The Factors of Delegation Success: Accountability, Compliance and Work Quality

Delegation is an enabler in organisations, yet managers still struggle with how to use it effectively to get maximum value. There are many definitions of delegation and what it tries to achieve; at the heart of it, delegation is about giving power and authority to work on assigned tasks. It deals with how power should be handed over for delegated tasks to be completed successfully. Since there are no guarantees that delegated tasks will be delivered as expected and on time, there is a need to understand the success factors of delegation. The research is about the success factors of delegation by looking at accountability, quality and compliance. The research goes further and looks at the foundational elements of delegation to make it work which include competencies, skills, attitude an aptitude. It analyses the impact of leadership in delegation by assessing the leadership style(s) that support delegation. Alignment is key in delegation and the research looks at the relationship between the delegators and delegatees and how the relationship impacts delegation success. The interests of delegatees is unpacked by looking at motivation, recognition, rewards, empowerment, growth and development. The process looks at how managers monitor delegated tasks and feedback mechanisms to get comfort that delegated tasks will be done as per the original requirements. Furthermore, the research looks at how organisational hierarchy and job design can impact delegation success. The impact of culture is also looked at and how the broader organisational culture impacts delegation.
JEL Classification O30, L26

This paper has previously been included in an open access repository, as a pre-print.

Full Article

1. Introduction

Delegation is not about giving orders and expects everyone to get along but a two-way process that needs careful thought to succeed. Because it depends on people, care needs to be taken to understand their views to get buy-in. If managed well, it can improve efficiency and productivity in the workplace, increased staff retention, better relationships and trust amongst employees. On the contrary, if managed badly, it can lead to low staff morale, poor performance and non-delivery (Cooper, 2013).

Entrepreneurship is an extreme example of delegation because of its demands and potential. SME's portrays an entrepreneur-owner relationship where the owner is tied in day-to-day operations with little time to spend on leadership and providing direction of the enterprise. The entrepreneur spends time in anything else other than leadership and development sub-optimally applying himself in the strategic direction of the enterprise. Entrepreneurs can do so much if they can successfully delegate some of the responsibilities that do not necessarily require their attention. The entrepreneur can start thinking of rising to higher levels of entrepreneurship like working on more complex and bigger ventures. Because entrepreneurial venturing and product development requires sophisticated, and knowledge-rich thinking, it would command a refined and advanced delegation skill.

The purpose of the study is to examine delegation success because little research has been done on delegation in South Africa. Delegation is a key performance factor of knowledge workers and relevant in organisational performance.

1.1. Research Problem

The research tries to address the following questions: what determines delegation success? Considering this, it addresses the following sub-questions:

  • How accountability is ensured?
  • How quality of work and output are ensured?
  • How compliance is ensured?

The research contributes to literature on delegation, performance and knowledge work. Factors that will be covered in delegation include leadership, competency, job satisfaction, relationship and trust, information and knowledge, management and culture.

The research focuses on executive-level delegation of predominantly knowledge workers, senior managers and executives in corporate South African companies that are responsible for and engage in operational and strategic initiatives of their organisations. The study is not necessarily confined to a specific industry. The study assumes that senior managers would have developed sound insight into delegation and its requirements, and that a qualitative approach will be enough to surface this.

2. Literature Review

Delegation is defined as an intentional transfer of tasks from one person to another. It states that delegation is an appropriate way of decreasing workload from the manager to the subordinate. Research has proved that employees are capable of handling tasks delegated to them (Riisgaard, Nexøe, Le, Søndergaard and Ledderer, 2016). Stonehouse (2015) further defines delegation as getting work done through others by giving them authority and control of the work. This is founded on authority and responsibility and the relationship between the person delegating the work and the one doing it. By giving responsibility, the person doing the work has the duty to do it based on trust, relationship and competency.

Delegation allows involving subordinates in decision making and transfer of power from manager to subordinates. It enables subordinates to influence and steer the direction and course of action. Giving power to subordinates is beneficial to the organisation and a form of effective management, because it enhances the quality and speed of delivery. Delegating provides learning experiences and increases responsiveness and knowledge sharing (Liberman and Boehe, 2011).

2.1. Leadership

2.1.1. Leadership and Delegation

Kvancz (2006) states that managers need to have intrinsic leadership qualities to delegate effectively. He emphasized respect and appreciation for others as the intrinsic factors for a successful leader. A leader would be remembered for how he treated those around him compared to the fancy projects he delivered. For a leader to command respect, he should always strive for fairness, consistency, soliciting feedback, performance and goal setting.

Persistence, excellence, learnt strategies and having a clear vision sums up the leadership intrinsic qualities for successful leadership and delegation (Kvancz, 2006). Research has shown that leadership styles differ based on the type of leader (Wang and Poutziouris, 2010). Greiner (1972) identified five key areas that are important in the life of a leader, 1) creativity, 2) direction, 3) delegation, 4) coordination and 5) collaboration. Power distribution and delegation of authority also play a major role in the success of a leader (Wang and Poutziouris, 2010).

Wang and Poutziouris (2010) argued that leaders who cling to power and do not let go, end up doing most of the work, run organisations in an autocratic way and have a low degree of delegation. Leaders who are people oriented, open and consider all stakeholders have a high degree of delegation.

2.1.2. Authority and Power

The transfer of power from manager to subordinate is at the core of delegation (Somek, 2015). Somek (2015) argued that delegation is not a binding relationship, but a relationship built on trust. If there is no trust, authoritarian rule takes over. Lack of trust means giving little information, which creates a chain of delegation because the manager is not transparent with his subordinates. This can create disobedience because any person in the position of power wants things to be done their way and at most will communicate that obeying them is in the best interest of the subordinates (Somek, 2015).

Delegating through obedience is not effective but an authoritarian way which can backfire (Somek, 2015). Delegation should be a private agreement between the delegator and delegatee where both parties share the success of the outcome.

2.2. Competency

Kvancz (2006) described competency as having the requisite ability to perform a task successfully. He states that delegation happens when there is a mutual benefit between the manager and the subordinate with competent expertise to perform the task. It focuses on integration of knowledge, skills, ability, behaviours and attitudes to perform tasks (Kaslow, Finklea and Chan, 2018). Competency has a greater influence on delegation because managers delegate to subordinates whom they feel there is a greater chance of them completing the task (Jha, 2004).

For companies to develop highly competent employees, they need to formulate human resource strategies to identify, train, deploy and retain talent (Kim and McLean, 2015). The strategies should include ability, core traits and personality. Kaslow at al. (2018) states that there is a strong link between competency and performance which should be supported with training and motivation. To stay competent, there must be a continuous learning process to deal with the changing environment.

2.3. Delegation and Job Satisfaction

2.3.1. Job Satisfaction

Research has proved that there is a relationship between delegation and job satisfaction (Jha, 2004). Job satisfaction depends on the characteristics of the job including variety, task identity, autonomy, flexibility, feedback, dealing with others and friendship. Effective delegation is about the amount of delegation, the process of delegation and facilitating factors (Jha, 2004).

Delegation empowers subordinates more than simply participating (Jha, 2004). Satisfaction depends on the competency of the subordinate, the willingness of the manager to share information as well as the relationship between the manager and subordinate (Yukl and Fu, 1999). Research done by Tietjen and Myers (1998) concluded that satisfaction is dependent on the variety of factors which includes autonomy, challenge and interest which enables subordinates to experience their own personal success. On the other hand, Glisson and Durick (1988) found that role mismatch and conflict might affect job satisfaction negatively.

