Delegating Upward

If your staff are delegating up to you, chances are that you are  finding more and more of your precious planning hours being taken up with items that do not move your business or organization forward.  There are a variety of reasons behind employees delegating upward; have you experienced any of these?

  • There is a break down in their problem-solving skills, and they are abdicating;
  • There is a conflict or stalemate with a co-worker(s) and it has become a battle of egos.  They want you to choose sides.
  • There is a task they don’t know how to do, or one they dislike doing.  They are hoping you will do it for them.
  • There is a breakdown in an established process, that involves the work of many others.  Finding the solution requires a mass meeting.
  • There is a big problem that you should know about, but no one has the courage to say it. They hope you will discover it for yourself.
  • There are potential political reprocussions they think fit more with your role.  That’s what you get the big bucks for!
  • It’s a messy, no-win situation that will make you look incompetent.  Their way of showing the importance of their role over yours.
  • Someone has encountered an issue that is “not in my job description” and wants to say “I could do it, but I deserve higher pay/classification if I do.”
  • Someone wants to point out a mistake/bad decision made by their immediate supervisor. They are hoping you will overturn the decision in their favour.

What is your immediate inclination when dealing with these situations?  Do you take the time to reflect on the most appropriate approach?

If you are a Technician, you will find yourself saying “Leave it with me, I’ll take care of it”?  Technicians believe they can do it better/faster/cheaper because they have come up through the ranks. They still feel the need to demonstrate that they are indespensible. They believe that hands on is more valuable than thinking.  They are still influenced by the blue collar mentality.

If you are a Manager you will quote the rules and tell them what to do.You will set a deadline to follow up and evaluate later.  Managers often shake their heads in wonderment at the lack of common sense and accountability in the workplace these days.  Their belief is that employees must understand that “it’s my way or the highway”.

If you are a Leader you will take the long range-developing others approach.  You will help the employee(s) take that delegation back by asking the right questions:

Influence & Impact

  1. What is this about?
  2. What is your objective in this matter?
  3. What have you tried so far?
  4. What other options do you see?
  5. Which option would be best for the company/division?
  6. Which option would be best for you?
  7. What action will you take?
  8. What support(s) do you need?

Leaders know that it takes emotional courage, patience, self-control, faith in the potential of others as well as respect for individual differences to develop their staff.  They believe that a bit of time spent up front will pay off in the long run, that employees want to learn and grow and will bring their best to the company/division when their leaders invest in them.

Experience tells us that there will be times and situations where one will need to make use of all three of these approaches, however it is important to know which approach is appropriate to the situation. An executive/career coach can help you clarify what the issue is really about and strategize your best approach.

What examples have you experienced and how did you deal with them? Did your approach work?  Would you do anything differently if given the chance to deal with it again?