Balancing Responsibility and Authority

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Which if these three management systems is the best? 1. You have absolute authority over yourself and others, but no responsibility for what happens as a result of your decisions. 2. You are held responsible for the actions of yourself and others, but have no authority to tell those other people what to do. 3. You have limited authority, and are held responsible for the actions of only those people over whom you have authority. Many situations that cause people to get frustrated or angry result from an imbalance between responsibility and authority. Does anyone have any stories from the office, or family, where things went wrong because of such an imbalance?
 
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4.) You are responsible if you're in proximity to any event. If it goes sour, you have to find someone to blame or you'll be it.
 
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No fault divorce falls under #2. A man is usually held responsible for supporting his family, even if his wife wants to leave and have an affair and take the kids with her. He usually gets little or no authority to determine how his children are raised and certainly has no authority to stop the break up of his family. So he is held responsible, financially, for the actions of his wife, but given no authority to do things differently. One can see how angry and frustrated many fathers are who are forced into this situation. I really believe most dads have no problem supporting their children. However, they don't trust their former wives, and frequently with good reason not to trust her, so they are forced into a maddening situation.
 
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#2 goes on in my office all the time. Individually, we're put in charge of projects that everyone in the department has their hands in. We have to make sure the work is accurate and on-time, but we have no authority to tell co-workers what / when to do anything. It's a losing situation that I'm quite sick of.
 
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In my previous life, when you were assigned a project, your first action was to find and tag someone to take the blame for its inevitable failure. Your rise in the corporation was directly connected by how successful you were at passing blame for your managements failures. I was Dilbert before the comic strip existed.
 

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 Originally Posted By: oilyriser
Which if these three management systems is the best?
This one, as it has the best potential for worker autonomy with management's limited authority.
 Originally Posted By: oilyriser
3. You have limited authority, and are held responsible for the actions of only those people over whom you have authority.
 
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What ever happened to the rule that you can delegate authority but you can't delegate responsibility? Maybe you can get someone else to do your job,, but you're still responsible for it getting done. There's no question who would be to blame for lack of completion.
 

oilyriser

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Yes, that's another way to look at it. The guy at the top is responsible for the actions of the people he organized to do the job. I canceled my collision insurance. My insurance company refused to give me a discount if I signed a promise not to drink alcohol. If I continued paying for collision, I would be pooled in with people who drive drunk but are not caught, or those just below the legal limit. This made me financially responsible for the behaviour of other people, over whom I have no control, so I canceled. If a truck driver is also the owner, he will know when to drive slow to save fuel, and when to drive fast because of a deadline. A cents per mile driver will drive extra fast one day because he wants to get home sooner to see his wife, and end up burning an extra $50 worth of fuel to gain an extra hour. He isn't responsible for paying the bills, yet he has authority over the truck, so abuse happens. If more unbalanced situations could be fixed, people would be less anxious, more conscientious, and the world would be a better place.
 
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 Originally Posted By: oilyriser
Which of these three management systems is the best? 1. You have absolute authority over yourself and others, but no responsibility for what happens as a result of your decisions. 2. You are held responsible for the actions of yourself and others, but have no authority to tell those other people what to do. 3. You have limited authority, and are held responsible for the actions of only those people over whom you have authority.
These are more appropriately called political systems. No. 1 is a totalitarian dictatorship. Enough said. The 20th century showed us the evils of this form or govenment, with its Hitler, Stalin, Japanese Empire, Franco, and etc. The government is in complete control of the people. No. 2 is called slavery, in the political sense. The people are controlled, instead of being in control. No. 3 is a senseless and unworkale construct, which assumes that people live in a vacuum. Authority and responsibility are much more linear than what No. 3 suggests. They do not stop with me and those under me.
 
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details matter... I like no:2 on production related fields. Given the manager have control on the matter and not on the people. If he/she is not control over every detail then shouldn't be a manager on the first place. Managing the matter is often times presentation of the obvious which requires knowledge driven control (best management done without a hint of management.) This prevents "reservation" or works of negative stereotyping others for the better positions. Matter matters. People management is two way hindrance, at many times the prevention of self development, hiding the obvious, and, hindrance of personality which in turn is a motivation killer... so never work in science, research or design areas. I think, this is the reason when a top notch professional w/ good salary suddenly quits, and calls I'm bored. This is not rare but named as "s/he learned many things here and left when done" by the corporate ego. Liking the job and good will are assumed. Profession is the taboo (but better than the manager). So here, very good coordination of job/personality or transferability is required. Transperancy is a must. But details (the corporate culture) matter. Actually armies practically resembles no:2. Although looks like no:3 at the first sight, a "decorated man" is responsible for every single man he's supposed to be responsible which could be thousands. Expectation covers every one in the responsibility lot but practically this is impossible. Again it is the matter which is not compromised. If you can't, you shouldn't be decorated.
 

oilyriser

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#2 could be a consultant. Give advice, and take the blame when something fails even if they didn't follow your advice. Not a good job to have.
 
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In the military the officer in charge is always (supposed to be) responsible, where the traditional example is a ship's captain. Companies, school districts, gangs, etc., should be subject to the same level of accountability. Interesting situations arise when stuff 'just happens', and apparently no one is responsible for either the event, or the reaction to the event.
 

oilyriser

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People don't need extra stress from messed up management, so I'm thinking about how things should be done. Situations were a guy has more than one boss is another story.
 
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