Avoiding Delegation Issues

Problems in the delegation process are wide ranging. They can arise within your company, because of a manager, due to employee problems, or simply caused by inadequate planning in the process itself. The issues range from difficult personalities or inflexible attitudes, to a lack of ability and skill. To avoid issues that are negative and do not promote the general welfare of the organization, those at the top have to be willing to take a long, hard look at themselves -- and then move that stare down the food chain. Invariably, the health of an organization is reflective of the quality at the top.

In this article you will be presented with situations that hinder delegation, and guidance on how to incorporate preventative measures.

Focus Points:

1. Attitudes can hinder delegation of authority.

You've heard the saying that one bad apple spoils the whole basket. It can happen. When one person has an attitude that is negative, derogatory, bullish, or simply unindustrious, it blocks creative work -- not only in themselves, but in the whole group. When a person at any level must put up with someone who is always belching about life, work, or the world, it drags everyone down. This kind of person has no antidote. There is little one can do to change such a person. Their poison spreads across the organization invading every small crack.

So the question arises: What can be done about such a person? The first thought that has probably popped into your head is to fire them. But wait a minute. For some reason, somebody, at some time saw something in this person that got him hired. You have to figure out what the worth of this person is, and what he is hiding behind. You think this is not your job? Well, think again. It is a manager's job to work with the employees. Every manager has to promote well-being of the team, which in turn will raise the health of the entire place.

Quite possibly, the person with the bad attitude is in avoidance of life because of health issues, a past that he cannot move around, a lack of skills, or any number of personal plights that hold him back. Often this kind of attitude is a front, or a survival technique to keep others from getting close and finding out his secrets.

As a manager, you must confront this person with compassion. Have "therapeutic" conversations with him and yet be direct. Don't go into the blame game, just act out of concern for the employee. Do some research, so you can let him know that he has worth, skills, and was hired for those reasons and you want to help him bring those things back into focus. Allow time for him to talk. If you cannot do this, then it is necessary to bring in a therapist with you to bring the issue to a head, compassionately. The employee may quit before talking, but you have to try to salvage him, first.

It is extremely valuable to your employee, as well as your own reputation, that you do not reveal any of this to anyone other than to your bosses, as needed. You will build strength when others become aware that this person is being helped, and not shunned. You must be a role model to your workers. It will pay off. When your company employees become aware that all are important, the basic structure -- its foundation -- will be strengthened. Delegation will be a positive part of that movement.

2. Personalities often clash, bringing tension in an office.

Your office is a place where many different kinds of cultures, attitudes, and personalities are expressed daily. It can wreck the office, if not handled effectively. As a manager or a boss, it becomes the number one job to keep it all running smoothly. If it does not, the work your company does will suffer.

You have to begin with specific training. That training must incorporate getting the workers together to open their eyes to their differences in a nonthreatening method. It must be based in honesty and integrity. This means that people have to be open to the fact that they work in a place where there are many differences, and these can actually strengthen the company and give the group a variety of experiences that will increase their own abilities to work with others. This is of top importance in any business.

Openly acknowledging that the office mix is composed of people who are very different from each other is only a start. Leaders must create in each person an ability to see that all others can contribute, and do contribute, to the whole. It must be brought out that one person's way is not the only way, and that thinking that will not benefit the company.

Your training must come with the understanding that respect will be the rule, and that all are there to develop team skills. Not those silly games but real relational skills, an examination of attitudes and thought. These team skills begin with being open about a person's own prejudice, thinking, and ideas about the world. No one should feel put down because of what they feel, and therefore, they should not allow themselves to put down others.

Differences come in all forms -- cultural, sexual, personal, physical, mental, and regional. But that is just the beginning of a list that is endless. What matters is to look inward to what is causing the problems in your work place and to confront it immediately with specific training. If you don't, it will only increase. Do not tolerate issues that bring tension. It is impossible to trust delegation to your employees, if they are already at odds with each other. Your ability to delegate requires a team that works together.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Delegation Skills course?

3. Delegation can bring out competition on a team that is detrimental.

When you delegate work in your company, it does not go unnoticed if you continually give certain assignments to certain people. This may be that that person has specific skills the others don't have or that you think that person will do a better job on the project. It may also be that you do this unknowingly. Possibly you think the others don't mind because you aren't fully aware of your employees and never give opportunities to listen to them. It might be that the problems arise in you.

This can be solved by keeping track of assignments given. Awareness of what you assign and to whom you assign each job can be quiet revealing. Assess how you have assigned in the past. Then write down the reasons for your assignments to a particular person. Be honest because in doing this you may discover some inner conflicts of your own.

