management-fundamentalsYou can use this information to improve your delegation skills, and/or to teach your students or others how to delegate. There is also an ethical dilemma you can use for class discussion. This information is taken from my Management Fundamentals: Concepts, Applications, and Skill Development 7e, SAGE 2017.

Delegation is the process of assigning responsibility and authority for accomplishing objectives. Telling employees to perform tasks that are part of their job design is issuing orders, not delegating. Delegating refers to giving employees new tasks. The new task may become part of a redesigned job, or it may simply be a onetime assignment.

Benefits of and Obstacles to Delegating. When managers delegate, they benefit by having more time to perform high-priority tasks, and they can spend more time away from the job and the work gets done. Successful managers delegate to draw on others’ abilities to get the job done, so they accomplish more like growing the business. Delegation trains employees and improves their self-esteem; it is a means of enriching jobs.

Unfortunately, there are some obstacles to delegation, as managers become used to doing things themselves. They fear that employees will fail to accomplish the task or will show them up. Managers believe that they can perform the task more efficiently than others. You should realize that delegating is an important management skill; don’t let these or other obstacles stop you from delegating.

Delegation Decisions. Successful delegation is often based on selecting what to delegate and to whom to delegate. Below suggests what to delegate and what not to delegate because knowing what to delegate is important to your success.

What to Delegate:

  • Tasks you don’t need to do
  • Tasks you don’t like to do that are appropriate to delegate
  • Things you are not good at, or others can do better
  • Tasks that develop employees—job enrichment; even if you can do the task better, you will not have to do it at all and you can do more important things.
  • Tasks associated with solving employees’ problems; help them learn to solve their own problems by delegating making the decision to them.
  • Technical matters, routine tasks like paperwork

What Not to Delegate:

  • Anything that you need to be involved with because of your unique knowledge or skill
  • Personnel matters (evaluating, disciplining, firing)
  • Confidential matters
  • Projects or tasks in crisis
  • Activities delegated to you personally

The Delegation Process. After determining what to delegate and to whom, you must plan for and delegate the tasks. Most managers haven’t been taught how to delegate successfully, so they aren’t good at it and are reluctant to delegate. If you follow the evidence-based management steps in the Delegation Model and explained here, you will improve your delegation skills.

Step 1. Explain the need for delegating and the reasons for selecting the employee. It is helpful for an employee to whom you delegate a task to understand why the assignment must be completed and to realize the importance of the task. Telling employees why they were selected should make them feel valued. Don’t use the “it’s a lousy job but someone has to do it” approach. Be positive; make employees aware of how they may benefit from the assignment. If Step 1 is completed successfully, employees should be motivated, or at least willing, to do the assignment.

 Step 2. Set objectives that define responsibility, level of authority, and deadline. The objectives should clearly state the result the employee is responsible for achieving by a specific deadline (use Objective Setting Model from my prior blog).

Define the level of authority the employee has. Does the employee inform you, recommend action for you to take, do the task and report it, or does the employee have full authority?

Setting clear deadlines (Tuesday, May 22 by 2:00 pm), is critical because it creates pressure to get the job done.  Saying, do it when you have time is not a deadline, or having no established deadline, leads to procrastination or the task not getting done.

On a personal note, if you can’t meet a deadline tell your manager or customer as soon as you know it, don’t surprise the person at the deadline, and be sure to set a new realistic deadline, and meet it. If you want to impress your boss and get good performance reviews that can lead to raises and promotions, follow these mottos: “I don’t meet my manager’s expectations, I beat them.” “I don’t meet deadlines, I beat deadlines.”

 Step 3. Develop a plan. Once the objectives and deadline are set, a plan is needed to achieve them. The level of autonomy for developing the plan to accomplish the task should be based on the employee’s capability level. Make sure instructions for completing the task are clear; writing them down helps.

 Step 4. Establish control checkpoints and hold employees accountable. For simple, short tasks, a deadline without control checkpoints is appropriate. However, when tasks have multiple steps and/or will take some time to complete, it is often advisable to check progress at predetermined times (control checkpoints). This approach builds information flow into the delegation system from the start. You and the employee should agree on how (text, email, phone call, visit, or detailed report) and when (daily, weekly, or after specific steps are completed but before going on to the next step) the employee will provide information regarding the assignment. When establishing control, consider the employee’s capability level. Don’t micromanage unless the employee really needs you to do so. The lower the capability, the more frequent the checks; the higher the capability, the less frequent. All parties involved should note the control checkpoints on their calendars.

Below is an ethical dilemma you can think about and use for class discussion.

Join the Ethics Discussion: Delegating Destroying Documents

Arthur Andersen, a consulting company, was taken to court for destroying evidence that could have been used in court to support allegations of illegal activities. Arthur Andersen destroyed evidence related to the auditing of  Enron to protect both companies from being found guilty of engaging in illegal business practices. Arthur Andersen claimed that it was not trying to destroy incriminating evidence, that it was simply destroying records, which is done periodically. Destroying documents is, in fact, routine. The key question is this: “What is being destroyed and why is it being destroyed?”

Discussion Questions

1. Is it ethical and socially responsible to delegate the task of destroying documents that may potentially be used as evidence of wrongdoing?

2. What would you do if your boss asked you to destroy documents and you thought the goal was to cover up evidence of wrongdoing by the firm? (Would you just do it? Say nothing but neglect to do it? Question your boss’s motives? Look closely at what you were asked to destroy? Check with your boss’s boss to make sure it’s okay to do it? Tell the boss you will not do it? Tell the boss to do it him- or herself? Blow the whistle to an outside source?)

3. If you were charged with destroying evidence, do you believe it would be a good defense to say, “I was only following orders”?


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