Monkey on Your Back? How Managers Should Utilize Delegation

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It’s easy for managers to find themselves overwhelmed with responsibilities. In many workplaces, the demands on management are endless and some things may seem impossible to do on time. It’s important that managers learn how to successfully delegate tasks to their employees, so that they can avoid getting caught up in individual-level work and focus on managing their department.

Importance of Delegating Tasks

It can be hard for managers to delegate tasks. Sometimes in order to delegate work, employees need to be trained to do said work; for example, an operations manager can’t delegate report-writing to their employees unless they know how to use word processing software. This adds another task to the manager’s list.

Other times, managers are worried about a certain project and want to do it themselves in order to stay in control of the work and its outcome. It can be hard to let go of an important project, especially for managers who have been promoted from a technical, independent contributor type of position. Managers may also feel badly for increasing an employee’s workload, especially if their department is already overloaded, and they may feel like they’re helping out by executing these tasks rather than reassigning them.

Advantages to Delegation

There are a number of advantages to delegating tasks, however. First of all, it decreases the manager’s workload. This helps prevent burnout and allows management to focus on the strategic portion of their job. It’s also a great opportunity for development: Improving an employee’s skill set helps them feel more invested in their work and in the company, and can create additional opportunities for workload shifting.

The most important factor in delegation, however, is the bond of trust it builds with the employee in question. Assigning a teammate work to specifically support one of management’s goals increases employee accountability. Employees feel valued and proud of their work and will be sure to put in extra effort because this work feels more visible than their daily tasks.

Accountability is important because teammates who are invested in their work projects tend to be more motivated, enthusiastic and driven to solve problems. Letting an employee know their manager is personally counting on them and has chosen to delegate this task because they believe this employee will be able to successfully complete it builds trust and makes that employee feel appreciated.

Considerations for Delegation

In order to determine which tasks to delegate, it’s important to consider a few factors;

  • Which of the work on the manager’s list is related to strategic direction and leadership? That’s where the manager should focus. Repetitive day-to-day tasks or individual contributor work is a key candidate for delegation.

  • Consider the skill sets of the department. Is there an employee who can complete this? What additional training would be required to permanently delegate tasks like this?

  • Are there certain employees who have been asking for new responsibilities or looking to develop new skills? Or are there employees who are underperforming, who would benefit from additional development? These are prime candidates for delegation.

  • Evaluate workloads. It’s incredibly common to see the top performers in a department consistently overloaded. Be sure to evenly distribute tasks around the department so that no one burns out.

How to Delegate Tasks

When delegating work downwards to an employee, be sure to meet with them and explain both the task and the expectations for it. Allow the employee to struggle if they need; it may reveal a new approach to this particular task.

Assure them that management is here to help and that they want to see the employee succeed with their task. Offer guidance and training, but don’t micromanage; part of delegation is learning to give up control.