5 Times You Should Delegate Tasks

Do you feel like you need to do everything at work yourself, or it won't get done the right way? Chances are, you're overextending yourself, compromising both your productivity and your happiness in your career. So when should you pass the baton, and when should you keep running for the finish line?

pass the baton 

(Photo Credit: vuhung/Flickr)

Delegate when:

1. There isn't one right way to do something.

This requires self-awareness. You might prefer that a task be done in a certain way, but that doesn't mean that it's your way or the highway.

At The Muse, Sara McCord provides an example:

...in a prior job, hundreds of student applications containing multiple pieces were sent in hours before deadline. Did I have an ordered system of which pieces I filed first, and how I ordered them in the student’s chart? Yes. But realistically, as long as every piece was recorded as received in the database, and every student had a digital and hard copy application, it didn’t matter if items were scanned first and recorded second or vice-versa.

This was 100% a task to be delegated to my very capable interns, even if they had their own way of doing things. In fact, the only time there was a breakdown in communication was when I put the focus on doing it "my way" (record first, scan and print second), rather than on what mattered most (everything must be accounted for).

2. Someone else needs to develop skills or experience.

This is especially important for managers, because their jobs have dual goals: 1. contribute to the company's bottom line, and 2. develop the careers of their reports. Even if it takes twice as long to teach your report how to perform a task, it's worth it, if it helps them grow and learn.

3. Your attention would be split in too many directions.

Some tasks require big picture planning, while others require attention to detail. Try to do both at the same moment, and you're liable to accomplish neither. Be honest with yourself about whether or not you'll be able to find time to do the job right.

4. Your expertise isn't needed.

Master chefs do not perform the work of culinary students; CEOs don't jockey for space in the interns' cubicle. Sure, it's nice when management doesn't consider themselves too good for the tasks that their junior employees perform, but that doesn't meant that it makes sense for them to do it.

5. You hate it.

Everyone has his or her idea of a good time. Some people love giving presentations, for example, while others would rather spend eight hours a day looking at spreadsheets. If you really can't stand a task, it might be best to farm it out to someone with the aptitude and interest to take it on.

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