Reverse Delegation: Definition, Issues & Management

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  • 0:04 What Is Reverse Delegation?
  • 0:59 Issues With Reverse Delegation
  • 2:06 Responding to Reverse…
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Reverse delegation is a management flaw that can be resolved with a few simple strategies. In this lesson, you'll learn more about this delegation problem, issues it raises, and how management can stop it.

What Is Reverse Delegation?

Jerry has pulled together a work team for an upcoming function at work. The team has met to get a better understanding of Jerry's goals for the event, with each member of the team being delegated a task to complete. Two weeks later, one of Jerry's employees, Rebecca, has yet to complete her assignment, which is holding up the rest of the team. Rather than giving Rebecca any more time to take care of her task, Jerry calls another meeting and announces that he is taking Rebecca's task over and will have it done by the end of the week.

While Rebecca has gotten off scot-free, Jerry has fallen victim to the classic trap of reverse delegation. Reverse delegation happens when a manager who delegates a task ends up taking that task back at some point. Reverse delegation can happen through forced or unforced actions. In the case of our opening example where Jerry took Rebecca's task back, it was unforced because he voluntarily agreed to it. Forced reverse delegation happens when a member of the team complains about an assignment or pushes it back to the manager in some way.

Issues With Diverse Delegation

Whatever the reason, reverse delegation by management can create real problems for workplace teams.

First, it can create a sense of laziness among employees towards their responsibility. Because employees know that a manager will always be there to bail them out, without repercussion, they are less likely to be motivated to complete the task assigned. Reverse delegation cripples employee effort.

Reverse delegation can breed resentment in work teams. While some employees may be motivated and work hard on their own tasks, their colleagues in a work team who don't complete their assignments may be viewed as dragging down the entire team. This can cause team morale to suffer.

Another concern with reverse delegation is lack of productivity. When a task changes hands multiple times, that means the work is not getting done. This may prevent other members of a team from fully realizing their roles and this can delay the project entirely.

For managers, reverse delegation shows a lack of effective leadership. It demonstrates a manager's inability to successfully delegate tasks and shows teammates that it's okay to not finish and even return work assignments. If a manager can't demonstrate authority in delegating assignments, it may create a perception of weaknesses elsewhere.

Responding to Reverse Delegation

Maybe you're a manager struggling with reverse delegation or maybe you want to avoid ever ending up in that position. Here are some ideas for combating reverse delegation.

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