2.3.2. Principal and Agent Problem

Delegation involves at least two members, one referred to as the principal (delegator) and agent (delegatee) working towards the same goal. The principal focuses on providing knowledge and collaboration with co-workers while the agent focuses on performing the tasks. To effectively deliver, agents require access to key information as well as skills and resources. On the other hand, providing the agent with access to more information, enables him to perform at different levels and acquire more knowledge, which might increase their chances of leaving the company or join another department (De Paola and Scoppa, 2007).

De Paola and Scopa (2007) acknowledged the trade-offs faced by organisations where the agent improves their knowledge through the learning process and use it as a bargaining tool. Besides, agents who have learnt a lot turn to leave to other organisation where they can practice their newly acquired skills which is a cost to the current firm. De Paola and Scoppa (2007) argued that the higher the level of delegation, the higher the agent demands a higher salary. This might require the principal to reduce decision-making powers of the agent which might not be optimal.

Nazli (2005) argued that delegation involves costs and benefits because in some cases the principal and the agent might have conflicting views and interests. Principals delegate work to their subordinates because they do not have the time to do the work. Delegating the work does not necessarily guarantee that it will be done hence the principal agency problem. If there are conflicts between the principal and the agent, the cost is higher because the focus shifts from the work to solving conflicts.

2.3.3. Delegation and Incentives

Research has found that there is a relationship between delegation and pay for managers further split based on simple and complex jobs where the relationship has been found to be positive and negative respectively (De Varo and Prasad, 2015).

The evidence for negative correlation between complex jobs and incentives is based on the autonomy of managers to decide based on what has been delegated to them and avoid complex projects because they are linked to their incentives (De Varo and Prasaad, 2015). This trade off creates a challenge for because all projects need to be completed. It explains how delegation of authority can be used to induce effort from managers to acquire more information about projects and ask to be incentivised based on the complexity of the projects. These scenarios are likely to make delegation fail because managers tasked with complex projects might ask to be excused if they are not incentivised properly, leading to projects taking long because of lack of project managers.

2.3.4. Performance Management

Historically, performance management has always been synonymous with micro-managing employees, a function that was driven mainly by the human resource department. The concept of performance management has evolved and includes pockets of strategy formulation and performance measuring instruments using analytical tools (Smith and Goddard, 2002). Performance management has been closely linked to financial benefits and still is, but the focus has been broadened and include support for individuals to perform optimally.

For delegation to be successful, it should be supported with a sound performance management framework. Care should be taken when deciding on a performance management system because it can either support or destroy it (Haines III and St-Onge, 2012). Focus should be on training, coaching, planning, assessments and reviews which puts the emphasis on people rather than the systems used. The management framework should be supported with soliciting feedback to improve performance and must be done from multiple sources, both internal and external with a developmental purpose than punitive (Haines III and St-Onge, 2012).

Haines III and St-Onge (2012) further state that employee recognition which is deep rooted in motivational research work has been considered as one of the key factors for improving performance and can be used to reinforce the effectiveness of a performance management framework. The pair concluded that, the effectiveness of a performance management system depends on having the right context that is understood by the organisation, design, culture and best practices.

2.4. Relationship and Trust

Manager and subordinate relationship is key in organisations because it plays a critical role in exchange of information between the delegator and delegatee. If done effectively and efficiently, it improves the quality of tasks that are delegated to subordinates (Lee, 1998). Trust which is honouring commitments and speaking the truth as defined by Bartlett (2000) has proved to have a positive impact on the delegation process. Bartlett (2000) argued that, due to trust being reciprocal, managers need to play a proactive role because of power difference.

Self-discourse defined as making self-known to others increases productivity of leaders and managers who communicate their intentions openly (Bartlett, 2000). It increases subordinate credibility because of the trust that has been built where both the delegator and delegatee feel free to discuss personal matters like family, sports and hobbies.

Managers need to invest time with their subordinates which increases the quality of their relationships and trust (Schyns, Maslyn and Weibler, 2010). Communication rules and strategies should be agreed upfront to keep the relationship intact. Research has shown that mutual trust and support from subordinates creates an environment for openness which leads to higher quality of output (Lee, 1998).

Forging relationships is one of the qualities of a leader and focuses on how frequently a leader is in touch with the people as well as the breadth and depth of conversations, discussions and meetings. Leaders and managers should create the right balance and the type of relationships to discuss both work and personal matters. Failure to get the right balance has a potential to create two extremes where manager/employee relationships can be hostile and aloof or be a buddy friend relationship which can impact the quality of delivery (Evenden and Anderson, 1992). Managers are human beings and need to create environments where there is trust, show interest in others and provide them with the necessary support.

Trust is earned when leaders shows interest in the development of others and motivates them to succeed. Delegation succeeds when subordinates are given meaningful work, responsibility, autonomy and challenge (Evenden and Anderson, 1992).

2.5. Culture

Culture has been at the centre of human behaviour and academics continue to research the topic because it is a fact of life, the same way as other disciplines such as economics (Rao and Walton, 2004). What is culture? There are many definitions and Rao and Walton (2004) defined it as the relationships amongst individuals, groups or organisations. It also includes identity, language, symbols, rituals, heritage and social beliefs. Rao and Walton (2004) further states that culture is not necessarily embedded but contested based on the beliefs of society and organisations. Oyserman (2012) argued that all human actions or activities happen within the context of culture which provide solutions to sustain groups of people which can be a company, organisation, region or country.

Organisations and management have designed ways to justify their existence to achieve certain objectives, e.g. efficiency, norms and common understanding (Chan and Clegg, 2002). Chan and Clegg (2002) argued that there is a system that suppresses other views and creates a distorted culture of organisations. To them culture is time material than idealism because managers focus on their interests, goals and values which are not commonly shared. Chan and Clegg (2002) further cautioned the interrelationships of language, gender, ethnic, religion because they can have certain dominance in the workplace and society.

Based on the culture of a nation, country or organisation, managers might be reluctant to delegate because they are strong believers of centralisation, risk averse, happy with the status quo and don’t want challenges. Research shows that some Arab managers fall in this category because they are interested in their own roles and only delegate to their friends (Sabri, 2008). Sabri (2008) further maintains that companies cannot separate managers and executives from their own cultures but understand how they delegate because their decision making, and behaviour is influenced by their culture.

Levi and Zehavi (2017) argued that effective delegation can be attributed to the administrative culture defined as the normal and acceptable practices within an organisation. Competitive organisations have higher levels of delegation driven by beliefs, mind-sets and preferences. Reciprocally, organisations are influenced by the culture of their employees. Because of the interlinks between culture and delegation, high performing organisations place a huge focus on cultural beliefs and effective delegation (Levi and Zehavi, 2017).

Evenden and Anderson (1992) defined three dimensions of a leader, technical – people, problem solving and relationship style. The technical – people dimension focuses on the cultural demand and tries to find a balance between the values of an organisation and the people. According to Hofstede cultural dimensions, organisations and individuals that have a high-power distance and uncertainty avoidance have a low degree of delegation (Levi and Zehavi (2017).

Mental beliefs, values, norms, attitudes, communication, mental processes and learning are central to the DNA of organisations (Cascio, 2016). The success of organisations has a dependency on the type of leaders and how they improve their leadership styles from dictating to consulting (Evenden and Anderson, 1992).

2.6. Dynamic Delegation

Before any work or project can be done, managers need to identify the people with the right skills and are competent in the job. This might be done using job design processes followed by observations, interviews and questionnaires to bring in the right talent (Cascio, 2013). Because dynamic delegation involves changing priorities, needs, requirements, roles, and resources, it needs all team members to be aware of the dynamics that are at play (Evenden and Anderson, 1992). Once the participants understand the nature of the situation, dynamic delegation has a potential to succeed. This can be done through awareness where team members are aware of themselves including the skills within the team (Evenden and Anderson (1992).

