Makarios Consulting Blog

“Dumping” Is Not Delegating

Many people follow a predictable career path: they excel in their job as an individual contributor with no direct reports, the company notices their great performance, and they are promoted to a management position. Many of the same people then stumble into a predictable career pitfall: they are not trained on how to delegate responsibility, they try to “do it all” on their own, and they finally dump the work on rest of the team in frustration. However, “dumping” is not delegating. The only thing that dumps and delegation have in common is that they both begin with the letter “D.”

This is what “dumping” looks like:

  • The manager acts out of a sense of being personally overwhelmed – not out of the intention to strategically distribute work for the good of the team, the development of the individuals on the team, and the value to the business.
  • The manager hands out responsibilities even if the person on the receiving end is not able or not willing to do the task.
  • The manager attempts to abdicate responsibility (“Get this out of my way and don’t talk to me about it until it is done”) rather than take responsibility (“I will explain the assignment and provide feedback and support as needed to ensure a successful outcome”).

Unsurprisingly, “dumping” is a surefire way to get an outcome that is not what is expected, desired, or needed. For example, at a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, a frazzled manager told a new employee to clean one of the rooms so that the next shift would be able to start production immediately. The employee cleaned the room until it was spotless … and, in the process, threw out an entire batch of medication. The outcome was a financial and customer service disaster, simply because the manager had “dumped” the task on the employee without clarifying what was required and checking for understanding.

Delegation, on the other hand, is the act of giving assignments to direct reports with the intention of giving them some area of responsibility and control in completing these assignments. Furthermore, the tasks may enlarge the scope of the direct reports’ current job and/or provide developmental opportunities. As such, delegation is both strategic and intentional. It is a skill that must be learned.

There are eight key ingredients to effective delegation*:

  1. Directions. Explain carefully the task or assignment you want undertaken.
  2. Rationale. Provide reasons for the job and explain how important it is.
  3. Outcomes. Describe the outcomes you expect.
  4. Authority. Define the range of decision making and responsibility that is allowed without need for prior approvals.
  5. Deadline. Agree on when the assignment will be completed.
  6. Feedback. Ask for his or her understanding of the assignment and get responses.
  7. Follow-up. Provide a schedule of milepost meetings for review, process, and progress.
  8. Support. Indicate administrative backup and moral support available to the direct report. Inform him or her that you are available if there are any questions.

If you are a team leader, manager, or supervisor and feeling stressed because of all the responsibilities you have on your plate, don’t give in to the temptation to do a dump. Choose instead to delegate tasks intentionally, strategically, and wisely. Doing so is the only way to ensure you get the outcomes you and your business want.


*Source: The Best of Active Training. Copyright C 2004 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Reproduced by permission of Pfeiffer, an Imprint of Wiley.