Responsibility in Management – Meaning, Definitions and Characteristics – BBA/MBA Notes

Responsibility in Management

Meaning, Definitions and Features of Responsibility

Meaning of Responsibility

Responsibility is not merely duty that is assigned but an obligation that the duty is performed. Responsibility comes into existence because a person with authority, requires assistance from another and delegates authority to him for the performance of needed specific work. The acceptance of the obligation by the individual to perform the work creates his responsibility.


According to Hurley

Responsibility is the study to which a person is bound by reason of his status or task. Such responsibility implies compliance with directives of the person making the initial delegation.

According to Terry

Responsibility is the obligation of an individual to carry out assigned activities to the best of his ability.

According to Theo Haimann

Responsibility is the obligation of a subordinate to perform the duty as required by his superior.

According to Davis

Responsibility is an obligation of the individual to perform assigned duties to the best of his ability under the direction of his executive leader.

According to Strong

Responsibility is an obligation to perform certain functions and achieve certain results.

According to McFarland

Responsibility maybe defined as the duties and activities assigned to a position or to an executive.


i. The essence of responsibility is obligation of a subordinate to perform the duty assigned to him.

ii. It always originates from superior-subordinate relationship. Thus, a manager has the right to get the duty performed by the subordinate to whom it has been assigned and authority delegated for its proper discharge.

iii. Normally responsibility is exacted upwards, whereas authority flows downward.

iv. It may be specific or general or may either be continuing or tor some special purpose. In normal functioning of an enterprise, much of the responsibility is in the nature of a continuing obligation which means that the subordinate has an obligation to discharge his functions as required by the superior continually. In special assignments like retention or engagement of underwriters for underwriting shares of a company, the responsibility will be discharged by a single action and may not arise again. In such cases the responsibility results from a contract.

v. Responsibility cannot be transferred. Sometimes the term responsibility is confused, when people talk of delegation of responsibility, but it is only the authority which can be delegated and not the responsibility. Responsibility is absolute and therefore, cannot be delegated. Responsibility in the sense of obligation of the subordinate is not pursued down the organization; instead, new responsibilities must be created at each level. In the case of a company, the Board of Directors is responsible for the management of its affairs irrespective of the extent to which authority is delegated down the levels of the organization structure. The Board may assign duties to the managers, delegate authority for the performance of the assigned tasks and exact responsibility from them, but the Board remains responsible to shareholders. Similarly, when managers delegate authority to supervisors, their responsibility towards the top management does not cease.

vi. The person who accepts responsibility is accountable for the performance of the assigned duties. Ordinarily, accountability and responsibility go together. This is because accountability arises out of responsibility.

vii. It is hard to conceive of responsibility without authority. In other words, authority should be commensurate with responsibility. One simply cannot exist without the other. They are just like head and tail of a coin. A man who is made responsible for a particular task or for certain results has to be given adequate authority to carry out duties.



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