How Do You Communicate Authority?

A person must have a clear understanding of his authority; otherwise he will spend much of his time walking on eggshells. People who walk on eggshells rarely achieve their objectives. They live in constant fear of overstepping their bounds or being reprimanded for leaving something undone. Their personal power is all but extinguished by their fear of failure.

People are often confused about how much authority they have because managers assume that they automatically know their authority levels. Some managers confuse responsibility with authority. They believe that authority is implied in the responsibility – whatever a person has to do to get the job done, that’s what he should do. This, of course, is a sure way to get everyone in trouble!

Before a person is hired he should be told how much authority he will have in the job. For most people, particularly those in higher-level positions, the amount of authority they will be permitted to exercise is a major consideration in whether or not they will accept the position. Be as clear as possible on this issue during the interview process. Many a person has been disillusioned in a new job upon discovering that his actual authority is much less than what he thought it was going to be.

After the person is hired you will, of course, want to review the written job description. As you review the responsibilities, you should review the corresponding authority levels. The job description usually defines the authority assigned to a job in very broad terms. You may want to give the person a more detailed description of his authority, depending upon the job. For example, if you are hiring a manager you will want to tell him what kinds of authority he has in terms of hiring and firing employees, which may not be described in the job description.

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As you delegate major tasks to the people who work for you, from time to time you may need to clarify the boundaries of their authority. In some situations, you may want to give them more or less authority than usual, depending upon the task and the people involved. At all times, of course, the authority should be equal to the responsibility.

As well as to the person in the job, the authority assigned to the job should be communicated to the people with whom he will be working. When people do not have an understanding of one another’s authority levels, problems are inevitable. In order for a person to effectively exercise power over others, people must believe that the one exercising the power has officially been granted the right to do so. Learn more about need to communicate authority only at the University Canada West.


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