One of the more common managerial flaws is trying to do it all. Or, like a helicopter parent for employees, trying to see it all and control all aspects. So, in effect, when a boss won’t delegate, it’s about trust.
Although they might reject the label of “control freak,” these bosses don’t really trust anyone but themselves. Even if your boss is the most brilliant person who ever lived, not delegating is a managerial formula for failure.
What if your boss won’t delegate?
Neglecting to delegate — even if the boss isn’t fully aware they are doing this — is essentially about control in one form or another. And unfortunately for everyone concerned, the result is that your boss winds up with a lion’s share of responsibility for all the work. And you wind up feeling invisible at times.
Why it’s bad for you
On one hand, having a boss who tries to do it all can give you a lot of free time to read articles like this or play games online. But after a while, that gets pretty boring. And leaves you feeling like you add very little to the operation.
For some, time to goof off may be a plus. But most of us like to feel we contribute something of value in our work. When a boss won’t delegate, you can even start to forget why it’s actually a good thing to feel essential.
Why not delegating hurts your boss
No one can do it all. The head of any department is ultimately responsible for the work that department turns out. But it is critical for a manager to delegate not only assignments, but also responsibility to the people who work for them.
A boss who doesn’t delegate winds up getting overwhelmed by all the work they have to personally see to. And they may find themselves going from meeting to meeting without a chance to actually think about such essentials as strategic planning and setting priorities. They’re too busy seeing to the details.
When a manager finds it hard not to be included in every aspect of a project, it’s often because they never created a good system of communication and trust with their staff. This is ok in a two or three person shop, but as a department/organization grows, this is a formula for disaster. And even in smaller shops, inclusion and being valued goes a long way toward employee satisfaction and a successful business.
Helping a reluctant boss delegate
Unfortunately, some bosses, no matter how hard you try, won’t change their patterns. They may initially give it a go, but as time goes on, their old lack of trust kicks in. Even if they value you, these bosses may never stop looking over your shoulder. Or just doing the bulk of everything themselves.
But in many cases, there are a few things you can try — even if change comes slowly.
- First and foremost, you need to form a relationship with your boss. Doesn’t have to be best of friends (usually not the wisest course anyway), but at least an ongoing exchange that has little to do with what you’re eventually trying to get from them — delegation. Maybe sports, Or food, Or even asking their advice, which also helps show you respect them. (Good to at least try.)
- Once you have some ongoing communication (assuming this is even possible), come up with something you’d like to handle on your own. Maybe something not too big at first. And set up regular communication, to help them see you are trustworthy — and capable
- Whatever you pick, make it something you’re sure you can succeed in. And keep them informed — in a way that shows you’re on top of things, but not too full of yourself to feel threatening. It’s ok to ask for advice or suggestions here too now and then — in a way that again shows you’re handling things well. And can be someone they rely on.
- After you’ve handled a few smaller projects, go to your boss and say you’d like something more. Or more ongoing responsibility. Be honest about how good this felt and that their trust means a lot to you. That reinforces what you’ve been slowly trying to create.
- Make sure they don’t see you as someone trying to “manage up“– even though that’s basically what you’re trying to do. They still need to feel respected. If you threaten their egos, you may wind up less in the loop and maybe out the door.
What if your boss won’t budge?
All you can do is try. As I said earlier, some bosses just won’t give up control. And can’t see the value to their staff or business outcomes. If you have a boss who won’t delegate no matter how much of a chance you give them to learn to trust, you only have two basic options:
- Learn to make the most of your situation. See where you can improve things for yourself. Also make sure you come up with personal projects / interests outside of work that do give you a sense of fulfillment & accomplishment. It’s an important thing for us humans — mind, body, and spirit.
- Start looking for a job you are proud of … one that will allow you to feel useful and grow. Even if it takes you a while to get there, if you are just waiting for the workday to be over each and every day, you are not helping yourself.
If it means a temporary pay cut now, it may be well worth it. Finding things we care about and can sink our teeth into with some sense of pride will pay off more in the end than just biding your time at a job .you basically can’t stand.
Some posts to help
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