Delegating is hard for many of us. We wait until we’re overwhelmed … and then we “dump” the mundane things that take the least explanation … or things that are already late. And in our haste, we give them to the nearest body, rather than stopping to really consider who has the right skills and experience—who needs a challenge.
And then the fun starts. We worry. We hover. Or, some of us are too busy to hover, so we don’t check in at all, just hoping for the best.
“In a 2007 time management study, close to half of the 332 companies surveyed were concerned about their employees’ delegation skills. At the same time, only 28% of those companies offered any training on the topic,” reports hbr.org.
It’s a simple handoff really. What makes it complicated?
Here’s a list of psychological barriers that keep managers from delegating:
- 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.
- 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 investment 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Anxiety. Tackling all comers, 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.
- 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.
- Feelings of inadequacy. What if, you wonder, the person to whom I assign the project outshines me?
- 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.
- 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.
Delegating is a must if you’re in management. Not only does it help employees develop new skills and confidence, but it frees up your time.
Will you be more comfortable doing it yourself? Probably. Can you do it faster? Undoubtedly. But with time, patience and good communication, employees will rise to the occasion.
Related article: 8 Delegating Mistakes Managers Make