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Assisted Living Manager: Delegation of Authority

Much of what you will do as an ALM will fall in the category of delegation. Of course, there are a variety of factors that will determine “exactly” how much delegating you do, such as the size of the facility, number of subordinates in your “span of control” and your job description to name a few. In the same vein, as an ALM inevitably you are going to have the opportunity to delegate your authority to one or many of your caregivers or other staff. When this opportunity presents itself there are several things to keep in mind:

1. Determine “what” you will delegate

As an ALM you decide which task(s) you want to delegate. Keep in mind that delegating is different from simply assigning someone a task that is already a part of the normal job requirements. When you delegate, you give someone else one of your job tasks; but you ultimately maintain control and responsibility of the assisted living facility, so bear this in mind when you set out to delegate.

2. Clarify the results you want

Determine the results you consider necessary for successful completion of the task. In general, the employee to whom you delegate uses his or her own methods to accomplish the task. If you expect use of a specific method to accomplish results, then you will need to relate that to the employee at the beginning.

3. Clearly define the employee’s responsibility

You, the ALM, not the employee, determine the level of responsibility. Be sure the employee understands that level. After you have given the employee the information about the delegated task, ask your employee to tell you about their understanding of both the task and goals. If the employee’s answers do not match your expectations, review the matter in detail again.

4. Communicate the employee’s authority over the delegated task

Define the scope and degree of authority given to the employee for the delegated task. Explain which decisions he or she may make independently and which require your approval.

Be specific. If you tell the employee, “Do whatever it takes,” you may end up with an unpleasant surprise if the employee violates facility standards. However, a too-limited authority may stop the employee from accomplishing the task. Give the employee the authority necessary to accomplish the task but not so much authority that he or she can create a major disaster before anyone discovers the problem. Also, make clear the budget available and budgetary limitations such as in the case of purchasing food for the care home residents.

5. Ensure that the employee understands his or her authority

Again, have the employee repeat back to you his or her understanding of authority regarding the task. Resolve any misunderstandings at the beginning.

6. Establish a time limit

Time means different thing to different people. If you want the delegated work completed within a certain period, make that clear to the employee. For instance, if you say, “When you get time, work on this,” the project may remain untouched for weeks. Also, if you want portions of the work completed by certain dates, make that clear to your subordinates as well.

7. Establish a follow-up schedule

Use a series of follow-up meetings to 1) monitor progress and 2) determine need for assistance. Monitoring the progress avoids a discovery two days before the due date that the task is not on schedule. It also can serve as an indication of whether the employee needs assistance. Some employees hesitate to ask questions because they fear the ALM will interpret this as a sign of weakness or inadequacy for the job.

Follow-up meetings give employees the opportunity to ask questions within the context of a meeting designed for that purpose. The frequency of follow-up meetings will vary from project to project and employee to employee. You may schedule more frequent meetings when delegating to a new employee than when delegating to an experienced and proven employee.

8. Stick to the delegation program

Avoid “reverse” delegation. An employee may try to “dump” the delegated task back on the manager. A care home manager may feel tempted to “take it back” if the employee seems to be struggling with the task. In extreme circumstances, an ALM may have no alternative other than to take the task back in order to avoid permanent damage to his or her own performance record.

However, this should be only in extreme cases. When you take back a delegated task, the employee loses the opportunity to learn and grow. This can also discourage the employee who desired to do well, but needed more assistance at that point in time. Occasionally an employee may decide to perform poorly in order to avoid additional work; do not encourage this attitude. Stick to your decision and work with employees to see the task to completion.

Important things to remember…

Assisted living managers delegate work not to just relieve their workload, but to allow the caregivers they supervise to grow professionally. Effective delegation is a two-way discussion and understanding. Be clear about the delegated task, give employee(s) an opportunity to ask questions, monitor progress and offer assistance as needed. Use effective delegation to benefit both yourself and the person to whom you delegate.

Also, remember that part of allowing your employees to grow is part of the larger goal of ultimately fostering their advancement into management themselves. As such, keep this in the back of your mind as you work with employees to accomplish the goals for the facility, the individual and yourself.

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