When is it not OK to delegate?

Knowing how to delegate tasks to your team members is a critical management skill. It helps you develop your people while controlling your workload at the same time. But part of mastering this skill includes knowing when not to delegate. Here’s some expert advice:

Employee buy-in. Sometimes, team members will balk at more work even if they know that work’s well within their capabilities. As a manager, you may have little patience with such objections. But often, workers will be uncomfortable or nervous about taking on new tasks because they sincerely don’t think they can do it—and they may be afraid to tell you. It’s better not to delegate when you can’t feel confident that an employee has bought in.

Support from you. If you can’t be available to help out or answer questions when necessary— because you’re too busy or otherwise occupied—then be very careful about delegating. But aren’t those the times when you most need to delegate? Well, not exactly—before you get hammered by your workload is when you most need to delegate. That way, you can safely turn over tasks, perhaps permanently, to confident team members you can trust when crunch time comes.

Resources and authority. Along the same lines, if a team member cannot independently get what she needs to complete a task—funds, supplies, permission from higher-ups—then you should think twice about delegating. Line up those resources and authority on your own first. Let your fellow team leaders and your manager know you’re intending to hand off a task to a trusted worker. This will help build your team member’s reputation—and confidence and motivation—even before she starts on the assignment.