Dynamic delegation frees the managers from the responsibility of having to worry about dealing with individuals when there are changes but allow the group to handle the changes as a team. To succeed, it requires the self-confidence of both the delegator and delegatee where the delegator believes that the approach will work and the delegatee will achieve the intended outcome by influencing each other positively (Evenden and Anderson, 1992).

Delivery is done through teams with managers playing the role of team leaders. Attaining results, delivery and performance are the reasons why teams exist, and should form part of team values that are celebrated by everyone. The success of teams depends on having clear goals, the work and why it must be done. This should be done through assessments, having room for flexibility, communication, continuous improvements, high standards, leadership and maximising the use of available resources (Evenden and Anderson, 1992).

As much as delivery is done through teams, teams are made of individuals with different skills sets that need to be natured. For team members to succeed, they need to be motivated. Managers need to use modelling techniques, e.g. behaviour modelling and set goals that are meaningful and achievable as part of self-development and create room for growth. This should be supported by an effective performance management system where constructive criticism is provided with the sole purpose of grooming talent.

Change is good but too much change can be bad. Managers dealing with dynamic delegation need to strike the right balance on the number of changes, frequency and how to communicate the changes. Mahathi, Rupayan and Ramani (2016) state that dynamic delegation tends to work when there is an incentive to both the delegator and delegatee which should be communicated upfront to manage expectations. If not handled properly, dynamic delegation can be a disaster and frustrating to the delegatee because of the changing needs. In situations where there is a need for dynamic delegation, emphasis should be on the success of the task than individual self-interests.

2.7. Information and Knowledge

Organisations need to understand the importance of information literacy in the workplace. Knowledge workers are at the centre of business strategy because of their critical thinking abilities and effective communication (Klusek and Bornstein, 2006). Due to changes in the work environment from routine and repetitive tasks to dynamic activities, it requires advanced communication. Work complexity equally increases communication complexity, sophistication, and processes. In turn, information availability affects decision making and thus work quality. Both delegator and delegatee directly affect information quality while communication and direction shapes delegation and thus quality and outcomes (Anthony and Vidal, 2010).

Moss and Warnaby (1998) stressed the importance of communication in delegation to make sure the message is received and understood as well as making sure that tasks and activities are done expeditiously. Fluid and dynamic work conditions may result in heavy information loads. Stacking is a cognitive skill that improves information handling but can adversely impact quality. Stacking can be prevalent in delegation and must be managed accordingly (Anthony and Vidal, 2010).

Mindful communication focuses on flexibility of the communicator and staying true and genuine to self. It is driven by awareness of the environment, reflections and being attentive (Omilion-Hodges and Swords, 2016). Anthony and Vidal (2010) state that mindfulness is a state in which there is keen awareness of the situation; it is being “in the moment,” and a way of directing attention on everyday tasks in the present moment and promotes delegation. When professionals engage in mindful communication, information processing is redirected, resulting in a unique set of decisions and actions. Mindfulness impacts delegation through information quality. Relationship and trust affect communication and delegation. Knowledge and experience embedded in the organisation impact delegation performance (Klein, Ziegert and Knight, 2006).

2.8. Management Theories on Delegation

Models, frameworks and management theories of effective delegation have been developed and researched over the years including game theory which puts an emphasis on the manager (principal) and subordinate (agent) to make their own decisions (Bendor, Hammond and Glazer, 2011). In the first scenario, the game theory assumes that the agent’s effort is valuable to the principal and the agent is informed, acquires information and automatous. In this is scenario, it is a win/win for both without any conflicts.

The second scenario can result in different outcomes such as where the agent is not interested in the work and can stall it. There can also be scenarios where the agent does not want to be controlled and the principal is risk averse and wants full control. Other scenarios are where the principal and the agent are interested in the outcome and both give it their best to get to the desirable result.

The model builds different scenarios based on the variation of parameters which include increased conflict where both the principal and agent struggle to agree, increased policy uncertainty and increased aversion of risk where the principal starts to delegate less (Bendor, Hammond and Glazer, 2011). These scenarios are not exhaustive and only tries to emulate possible outcomes depending on the character of both the principal and the agent and their combinations.

2.9. Summary of Literature Review

Delegation is a complex process that can be underestimated because it looks like a simple process of handing over tasks to others (Webb, 2002). Several factors determine the success of delegation, and whether organisational performance can be attained through it. Although literature highlights many factors that can impact delegation success, the view is that more research on delegation success is still possible particularly in the South African context of high knowledge workers using a qualitative research method. Some of the factors the research will cover include leadership, competency, job satisfaction, relationship and trust, culture and communication. The literature review concludes with the following research question: what determines delegation success by looking at the themes below:

  • How is accountability ensured?
  • How is the quality of work and output ensured?
  • How is compliance ensured?

3. Research Methodology

A research outcome is guided by the chosen methodology which can be quantitative using numerical data or qualitative using descriptive data. Research has advanced where both methods referred as mixed method can be used (De Villiers and Fouché, 2015). To determine which methodology will yield the best results, researchers need to understand the paradigm of the research.

3.1. Research Paradigm

Paradigm, a term derived from the evolution in science, is defined as the cluster of beliefs and dictates scientists in a discipline of influence on what should be studied, the research area and topic and how to interpret the results (Bryman, 2016). Quantitative method uses an approach based on science, systematic and positivism, while the qualitative method uses an approach based on ethnographic, ecological and naturalistic approach (Kumar, 2014). Kumar (2014) strongly advise that the research methodology should be directed by the purpose of the research rather than choosing what suits the researcher. He further warns against the pitfalls of not making a distinction between qualitative and qualitative research data. This research study is interested in the views of professionals about delegation, and a qualitative research methodology has been used. Qualitative research methodology focuses on empirical evidence, is very open, flexible and follows an unstructured approach. Qualitative research study aims to explore diversification of findings rather than quantification and uses descriptors, perceptions, experience and communicates them without generalisation (Kumar, 2014). It uses interviews, observations, field work, documents and case studies to collect data (Patton, 2015).

3.2. Research Design

Bryman (2016) defines research design as the framework for collecting and analysing data. Research design focuses on the decisions and the priorities of the research process which includes, 1) the causal expressions between variables, 2) determine whether it warrants generalising to larger groups than the sample size, 3) understanding behaviour in a specific context, 4) appreciation of a phenomena and its interactions.

In our research, we focused on personal experiences of senior managers and executives to determine the success factors of delegation looking at leadership, competency, job satisfaction, relationship, trust and culture for views, opinions, commonality, perceptions and facts. This was done in a form of semi-structured interviews and questions were prepared beforehand. The flow of the interviews was dependent on the interview responses without losing focus on the core themes. Interviews were face-to-face for a maximum of an hour and interviewees were asked for permission to record.

Advantages of Interviews

  • Provides different perspective on the same questions.
  • Provides flexibility for both the interviewer and interviewee to explore unknown territories.
  • There is no right or wrong answer.

Disadvantages of Interviews

  • Normally focuses on a small sample.
  • Resource intensive on a bigger sample.
  • Poor quality of response if the interviewer is not skilled in doing interviews.
  • Biasness of the interviewer on the research topic.

3.3. Population and Sample

3.3.1. Population

Bryman (2016) defined population as the universe of units from which a sample is selected. He stressed the need to consider the heterogeneity and homogeneity of the population and use bigger and smaller samples respectively. Because delegation is done at all levels in organisations, the research focused on senior managers and executives in South Africa. All participants were managers and had a minimum of 5 years experience in management.

