Delegating responsibilities is an essential skill for productive managers, entrepreneurs, and professionals. Without the ability to delegate, professionals of all levels may struggle to manage their workload and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
In a study published in the International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, it was demonstrated that effective delegation was positive for both managers and their staff. Managers were able to shift some tasks from their busy workload by delegating, while employees felt trusted and valued when their bosses assigned projects to them.
But despite the benefits of effective delegation, there are significant barriers to delegation for many managers and busy professionals that prevent them from assigning tasks successfully.
Why do people hesitate to delegate?
Feeling unable or unwilling to delegate personal tasks and other responsibilities is a common phenomenon among most professionals. Many busy professionals use short-sighted reasoning to justify their choice not to delegate:
- “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”
- “I don’t have time to explain how I want this task completed.”
- “If others see that I have to delegate some of my responsibilities, they won’t respect me.”
More than anything else, the fear of tasks not getting done right stops people from delegating their responsibilities. The greatest barrier to delegation is your own thinking. But in practice, many of these justifications are simply untrue.
Take, for example, the idea that delegating is a sign of weakness. The Harvard Business Review argues that this thought process is a vicious cycle: being unwilling to delegate in the face of increasing demands leads to stress and burnout, which in turn leads to poor team management and decision-making.
How can people learn to delegate more effectively?
It is possible for professionals to overcome these barriers to delegation by rethinking the reasoning they use when they choose not to delegate.
“If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” There is only so much that one individual can accomplish before the quality of their work, personal health, and leadership skills decreases. Managers who force themselves to conduct every task — including personal ones, which can be easily delegated — for the sake of completing them themselves can often experience the opposite outcome: lower-quality work that doesn’t meet the standards of their company.
“I don’t have time to explain how I want this task completed.” While it’s true that most professionals are working on busy schedules, taking the time to delegate effectively can save significant amounts of time in the long run. Spending a few minutes explaining the parameters of a task can end up saving a lot of time in the long-run.
“If others see that I have to delegate some of my responsibilities, they won’t respect me.” On the contrary, most people understand that we are all being pushed and pulled in different directions all the time. Having the wisdom to make time for the things that are really important to you and delegating the rest is a vital quality that others will respect.
While there are many perceived barriers to delegation facing entrepreneurs, professionals, and even busy parents, learning how to delegate effectively is an important life skill that everyone can benefit from.