Office Diaries

An insider's guide to success in the workplace

Delegating is Not All it's Cracked Up to Be

Being a good delegator doesn't always equate with good management skills.

There is this mantra in corporate America that has gained momentum over the years which says that the ability to delegate is a primary cornerstone of good management skills. But I think its endorsements have run away with only one side of the story. Over and over again we hear how being a good manager is equivalent to being a good "delegator." The problem is that the basic concept of delegation assumes that managers have access to enough talent that work can sufficiently be "handed off" without worry. This however, is not realistic. In actuality, managers hesitate to relinquish responsibility of the work for which they are ultimately accountable, because in the end, it is they who are measured, penalized or rewarded for the output of their departments and the people within them. So if the members of their teams aren't equipped (for whatever reason) with what it takes to get the job done "right", then managers should be given the latitude to make the decisions pertaining to who does what without getting dinged on their performance reviews. If it turns out that a manager can't manage the talent and skills on his or her team and figure out a way to maximize people's strengths, then it's time to find a new manager.

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By no stretch am I am suggesting that employees should not be given a chance to learn and grow by having opportunities to do things at which they may not be experts. But rather, I am saying that when the pressure is on, sometimes it makes sense to "do it yourself." And that's not a bad thing.


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Donna Flagg is the author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations and a New York City-based dancer.


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