3.3.2. Sample and Sampling Method

Kumar (2014) argued that sample size is more relevant in quantitative research because the outcome is based on inferences and must show that it was unbiased and can be extended to represent a larger population. Qualitative research methodology is designed to gain more in-depth knowledge about a topic and does not put a strong emphasis on a predetermined sample size. The size of the sample is mainly guided by the type of information that is gathered along the way until the researcher has reached a saturation point (Kumar, 2014). To create flow, a total of 11 interviews were conducted. Patton (2016) provides a list of potential sampling strategies that can be used depending on the research problem. Because of the research topic, purposeful sampling was used to target senior managers and executives with experience, knowledge and insights.

3.4. Research Instrument

An interview guide or schedule is a brief list of memory points and questions (Bryman, 2016). The interviews were semi-structured, face-to-face and venues were agreed beforehand. The questions were sent on time for the interviewees to go through them and prepare. The following human behaviours were observed during the interviews to determine the quality of responses; participation, rapport, confidence, aggressiveness, friendliness and aloofness. The interview questions are attached as a supplementary document.

3.5. Data Collection

The research used primary sources of data in the form of interviews. Based on the resources available at our disposal, data was collected using semi structured interviews. Emails were used to contact the interviewees to ask for permission to interview them. Additional information about the interviews were sent to the ones who accepted; dates, times and venues were sent via email.

Bryman (2016) emphasised the importance of knowing the research subject which increases the interviewer’s level of confidence. Follow ups were made with the interviewees closer to the interview dates by sending a reminder on the initial meeting invite. The advice below by Bryman (2006) were noted.

  • Creating rapport – rapport was created, and all the interviewees were interested in the topic because it touched on their delegation style.
  • Recording the interviews – all the interviewees agreed to record the interviews. Focus was on the interview with few notes taken.
  • Order of questions – the order of the questions was not changed immensely though some questions were skipped because the interviewees have answered them in earlier questions.

3.6. Data Analysis and Interpretation

There are various methods of analysing qualitative data such as coding, thematic analysis, hermeneutics, semiotics, narrative analytics and metaphorical (Meyers, 2013). The choice depends on the purpose of the research and its intent. The advancements in technology has made it possible to develop software that can analyse qualitative data (Bryman, 2016).

Bryman (2016) argued that thematic analysis and coding are similar because both use codes and themes in the analysis. Based on the nature of the research, we used coding method defined as reviewing transcripts, audios, field notes and assigned them labels to component parts that were salient.

Kumar (2014) emphasised the need for researchers to transcribe the interviews and share them with the respondents of the interviews. To analyse the contents of the audio recording for codes and themes, Kumar (2014) and Meyers (2013) defined the steps below which were followed:

Step 1: Identify the main themes – main themes were identified as shown in the results chapter.

Step 2: Building codebooks – codes, hierarchies and definitions were organised.

Step 3: Classify responses under the main themes – responses were classified under main themes.

Step 4: Constructing models – themes, concepts, beliefs, and behaviours were linked together.

Step 5: Integrate themes and response into the report – themes and responses were integrated into the report.

3.7. Limitations of the study

The study has the following limitations:

  • Honesty from the respondents.
  • The quality of the interviewer to conduct highly effective interviews and get quality responses.
  • Biasness of the researcher – it is not possible for the researcher to suppress his own views on the topic.
  • Interpretations and meaning from the respondents.
  • Challenges interviewing a larger sample.

3.8. Validity and Reliability

3.8.1. Validity

Validity focuses on integrity of conclusions and how they were obtained (Bryman, 2016). Kumar (2014) stressed the need to focus on the appropriateness, quality and accuracy of the procedure or instrument used. Whilst the instrument used can be valid, it is important to make sure that it is used in the correct manner based on the types of questions asked. A link was created back to the themes that are part of the research. The quality of questions was strengthened by grouping them under themes to avoid ended questions.

Internal validity is defined as the level of confidence that one variable is dependent or not dependent on another variable including inferring causality from an outcome of a research study (Rubin and Babbie, 2010). Internal validity is ensured through running pilot studies and interviews to make sure research instrument measures what it is supposed to. External validity is concerned with generalising from causal relationships (Rubin and Babbie, 2010). External validity is less of a concern in qualitative research studies because it focuses on getting more insights than generalising results.

3.8.2. Reliability

Reliability is concerned with consistency, stability, and accuracy (Kumar, 2014). To make sure that the responses were reliable, we were consistent with reading the questions and ensured that the interviewees understood them.

4. Results of Study

Research interviews were used to collect data grouped into five categories; basics of delegation, objectives and biases of delegation, leadership in delegation, competency, job satisfaction, relationship and trust and delegation culture. A total of 11 semi-structured interviews were conducted and recorded for analysis purposes. Invitations were sent on time and the interviews were conducted in an office environment and limited to an hour. All respondents were executives and senior managers working in corporate South Africa and one from the public sector. The responses were grouped according to four themes with sub-themes as listed below:

  • Objectives of delegation.
  • How accountability is ensured?
  • How quality and output are ensured?
  • How compliance is ensured?

The table below shows the profiles of the respondents.

Table 1. Respondents’ position

Respondent Number Position
Respondent 1 Executive
Respondent 2 Executive
Respondent 3 Senior Manager
Respondent 4 Senior Manager
Respondent 5 Executive
Respondent 6 Senior Manager
Respondent 7 Regional Manager
Respondent 8 Executive
Respondent 9 Executive
Respondent 10 Executive
Respondent 11 Senior Manager

4.1. Objectives of delegation

To get the basics of delegation, the respondents were asked what they see as the objectives of delegation and they shared similar and complementing views grouped into the sub-themes listed below:

  • Freeing up the manager.
  • Sharing responsibility.
  • Empowerment.
  • Growth and development.
  • Introducing efficiencies.

4.1.1. Freeing up Manager’s Time

The respondents highlighted freeing up the manager as one of the objections of delegation. Delegation frees up time and enables managers to do more. It is about getting work done and the comfort that delegated tasks will be delivered as expected. It frees up the manager to focus on other strategic initiatives of the organisation.

Some respondents noted that delegation enables continuity of a function, division or department. By delegating more, managers expose others how to run divisions and equip them to take over in case the they move on. It creates capacity to do more by sharing the workload and keeps them interested. Managers leverage delegation because of the additional resources at their disposal. To achieve greatness, managers need to rally people around them to accomplish goals and ideas done through delegation.

4.1.2. Sharing Responsibility

During the interviews, the respondents reiterated sharing responsibility as one of the objectives of delegation. Delegation is done through sharing of information which is key in executing and delivering tasks. Knowledge is power, and delegation provides the means to share. It builds continuity in a rapidly changing environment. Delegation starts by knowing your own limitations and that you can only do so much. Delegation deals with a value system of wanting to share. It comes from within and having the love to share and see others succeed.

4.1.3. Empowerment

Most of the respondents stated empowerment as one of the key focus areas of delegation. They said delegation is about empowering others through the transfer of knowledge and skills. It is a tool that enables development of others beyond their core job responsibilities. Respondent 8 further said that delegation allows managers to give delegatees tasks that can challenge them, harness their skills and develop their leadership qualities. Delegatees must be empowered to deal with tasks and build their confidence. Delegation is empowerment regardless of whether a task is big or small.

 Some of the respondents said that delegating tasks at a higher level empowers individuals because it enables them to design solutions and stretches them to think beyond tasks. Analysing and getting to an understanding defeats the premise of delegation and denies the individuals from having first-hand experience of coming up with own solutions to get to the expected results. Managers need to delegate and focus on the expected and desired outcome.

Other views were managers must empower others and prepare them to take on responsibilities beyond levels. Managers have a responsibility to create value for others by empowering them. It should never be a reason that you are delegating because you don’t know how to do something but an interest to grow someone. Focus must be on empowering others to grow in their roles and support them.

4.1.4. Growth and Development

The respondents noted that empowerment and growth and development go together because it provides an opportunity to grow and develop others. Managers need to build environments for others to excel. Delegation develops and grows both the individual and the team. Delegation is a form of developing others to reach their goals and dreams to reach higher levels of output. Having enough time provides managers with the opportunity to look at the team and identify areas of improvements.

