What Is Delegation?

Delegation, as a verb, is the act of giving someone else the responsibility, even the power, to do something, whether it is a work task or a non-work task. This is usually applied to situations in which a person in a position of authority, such as a business owner or manager, delegates tasks to someone on the payroll.

As used in this sense, delegation can be an everyday occurrence within a business or organization, something that is done as a matter of course without much planning or forethought. This might occur, for instance, when the individual in a position of authority has the personality that allows him or her to give tasks to others and trusts them to complete the job satisfactorily.

Delegation could also be a business plan or a more formal policy, with written instructions or guidelines. This document or policy manual on delegation might instruct managers or supervisors to delegate tasks to others and it might even contain specific steps to follow in turning these jobs over to others who report directly to that supervisor or manager.

When used as a noun, a delegation is a group of individuals who have been given the responsibility and sometimes the authority to act on behalf of someone else. This term is sometimes applied to all the members of Congress who represent one state, the Illinois delegation, for instance.

The federal government may also be represented by a delegation composed of members of Congress who travel to another location to meet with leaders from another nation. This delegation might also travel to a foreign country to better understand the effects of the U.S. policy there or to determine what the U.S. interests are.

In business circles, a number of seminars, conferences and study materials have focused on how to delegate responsibility and authority. This distribution of tasks may be needed to relieve the stress of decision-making for an owner or manager. For some, delegation is not easy. These do-it-yourself individuals may feel that getting the job done on their own is the only way to get it completed correctly.

Delegation can be a very important skill in business, government and even in family situations. But there are reasons that people don’t delegate even the most mundane tasks. For example, it takes some real effort to turn a job over to someone else, primarily because in doing so the manager/supervisor must make sure the other individual fully understands what is expected.

If the person in a position of authority knows the material very well and could do the task properly given time, it may seem the easiest way to go. Turning the job over to someone else would require time spent explaining details and giving the other person an idea of what the result should be.

For some business consultants, the idea of delegating makes sense in a long-term project because the skills of the manager/supervisor would be better spent overseeing the direction the plan is taking and developing strategy to reach that goal. Delegation in this situation also develops stronger staff skills, making future projects easier to complete. If the task gives another person in the organization a chance to grow and develop, delegation might be worth much more than any other benefit.

Written by Lucas Beaumont

Generalist. Wikipedia contributor. Elementary school teacher from Saskatchewan, Canada.

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