Why do managers avoid delegating work to others?

Published in the Phoenix Business Journal on September 21, 2022

So what is delegation? The answer is easy, but the implementation can be challenging based on the conditions and culture of the organization.

“Delegation is the transfer of responsibility for specific tasks from one person to another.” – Harvard Business School. 

The conditions include the clarity of the delegation, the scope of the task to be done, and the agreement between the delegator and the recipient.

More about conditions

When effective delegation is embedded in the organizational culture, all the better. It is an expected and accepted way of working together. Having empowered and trusted teams, purposeful tasks (not “busy work”) to accomplish, and adequate resources are key conditions for success.

SMART Goals define some boundaries for the project. Specific directions, Measurable milestones, Achievable, Relevant to the business, and Time-bound for the milestones and end result. Include the scope (and what is NOT in the scope) of the effort, and the task is well defined.

A high-level leader who is the champion and mentor for the project, but stays out of the way and supports the team, is important. "A leader is best when people barely know he exists when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves." – Lao Tzu

Barriers to delegating

Here is what makes delegation difficult – why effective delegation does not occur in the first place:

  • Delegators think it would take longer to explain the task than actually doing it themselves.
  • They want to feel indispensable to the organization by being the keeper of specific knowledge.
  • Delegators enjoy completing certain projects so prefer not to reassign them.
  • They feel guilty about adding more work to another employee's to-do list.
  • Delegators lack confidence or trust in whom they need to transfer the project.
  • They believe that they’re the only ones who can do the job right.
  • Delegators want credit for doing the job.

In short, kill all of this because the powerful leverage of productivity is being wasted in an organization with strong talent. Potential leverage for success.

A few more things

Constant communications among the team are essential. Include your executive leader who champions, mentors, and supports the team. Seek team members who are responsible and "own" the project. 

Also, seek accountable people who acknowledge that their actions alone (not blaming others) are the cause of the success or failure of the project.

Finally, help your organization build a “Culture of Delegation” as part of the overall culture of the company. https://corp.smartbrief.com/original/2019/10/building-delegation-culture 

The bottom line

Stamp out the unwillingness to delegate. Leverage the great talent in the organization with effective delegation. You will instill great pride in the teams who succeed because of the faith placed in them. P.S. effective delegation can be taught and learned.

Click here to read this article on the Phoenix Business Journal site.