Delegation Gone Wrong

There is an assumption that delegating is simply turning something over to someone else and suddenly being free from that responsibility. Delegation is not about dumping tasks on others. There is an art to it. Here are nine delegation mindsets to avoid.

1. Being too possessive.

“This is my baby” “I’m the most qualified person for this task” and “He/She doesn’t take it as seriously as I do.”, are some of the countless arguments for avoiding delegation. For managers, this attitude is especially harmful as they get trapped in their day-to-day business, losing time for strategic thinking or other issues. Transferring relevant tasks saves time and motivates teams to deliver excellent work.

Delegating is sometimes letting go of the idea of perfection. The thought that when you do it yourself, it will be better quality and get delivered faster, does not help your team grow.

2. Overwhelming people.

Take care not to delegate tasks that employees are over- or under-qualified to do. Challenging employees is motivating, but projects that overwhelm them make little sense. On the other hand, it’s okay to assign a task to someone overqualified from time to time. However, if it happens too often, it will be demotivating. Consider delegating to the person who’ll provide the best result or who wants to develop skills for the future. If you’re unsure who best meets these criteria, ask.

Dare to delegate the tasks employee likes to do. The return on learning is more rewarding when employees discover for themselves what they’re good at, instead of you telling them upfront. You might be surprised to uncover some hidden talents in your team.

3. Not officially responsible.

Once you’ve given someone responsibility or authority for a new project, everyone else should be made aware. Only then can employees act with determination. Letting them know they have your support, provides them the confidence to perform the task.

4. Unclear definition of a project.

When employees don’t know the objective or the framework of the assignment, it will be difficult for them to be efficient. Provide as much information as possible and agree on a schedule. Not all employees will tell you when there is a lack of clarity, so it may be helpful to ask what their next steps will be. Never send a task by email, post-it note, etc.

Delegating means setting clear goals and granting a flexible path to achieve those goals.

5. Constant meddling.

It can be challenging relinquishing control of a task. Refrain from micro-managing and expecting the job to be completed in the same manner you would do it. Otherwise, it shows a lack of trust and the ability to achieve good results.

6. Lack of positive control.

Although employees should work autonomously, the final responsibility is yours. Establish milestones for the project to ensure they’re advancing with the assignment and offer help to remove any obstacles.

A positive control is only possible with a clear briefing, set expectations, and SMART goals.

7. Passing on unpleasant activities.

Don’t fall into the trap of only passing on unpleasant tasks. Doing so gives the impression that you want to avoid grunt work. As a result, employees will feel misused because the transfer of small jobs implies that “Your working time is less valuable than mine.”

8. Waiting until the last minute.

The “I can do it myself” attitude can backfire when closing in on a deadline. Now you need help and risk abusing someone else’s time. When we rush through a task, we risk the quality of the finished product. Last-minute delegation creates frustration and is demotivating. Delegating tasks in advance allows employees to prepare.

9. Not giving feedback.

Don’t forget to give honest feedback when the task is complete. Feedback ensures that employees benefit and can develop skills in the future. Saying thank you also shows that you appreciate their commitment and work. These kinds of gestures make it more likely that they will want to work with you in the future.