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The Upward Delegation Trap

Updated: Sep 27, 2019

Work never ends, especially if you are looking for it. There is always something new to be planned, and executed, or something that needs to be attended to. Such people who are obsessed with work are known as workaholics.

If one is focussed, result oriented and fortunate, success is bound to come. The danger is workaholics become magnets for more work and challenges, especially if one commands necessary resources and authority.

The danger for workaholics is that they grown distant from family, friends, and even they themselves. When one is young, one possesses boundless energy and enthusiasm and one can cope with this pleasing burden. However with passage, of time one can easily get overwhelmed, as I was.

To cope, workaholics recruit more people into the team. Instead of productivity and output improving, it actually decreases. This is because new recruits learn quickly that 'upward delegation' can free them from much work and responsibility. This is not only the case in government but also in numerous private enterprises.

What is, 'upward delegation'?

Its the delegation of work and responsibility of a junior person to his or her boss, or someone in a higher organisational position.

With sufficient introspection, lots of study and the help of a consultant I was able to overcome the problem of upward delegation. Here is one effective approach

One day, Mangesh (name changed) a new manager who had joined the organisation a few days ago came to my cabin, and this is what transpired.

Mangesh: "Sir, can you spare some time? I would like to speak with you, I have a problem."

I listened to his problem and responded, "Ok, I heard you. Now what do you want? Do you need any resources or support?"

Mangesh said, “Nothing, Sir. Only thing is I don't need know what to do"

I responded "I believe we recruited you to handle these matters. Are you sure you can handle this responsibility?"

A jolted and confused Mangesh mumbled an apology and mades a quick exit.

Mangesh returned to my office a couple of hours later. The whole thing repeated itself, except this time, Mangesh came with three alternative solutions to handle the problem, and wanted my opinion on them.

After Mangesh had explained the problem and solutions, I asked Mangesh "which solution do you prefer?"

Mangesh responded, “I prefer the first alternative, and I need you to sanction me the help of an assistant for 4 days"

I said, "I think its a good solution too, and you can have that assistant"

The meeting between Mangesh and me ended, quickly and efficiently.

As usual it was quite late,that evening when I left for home. I noticed that Mangesh who normally left on time, was attacking the problem he had on his hands. After a few days a beaming Mangesh told me that he had successfully resolved the problem.

Old habits die hard. I had to struggle to overcome my natural instinct, to jump in and take charge of every situation. After a a year of conscious effort I mostly escaped the 'Upward delegation trap'.

A simple change in approach saved me a lot of my time and energy. At the same time because my juniors assumed more responsibilities and were more result oriented, they grew and evolved both professionally and personally.

This approach of avoiding unnecessary upward delegation is an important key to being efficient and effective.



  • We often make the mistake of abdicating (which is the act of failing to fulfil our duty by running away from it) for delegation. That can often be disastrous.

  • Workaholism is ingrained in one's nature and not so easy to solve, particularly if one does not see it as a problem.

  • There is also the matter of 'lateral delegation' where family, friends and associates keep on palming off their work to us.

However these are subjects of other articles.


From my seminar on 'Achieving Success'

Success is made up of many ingredients, awareness and approach are two traits that can be developed.

To facilitate development of these and other traits, Guru Wonder conducts a one and two day program on 'Achieving Success'

Contact :

Telephone:  +91 957 951 0353


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