Henry Fayol
ii. “Authority is the power to command, to act or not to act in a manner deemed by the possessor of the authority to further enterprise or departmental performance”. – Koontz and O’Donnell
While concluding the meaning of authority it can be said that authority in ordinary sense of the term is nothing more than a legal right. It empowers an individual to take decisions. He is given a right to command and to exercise control over those who are responsible for the execution of policies and programmes of the enterprise. For decisions taken the authorized person is held responsible and is made answerable to his superiors and the organization as a whole.
Factors for Successful Use of Authority:
For the successful use of authority following factors may be taken into consideration:
1. Favourable Atmosphere:
For the implementation of authority, favourable atmosphere must be created in the enterprise so that sweet human relations may be established in the enterprise.
2. Interest in the Work:
A very important condition of the successful use of authority is that the employees must have an interest in the work for which they are responsible. If they are not interested in their work, it may be very difficult for the higher officers to implement their authority.
3. Justified Behaviour:
The second important use for successful implementation of authority is the justified behaviour of the officers towards their subordinates. They must feel and treat all the employees on an equal ground. If they do not do so, the employees may not contribute their efforts towards the attainment of objectives of enterprise.
4. Mutual Cooperation and Faith:
There must be mutual cooperation and mutual trust between officers and employees of the enterprise for the successful use of authority.
5. Respect to Superiors:
There must be an atmosphere in the enterprise in which the employees pay their best regards to their bosses. If they do not have a feeling of regard for them, they may not obey their orders.
Sources of Authority:
There are three different schools of thought about the sources of authority which are discussed below:
1. Acceptance Theory:
This theory states that authority is the power that is accepted by others. Formal authority is reduced to nominal authority if it is not accepted by the subordinates. The subordinates accept the authority if the advantages to be derived by its acceptance exceed the disadvantages resulting from its refusal.
The subordinates give obedience to the managers because they visualize the following advantages:
(a) Receipt of financial incentives.
(b) Contribution in attaining the objectives of the enterprise.
(c) Fulfilment of responsibilities.
(d) Appreciation from colleagues.
(e) Setting of an example for others.
(f) Responsibility to leadership of superior.
(g) Moral obligation because of regard for old age, experience, competence, etc.
According to acceptance theory, authority flows from bottom to top. A manager has authority if he gets obedience from the subordinates. Subordinates obey the manager because of the fear of losing financial rewards. This theory emphasizes sanctions that a manager can use and overlooks the influence of social institutions like trade unions.
2. Competence Theory:
The supporters of this view assert that an individual derives authority because of his personal qualities and technical competence. Many persons derive informal authority because of their competence. For instance, a person possesses expert knowledge in a particular subject. People will go to him for guidance in that matter even though he has got no formal authority.
3. Formal Authority Theory:
According to this theory, all authority originates in the formal structure of an organization. The ultimate authority in a joint stock company lies with the shareholders. Shareholders entrust the management of the company to the board of directors and delegate to it most of their authority. The board of directors delegates authority to the chief executive and chief executive in turn to the departmental managers, and so on.
Every manager or executive possesses authority because of his organizational position and this authority is known as formal authority. Authority conferred by law is also regarded as formal authority. Subordinates accept the formal authority of a manager because of his position in the organization.
The subordinates are aware of the fact that if they disregard the formal authority they will be punished according to the rules and regulations of the company. The formal authority theory further states that the superiors have the right to delegate their authority. Thus, formal authority always flows from top to bottom.
Meaning and Sources of Power:
Power may be defined as “the ability to exert influence. If a person has power it means that he is able to change the attitude of other individuals”.
Power is a method of operating in order to influence the behaviour of others. It is the power politics within the organization that gives rise to power centres in the organization. The power- centres need not necessarily be located at the position of higher authority. Nobody wants to lose power because power can be used in desirable or undesirable ways.
In any organization for sound organizational stability, power and right to do things must be equated, when power and authority for a given person or position are roughly equated, we may call the situations as “Legitimate Power”.
Sources of Powers:
If we study the origin and sources of power, we cannot forget the name of John French and Berhram Raven. They have written that there are five sources of power which are found at all levels of the organization.
They are as follows:
(i) Corrective Power:
It is based on the influencer’s ability to punish the influence for not carrying out orders or for not meeting requirements.