One of the respondents said that delegation should not be limited based on fear of people leaving the team because they have been empowered but encouraged for the greater good of human kind. Delegation must be encouraged and not be a short-term fix but development of individuals to use their skills in and outside the organisation. Holding back on delegation can have detrimental effects on people not staying in the team because they feel unchallenged. Delegating more creates a sense of belonging and an appreciation that people can do more.

4.1.5. Introducing Efficiencies through Delegation

Delegation makes sure work gets done faster. Speed is important, and delegation provides the means to do different initiatives at the same time. Respondents noted that knowledge is transferred making sure there is no void between managers and their subordinates. It maintains accountability by doing more and not necessarily pushing work out to the team just for the sake of it. Learning and understanding that you can't do everything on your own, and that you are more efficient when you work in a team is important.

Delegation makes better use of resources and enables individuals to be efficient. It increases operational efficiency that can result in strategic advantages.

4.2. How Is Accountability Ensured?

4.2.1. Accountability

The respondents were asked about how they see accountability and responsibility in the delegation process. The questions were asked to get an understanding of who they see as the accountable person in the delegation process. How do they split accountability and responsibility between them as delegators and delegatees and when do they hold delegatees accountable? Does responsibility sit squarely with the delegatees or it is shared?

Some respondents stressed the importance of separating accountability and responsibility. The delegated person takes full ownership and responsibility of the work, but the accountability remains with the delegator. Not everything can be delegated, and managers need to differentiate tasks that can be delegated and those that cannot. Failure to do this, the lines of accountability and responsibility are blurred which creates a challenge to determine at what point someone needs to be held accountable.

Lack of ownership from the delegator may result in delegation failing because the accountability has been shifted to the delegated person as noted by respondent 5. Delegating responsible and not accountability makes sure that tasks are not just forwarded to the next person. Delegation is a joint effort, deciding who to delegate to and making sure that tasks delegated are in line with the interest of the person are important.

4.2.2. Power Dynamics in Delegation

All the respondents noted that power dynamics exist in their departments and the broader organisation. Some believe that power dynamics can impact delegation if not managed properly while some think it is not a major problem for delegation.

Respondent 1 highlighted the need for managers to know their power base and guard against abuse. Managers need to take full control and ownership. The respondents felt that it makes delegation difficult if people don’t have the relevant power and authority to do their work. Subordinates need to be granted authoritative powers to make decisions to complete their tasks successfully. The ones given the power must have a clear understanding and limitations how to use it to benefit their organisations.

4.2.3. Politics and Delegation

There were mixed views on whether politics can impact delegation or not. Some of the respondents believe that, politics can have a negative bearing on delegation while some think it does not impact delegation.

The respondents who felt that politics impact delegation said that ignoring politics can make delegation fail because it can influence decisions. Due to internal politics, delegated tasks can be delayed unnecessarily to settle political scores. Both the delegator and delegatee need to lobby to get work done. Managers need to be aware of these organisational challenges and where possible steer away from getting involved in political alliances because they can impact delegation and minimise the chances of success.

Politics in organisations can be silent making it difficult to know if you are part of a political challenge or you are delegated work that is in the interest of the organisation. Understanding this dynamic is very important mainly at a senior level because there are invisible groups and camps. Managers must read between the lines to understand where the organisation is going, its strategy and determine whether delegated work is aligned with these. It requires an inquisitive mindset to determine right from wrong.

Respondent 2 noted that due to organisational complexities, it can be difficult to analyse the pollical landscape in organisations. Politics can influence delegation because people have associations, both formal and informal. It is difficult to break a circle of managers who have similar thinking.

4.2.4. Monitoring, Timelines and Feedback

Monitoring of tasks is key in delegation and the respondents were asked how they monitor delegated tasks. Both formal and informal meetings and weekly reports are the common tools used to monitor delegated tasks. Meetings are used to solicit feedback on progress made including tracking progress.

The respondents mentioned that delegated work must be completed within the agreed timeline. Respondent 6 cited managers who are faced with juggling tasks and an understanding of what a team can do work is important to avoid wasting time. Focus must be on delivery dates and the commitment from the delegatees that they will deliver. Agreeing to the expected timelines is important because it gives delegatees a sense of comfort and that the timelines will be met.

4.3. How quality of work and output are ensured?

4.3.1. Competency

The respondents were asked questions on how they determine the best candidate to delegate to and the feedback was split between skills and competencies and others leaning towards attitude, aptitude and the rest a combination of these.

Different respondents said that skills play a critical role in executing tasks, but it should not be the primary focus of delegation. Individuals need to be given a chance based on their aptitude and ability to learn new things which would build new skills over time. Looking at skills alone would create a level of dependency on certain individuals which would benefit some members of the team.

To get a better understanding between skills and competencies, respondents were asked whether lack of skills can be a hindrance to delegation and respondent 9 said that, lack of skills is not a hindrance to delegation but a way to get to an outcome. People are capable and can find answers and solutions on their own. One of the respondents said that we live in an era dominated by technology where skills can be learnt, and information can be found with ease. What is key is the attitude of the individual to go the extra mile and seek information.

4.3.2. Support Structures in Delegation

Throughout the interview process, the respondents amplified the need to have support structures for delegation to succeed. The support ranged from guidance, growth and development, empowerment, who to speak to for help, availability of managers, supporting tools and training. For delegation to succeed, it must have support structures where delegatees can seek help. On a continuous basis, managers need to review the work done and motivate delegatees including giving them the necessary skills and knowledge.

According to respondent 7, delegation is not dumping, managers need to provide continuous support and guide delegatees to deliver the agreed tasks. When managers have seen that work can continue with minimal support, they can detach and allow the delegatees to execute on their own. Respondent 4 noted a flaw in management where it is assumed that executives and senior managers operate at a higher level of maturity and have networks to deliver on their mandates. He said that delegation should never be confused with level, because even at a senior level, mistakes and misalignments happen which require a need to engage once tasks have been delegated.

4.3.3. Mentoring and Coaching

Respondents used coaching and mentoring interchangeably. Some respondents were of the view that, as much as mentoring is important for delegation to succeed, it is not the responsibility of the direct managers to mentor their subordinates. Focus should be on growing and empowering the individuals and teams because it can create a level of biasness or favouritism. Furthermore, respondents who were against managers mentoring direct reports said that, mentoring direct reports can create conflicts of interest because the relationship between a manager and his subordinates is different to a mentor and mentee.

Respondents who were pro managers mentoring direct reports said that it is important to support subordinates and delegatees in their development journeys. Mentoring provides a mirror that is different to what the individuals see and promotes room for growth. With the right level of mentorship, delegatees can excel at their jobs to an extent that they can deal with work with minimal help from their managers.

4.3.4. Motivation, Building and Working in Teams

The respondents highlighted the importance of motivation and self-drive. They highlighted working in teams because delegatees need to engage with teams outside their own to complete tasks successfully and on time. Interest is created from within because you cannot motivate individuals beyond their self-motivation. Energy is created by having a culture where individuals can express themselves. When individuals are given a platform to learn and being innovative, it creates a sense of self-fulfilment which in reverse creates positive energy. When individuals are motivated, and they successfully deliver on work, it creates a sense of pride and ownership which propels them to do more

Responded 10 cautioned that there must be a fine balance between motivation and recognition. Motivation must come from within while recognition is received. Any delegated work done successfully must be recognised and where there are additional incentives like a reward, it must be done transparently.

