The Delegation Traps

“It's a Trap!” - Admiral Ackbar

Aug 8, 2022   |   Business

Delegation, delegation, delegation.

If you consume any book, article, podcast, or interpretive dance about management, you'll hear that delegation is the key to getting more done as a busy manager.

But are there downsides to delegation? As I have started delegating more work, I've discovered three traps to watch out for.

The "One More Task Wouldn't Hurt" Trap

When you delegate all tasks below a certain level, creating tasks below that level becomes convenient.

Suddenly, you like any idea that seems remotely useful instead of focusing on the few that will have a significant impact. You aren't the one that's going to do the work, so it's easy to think, "one more task on this guy's plate won't hurt." Or, since it's much easier to say yes than no, you let other departments throw busywork onto your team.

Then, in a couple of months, you look up and realize that's all the department is working on.


The "Out of Touch" Trap

When you never get down and get your hands dirty, you don't have a complete view of how things work. As a result, it becomes hard to relate to your team members, and you don't know how to manage them.

How long should these tasks take? How much training is required? Are your team members slacking off? Are they overwhelmed? It's hard to get an accurate understanding when you never touch the work they do.

Plus, you can't give suggestions on how to optimize work if you never do it. You're in the best position to see how tasks connect, how they can be automated, or which process should be used. But you won't see those things if you're out of touch.

The Respect Trap

If you always delegate the boring, tedious tasks, you allow space for resentment between yourself and your team members.

There can be this air of, "I feel too important to work on a task like this, so you take it."

At the end of the day, that might be somewhat true. You're in your position for a reason, and it comes with responsibilities and time commitments that make delegation necessary.

But can you set aside a small amount of time for these tedious tasks? Enough that you can say, "We're all required to get down and get our hands dirty. I'm not above it."

If you can’t, you risk losing the respect of your team.

I'm not saying that delegation is bad, but that it can be tricky. You have to make it personal. Evaluate every task like you will be the one tasked to do it for the next week, month, or year. And every now and then, you need to keep a few of these tasks to remind yourself what they're like. That perspective changes things.

So delegate early and delegate often, but don't delegate always.