Concept of Responsibility

The term responsibility has two different senses in management literature. Some writers explain it as a duty or task which assigned to a subordinate on the basis of his position in the organization. Responsibility is also the obligation of an individual to perform the duty or task assigned to him. Let us understand what is responsibility and its characteristics in a detailed manner.

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Concept of Responsibility

Responsibility refers to an obligation to perform certain functions in order to achieve certain results. Following are the main characteristics or features of responsibility:

  1. An organization can assign responsibility to human beings only and not to any non-living objects such as a machine, equipment, etc.
  2. It arises from a superior-subordinate relationship. A senior possesses the authority to get the required task done from his subordinates. Thus, for this purpose, he assigns duties to subordinates. The subordinates are under a duty to perform the work assigned to them.
  3. The management can confine it to the performance of a single function or can be a continuing obligation.
  4. We can also define it in terms of functions, targets or goals. When responsibility is expressed in terms of targets, it enables the subordinates to know by what standards their performance shall be evaluated.
  5. The core of responsibility is the obligation of a subordinate to perform the duty or task which the superior assigns to him.
  6. Responsibility is coextensive with authority. When a superior delegates authority to his subordinate, the latter becomes responsible to the former for the performance of the task and also for proper use of authority. Thus, responsibility is a derivative of authority.
  7. Responsibility is absolute and one cannot delegate it. A subordinate to whom his superior assigns a task, may himself perform it or may get it done from his own subordinate. But, in both cases, he shall only remain responsible to his superior.
  8. It always flows upward. A subordinate will only be always responsible to his superior.
  9. Accountability arises out of responsibility. The person who accepts responsibility is also accountable for his performance. However, the management can use various techniques to define responsibilities in order to involve members of an organization in its coordination effort.

what is responsibility


Solved Example on Concept of Responsibility

What are the techniques that the management uses to define the responsibilities in an organization?


The two such techniques are:

1. Responsibility Charting: A responsibility chart is a manner of summarizing the relationship between tasks and task performers. It lists the complicated activities or the decisions that need to be made and the individuals who are responsible for each of them. The organization needs to show the tasks on the vertical axis and the task performers on the horizontal axis.

However, the following four roles are very important:

  1. An individual is responsible for the activity or the decision.
  2. He shall approve the activity or decision.
  3. The management shall consult him before completing the activity or making the decision.
  4. The management needs to inform an individual about the activity or the decision.

  2. Role Negotiation: It is an important technique and can supplement the use of responsibility charting. The basis of the technique is that nobody gets anything without promising something in exchange. Members of the organization list the re-allotment of tasks at periodic intervals in order to maximize coordination.

The main aim of this approach is the identification of the independent clusters of tasks completed by the organization. It also aims at matching the personal needs and works preference of individuals with the tasks that need to be completed.

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