Knowing when to delegate decision making and when not to

Decision making is one of the most important tasks for business managers or leaders.

However, many professionals wrongly assume that holding tightly to the ropes of all decisions strengthens their position in the company and gives them more job security. This strategy is not efficient or viable in the long term for the manager, his subordinates or the company.

When the weight of all decisions, no matter how big or small, falls on one person, they are bound to make a mistake or face a burnout. Moreover, not assigning any task or decision making to your subordinates will make them feel inferior and give them low levels of motivation at the workplace. Hence, ironically, pushing your workload and decisions onto your subordinates aka “delegating” is actually considered a good leadership move!

However, the right delegation is a delicate dance which needs to be handled with utmost care as you are still accountable for the decisions taken by your subordinate; a wrong decision from them means the axe is on you. Moreover, when handing over your work to subordinates; they must take it positively as a growth opportunity and not as a guinea pig who is being handed over someone else’s work.

Another sensitive aspect of delegation involves the question as to which decisions should be delegated and which ones should not be? If every decision were to be delegated then your skills and experience would hold no significance in the organization.

When to delegate decision making:

  • Delegate if routine

The first delegation to any employee or subordinate should be routine and daily tasks that are less risky, the employee is used to them and the repercussions if not carried out correctly are low. Moreover, daily tasks have little variation hence more chances of correct execution and also a high chance to raise employee morale and confidence.

  • Delegate if minor

Minor decisions should always be delegated to subordinates to save managers adequate time for taking more important and higher level decisions. Minor decisions could be a purchase manager delegating his subordinate to give order of minor purchasing items. Moreover, in the quality control department, the manager can delegate some level of decision making regarding minor quality factors of the product.

  • Delegate if they can grow

Many employees fuel on the chance to grow, a change in the normal workplace tasks and a way to develop a new skill or gain new knowledge. In that case, delegating to those employees will motivate them. Moreover, they will take even a tedious and time consuming task in a stride positively.

  • Delegate if you have a plan

If you follow a series of steps for carrying out any task then your subordinates will surely be aware of them. Hence, letting them handle the already devised steps for the completion of the task is a good place to start from.

When to not delegate decision making

Certain tasks and decisions are not favorable for delegation such as:

  • Leadership decisions

The general act of leading should not be assigned to an employee who does not have the experience or skills for it. Managers possess as well as are trained for people skills and not everyone can efficiently provide direction to a team.

  • Core responsibilities

Every employee is hired on the basis of certain core responsibilities and to delegate decisions pertaining to those responsibilities is not a good idea. For instance, if your main duty as a sales manager involves to gain sales of only big budget clients that you pass on to your subordinates then this is an act of poor delegation by you.

  • Hiring

Hiring new employees is a task of the HR department as well as the manager of the related department. To let the decision of hiring a new employee for your department fall on the shoulders of a subordinate is also not a good act of delegation.

  • Praise and mistakes

Being a manager, there will be many instances when you will have to diplomatically point out a mistake of your subordinate as well as praise them for their good efforts. This is the responsibility of only the manager and delegating this task to a subordinate will not make the mistake or praise hold much value for the employee on the receiving end.

  • Crisis management

In the scenario of a crisis or damage control, the reigns should be in the hands of the manager. He/she should be 100% there and involved in every action and decision in times of the emergency.  This is because leaders already have a crisis management plan as well as training in place that subordinates do not know of. Secondly, being fully involved in such rocky times gives your subordinates confidence and keeps them calm in the face of calamity.

A manager is one who quickly learns the art of efficient decision making as well as delegating. There is a fine line between what too much delegation is and what keeping the reigns too tightly in your hands is. This fine line can be managed by an experienced and skilled manager effectively.



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