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The Upward Delegation Trap



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 focused, result-oriented and fortunate, success is bound to come. The danger is workaholics become magnets for more work and challenges, especially if they command the necessary resources and authority.


The danger for workaholics is that they grow distant from family, friends, and even themselves. When one is young, one possesses boundless energy and enthusiasm and one can cope with this pleasing burden. However, with the 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 decreases. This is because recruits learn quickly that 'upward delegation' can free them from much work and responsibility. This is not only in the case of government but also in numerous private enterprises.


What is, 'upward delegation'?

It is 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, a lot of study and the help of a consultant I was able to overcome the problem of upward delegation.


Here is one 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. The only thing is I don't 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 made a quick exit.

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


After Mangesh had explained the problem and solutions, I asked him "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 it's a good solution too, and you can have Rajech to assist you. I will have a word with him"


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 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.


 

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