Strategic Human Capital Insights

4 Critical Challenges: Delegation or Dumping...Is There a Difference?

Is There a Difference Between Delegation and Dumping?

Helping employees become more productive is often associated with del­egation. So, let’s take a journey into ‘delegation land.’ We often outline what the person needs to do, tell them to do it, and naively call it dele­gation. The art of delegation is one of the most challenging and complex tasks a manager can perform. It is the most critical managerial task for the organization, and yet it eludes most managers. Why? Because it is a multi-step process that requires assessment, execution on the part of two people, accountability, and the genuine investment of time. The most common manager response to delegating is, ‘I can do it faster myself.’ Haven’t we all said that? In reality, under the delegation banner, we have proper delegation, over delegation, under delegation, micro delegation, and dumping. Let’s focus on the last category – dumping!

There is an essential distinction between proper delegation and the others. The problem arises when the manager assumes that the dele­gation has occurred by just telling the employee to do something, and the employee is fully accountable. This could not be further from the truth. In reality, dumping has taken place. 

Here are four critical challenges the manager must initiate to avoid dumping and develop the management skill of delegation.

Challenge #1: Assess the personality type of the employee involved in the delegation.

Employees have many different personality types, and each employee will have a motivation trigger that a manager must understand to dele­gate appropriately. One approach DOES NOT fit all. Some people are overly confident beyond their ability, while others may have the abil­ity but lack confidence. To be successful, the manager must consider each employee’s personality type because the delegation will require a different approach.

Challenge #2: Determine the complete scope of the entire task to be delegated.

Break the task down into realistic, manageable parts. We often dele­gate (dump) the whole task at one time. If this is a new task (and it generally is), the effect can be overwhelming. The employee can take too long to do the task and/or makes too many mistakes. Employee confidence can be at risk over relying on other staff or taking too much of the manager’s time. If the employee does not immediately excel at the newly delegated task, the manager will often be disappointed, compromising manager confidence. Further delegation is stopped. In reality, the manager has not appropriately delegated. But the employee pays the price resulting in a lack of manager confidence. In the man­ager’s mind, this result justifies why the manager cannot delegate. So, you see where this is going!

Challenge #3: Manager, you must continually work with your employee throughout the process of learning a new task.

Managers play a critical role in the delegation process. Managers MUST decide they are willing to efficiently invest the time necessary to make the delegation process a success. In Challenge #2, the man­ager must break the task down. Then, in Challenge #3, the manager must be accountable and hold the employee accountable for expected outcomes and timelines. This step may seem obvious; however, proper delegation is the manager’s time investment in the employee. Sadly, many managers feel that the time it takes to teach someone a new task could be better spent doing the job themselves. And here is where the delegation process breaks down. Invest time in your employees now to learn the task, or you will pay the price later when you, the manager, are doing too much of your employees’ work. It’s your choice.

Challenge #4: Managers and employees are both accountable.

Managers must be accountable to the employee to help them learn the new task and make them delegation ready. Employees must be willing to accept the responsibility of delegation – to perform the task at 100%.

Without this mutual accountability, delegation becomes dumping, and the magic bullet called delegation will never hit the target


If you're looking to see how to inspire change at your organization to help solve the delegation challenge, we invite you to download our change management case study.

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Topics: Change Management, Organizational Alignment & Effectiveness

Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

In 2014, Joanne Flynn founded Phoenix Strategic Performance, a strategic human capital advisory firm. Prior to this, Joanne was Vice President at Goldman Sachs for 10 years responsible for global learning and development. She then led the consulting practice of Phoenix Group International, a consulting firm specializing in global financial service. Joanne is now taking best practices from the people-intensive financial services industry and adapting those best practices to startup and growth businesses. She is a thought leader in the areas of strategic organizational alignment, organizational agility, human capital gap analysis, leadership challenges for the new workplace and transformation leadership.

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