The acceptance theory of authority also known as the behavioural theory holds that only true authority that exists comes into being when the individual receiving the directive weights the consequences of accepting it or rejecting it and decides in favour of acceptance.
According to this theory, the true source of authority is not the power delegated from upper levels of the organization and the right to invoke sanctions, the true source of authority of the manager is the acceptance of his directives by his subordinates.
This is the “bottoms-up” theory of a authority in which the subordinate, ‘in fact, says to his superior, “I delegate upward to you the right to tell me what do”. The acceptance theory extends the theory of informal authority to encompass all authority, to the extinction of all formal authority. The key aspect of this theory is that the senior has no real authority unless and until his subordinate confers it upon him.
As Tannenbaum’ puts it, “An individual will accept an exercise of authority if the advantages accruing to him from accepting plus the disadvantages accruing to him from not accepting exceed the advantages accruing to him from not accepting, to him from not accepting, accruing and commensally he will not accept an exercise of authority if the latter factors exceed the former.
Barnard maintains that subordinate will accept an order if he understands it if he believes; it is consistent with organisational objectives and compatible with his own interest.
The acceptance theory of authority presents numerous problems in the organisation. The acceptance of an order is not the result of exercising of authority, but of leadership which is regarded as the ability to persuade others to work to achieve a group-goal. O’Donnell holds that is difficult to adopt the acceptance theorist hedonistic formula for the source of managerial authority.