Then if it has been going on for a long time it is important to acknowledge to your team that you have become aware of this problem and you intend to change. Let them know that you also intend to improve your skills. It is a strength to be able to talk about your weaknesses. You will connect with your employees and they will connect with you. It sets the stage for each to make changes. This is a good thing.

Let your employees know you are going to expand the assignments, and that you trust them to do the work, and that you are there to assist, support, coach, or train, as needed. Be up front that you are working to change. It will take time for both you and your team to feel confident about this change. It is important for you to discuss with your group the difficulties and successes. You will become more approachable and trustworthy to others as the process shakes out.

The members of your team will feel more bound as one, as opposed to feeling like they are always in a competition with each other.

4. Micromanagement will get in the way of true delegation.

When the person delegating is unable to let go of assignments, having to be in on every decision, always redirecting the work, or constantly critical, the process of delegation falls apart for several reasons. The delegated assignment, if planned and distributed wisely, was made to allow the management time to monitor, train as needed, support, and advise. When the manager proceeds with a heavy-handed approach in the project, it undermines his own delegation of work. He has either made a mistake with the assignment, or he has no confidence in his team, or he feels no one else can do the job. All of these things will take the work and the company downhill.

First , the manager should know their employees, and their skills and talents well enough to make a proper assignment. If not, the manager is ill prepared to delegate. Second , in order for a manager to feel confident, means allowing employees a wide berth for their work. If the team is never allowed to do what they were hired to do, the creativity and production of the company will suffer. Team members may lose confidence in themselves, or seek other employment. Third , if a manager is so egotistical that he or she thinks no one can do the work better than them, they are delusional and should examine themselves.

At any rate, micromanagement, for whatever reason, will stifle the excitement, the thinking, and the positive atmosphere of any work place. Every manager in companies that are progressing will know that the ability to delegate is important to that growth, and be aware of their own impediment to the work.

5. An inability to communicate will block effective delegation.

From the beginning of the process, to the end, communication is by far the most important factor for success. The plans the manager makes to assess, assign, and monitor, the way he or she exports the work to their team, how they listen to each other and ask pertinent questions, and how the work is monitored, must be cohesively executed. If the work is done to communicate each step of the way, the result will demonstrate that effort.

In the beginning, when a manager is still in their own office, working on the plans to delegate a project or task, it requires that they know their employees well. Their ability to set up comfortable areas and niches of time to converse as a team informally will set the foundation for an understanding of each other and provide an inside peek into how to navigate the assignments more clearly. Everything builds from this. So when a manager chooses who will be responsible for a task, the team will feel more confident in management's choices, because the manager has made an attempt to really know them.

As a manager sets about to explain the work, he or she must understand the depths of it. It will require them to gather information from the client that is broad in some aspects, and specific in others. The manager must be able to transfer a correct understanding of the work to the team. Then he or she must listen to their questions and comments and, if needed, go back to the client for clarification. The client will appreciate that you want to get it right.

As your team is working, be sure to provide an open door to allow for support, as needed. Though you should leave the team to work out their own problems, it is good to watch how they work and think. Use an active voice to allow them to open up and make decisions on their own, and to bring their own spin of creativity to the product.

6. Reverse delegations will hinder the work of everyone.

Reverse delegation happens when a worker comes back to the manager and asks the manager to help do the work that was assigned. The manager has to protect himself or herself and the team from this behavior, because it will steal his or her time to monitor others, train and coach, or prepare further assignments. It will keep the manager chained to the very assignment that was given to that worker. This issue is stopped with language that does not enable such employees. If a manager lets this kind of behavior play into his or her ego, and some of these people know exactly how to accomplish this, then the manager gets a kind of "high" from taking back the work.

If he or she recognizes the request for what it is, then they must do one of three things: Address the member with a non-enabling statement like, "I know you are smart and can figure this out." Move the employee off the team, because he or she really is inept and demonstrates this on a regular basis. Train the employee in their lack of skills to use the talents they have. What you do not do is take the work back and do it yourself. Even if it will not overload you, it will become a model that others will observe and remember.

Set up your physical or computerized notebook:

In your notebook, make a page for these issues that will hinder the work in your office. Note some of the ways to keep these from happening, and put a check by any that you have experienced and not handled well.

Then look to your own company, or online for training and education for yourself that promotes management skills and take time to improve and grow. Set up an informal list of places for your employees to get more training, books that might be good for them to read and maybe a calendar with a schedule of time for book discussions, training and suggestions from others.


1. What are the top six delegation issues to prepare to avoid?

2. Which of these have you experienced and how did you handle them?

3. What is your plan to improve your abilities to face such problems?

4. What is your confidence level in your team to handle delegated assignments?