Accueil » 38-4 ( 1983) » La responsabilité fonctionnelle chez les cadres subalternes. Facteur d’évolution des systèmes d’autorité

La responsabilité fonctionnelle chez les cadres subalternes. Facteur d’évolution des systèmes d’autorité

Jean-Marie Rainville


Cet article présente le fonctionnement des rapports d'autorité entre des cadres subalternes et leurs supérieurs dans la section psychiatrique d'un hôpital montréalais.


Functional Responsability Among Lower Level Managers and the Development of Systems of Authority

In light of the evolution of administrative theories, the author analyses how the authority System works at the lower levels as well as the effect on this System of judicial decisions in a hospital of the Montréal area. Decisions are explained by the fact that the lower level managers asked for unionization. The Québec Labour Court was favorable to their demand, but on appeal by management the Superior Court was unfavorable.

In this hospital, authority relationships between lower level managers and superiors do not work very well: managers have either the right of delegated authority, or are accountable only to their superior — that is, they can give orders and expect obedience, but not enforce obedience. Observed variation in the authority structure, presumable, rests on an arbitrary basis, putting lower level managers in a situation of role conflicts with regard either to their common superior or to themselves.

According to a theorist of administrative sciences, it is sometimes better for a lower level manager to be accountable rather than have the right of delegated authority. The latter form of authority when given to a lower level manager, may lead to misuse or abuses. On the other hand, the other form of authority, accountability, can be a source of greater equity for subordinates who acquire by the very fact an appeal System.

Administrative theories admit that authority or influence can be distributed throughout the organization according to different patterns, because accountability is not equivalent to delegated authority. The Law, however, continues to assume that authority is unitary and homogeneous.

In the present case, the two forms of authority exist at the same hierarchical level and may be interpreted as a sign of evolution of the authority system. At the same time, nevertheless, this can be a source of confusion. That may explain why Judge Brière of the Québec Labour Court maintained that lower level managers did not shore any delegation of authority and therefore could be unionized, while Judge Benoît of the Superior Court argued that since the criteria of delegation was not writ-ten in the Law, he was required to annul that judgement and consequently refuse unionization.

The decision of the Superior Court will in fact confirm the existing System of authority that is hybrid and arbitrary. According to existing law as interpreted by the Superior Court, however, an employee has only to be a member of the direction of an organization to be excluded from any bargaining unit. More precisely, a lower level manager who is accountable to his superior is part of direction as much as another lower level manager who has the right of delegated authority. Thus, authority relationships take on a legalistic colouring that can only favour the confusion observed in the actual authority system, and reconfirm the traditional conception of authority. Another serious deficiency should also be underlined: the article reveals that, as a result of this Superior Court decision, the scalar administrative principle prevails over the group work method. It is, nevertheless, very important to use the group work method in the kind of institution considered here. By the same token, is it not reasonable to assume that the actual goal of this institution is partially com-promised?

In the context studied, the development of the administrative authority system follows in the wake of jurisprudence. From an historical point of view, though, the distinction between delegated authority and accountability was in part a union gain.