Do You Delegate Your Workload? Why Or Why Not?

So I went to a conference back in May that was meant for company managers with direct reports, and one of the big things they preached was delegation.  My initial instinct was fear for my own job; aren’t I then basically just training my replacement?

How Much More Productive Are You Now?

In this new technology era that we live in, ease and availability of information has usurped that of Dewey’s Decimal System.  No longer do we have to spend long hours in the library to research or build out fairly simple tasks. I’ve got to think that we (as a species) are learning information at a pace that destroys the pace of 30 years ago.

That being said, the pace at which we learn means that we’re learning more than we realize we can handle.  When we talk to our parents and grandparents you heard them say things like, “specialize in a field and keep the information to yourself to move forward,” or, “if only you know the information, they can’t fire you.”

Both of these statement probably made a lot of sense because to learn your job or skill, you’d need either training from you, or research on how you do it; which wasn’t as readily available as it is today.

So the rate at which you’re taking in information anymore is likely more than you can handle, in any business now.

UPS has it right with their slogan “moving at the speed of business.  It changes in a heartbeat anymore and many think that if you’re not moving along with it, you’re slowing it up by not adapting.

From The Individual Contributor Perspective

If you’re not giving stuff over to your staff, then you’re not only stunting your growth, but you’re stunting theirs as well.  Furthermore, you’re probably getting a reputation of not trusting your people, and that’s a slippery slope to be on.

If they don’t trust you, it is a dead deal and something needs to change immediately.  At the meeting in May, they took a poll of hands as to who “trusted their boss with their life.”  That’s going a little overboard, and as you’d expect the response was about 3 or 4 hands out of 300.

You don’t need to be trusted with their life, but you DO need to be trusted with their best interest in mind.  Even if that means that you’re not their boss anymore, or you’re giving your best guy to another team, or another company.  It’s not your place to stop them.  Putting up roadblocks is just going to make them want to leave more.

Give them parts of your job.  If they don’t like it, or don’t want to move to your position in the near future, let them tell you.  Be open with the conversation from the get go.  If they don’t want to do the jobs you’re giving them, let them have a choice of not doing it, but keep them aware that there will be a time that you’ll need their help also.  You help them, they help you.

From The Manager Perspective

If you’re thinking that your people aren’t capable of doing your work, then management may not be for you.  You’ve got to have confidence in your people.  Did you ever have to take a second chance to get something right?  Give them the benefit of the doubt.  It’s a learning curve that they’ll certainly appreicate.

But Hank, If I don’t do it, it won’t get done right.  It’ll save me time to just do it myself.

Yea, it probably will save you time…  …this time.  But what about next time and the time after?  Give them the training for 2 or 3 times and you’ll likely be contributing  less and less each time until they’ve got the whole load, freeing you up to learn or point your time elsewhere.

“But Hank, I don’t have time to train them, I’m very busy.”

Yea, everyone is, that’s why it is called a job.  If you weren’t supposed to be busy for it, why would they hire you?  Everyone knows you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, but you can make time.  Set something up for 3 weeks into the future.  I bet you have time on your calendar for that.

Everyone says they have no time, but it is because you’re pulled into meetings a day or sometimes hours beforehand.  If you’ve already set aside time to train or handoff a portion you’ll not only be better prepared, but more focused as you’ve blocked out a time to do it.

But Won’t I Be Working Myself Out Of a Job?

Depends on how you look at it.  What do you do if one of your employees tells you that they want more work to do?  Do you just tell them there isn’t anymore?  You shouldn’t.  You should be then looking for more work for them.  Other groups, other tasks, how can things streamline better.

That being said, wouldn’t/shouldn’t your boss do the same thing?  If you tell him that you’ve automated 15 tasks that were previously taking you 20 hours a week to do, is he going to be mad at you?  I’d hope not because you just saved the company money.  A boss should embrace that, and in turn,  search for more work for you as you did for your employee.

If he sees that you’ve completed tasks ahead of time and schedule, he’s going to want to find more work for you because he knows you get it done.  If he’s not searching for more work for you to do, it’s time to look for a new gig.


Nobody likes to think that they’re going to be out of a job, and everyone likes the feeling of knowing a process inside and out, but in today’s fast paced economy that may be a feeling of the past. If you think that your boss wouldn’t be in favor of this, ask.

Tell your boss that you’re thinking of automating a process or handing off some other work to your folks and would like something else.  See what he/she says.  My guess is that it will be positive.

Long story short – “Don’t Be Scared Of LOSING Your current Job, Be Excited About GAINING Your Next One!”

photos by: foundphotoslj

Filed Under: Compensation

  • HIB

    Great post! If a person has shown value and is confident in their abilities, there is no need to worry about delegating. People who go out of their way to stunt the growth of others by not delegating work has been termed by the author of “The Magic of Thinking Big” as “smaller thinker”. Do you want to be a “small thinker”?

    HIB’s last blog post..Can You Say Success?

  • I was a manager for an investment firm and had 8 direct reports. I would score myself a zero out of 10 for ability to delegate. If the person had a good work ethic, we worked well together. If they asked lots of questions over and over and never got it, I would do the work myself. Yes, it was unproductive but the work had to get done by the end of the day. Accounts needed to be balanced and couldn’t wait for the next business day. I learned much over those years and found that my lack of patience means I would be a better small business manager over a corporate manager. I was too young to get an ulcer, but another few years and I would have had several. I applaud managers who are able to delegate.

    Scott @ The Passive Dad’s last blog post..Free Creative Ideas to Help Friends Facing Foreclosure or Bankruptcy

  • I struggle with the issue of delegation everyday. I have a small staff of 5 employees, yet sometimes I find myself doing all of the work. I could easily allow someone else to run with some of it but most of the time I find it is just easier to do it than to try and explain it first.

    I have very capable employees so this is something I need to work on over the next few months.


    Personal Finance’s last blog post..Have You Tried Affiliate Marketing? Any Success Lately?

  • @HIB – good point, and no, I wouldn’t think most would want to be a small thinker!

    @Scott – I hear you, it’s tough to let go sometimes when you absolutely need a job done, but if YOUR superiors don’t understand that you’re trying to give the reigns over and just want results, maybe it is an opportunity to “coach upwards” and let them know that you’re just trying to help your team grow also. They should understand that.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Nice post. In my former job, I either delegated or automated nearly every work assignment I could. I had two direct reports (a low to mid management type position), that were fresh out of college and I found it’s better to throw them into the deep end of the pool. Both were highly qualified, intelligent kids, so I quickly taught them how to do the tasks at hand, and only threw a lifeline when I saw them struggle.

    My superiors (VP and Director) loved the strategy, especially the many automated strategies we setup, b/c it boosted our productivity.

    So I certainly agree with you. Instead of putting you at greater odds of losing your job, that it actually makes you indispensable.

  • great post and I agree about the training, I believe nobody is good at everything. There’s need of training and on the job training as well. About delegate workload, my sister job requires her to train new staff and she’s hesitate to delegate the job as knowing that she need to check the result again.

    Sherry’s last blog post..October $25 Gas Card Giveaway

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  • @Matt – Agreed indeed. If you have an ability to delegate, you’ve got a skill in and of itself. 😉

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  • Thanx for your very useful post. But I had trouble navigating past your website because I kept getting 502 bad gateway error. Just thought to let you know.

  • Personally I try to delegate everything I can – assuming my team are capable of doing the job in hand. Doing so frees me up to oversee the tasks at hand and/or train existing team members to take on more responsibility. This means a smoother running work-place, development opportunities for key players and better succession planning as the team have so much training and experience between them.
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