4.3.5. Rewards and Recognition in Delegation

The respondents agreed that recognition is important in delegation. They stressed that recognitions and good performance should not be confused. People need to be recognised and where possible be rewarded which should not only be limited to financial reward. Respondent 2 mentioned other forms of reward like global travel and working closely with executives on how to run organisations.

Recognition is a must-do to appreciate the effort and to thank people for going the extra-mile. Managers need to have an appreciation of the work their teams are doing and thank them for doing so.

The respondents highlighted that there must be a fine balance between motivation and recognition. Motivation comes from within while recognition is something that is received. Rewards cannot be used to motivate people because it can create a wrong impression that people cannot be motivated if there is nothing for them. Recognising good work is appreciating others for their effort and hard work.

4.3.6. Delegation and Leadership

All the respondents agreed that leadership is important for delegation to succeed but differed on the leadership style. Most mentioned situational leadership citing different situations and circumstances. Others reemphasised a leadership style that focuses on growth and development, influence and trust.

Leaders need to have a sense of authority and control, provide direction and show they are in charge. The respondents agreed that there is no school that teaches delegation, it is something that leaders learn throughout their leadership journeys. Being exposed to different situations helps with learning how to delegate because it is contextual. It challenges leaders how to deal with different people at all levels of the organisation. Leadership and delegation is about being true to self and respond to the dynamics of the environment and the people.

4.3.7. Communication

The respondents emphasised communication and language as key enablers for successful delegation because information can be lost in translation. Respondent 4 commented that language is important in communication and English is the professional language used in the delegation process. He further said that it remains to be seen if language can be a barrier to successful delegation though evidence suggests that focusing on the outcome and making sure that there is alignment between the manager and the person delegated to leads to successful delegation.

Most of the respondents support face-to-face communication because it gives managers comfort based on demeanour of the delegated person. Other mode of communication is mainly email because it provides a tool where verbal discussions and requirements can be sent and used for references. Other technologies such as mobile are also used to complement emails where clarity might be required.

Overall, the respondents agreed that communicating requirements, messages of encouragement and support in the delegation process is very important.

4.4.  How Compliance is Ensured?

4.4.1. Contracting

Respondents were asked their views on how they ensure that output is in line with the objectives and here are some of the responses. Respondents from the private sector said that contracting is important in delegation, but it is not done formally. There is no need for formal contracts because it is assumed that managers need to delegate to their subordinates. They referred to the of employment contract as the official contract that supports delegation. For delegation, there must be clear goals, objectives and expectations, it helps with clearing the ambiguities before any work is done. Respondent 7 from the public sector had a different view as quoted below:

Right, it goes back to the time of delegation. You see, delegation to me should not be a verbal agreement. Delegation should first be written. There should be an understanding from the one who’s being delegated in terms of the set objectives; and then, at the same time, what should go into that agreement, it is timeframes for reporting; and timeframes for reporting allows me as the one delegating to monitor progress, and that will assist in the event where you realise that things might not be going according to plan; it’s kind of a control measure.”

4.4.2. Prerequisites of delegation

Respondents were asked what they see as the foundation of delegation to succeed. Most respondents identified trust as a foundation for delegation while some saw skills as the precursor for delegation. Most of the respondents said that the premise of delegation is trust than knowing that someone can do the task. Being capable does not necessary mean that delegated tasks will be done as per the expectations. Delegation is an extension of empowerment because it allows managers to hand over tasks to delegatees to showcase their skills and talent.

Trust is the foundation of successful delegation supported by the systems in organisations to make delegation work. People must be empowered to deal with tasks to avoid constantly second-guessing themselves.

4.4.3. Trust and Relationships in Delegation

Respondents were asked whether they believe in the statement that says, “Managers only delegate to those they trust” and all the respondents agreed in some shape or form as per the table below.

Table 2. Respondents take on trust and relationships in delegation

Respondent # Response
Respondent 1 “I believe leaders and managers delegate to people they trust. I also believe they will surround themselves with people they trust. I think it’s a human element. People must be dependable”
Respondent 2 “So yes, I do believe this statement is true. I’ve seen it time and time again. I believe I’m also not immune to it. I’m sure I’ve fallen victim to it before. But, ya, it does happen, it does happen”
Respondent 3 “I’m fifty-fifty on that one, right? Because it depends on the sort of, the urgency or the complexity sometimes”
Respondent 4 “So, I believe in the statement, right. And I firmly believe in it”
Respondent 5 “I believe in it in as far as it’s the natural inclination”
Respondent 6 “I totally believe in it. I totally believe in it”
Respondent 7 Yes, I believe in that statement”
Respondent 8 “So first and foremost, I, trust; yes, we do believe in it”
Respondent 9 “I think it’s partly true”.
Respondent 10 “I do believe that managers delegate to those they trust.”
Respondent 11 “I suppose it can be true”

Because all the respondents agreed that trust influences delegation, they were asked how they build on it to minimise bias delegation and build relationships. The responses were all encircling and included the following; being honest, focusing on the intrinsic value of people, being vulnerable, having clear principles, being considerate, patience, showing interest on others including their growth and development, open communication, having frank conversations and delegating to those managers don’t trust.

4.4.4. Biases of Delegation and impact

Delegation is an art, and because it involves human beings, there are biases on how managers delegate. The list below shows what the respondents identified as the biases of delegation.

· Job insecurity which might lead to managers not delegating effectively because of fear of losing their jobs.

  • Lack of trust where managers only delegating to those they trust or friends which is form of favouritism.
  • Historical factors including grudges, disputes, arguments and quarrels.
  • Delegating what can be termed boring stuff to certain individuals.
  • Management style, e.g. delegating specific tasks to specific people.

The impact of bias delegation was renowned based on the responses. The list below summarises the impact of bias delegation.

  • People leaving the team and/or organisation.
  • Team members disengaging because of lack of interest and unhappiness.
  • Low team morale.
  • Low productivity.
  • Specialisation which might put people in boxes and minimise room for growth and development.

Overall, the respondents acknowledged that delegation biases have the potential to make delegation fail if not managed properly.

4.4.5. Delegation and Culture

To get a better perspective between delegation and the culture of delegation, the respondents were asked the following questions, 1) does delegation require a specific culture? 2) what kind of culture is required for delegation to work? The responses were plausible based on the answers provided.

Delegation needs a culture of sharing and empowering others. When people are willing to share, it enables delegation to succeed. Delegation requires a culture of maturity from the managers. The respondents acknowledged that managers have a way of doing things which creates a culture of its own. A flat support structure, a culture of openness and team cohesion supports delegation to succeed. Managers need to cultivate a culture that is embedded in the organisation. Trust and team work are key in creating a culture of delegation.

4.4.6. Conflict Resolution in Delegation

Conflict is a common theme in everyday life and delegation is not immune to it. The respondents were asked how they deal with conflict to enable delegation. Respondent 2 mentioned that as a manager is it important to guide and provide direction though ill-discipline and poor quality should be censored and be dealt with right away. Conflicts arise because roles and responsibilities have not been clearly articulated. It is the responsibility of managers to pave a way for delegation to succeed by clearing the path for the delegated person to execute.

Respondent 4 shared similar views that managers need to focus on delivery of tasks and where there is evidence of conflicts, they must find ways of resolving them. Respondent 7 said that managers need to have clear terms of reference on what needs to be done with clear guidelines and scope. Establishing ways of resolving conflict is very important. Mangers must have clear procedures on how to deal with conflicts and not duplicate effort as well as having clear boundaries and make sure the delegated person understands what needs to be done.

Respondent 9 summed it and said that managers need to deal with conflict directly and look for root causes including personality clashes. What is important it to make sure there is an interest between the work and the delegated person.

