The Psychology Behind Delegating Workload, or, the Power of Sharing Perspective

Simple Psych for Complex Marketers

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psych behind delegating workload

Here's an annoyingly obvious tip you probably already know: Pushing stuff off of your plate so that you have less of that "stuff" is a good way to make your life simpler.

And still, marketing managers don't delegate their workload.

Give these two simple questions a go:

  • How many tasks do you have on your plate?
  • And how many people can you trust to help you with those tasks?

It's extremely likely that your answers were 'too many' and 'not enough', respectively. In fact, 80% of marketers claim they're either overloaded, understaffed, or both. 72% of marketers report a level of consistent stress during the week. (Source) These numbers come in conjunction with 50% of companies reporting that they're concerned about their employees' delegation skills. (Source)

Breaking it down

So today, we'll dive into the psychology and mental health behind the act of delegating workload and give some actionable tips on how to improve your capacity to manage you and your team's tasks. Use this post as a guide help you delegate workload, unify your team, and immediately reduce some of the stress around the tasks on your to-do list.

workload-too-muchWhy don't we delegate tasks?

It turns out that the mindset of "way too much to do, way too little time, and no one to help" is often a self-imposed prison, based on these 3 perceptions of the personnel or situation that aren't necessarily attached to reality. Keep an eye out for these cases in your own worklife:

Delegating the task thoroughly takes too much time.

This perception is practically paradoxical; it causes the manager to believe that it would be quicker to do the task rather than explain and instruct a vision, which, in turn, delays deadlines and increases stress.

"Self-enhancement bias"

Studies show that some supervisors subconsciously believe their work is better than others'. Some managers also showed a lack the confidence to let subordinates carry out their idea in fear of giving up the role as a go-to authority on the subject. (Source)


"Faith in supervision" effect

Observers showed a tendency to judge work performed under the control of a supervisor as better than identical work done without as much supervision. This causes a bottleneck in the workflow, as it may lead a manager to require his or her supervision on a task that would effectively end with the exact same level of quality. (Source)

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The emotional response of delegating tasks

These false perceptions have effects on the emotional state of the manager that can compound the difficulties of delegating tasks. In overcoming these effects and biases, the manager might feel a distinct insecurity: At times, in the act of delegation, it must become clear that the manager doesn't truly have it all together. The manager must also display a new level of trust in transporting accountability to a co-worker.

Why delegate?

On top of the obvious reason – that you'll have less stuff you have to do – delegating tasks can show major benefits in the social psychology of your workplace. It allows you to support the mindset of teamwork in the office and it also can show that you want to help your co-workers learn and develop new skills to accomplish new tasks.

What's more, there is a secret power in expressing your vulnerabilities. Dr. Brené Brown explains that the ability to share perspective is one crucial characteristic in empathetic individuals, and empathy drives connection. She also explains that being vulnerable is a great way to drive natural human connection.

Now that we know all the background around delegating tasks, let's give you a framework to push stuff off your plate in a positive way.

How to delegate: some simple steps

  1. Explain your task and your overarching goal.
  2. Explain how it's making you feel and why. As superfluous as this might sound (who has feelings in the workplace?), it's important to be a real-live, vulnerable human when you can and generate empathy among your team.
  3. Acknowledge that your co-worker or employee also probably has a to-do list of their own.
  4. Clearly delineate which aspects of the task you think your co-worker can help with. It helps to write this part down.
  5. Ask how else you can help them achieve this. Questions you might find yourself asking are:
    1. "Can you handle this?"
    2. "Is there anything here that you're confused about?"
    3. "What resources do you need to succeed in this?"
  6. Put a deadline in place. Setting expectations is crucial.

What do you think? Are there any reasons that you shy away from doling out tasks? Let us know in the comments below.

And if you want to delegate all of the marketing tasks on your plate, get in touch with us today.

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