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Delegating by capacity

Why do so many bosses manage according to the principal of “ I do most of the work. You ‘re just here to catch the overflow?”

Delegating is supposed to be about understanding the work flowing through your organization and then assigning that work based on skill sets and availability of the resources within your control. What I’ve experienced in far too many situations, however, is where delegating work takes place via a mechanism of “I am going to horde as much work for myself as I can and when I simply can’t do it all any more, I’ll leak out small bits of tasking for you to take care of.”

That dynamic has led to situations where workers are left to “try and look busy” rather that making valuable contributions, learning and growing in their role, exploring opportunities within the organization or, heaven forbid, working on process improvements. When under-utilized employees gather some initiative and attempt to do those last two things on their own, they are usually admonished for making someone else look bad.

While we could criticize the managers who are hording information rather than sharing the load, in most cases these folks are just reacting to their environment – they need to look extra busy to their bosses in order to give the appearance of value to the organization. This is the natural result of organizations focused on effort and not accomplishment and, at an even deeper root, more concerned with short-term appearances than long-term performance.

The way around this is to align expectations around building future capability everywhere in the organization, having each layer of management keenly aware of who does what, and how, and why – to make sure effort is applied towards those long-term objectives and not the upkeep of short-term metrics, most of which are easily gamed anyway.