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  • Tamar Balkin

Is Delegation Always The Best Option For An Overburdened Leader?

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

“Working on lower-value tasks that keep employees from going home or switching off naturally has an impact and can reduce engagement, motivation and happiness.
The combination of feeling overworked and then wasting time on avoidable tasks creates a perfect storm for many knowledge workers, eventually resulting in burnout.”

Josh Zerkel

Many of my clients are struggling with their workloads, especially as financial pressure increases, yet they are mindful not to place onerous demands on their staff. An overloaded leader can be perceived as an inaccessible micromanager who is not capable of undertaking the strategic challenges expected of someone in a senior position. Hence the topic of delegation often enters coaching conversations with my clients.

Researchers found 14 established biases, that magnify the  hours of work and the workload individuals place upon themselves.

Moss, Wilson, and Davis

It can take a bit of reframing for leaders to realise that appropriate delegation has the following benefits for the recipient:

  • Gain a new skill,

  • Adds variety to their work,

  • Improves morale, 

  • Exposure to a new part of the business,

  • Better understanding of the different needs of customers and other stakeholders,  

  • Opportunity to solve novel problems,

  • Improves trust in their leader,

  • Increases discretionary effort, 

  • Improves performance, 

  • Creates efficiencies, and  

  • Increases intrinsic motivation

A good delegator has the patience to realise that they need to invest  time for education and delivery.  Specifically, they are mindful not to fall prey to the planning fallacy, (ie the tendency to underestimate how long it actually takes to complete specific tasks.) and thus they allow extra time in the schedule for the work to be completed. 

Good leaders know:

  • How to delegate,

  • What to delegate,

  • When to delegate, and

  • To whom.

Occasionally, I need to remind my clients that they cannot delegate everything, especially not the following:

  • Providing practical, technical and emotional support for their staff,

  • Enhancing the self-efficacy of their staff,

  • Strategic perspective on the future goals of their business,

  • Relationships with their peers,

  • Managing up,

  • Stakeholder  engagement,

  • Personal contact with customers,

  • Wellbeing: both for themselves and their team, 

  • Actively soliciting regular, timely, useful feedback on their own work,

  • Providing regular, timely, useful feedback to staff on their achievements and areas of development,

  • Professional development, and 

  • Unnecessary tasks that should be automated or not done at all.

Do not underestimate the impact of pointless work on morale, wellbeing and motivation. Bruce Daisley suggests that the current disruptions to the location of work provides an excellent opportunity to reveal and remove much of the wastefulness in our work experience. 

This week instead fo a song, I thought you would enjoy these two work related scenes from Seinfeld : 1. Kramer Goes to work 2. George isn't Penske Material! 1. 

Please email me with what you believe can not be delegated and the pointless tasks that no one should be doing at your workplace.

(My favourite podcasts intersected when Bruce Daisley was Stew Friedman's guest on the Work and Life Podcast, together they provided me with the spark that became this blog.)



Lombardo, M.M. and Eichinger, R.W. (2006). FYI: for your improvement: a guide for development and coaching. Minneapolis, Mn: Lominger Ltd.

Moss, S.A., Wilson, S.G. and Davis, J.M. (2016). Which Cognitive Biases can Exacerbate our Workload? Australasian Journal of Organisational Psychology, 9.e1, 1–12

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