4.4.7. Organisational Hierarchy and Job Design in Delegation

In organisations, levels and hierarchy are created to have structure and enable flow of information. Because delegation is handing over responsibility and giving authority to the next person, it is important to understand if organisational hierarchy and job design can impact delegation. The views from the respondents were split between having an impact and not having an impact. Responded 2 said that organisational hierarchy should not impact delegation. Delegation must not be limited based on levels but on individuals who have the right aptitude and attitude to do the work.

Some of the respondents said job design and organisation hierarchy can affect delegation. The hierarchy must be flexibility to enable delegation to work. If jobs are designed using a vertical structure with information flowing from the top to the bottom, delegation will suffer because only certain people can speak to certain individuals.

Respondent 8 concluded by saying that, because job design is linked to hierarchy, it can impact delegation because people are occupying positions which are linked to their jobs. Job design can impact delegation because of limited communication channels embedded in the design.

5. Discussion of Results

This chapter presents the connections between the results, themes and sub-themes and the literature to get a better understanding of the successful factors of delegation. The section has been grouped based on the themes of the results in chapter 4.

5.1. Objectives of Delegation

The research results support the views of the respondents about the objectives of delegation as highlighted by different authors below.

  • Freeing manager’s time. In his book, Baer (1999) emphasised that delegating more frees up manager’s time to focus on other bigger picture strategies of the organisation, reduces stress and prepares the manager to be a potential candidate for promotions.
  • Sharing responsibility. Delegation is sharing responsibilities which enables the manager to focus on setting priorities and allocation of resources (Bell and Bodie, 2012).
  • Empowerment and growth and development. Weshah (2012) indicated that, delegation of authority enables empowerment because it improves decision quality, commitment to implement decisions, increases job satisfaction and effective time management.
  • Delegation supports growth and development because it enables delegatees to develop new expertise gained from learnings in the delegation process (Sev, 2017).
  • Introducing efficiencies. Delegation enables managers to use available human resources efficiently, get prompt responses and do away with red-tapism (Igbal, 2010).

5.2. How accountability is ensured?

To be accountable, means to account for responsibilities, give an explanation, respond or submit to a judgement or assume obligations (Gül, 2009). It means taking ownership and bearing the consequences including non-delivery. Managers are always concerned with non-delivery because delegation does not mean they are no longer accountable. Delegation passes on the responsibility of task but not the outcome (Whitman, 2005).

Respondent 2 and 6 mentioned being accountable as the ceiling to delegation. Due to this complexity, it is the responsibility of managers to increase the chances of success because it reflects on them. In his research, Sev (2017) emphasised the importance of effective delegation of authority because it gives delegatees power and ownership. He acknowledged that, training of delegatees is important because it minimises delegating to unqualified or less qualified subordinates.

Power dynamics can be a challenge to delegation because it is invisible. It is important for managers to know their power because it determines their influence. Managers need to understand their organisations, where it is going and support it to meet its strategic objectives. They need to pay attention on the influencers to understand their own power and decision making. In line with dealing with power dynamics, managers need to encourage a spirit of collaboration and distribute responsibility evenly and fairly.

If people don’t have the relevant power and authority, delegation becomes difficult. People need powers to make decisions and complete their tasks successfully. The ones given the power must have a clear understanding and limitations of how to use it to benefit their organisations. Delegation of authority is meant to improve job performance and improve efficiencies (Hamadat, Al-Jammal and Al-Khasawneh, 2015).

Political economists have tried to form models that show that politics are formed to empower bureaucracies (Volden, 2002). However, it has also been proved that delegation is higher in unified teams and organisations (Volden, 2002). Politics impacts delegation and managers need to be vigilant of the political nuances. Delegated tasks can be used as political weapons to stall and delay delivery unnecessarily. Understanding the politics of an organisation can help with knowing how to delegate. Selling an idea for others to see value provides the means to get buy-in and delegate accordingly.

Continuous and consistent feedback that is honest must be given to everyone in the same manner. Providing feedback should not be seen a yardstick but a way to reflect on delegated tasks. Weekly check-in and stand-up sessions provide the means to showcase what was done. Weekly meetings are for presence and to get a sense of where people are. It creates environments where individuals have space to apply their mind and provide feedback based on their understanding of the task.

Riisgaard et al. (2016) argued that getting feedback is a way to obtain knowledge on how well employees are performing. Delegatees must be encouraged to solicit feedback from the people they worked with in the delegation journey. Feedback must be requested from stakeholders about their satisfaction and key questions asked must include getting an understanding of how delegatees influenced the outcome, identification of blind spots, areas of development, and any information that can help to do better going forward.

Monitoring is a control function that helps managers develop systems to measure performance, productivity and cost, and align with members on delegated tasks (Du Brin, 2008). Defining milestones helps with monitoring progress to determine whether the goals will be achieved or not within the specified timelines. It is an important checkpoint to safeguard identifying issues at the end and provides an opportunity to finetune and align. Milestones are supported with regular check-ups defined upfront to avoid any ambiguities. Managers need to provide guidance to deliver tasks successfully and delegatees are encouraged to ask questions and bring their own expertise and experience.

5.3. How quality of work and output are ensured?

The calibre, capability and competencies of delegatees are important for delegation to succeed. The focus must be on delivering results by identifying the right person to do the work (Bell and Bodie, 2012). Skills and competencies are finite and independent on the level of the individual but dependent on the aptitude, potential and willingness of a person. Delegation must not be prescriptive on what the delegatees must do but provide high level of what needs to be done and let them run with it. Understanding what individuals can or cannot do beyond tasks is important. Interest from delegatees is important because when people are assigned tasks they enjoy, they give it their best and results follow.

For delegation to succeed, it must have support structures where delegatees can seek help when faced with challenges (Bell and Bodie, 2012). Delegation is not a once off exercise and expect results but a process that needs active involvement once tasks have been delegated. In the initial stages, leaders need to spend time with delegatees to make sure that both are aligned. Support of who they need to speak to for information is important.

Furthermore, understanding gaps and support mechanisms improves delegation. Understanding strength and weaknesses of the delegated person is important for delegation because it provides a lens of when and what to delegate (Muir, 1995). When managers delegate, they improve on it over time. Lessons learnt during delegation are taken into learning process and improves the quality of delegation.

Mentoring is a necessity and supports growth and development (Moed, 2012). Managers must provide parameters for delegation and avoid being too close but work on co-ordination of resources including mentoring, reviewing progress and provide support when required (Morake, Monobe and Mbulawa, 2012). Mentoring is important for delegation and must be done fairly to support the delegation process. With the right level of mentorship, delegatees can improve the quality of work.

Research has shown there is a relationship between performance and motivation (Robescu and Iancu, 2016). Managers need to build and attract people into their teams. When people are given a platform to learn and innovate, it creates a sense of self-fulfilment and improves the quality of the output. When individuals are given meaningful tasks and they successfully deliver on them, it creates a sense of pride and ownership and propels them to do more.

Organisations must be transparent by making information available to everyone who needs it (Flyverbom, 2016). Energy is the drive that enables others to do their work and more. Managers need to be transparent about their intentions right from the start to get buy-in. People feel comfortable if they know what is in it for them. By being honest and staying true to self creates a sense of belonging that attracts people. It creates a level of transparency and openness where everyone feels part of the team.

Managers must focus on cross-skilling, increase openness, and encourage the team to take on more challenges. People need to see what managers are doing and how it contributes to the broader organisation. Managers need to be available for their teams because people come from different backgrounds and everyone needs to feel special to be part of the team. There must be a balance between work and personal lives.

Reward and recognition must be included as part of business as usual and not be treated separately because individuals provide their service to organisations and must be rewarded for doing so. It is an extension of our social context where a reward is seen as a stimulus to do more. Because you are dealing with human beings, it is important to recognise and acknowledge achievements. Sev (2017) stressed the importance of having reward a policy to encourage both the delegator and delegatee to increase performance.

