Are you feeling overwhelmed at work? Delegate! Well, at least that’s the advice we are given every time we are struggling to stay on top of our responsibilities. The problem with delegating is that we are essentially giving someone else control of the fate of one of our projects, leaving us (and the task) vulnerable to failure. How many times have you handed a task or a portion of a project over to a team member only to have them drop the ball completely, fail to meet the deadline or simply not meet your standards and expectations?

If you are constantly feeling disappointed in the outcome when you delegate, take a moment to consider that the way that you delegate may be the root of the problem. Are you delegating to the right person? Are you setting your team member up for success? How do you follow up with them? Consider these questions and try incorporating the following steps the next time that you reach out to a coworker for help.


Step 1: Find the right person.

Yes, you are overwhelmed and feel that delegating is the only way that you will leave the office ever again, but you aren’t the only one. Before you start handing out tasks, stop to consider that you may be handing off responsibilities to someone who already feels like they are drowning in work. Since most people will say “yes” to your request, you may be unknowingly piling more responsibilities onto someone who is already swamped. Needless to say, this will not yield the results you are looking for and ultimately leave you both disappointed. The solution is simple – when you need to delegate, have a conversation with your team members and find out who has a lighter workload and the experience necessary to help you. Doing this will help you to avoid a coworker saying “yes” to you even though they themselves are overextended and don’t have time to complete the task properly.

Step 2: Give clear directions.

Once you find the right person to delegate to, give them specific instructions. While helpful, a verbal conversation is not enough. Make sure to follow your conversation up with an email including the expectations and desired result, in addition to any guidelines and deadlines that they will be expected to adhere to. Doing this will eliminate unnecessary confusion and will help you to avoid being bombarded with emails asking questions about the project. Giving clear directions allows you to focus on your pressing projects and sets them up to succeed.

Step 3: Be receptive to input.

Part of delegating is relinquishing some control to the person you delegate to. As a result, if your coworker comes to you, mid-project, with a suggestion on how to streamline the process or make it better, listen to them. Their input may improve the process moving forward and make tasks easier in the future. Remember that just because their method may be different, it isn’t necessarily wrong.

Step 4: Give credit when credit is due.

When the project is finished, give your coworker credit for their contribution rather than accepting the credit yourself. Giving credit will not only demonstrate your gratitude, but it will also make them more likely to help you the next time you reach out to them.

Step 5: Reciprocate the favor.

Remember, you are not the only one who is overwhelmed at work and you may be overlooking the signs that your coworker also needs your assistance. When your workload is lighter, ask your team members how you can reciprocate the favor and have them delegate some tasks to you.