WHERE TO DRAW THE LINE WHEN DELEGATING TASKS
A few essential managerial activities should stay with you and never be delegated to others. These include hiring, performance review, firing and disciplinary actions, and certain specific tasks that have been delegated to you by someone else.
It’s usually a good idea to seek your subordinates’ insights about job candidates. Many managers routinely ask their people to meet with visiting candidates to describe workplace routines and answer any questions the candidates may have. Afterward, they share with managers their impressions of the candidates. This collaboration benefits everyone. It is important that candidates understand the environment of the job for which they are applying, and it is equally important that current employees get a chance to interact with these individuals who may be joining their work group as peers. Southwest Airlines, the most successful company in its industry, uses a panel of employees from different levels and functions to interview and screen job applicants. The final decision, however, remains with the manager for whom an applicant will work. Subordinate input to the decision is fine, but hiring is not something that can or should be delegated. Along this same vein, you should retain the job of selecting people for project teams. Be open to advice, but make these selections yourself.
Many companies use annual performance review sessions to appraise employee performance, identify areas in which the person needs training or coaching, and communicate employee goals for the coming year. Is this one of your company’s routines? These reviews, based on face-to-face meetings between managers and their direct reports, are also used to make decisions about bonuses and promotions. Naturally, performance review is a responsibility that stays with you; it cannot be delegated. However, you should be aware that there is a mechanism through which employees can legitimately weigh in on the workplace performance of others—including their own bosses. It’s called 360- degree feedback. With this appraisal method, anonymous information about an individual’s workplace performance is collected from people who regularly interact with that person: subordinates, work team members, and “internal customers.” In most cases, 360-degree feedback provides an assessment of an individual’s performance that is more balanced and informed than the traditional boss’s assessment of a subordinate. If your company uses “360s,” you may have access to some overview material from these reviews (the details are usually confidential for the person being reviewed). Still, the formal appraisal of an employee’s performance measured against his or her objectives is a task that stays with the manager.
Firing and Disciplinary Actions
Just as a manager cannot delegate a hiring decision, he or she cannot delegate actions that involve dismissing or disciplining another employee. That responsibility remains with the manager, even though managers almost universally point to firing and disciplinary actions as their least favorite responsibilities. That responsibility is tempered in some workplaces—especially in team-oriented workplaces—by peer pressure on slackers.
High-performance work teams, especially those paid on the basis of measurable output, are intolerant of members who will not or cannot carry their own weight. For example, work teams at Nucor Corporation, a highly productive and profitable steelmaker, have a reputation for being very self-directed and self-disciplining. Because inefficiency by one person hits all team members in their pocketbooks, slothful members are pressured by their peers to either clean up their act or look for work elsewhere.
Certain Tasks That Have Been Delegated to You by Someone Else
Let’s suppose that your boss has delegated a job to you: She wants you to make an analysis of all suppliers used by your division, noting the level of business each does with all departments and examining the record for possible conflicts of interest. Normally, you could subdelegate the task of compiling a list of suppliers and their sales to one of your subordinates, assuming that you have someone capable of doing the job correctly. However, this may be a situation in which your boss (or someone else) has delegated the job to you with the understanding that you alone will handle it. Perhaps the job requires a level of trust or confidentiality that the boss sees you as uniquely qualified to handle. Perhaps it’s a sensitive matter, or, for political reasons, the boss wants someone with managerial status to be seen doing the job. Whatever the reason, you must be alert to situations of this type and recognize that you must handle it yourself. If you are not sure, ask your boss.
TAKE A BALANCED APPROACH TO THE DIRTY WORK
If your workplace is like most others, there are lots of different tasks to be done. Some will be interesting, motivating, and educational; others will fall in the “dirty work” category—the type that no one wants to do, because they are either boring, physically taxing, or otherwise unpleasant (e.g., dealing with a dissatisfied customer). As you consider the tasks you’d like to delegate, save a few of these unlikeable ones for yourself. You’ll earn more respect as a leader if people see that you are willing to share in the hardships and not keep all the most pleasant and appealing jobs for yourself. Also, when delegating tasks, spread the dirty work around. Don’t give all the desirable jobs to one set of people and all the unpleasant or undesirable ones to another set.