Newsflash: Managers Delegate Bad Stuff

Okay, I read something in my favorite Harvard Business Review, and it Cracked. Me. Up.  It was a little article called “Why We Pass the Buck.”   In the December 2016 article, researchers Mary Steffel, Elanor Williams and Jaclyn Perrmann-Graham suggest that managers delegate “when the consequences would affect other people, especially when all the options were unappealing.”

True story.  And let’s face it, why wouldn’t they?

Pass the buckSo yes, if the consequences of their decision affected other people, and if the choices were unappealing, managers were two to three times more likely to delegate that work to someone else.  According to the authors performing the study, the decision was motivated by the desire to avoid criticism or blame, and the desire not to be responsible if something bad happened to someone.  They preferred to delegate over quicker decision options (like flipping a coin).  But here’s the interesting part:

They delegated to a peer or someone of higher authority.

That’s good news for you, Revolutionary Assistant.  At least the issue isn’t landing on your desk!

But this is an interesting little finding.  Not so much that you can do anything about it, but it’s useful to recognize the affinity for doing this when you’re working with young managers looking to develop their leadership skills.

For instance, the manager has a choice between three ugly options to find some extra money in payroll.  No matter what the decision, someone’s hours are going to be cut right before the holidays.  Vacillating between solution A, B, and C is prolonged because the young manager doesn’t like any of them.

This is where you can step in.  Appeal to your own manager to step in and help the new manager on your team.  If your own manager can help address the situation, and assure the manager that he or she will not be held responsible for the decision, the delegation can be avoided and the decision made quicker.

And that’s better for everyone.


Next Post:  Wednesday, December 13

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