Increase Productivity by Knowing Which Tasks to Delegate

Published: Nov 08, 2017
Modified: May 29, 2020


As a manager, one of the basic management skills you’ll need to master is delegation. Delegation is the process of turning over responsibility and authority for the completion of a task to employees. It can range from the assignment of permanent authority and responsibility for a recurring task to a one-time assignment for the completion of a task or project.

As you build your delegation skills, consider the following dos and don’ts outlined in the AMA course Management Skills for New Managers.

How to know which tasks can be delegated

Delegation takes practice, and knowing what kinds of tasks can be delegated is the first step in this process. Not all tasks can be handed off to others, despite the abilities of your direct reports.

Tasks that can effectively be given to others include:

  • Tasks closely related to the work employees are already doing
  • Tasks with clearly defined procedures and end results
  • Repetitive tasks that fit into the normal workflow
  • Tasks that enable employees to develop themselves

When you are thinking of tasks, projects, and responsibilities to delegate, a question you can ask yourself is: Is this something someone else could do? If the answer is yes, then it represents a potential opportunity for delegation.

In some cases, delegation is not appropriate. These tasks include but are not limited to:

  • Tasks of a highly sensitive nature (such as salary reviews or employee discipline)
  • Tasks that are not clearly defined or about which uncertainty exists
  • Critical tasks that upper management expects the manager to handle
  • Assignments that could overwhelm direct reports

Situations when you should not delegate

To develop your basic management skills, you need to identify work that requires your personal attention. Do not delegate in these situations:

  • The task falls clearly within the manager’s personal responsibilities (such as conducting a performance appraisal)
  • The successful completion of the task by the employee will require more assistance than the manager can give
  • The risk of failure outweighs the benefit of delegating to encourage employee development (such as when your job is on the line)
  • The assignment might place the employee or the organization at risk

Managers who delegate effectively have direct reports who are better developed and are more involved and enthusiastic about their work. It also demonstrates good team and people management skills, since freeing up managers’ time will result in increased productivity and prove cost-effective for the company.