Use and Misuses of Authority

Most managers believe they must have authority to accomplish their jobs. They believe it is their superior’s responsibility to see that they have adequate authority in the areas for which they are held responsible and accountable. But a manager who either misuses or oversas his authority to get his subordinates to carry out their tasks may be inviting trouble. This is why it is important for the manager to understand the various sources of authority and power and the differences among them.

 Most people who have worked in the business world have seen a situation in which subordinates have “fired” their boss. By dragging their feet on assignments by cauing the organizations to do a relatively poor job, and by directing criticisms to appropriate ears, a unified group of subordinates can cause such trouble that their boss’s superiors may question his ability to handle his work group. Under these conditions the subordinates may sometimes be shown the door; but occasionally the boss is fired. That this can and does happen illustrates that managers are dependent, in part, on their work groups, just as their work groups are dependent, in part, on the managers. Although the manager has formal sanctions to back up his authority, the work group has informal sources of power it can utilize. The manager who relies only on his formal authority to direct the efforts of others may, therefore, not achieve the best results. It is desirable that he also be a leader; in short, he should be able to influence his subordinates as well as give them orders.

 Managers are often “caught in the middle”between the values, orders, and expectations of their superiors and the values, needs, and expectations of their subordinates. The manager usually needs to retain the support of both his superior and his subordinates, and the dilemma he feels when there is conflict between the two can create intensely uncomfortable feelings. The pressure is  compounded when the values and expectations of his peers are also involved, as they frequently are. Different managers resolve these internal dissonances in a variety of ways. Some ignore, or pay less attention to, either the subordinates or the superior, usually the former. Others try to find compromises that satisfy both, at least enough to avoid undue problems. But however thay handle them, most managers experience the discomfort of man-in-the-middle problems.

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