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Structure of Authority in a Probation Department

Assume that you are a probation administrator in an adult probation department. You oversee a staff that includes a dozen probation officers, a department secretary, an office manager, a part-time receptionist, a part-time cashier/records clerk, and two student interns. Due to budget cuts, you have recently had to downsize your department. Because you are already short three probation officers and the positions will not be filled due to a state hiring freeze, you were forced to lay off a department secretary, the part-time receptionist, and your two student interns The shortage in support staff has left a vacuum in the department where certain tasks are concerned, and the lack of probation officers means that case loads will have to be adjusted. You have to delegate authority among your remaining staff and redistribute certain responsibilities among your subordinates.

The tasks that must be redistributed include: coordinating the support staff schedules, tracking the department budget, writing the department's quarterly reports, maintaining the department's computerized offender database, inventorying and maintaining all electronic-monitoring equipment, managing and maintaining the department's pool of state vehicles, filing maintenance/repair requests for the office, tracking officers' compliance with continuing education requirements, answering the department's general phone line, greeting all visitors and requesting that they sign in, checking all metal detectors and security cameras every day to ensure that they are working, and straightening up the public waiting room every evening. In addition, you are short two officers in the high intensity supervision unit, where officers generally have smaller caseloads to compensate for the greater degree of offender monitoring. These highly intensive caseloads will have to be assigned to your remaining 12 officers.

What are some of the types of authority that you might delegate to the various members of your staff? Explain the rationale for each delegation.

What are some of the types of authority that you might delegate to the probation officers in your department? Explain the rationale for each delegation.

What are some of the qualities and skills of the officers that you would assess to ensure that delegation works appropriately? Why?

How and why would this delegation of authority benefit you in your role as the probation administrator?

What are some of the pitfalls that you might come across from this delegation? Why do you consider them as pitfalls?

Explain the steps you would take to make your officers feel more empowered in their jobs. Provide your reasoning. Use reference cite sources

Solution Preview

What are some of the types of authority that you might delegate to the various members of your staff? Explain the rationale for each delegation.

This is a strange question, because the nature of such a department is exclusively part of the Rational-Legal Authority in the typical Sociological pattern of the three types. The other two are tradition and charisma.
Now, since these cuts are unpopular, the head of the department will have to use a great deal of charisma to make these as palatable as possible. The reality is that with much of the clerical staff gone, the regular officers will be forced to do some of that work themselves. This will not go over well, so the means of ensuring fairness in how these will be delegated will be very delicate and will require a great degree of personal attention by the main administrator.
The fact is that the full time office manager will get much of this, making her/him very upset, as well as the part time records clerk.
Normally, student interns don't get paid, so why they have been let go is strange. Hiring more unpaid interns might actually be part of the solution.

What are some of the types of authority that you might delegate to the probation officers in your department? Explain the rationale for each ...

Solution Summary

This response is a brief look at how leadership can be used to deal with budgetary crises. In this case, it is a probation department, but its principles are universal.

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