Letting go, we all know, is hard to do. Your childhood blanky, the once-flattering jeans that no longer fit, your ex — it doesn’t take Dr. Phil to figure out that human beings are, by nature, reluctant to give up stuff. Many times, to our detriment, the same principle holds true at the office: We’re reluctant to let go of, or delegate, tasks. Call it human nature. Call it managerial retentiveness. Whatever you call it, your refusal to hand off jobs to your employees is minimizing your productivity.
Take a seat on the couch, lean back, and breathe deeply — we’ll work through this. Here’s a list of nine psychological barriers that prevent managers from delegating …
1. I can do it better. Maybe you can. You’re the boss for a reason, after all. But, like motorcyclists who pop wheelies on the freeway, now is not a good time to show off. You have other, more urgent projects that require your attention.
2. Lack of patience/time. You’re swamped, too busy to explain the nuances of the project to your employees. Take the time — scratch that, make time — to train your staff: It’s a long-term practice that pays seriously worthwhile dividends in the future. The more your team knows, and the more you learn to depend on them, the better, healthier, and more productive the overall relationship.
3. Lack of confidence in your subordinates. You don’t trust your employees’ abilities, so you don’t assign them complex projects. It’s a vicious cycle — they’ll never have the ability if you don’t provide them with the opportunity to learn.
4. Insecurity. New managers often can’t resist the temptation to go back and micromanage their replacement. Give it up. Your old job isn’t part of your current purview.
5. Anxiety. Tackling all responsibilities, you think, is a great way to prove yourself to upper management. On the contrary … delegating tasks is a great sign of maturity and confidence.
6. Fear of rejection. You worry underlings might resent you for slapping them with an extra assignment. If they’re worth keeping around, they should be eager to take on added responsibility and increase their visibility. In all likelihood, they’ll thank you for demonstrating confidence in their aptitude.
7. Feelings of inadequacy. What if, you wonder, the person to whom I assign the project outshines me?
8. Inflexibility. Old habits are hard to break. If you’ve done a particular job for a long time, you may not even consider the alternative of passing it on to someone else.
9. Occupational hobbies. Pet projects are a great way for managers to get sidetracked. They’re also a great way to throw away your limited time and energy.
The bottom line is simple: It’s time to let go. You can keep those skinny jeans for inspiration, if you must; keep your blanky hidden in the closet. When it comes to your managerial life, however, you’ll have to get over your fear of detachment. Consider this your friendly clarion call.