Six Reasons People Don’t Delegate

We all know we need to delegate, right? Even if we are not a manager we can still experience “burn-out” if we take on too much and sometimes even the most capable of us need to ask for help.

So why don’t we delegate more? Over the last twenty years of working with teams we have heard many answers to this question. Here are six of the best (plus some alternative views!):

1. Nobody does it as well as me. You’ve spent years honing your skills and becoming exceptional at your job. How could anyone else do it as well? Ridiculous. Except of course you may not want to be doing this particular task forever. Hmmm…. OK then why not break it down into a series of smaller tasks and hand it over to someone else in manageable chunks? That way you can ensure each part of the task is done to an acceptable standard before you move on to the next one. That might work…

2. It will take ages to train someone else to do it. It took you weeks to learn how to do this (and of course you’re far more intelligent than anyone else on the team) so the chances of anyone picking it up quickly are slim to none… On the other hand, dedicating even half an hour to managing this task each month is taking your energies away from the more important stuff. Maybe over a long-enough time period you might actually gain time by getting someone else to do it!

3. I don’t have anyone to delegate to. What if everyone else is as busy as you or even worse you don’t have a team? Well funnily enough busy people get things done and sometimes even welcome new challenges. It may also be that they can delegate their tasks on to other people. If you don’t have a team you might need to ask a colleague to help or even look further afield to other teams. If all else fails you could always delegate upwards and ask the boss to do it….

4. I don’t trust _______ (fill in name of untrustworthy/unreliable/lazy team-member here) with this task as they’ll just mess it up. Tricky one this. It’s like the chicken and the egg; how can you trust someone unless they have demonstrated capability in a given area but on the other hand how can they demonstrate capability unless we give them a chance to do the task? Maybe this is more about managing risk than it is about having trust in someone (see point one above). In the words of the ABBA song maybe we just need to take a chance!

5. I am the only one that can do this task because __________ (insert organisational policy or job description detail here). It’s always useful to point to the rule-book and say “sorry guvnor – I just can’t give this one away, it says it right here in black and white”. After all the rules are in place for a reason, aren’t they? Maybe and maybe not. Rules do change if there is a good reason to change them. Have you thought about spreading the risk in your organisation so that capability is spread amongst a group of people? That way if you are ever too ill to come to work the task still gets done.

6. I like doing this task! Some tasks just make the day worthwhile – breaking the drudgery up and putting a smile on your face. Why should anyone else have the pleasure of taking ownership of these types of tasks? Then again why not spread the love around a bit…?

Download our Time Management Guide for more ways to make more time.