(ii) Expert Power:
This power is based on belief that the influencer has some relevant expertise or special knowledge that the influence does not have. For example, a doctor has expert power on his patients.
(iii) Legitimate Power:
The power corresponds to the term authority. It exists when an influencer acknowledge that the influencer is lawfully entitled to exert influence. In this the influence has an obligation to accept this power.
(iv) Referent Power:
It is based on the influencer’s, desire to identify with or imitate the influence. For example, a manager will have referent power over the subordinates if they are motivated to emulate his work habits.
(v) Reward Power:
This power is based on the influencer having the ability to reward the influence for carrying out orders.
In having the study of power the role of the influence in accepting or rejecting the attempted influence is very important. It must be noted that each of the five power bases is potentially inherent in a manager’s position and his activities.
Relationship of Authority and Responsibility:
In every business unit, internal organization is necessary for its efficient and smooth running. Under internal organization, duties are determined and distributed among the employees. All activities are combined and coordinated. The lines of authority are to be determined, a well-recognized principle, to be followed for any organization and management.
In the internal organization of any concern, there must be a proper assignment of duties among the various personnel. This means that some people assign and some others have to perform those duties. The former people have an authority. The latter are subordinates to the former. The relationship of authority and subordination among the various personnel and groups should be properly determined.
The position of each individual is to be fixed, i.e., whether he is to be in the position of authority or in the subordinate position. This work is very important. In this connection, the following principle is to be followed. The greater the responsibility attached to a post, the higher will be the position of the person holding the post, in the hierarchy. Thus, it is stated that authority should go with responsibility.
When the duties are assigned, there will be two types of employees. Some have authority and others take up responsibility. The former occupy a superior position, while the latter are placed in a subordinate position. Authority refers to the right to make decision and to command subordinate to follow these decisions.
It is the supreme coordinating power and is very important for the managerial job. Responsibility refers to the obligation of a subordinate. Every subordinate has to perform the duty assigned to him. The essence of authority is obligation. It arises from the superior-subordinate relationship.
It has a meaning, only when it is applied to a person. Authority seems to flow from the superiors to the subordinates. Every manager can see that his orders are executed by persuasion, coercion or economic social sanctions. Persuasion is the best means. Otherwise, the task may not be successfully accomplished, responsibility cannot be delegated. But authority can be delegated.
When these expressions ‘Authority’ and ‘Subordination’ are used, they should not create a sense of superiority or inferiority in the minds of the employees. Authority cannot be concentrated in the hands of one or a few individuals. It appears to flow from top to bottom. But it is not really so. There must be de-personalization of orders. This will help in developing good industrial relations among all the employees.
In management literature, responsibility is one of the most misunderstood words, usually, responsibility is referred to as ‘Delegation of Responsibility’ holding a person responsible or carrying out a responsibility. People use the word responsibility in different senses as referring to a duty, an activity or an authority. Actually responsibility can be defined as the ‘obligation’ of a subordinate to perform a duty which has been assigned to him.
Thus, obligation is the essence of responsibility. Normally the superior subordinate relationship gives rise to this responsibility as the superior is vested with the authority to require specified services from his subordinates. In case of business, this authority is generally a result of the contractual arrangement under which the subordinate has agreed to perform certain services in return for a monetary reward.
In this sense, authority flows from the superior to the subordinate manager to whom certain duties are assigned and responsibility is the obligation of the subordinate to accomplish these duties. Responsibility can be discharged by a single action or it may be a continuous obligation.
Authority and Accountability:
The term ‘Accountability’ is used by a few writers in the field of management to indicate the managers’ liability for the proper discharge of the duties by his subordinates. In the military, the concept of accountability is used to indicate the duty and an officer to maintain accurate records and to safeguard public property and funds.
Thus, the three words confusingly used in varying sense in management literature are authority, responsibility and accountability. A less confusing use would be to use the word ‘authority’ as referring to the power to get something done, the word ‘responsibility’ as the liability of the individual for failing to discharge his responsibility. One is thus accountable for failures to his boss. Accountable is similar to tendering of accounts in its case, which refers to discharging of the responsibility. To carry out responsibility, a manager requires adequate authority or power.