The word Delegate on paper note pinned to a cork notice boardThere are many reasons as to why a manager or somebody in a senior position may decide to delegate their work to those below them or to those within a similar job role to them, but what happens when delegating backfires? Sometimes delegating is the right thing to do, but here’s how to deal with the situation that may arise when delegating backfires or goes wrong in some way.

Reasons Why We Delegate Work
There are many reasons as to why those in senior positions may decide to delegate work to their subordinates or to those within a similar position to them.

One of these reasons is that as a manager or a senior member of staff you have a lot of work and responsibility to cope with each day, and sometimes it’s simply easier to shed a little by delegating work to your employees and colleagues. By sharing the responsibility you will have more time to complete the tasks of the highest priority which allows you to complete your work more efficiently.

Another reason as to why you may delegate your work to employees or colleagues is to build trust. If you give your subordinates an important task you were personally supposed to oversee it shows your employee that you trust them, which in turn will enable you to earn respect from your employee and vice versa.

You might also choose to delegate your work to give your employees experience in responsibility and to test their skills. However not many senior members of staff use these methods of teaching loosely as it isn’t definitive that the employee will learn anything useful from the experience and so the delegation would not have been worthwhile.

What Happens When Delegation Backfires
When delegation backfires you can expect a number of different outcomes, but here are some of the most common scenarios that you will find yourself in if shedding the responsibility goes wrong.

One of the worst things that can happen, not for you, but for your employee, is a loss of confidence. Your employee may feel that they are not good enough as they could not deal with the additional work or responsibility that you gave them.

Another scenario that you could find yourself facing is that by giving your employee a complicated task that you were supposed to oversee, the employee did not entirely understand the task. Due to the lack of understanding, the individual failed in trying to complete the task that you assigned to them.

One of the worst situations that you could find yourself in is that your manager no longer trusts you to manage your own team. Due to the fact that your delegation backfired, your boss may believe that you cannot manage efficiently or effectively and so they could review your performance and find you unfit for your current position. Everybody makes mistakes but as a senior member of staff the consequences can be severe.

Dealing With Delegation Gone Wrong
When you delegate incorrectly it’s essential that you deal with the situation as soon as it arises to prevent the issue from getting any worse, but the way in which you deal with the situations depends on the consequences that you are facing.

If you have damaged the confidence of your employee by giving them a task that was too large or too complicated for them to handle you must confront your employee. Explain that throughout a career they will come up against difficult tasks, which they may fail to complete. Look to offer a story from your past to give them hope.

It’s essential that you do your best to rebuild your employee’s confidence as it can affect the individual psychologically as well as making them less productive, which will affect the rest of your team.

If an employee wasn’t briefed properly, there is little to do after the situation except correct it yourself. If you have to, put in the extra hours to redo the task and to ensure that it is done correctly. Alternatively, whilst briefing the employee in the first place, make sure that they completely understand and ask them questions if necessary.

There is no easy way for you to deal with the last scenario. One of the best things that you can do is sit down with your boss, explain to them your reason for delegating this particular job and why you chose the individual that you did. Accept responsibility by explaining that the error was yours and that you will ensure that it does not happen again.

The key to dealing with delegation that has gone wrong is to be honest with yourself and with those that were involved in the incident. If you’re honest and accept responsibility where appropriate you will find that those around you are far more understanding.

Georgina Stewart
Georgina Stewart has worked in the executive search business for a number of years and has been lucky enough to recruit for various international and local organisations. She currently works for Marble Hill Partners, who help provide interim management. Connect with her at her Member Profile.
Georgina Stewart

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Specialists in building management teams for #PrivateEquity backed businesses through executive search and interim management.
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