Harzburg model

Also known as: Leadership in the employee relationship

The Harzburg model is understood to be a management principle that assigns responsibility to the employee and managerial responsibility to the supervisor.

Definition / explanation

The Harzburg model divides the management principle into two different areas of responsibility.

1. Job description - The work area of the employees is delimited horizontally and vertically. Responsible action is required within this spectrum.

2. General guidance - The managerial responsibility rests with the superiors. The relationship between managers and employees is defined in management principles.

The Harzburg model provided the approach to employees who act independently. The delegation of certain areas of responsibility is intended to break up command-oriented structures. The top management is relieved by a separation of competence and responsibility, while qualified employees have the opportunity to distinguish themselves with their own decisions in the company. The basic idea of the Harzburg model is based on a cooperative and partnership-based collaboration.

Employees are not to be viewed as receiving orders, but as independently thinking people with freedom of action and decision-making powers. By defining areas of responsibility and granting necessary competencies, it should be possible to use the employee potential.

The employee decides for himself how to handle the requirements placed on him. The managers take on an observing and controlling position. A division of the responsibility into a responsibility for action on the part of the employees and a management responsibility on the part of the superiors should benefit both sides, as well as the company.

Delegation in the Harzburg model

Authoritarian and patriarchal leadership styles, which were characterized by commands and unconditional obedience, were replaced with the Harzburg model. Instead of patronizing employees, the Harzburg model provides for the company to benefit from their skills and competencies.

The delegation of responsibility should generate independent employees from subordinates. The supervisor only intervenes in situations where this is required. Its tasks are the supervision of the service and the control of the success. The correct implementation of the assigned tasks is checked by means of random checks.

For a positive control of success, it is not the approach taken that counts, but the result. The management guidelines are standardized. A clear hierarchical organizational structure is defined in more than 315 rules.

advantages and disadvantages

advantages - Decentralized decision-making and the involvement of employees in decision-making offers clear advantages. In addition, the personal development of the employees is promoted.

disadvantage - Target decisions are still incumbent on the management level, employees have only limited decision-making power and thus the positive approach to personal development is restricted. The high degree of formal organizational structures often does not do justice to reality.


  • Independent thinking and acting of the employees is encouraged
  • clear delimitation and transparency of areas of activity and tasks
  • interlocking system of management instructions
  • Restrictions on freedom of action prevent employees from developing
  • often perceived as a too rigid and bureaucratic system
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