10 Things You Shouldn’t Say When Delegating

We all need to delegate tasks at some point, whether that be because they aren’t our specialty or perhaps because we don’t like them that much. No judgement here. However, despite the reason for handing over tasks to peers, it can be difficult to do smoothly and politely. Our Productivity Ninjas feel it’s okay to give up a task if you know someone in your team can do it more effectively. That’s just working better together. Knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses is an important factor in delegation, as well as clear communication. When handing a task over to a peer, there are some things you should really avoid saying.


Productivity Ninja Delegation


1. “This isn’t right, let me just finish it myself”

By taking control of a team member’s work rather than helping them learn the task themselves is only hindering you in the long term. Not only does it show that you’re closed off to training and empowering your peers, it also means that because they haven’t learned from the experience, they will most likely get stuck again next time.

What you could say instead is:

“So, this is a little bit different to what I was imagining. How about you try doing it this way and let me know if you get stuck at any point.”

2. “I’ve asked someone to handle the task as well as you”

This undermines a person’s capability to perform the task and instills a lack of trust. If you wish for the task to be handled by multiple people let them know at the beginning why they are working on it together. Also, encourage teamwork as a way to get it done more efficiently, opposed to making it sound like one person alone doesn’t have the skills to do it.

What you could say instead is:

“This project is fairly large so I want you all to work together in order to get this done efficiently. I look forward to seeing what you produce as a team, do let me know if anything is not clear.”


Teamwork And Employee Collaboration Apps


3. “You should have asked me before making that decision”

Decision making rules should be discussed at the beginning of the project. Everyone involved should be aware of what their role is and what decisions they’re allowed to make in advance. Most of the situations in which this phrase is said are due to poor communication, opposed to the individual going against what they’ve been told.

What you could say instead:

 “Unfortunately, we didn’t clarify decision making in advance for this project. Next time we will make sure to do it better.”

4. “Why are you only showing me now?”

Sometimes you can find when the project is submitted, it is not quite up to scratch or perhaps it even followed the wrong direction. However, if the above phrase is being used then it is most likely because the leader hasn’t made the time to check-in with the team as the project developed. Just because you’re not actively part of the project, you should be checking in on the ‘milestones’ making sure it’s following the right path.

What you could say instead:

“As this project progresses we need to identify certain milestones, of which we can meet and discuss any issues or ideas. Let’s work together to make sure this project is completed successfully and aligned to the needs of the client.”


Productivity Ninja Team Collaborate


5. “I’m going to be away for a couple days, have it done by the time I’m back”

Sometimes it can’t be helped that you have to go away whilst a project is coming to a close. However, you should make clear to your team that you believe in them to get it finished and that you will make time if they need your insight. If you know you are going away, be responsible and set up a meeting with the team before you leave to make sure everything is on track and they all know what they have to do to finish successfully.

What you could say instead:

 “Unfortunately, I am going to be away as this project comes to a close. So, let’s set a meeting before I leave to get all the last things sorted.”

6. “I wouldn’t have done it that way”

Naturally, people do things in their own way. That’s what is brilliant about working with others; you get a mixture of views and methods. If their way works then support it positively, however, if you feel it is required to be different then let them know that next time you will be willing to show them, so they understand how and why that way works better.

What you could say instead:

“Well done on completing the task set, however, maybe next time we could try doing it slightly differently? You may find that it’s easier to complete it that way.” 

7. “Just do what you can, and we will see if it works”

This phrase is rather ambiguous. There is no clear instruction on the direction or reason for the task. It is much better to set a defined task for someone to perform, even if it’s smaller. However, if you trust the person’s ability, then perhaps let them know they are free to be creative in coming up with a solution. Make sure they understand the problem and then you could ask them to produce a list of solutions, which then the best approach can be selected.

What you could say instead:

“At the moment, we’re looking for a wide range of possible solutions. I trust you to come up with a few you believe will work. Let me know when you’re done and we will see what’s best for this situation.” 

8. “The task is actually very simple, I’d be surprised if you couldn’t do it”

Although this may be meant at face value, it can be seen as a very patronizing thing to say to someone. It also adds a fair amount of stress on the individual doing the task, as they would feel embarrassed to ask for help or if they weren’t able to complete it.

What you could say instead:

“Although this may seem like a small task, it is actually very important to the project. So, feel free to let me know if you have any issues or concerns.”

9. “I know you’re new to this, but I’m sure you can handle it fine on your own”

If a member of your team hasn’t performed the task being set, it is important to aid them. You want your team to be performing at their best, and this requires them to know how to tackle each task, big or small. Why not pair them up with a colleague to get it done efficiently whilst making sure they learn how it’s done?

What you could say instead:

“I understand you haven’t done this before, so I want you to work with a colleague so you can learn the process; allowing you to tackle it yourself next time.” 

Teamwork And Employee Collaboration Apps


10. “I don’t want to hear your ideas, just get it done as I’ve said”

This is something we are avidly against at Think Productive. It discourages team participation and creativity. Allowing ideas from people of any level means that you receive multiple solutions from different viewpoints. The common goal here should be the best outcome for the project and the company. So, don’t let tradition get in the way of accepting new methods of doing something.

What you could say instead:

 “Now I have shown you how we normally manage that process. However, if you have any ideas on how we could do it better, then I’d love to hear them!” 


What are your favorite things to say when delegating? Comment below or tweet us @thinkproductive.

By Miles Singleton

Miles is Think Productive’s Editorial Content Producer. 

Love the post! I’ve heard point number 3 more times than I care to count. Picking the wrong words is easy when a project goes awry. I recommend taking a few deep (but silent) breaths and putting oneself in the other’s shoes before talking. 😀

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