True leadership starts from within. Building leaders of tomorrow should not be limited to own team but to everyone. Leadership is influencing considering the complexity and dynamism of the environment, and interactional context (Bamidele and Olubunmi, 2017). Understanding the individual’s maturity is key to determine how to delegate successfully. Everyone who is in a position are because there is something they are bringing into the organisation. Limiting people’s thinking, by being over-prescriptive, hinders on their ability to accelerate. Managers should not look for their replicas but potential and build on it. It is important to have space for people to exhibit their thinking over and beyond tasks to create value.

When people know their leaders are genuinely concerned about their wellbeing and development, everything else falls into place. If a leader has no purpose and is in limbo, it reflects badly on the team which creates a sense that people are just merely resources. If people are treated as human beings with aspirations, growth potential, delegation becomes part of the team and improves the quality of tasks.

5.4.  How Compliance Is Ensured?

Managers need to look at the value to determine what to delegate because human beings can deal with anything that can be thrown at them. Maturity determines whether delegatees can deal with tasks or not.

To delegate successfully, it requires an appreciation of contract law, oral contracts or psychological contracts (Serrat, 2010). Contracting, whether verbal or formal provides the means to enable delegation. For delegation to work, there must be clear goals, objectives and expectations done through contracting. Contracting provides an opportunity for the delegatee to agree on what can be done. If anyone deviates from that, organisational processes should be followed. If contracting between different levels is not done properly, it affects the delegation process.

Delegation needs managers to show a level of trust to their subordinates (Muir, 1995). Trust and relationship are key in successful delegation because it create a level of comfort and ownership that tasks will be delivered as expected. Trust is a human element and provided the elements of unconscious bias do not inform on the trust position, trust will always supersede the conscious bias. If there are conscious biases that informs trust, it is not a factual bias upon which decisions are made.

Managers delegate to those they trust because it is a natural inclination to do so. Trust must be supported with facts than assumptions. Because trust is infused in letting go and handing over to someone; managers are hesitant to delegate because of the risk of non-delivery. The focus must be on building trust done by looking at the intrinsic value of people, behaviours, attitude and interests. Trust is earned by being vulnerable and accepting that managers are human beings and can also make mistakes.

Managers lack confidence in themselves and others because of varying degrees of insecurity which brings job security and delegation into play (Ghumro, Mangi and Soomro, 2011). Job insecurity can create certain biases forcing managers to delegate less and not fully exploit the power of delegation. The bias of delegation stems from lack of trust knowing that certain individuals will deliver based on their track record. The thinking between people who trust each other turns to be similar because they understand the robustness of the processes they go through to get to where they are and assume that anyone within that system can take on whatever responsibility and has the capability to deliver.

People respond differently based on the cultural contingency of their leaders and the organisation (Chevrier and Viegas-Pires, 2013). In delegation, creating a working culture that is coherent with the organisation is important. Age, gender, religion and other cultural beliefs are not the determinants of delegation. People must be treated fairly without neglecting cultural differences to avoid potential mismatches. People are conscious and subconscious beings and always have a perception about things and about others (Vithoulkas and Muresanu, 2014). The subconscious mind is not suppressed when delegation is done and being aware of our own subconsciousness creates an elevated awareness to delegate accordingly. Delegation is not natural, it must be supported with a culture that allows people to fail and learn from their mistakes.

National cultures impact delegation. People do not leave their cultures when they go to the working environment, it is part of who we are. It is not easy to detach oneself from own culture. It is important for managers to understand these dynamics and embrace them for delegation to succeed. Knowing people’s cultures is important for delegation to work because it provides managers with the necessary information to delegate and manage expectations.

Organisations are built on models and how people organise themselves to be effective and deliver value. Job design and roles can impact delegation. If jobs are designed using vertical structures with information flowing from the top to the bottom, delegation will suffer because only a few can speak to certain people. Jobs that are too restrictive prevent people from going over and beyond their job descriptions. Managers need to be aware that their jobs go beyond what is written on paper. Job designs that are less prescriptive enables delegation.

Delegation is rooted in organisational structures, decision making and handing over of authority (Ferrari, 2014). Organisational hierarchy can affect delegation positively or negatively based on how it is designed and implemented. If there is a disconnect, delegation will fail. Managers must focus on creating an alignment between the tiers of management and continuously monitor it for misalignments. Focus must be on the organisation and build structures that embrace delegation.

6. Conclusion

The research has highlighted the success factors of delegation including quality and compliance. It identified what is deemed as the premise of delegation and its foundational elements to make it succeed. It has revealed that, there is a ceiling in delegation and that not every task can be delegated. In the delegation process, the manager who delegates is always accountable besides assigning tasks to delegatees.

The findings have shown that there is no structured process for delegation. Some managers are intentional about delegation and apply themselves on what need to be delegated while some still battles with the concept of delegation. Overall, there is an appreciation that delegation is meant to empower the delegatee and delegated tasks should be done in line with this. Due to the psychological and theoretical nature of delegation and it being a soft skill, the lines of whether tasks are done to empower others or for business as usual are blurred.

Since delegation comes from within and the interest to grow others, managers accept that delegation has biases and needs maturity for it to succeed. Delegation needs a higher level of authority, power and influence defined in leadership. To realise its value, delegation needs managers to operate beyond management and lead from the front. It requires a leadership and empowerment paradigm that is intentional about the growth and development of others.

Because delegation is giving authority to the next person, the respondents agreed that attitude, aptitude and competencies are key in the process. The focus should be on people including their interests without neglecting the required skills because these can be learnt. Support structures are a must for delegation to succeed; these include training, mentoring, coaching and easy access to information. An alignment of what needs to be done and the expected outcome discussed up front is a key enabler for delegation. Trust is important in delegation because without it, nothing gets done between managers and their subordinates. Managers need to focus on building trust, teams and relationships.

Monitoring of progress made in the delegation journey is done through meetings, stand ups and reports. Managers need to consider what delegatees think and bring them early in the delegation journey.

The research revealed that delegation is an art and needs a meticulous approach because it deals with people. Motivating, acknowledging and recognising people in delegation is of utmost importance because it touches people’s value system and that they are able and can contribute positively to their organisations. There is a general feeling that rewards should be done fairly and in line with the organisational standards. Rewards should go beyond money.

Delegation is silent and not an item that features a lot in boardrooms but important for organisational success. By being in management, it is assumed that delegation is done. Due to implicit characteristics of delegation, the respondents found that organisational hierarchy, job design and politics can to a certain degree impact delegation. The respondents agreed that delegation needs a culture which must be influenced by the organisational culture.

6.1. Recommendations for Future Research

The research used purposeful sampling targeted at senior managers and executives working in South Africa. It focused on the level without any distinction between public and private sectors. Furthermore, the research has identified the success factors of delegation and it is recommended that each finding be researched in its entirety.

Delegation is a necessary management discipline (Serrat, 2010). Organisations and managers need to be equipped on how to deal with the realities of the findings and getting an in-depth understanding can contribute positively on the future success of organisations and to the body of knowledge. It is further recommended that research be done using quantitative methods because the qualitative method revealed the trends and would be beneficial to know the severity of each finding. The findings that stood out and are recommended for further research are listed.

  • Trust in organisation and the impact of delegation, do organisations with a high level of trust delegate more?
  • The relationship between skills and delegation. Are highly skilled employees delegated more?

It would be advisable to split the research between the private and public sectors because the feedback suggests the approach used is different between the two sectors; a research to ascertain this claim would be beneficial.

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© 2020 The Authors. Published by Sprint Investify. ISSN 2359-7712. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Creative Commons License
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Brian Barnard, WITS Business School, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
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WITS Business School, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Wits Business School, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa