Ramón’s flattered when his manager delegates an important task to him. It’s great to be trusted with such work so early in his career.
However, he’s not confident that he has the skills or the time to tackle the request. Nonetheless, Ramón feels duty bound to say “Yes,” because he doesn’t want to let his boss down.
It can seem overwhelming when you’re delegated an extra task, especially if you’re in a junior role. But, with the correct approach, it doesn’t have to mean overwork, conflict or failure.
In this article we’ll look at why performing a delegated task can be a positive, rewarding experience, and how you can make it a route to professional and personal growth.
What Is Delegation and Why Does it Matter?
Delegation occurs when a senior person assigns to a junior co-worker a task that she would usually perform herself.
Taking on such tasks can be good for your career, especially if you are just starting out. It can help you to establish stronger working relationships with managers and colleagues, and to gain insights into other areas of your organization.
Delegation might be an opportunity to enhance your reputation. You may even be seen as a star team player, who is ready for greater responsibility, if you perform the task well.
However, there’s a downside. Being delegated too much extra work can lead to hurry sickness or even burnout. So, your ability to manage yourself, and to negotiate with others, will be crucial to both your career and your health.
Five Ways to Deal With Delegation
Here’s a five-step strategy to help you to excel when you’re delegated an extra task:
1. Apply Emotional Intelligence
Delegation will inevitably create more work for you, and the task might be new and challenging, too. But see things from your manager’s point of view. Many bosses find it difficult to “let go” of tasks, and they can struggle to find the time that good delegation requires. So, when your manager approaches you with a request, take it as a compliment.
Being empathic like this will help you to focus on the task, and to banish any self-doubt about your ability to do it. You’ll be better able to approach the challenge with a professional and upbeat attitude.
2. Check the Facts
Give yourself the best chance of success by gathering from your manager as much information about the task as you can. He may lead the delegation process, but you’ll be able to balance your and your boss’s needs by asking him questions such as:
- What exactly is the task? What’s its purpose and value?
- Why are you asking me and not another colleague? Do I have the most relevant skills, or the most time available? Do I need training or resources?
- When does it need to be done by? Is the deadline realistic or flexible?
- Who else has an interest in, or influence over, the task? Who do I need to involve or inform? (Influence maps and stakeholder analysis can be useful tools here.)
- How would you like to manage and monitor this task? How often, or at what stages, and in what format, would you like me to update you about my progress? Also, how much freedom to make decisions do I have?
- Which of my existing work should I “park” to free up the time and resources that I need to complete this new task?
The answers will give both you and your manager a clearer understanding of what’s expected. And you’ll know whether you can accept the request outright or if you need to agree a compromise.
3. Communicate Well
Once you’ve said “Yes” to a delegated task, be sure to keep your manager informed as agreed, and avoid leaving yourself vulnerable to assumptions or misunderstandings. Be honest about your progress and tell her if you run into problems, so that you can resolve any issues quickly.
Make sure that your colleagues and stakeholders are aware that you have this extra responsibility to fulfill, and be clear about how it fits with their own demands on you. This will help to reduce the risk of conflict and it might make it easier to ask for help if you need it.
4. Manage Yourself
It’s a good idea to get organized straight away! You’ll more likely deliver on your assignment, and people will take any concerns that you voice more seriously, if you stay in control of your workload.
5. Deliver Effectively
Be sure to hand over your completed project with a smile and, if the situation allows, ask to be kept up to date with its implementation. If it’s going to be part of a presentation, for example, ask if you can attend.
If appropriate, report on what you did to achieve the task, and mention any difficulties that you faced and how you overcame them. Offer suggestions for improvements, too. This could help your next delegated task to run more smoothly, and to ensure that your manager understands and values your contribution.
If you haven’t broached the subject before, now could be a good time to ask if your input can receive formal recognition.
Saying “No” to a Delegated Task
It would be unprofessional to say “No” to a task simply because you don’t like the look of it! However, it can be valid to question the delegated task if it:
- Has no clear value or purpose.
- Requires skills better suited to another colleague.
- Is already running late or involves impossible deadlines.
- Places you in conflict with others.
- Appears contrary to company policy, is illegal or unethical.
- Will likely damage your reputation.
Saying “No” may be extremely difficult, depending on the circumstances and the nature of your relationship with your boss. If you do need to turn down a request for delegation, be sure to provide clear reasons why you’ve reached that conclusion, and always try to find another way to meet the delegator’s needs.
When Saying “No” Isn’t an Option
It can be impossible to say “No” in some situations. Whether for political, personal or practical reasons, you just have to “get on with it.” So, here are five tips for making the best of things if your room for maneuver is limited:
- Look after yourself. Eat, sleep and exercise to minimize stress and ill health.
- Prioritize your existing workload. See if you can put anything aside temporarily – without risking your reputation – while you concentrate on the delegated task.
- Try centering. This is a technique for recovering your focus, calm and confidence in a stressful situation.
- Speak with your colleagues. Could your support network pitch in to help you?
- Protect yourself from recriminations. Keep a record of your actions and communication in case there are any issues at the end of the project.
Taking on delegated tasks can help to raise your profile and to boost your career prospects, but, in certain circumstances, it can also be harmful.
Ask the right questions and agree ground rules so that you can take control of the task, and make it a positive experience for both you and your manager.
Even in situations where it feels hard to say “No,” managing the task in this way will help you to steer it towards success.