Are You Apologising Too Much When You Delegate?

Do you feel the need to apologize when you are delegating work? What was your initial reaction when you read this headline? I have recently coached two very senior HR Professionals and both spoke about this emotion of guilt when they asked their direct reports to do a piece of work. Delegation guilt happens when you feel guilty asking team members to do their jobs.

You don’t want to impose. You feel that you shouldn’t dump your work on someone else. So instead, you do it yourself or you spend too much time thinking about the impact on your team member.

I can very much relate to this feeling of guilt and the need to apologize. When I was leading a team of eight very busy HR Business Partners, and I needed to delegate work I knew that I would be adding to their already long list of things to do.

However, that was not a good enough excuse for me, my role was to identify who was the right person with the right experience and skillset to take on this extra work.

Why do we feel the need to apologize? What is the driving habit that has no logic behind it?

Most likely, the habit stems from a sense that you are burdening the members of your team by assigning them projects. In general, most high-performing teams are stretched and individuals are working to their capacity, and when new or extra work comes in, it is the role of the Leader to delegate that work. Thus the feeling of guilt to be adding more work to an already busy team member.

You may even feel that since being delegated work it could be construed as something negative, or work that they don’t want to do and you have another reason to apologize.

As a new manager, one of the most difficult transitions for leaders to make is the shift from doing to leading.

You can get away with holding on to work. You may even be admired for your willingness to “roll up your sleeves” to complete tasks. But as your responsibilities become more complex, the difference between an effective leader and an overworked individual contributor with a leader’s title; becomes painfully evident!

Remembering that you are the leader for a reason. Assigning work to your team is an essential part of your job. Fulfilling your role as a leader is a good thing it is the reason why you are employed in the Organisation.

Are you preventing a team member from developing?

A big part of the leader’s role is to challenge team members to step up and get to a higher level of contribution. Everyone needs to be the best they can be and this can only happen when they are challenged to grow in new areas. By not giving team members a stretched assignment you may actually be stalling their career growth. A new way to look at the delegation apology is to think about how the new tasks are enhancing the career of the person.

As an HR Leader, your authority is important. If you do find yourself apologizing or feeling some guilt you are calling into question your own decision-making and good sense. You are communicating self-doubt and a lack of belief in your abilities. Your team may lose confidence in your leadership if you continually apologies when delegating work to them.

Likewise — in high-performing teams, people are generally excited to learn new jobs and they enjoy being seen as the go-to person, the person who is willing to learn something new. I know from myself that I liked the feeling of being trusted by my manager with important tasks and it made me excited to feel that I was able to share their workload.

Done beats perfect every time! It just has to get done.

Is part of your need to apologize, because you know that you will not be happy with the outcome? Do you have a desire to be always in control?

You will need to learn to become comfortable with this new way of working.

Being a leader is all about getting things done through others. It’s a complete mind shift from relying on your own drive and competence to relying on that of your team. It’s a willingness to relinquish control.

Apologising has its place. Saying you are sorry when you have made a serious mistake is an essential part of maintaining good relations with other people. It’s also simply the right thing to do. However, apologizing too much actually undermines those apologies that you do need to make. People do not appreciate unnecessary apologies. They can be downright annoying and can communicate a lack of sincerity, besides being a waste of time.

Being delegated assignments is part of the job!

While you may be thinking that your team member feels resentful for being given extra work the fact is — they might not be thinking that at all. Most employees understand that being delegated assignments is part of the job. As long as you are fair and consistent in your delegation of work, your team will not hold it against you when you assign them to work!

Be confident in your delegation.

To remedy your habit of apologizing or that feeling of guilt you need to become more comfortable in your role as an HR leader. Remind yourself of your career accomplishments. Reflect on all the reasons why you have been promoted to this level, have faith in yourself and your abilities. Be confident when you are delegating tasks.

Most importantly of all, simply remember that you have no reason to apologize. Hoarding the work helps no one. Not you. Not your team members.

To be a great leader, you need to learn to delegate well with no apologies or feelings of guilt.

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Susan Manning

Leadership Consultant and Clarity Coach — Providing essential CLARITY for greater effectiveness in a chaotic world. www.susanmanning.ie