Focus on the Family

Delegating on the Job

Don't go to your supervisor unless your solution has a strong benefit for the company.

by Sabrina O'Malone

Although situations vary with each job, there's almost always something crying out to be delegated to someone else. School teachers sometimes give extra credit to students who volunteer to help clean up the classroom or do other chores. This is a wonderful way to delegate and get home more quickly.

But certain work situations don't easily lend themselves to delegation. For example, take the case of the secretary who regularly washes the office dishes and buys the half-and-half — without compensation. Depending on the corporate culture, she may be able to negotiate a little extra time off and/or pay for herself if she can't get out of doing these things. How? By keeping a running log of exactly how much time she spends performing ancillary duties! If the time is substantial, any employer might decide it's better for the company's bottom line to provide paper cups, utensils and creamer. Or a supervisor may post a sign to remind everyone: "Your mother doesn't work here. If you use it, wash it, dry it and put it away! — The Management" (Yes, I've actually seen this note posted in an office kitchen.)

A more subtle but equally effective idea is for the company to order a personalized coffee mug for each person in the office and ask everyone to keep his or her mug clean. Thereafter, it'll be obvious who left his or her mug in the sink.

Finding Solutions

In a career situation where the workload is unbearable, it's necessary to find out exactly what is eating up so much on-the-clock time. Once you determine this, you can look for a solution or alternative to resolve it to the benefit of the company and/or your supervisor.

As soon as you approach your supervisor, it's imperative that you answer the WIIFM question. This is the question running through your supervisor's mind the entire time you're speaking. For your own sake, make sure how the company will benefit is the first thing out of your mouth. When you start a request for change by answering the WIIFM question, you are much more likely to get what you want. People make changes because there's something in it for them.

My son mastered this concept by the time he was five years old. Whenever he wants something, he will approach people with the benefits they will receive. Here's a sample conversation from his younger days:

"Mommy, if you let me have a piece of candy, I promise I'll eat all my dinner. One piece of candy for me right now will give you a nice, happy dinner."

"I don't know, sweetheart. You've got to practice writing your name, and I'm concerned the sugar will make it hard for you to sit still and concentrate."

"No it won't, Mom. I'll be so happy you gave me my candy that I'll go straight to the table and do my work. You won't have a hard time about homework — if you let me eat my candy."

Under the cross-examination from the master litigator, I begin to waffle. After all, a willingness to do homework and a happy dinner are hard to resist.

"Are you sure you won't spoil your appetite and you'll do your homework — with no hard time?"

"Positive, Mommy," he says, already sensing victory.

"Okay, Daniel. One piece. Please don't make me regret this."

"I won't, Mom. You're the best mother in the whole world!" he says emphatically, smoothing over my lingering doubts with lavish praise.

Notice how he never once talked about how badly he wanted or needed the candy? Could I see he was really motivated by his own benefit? Of course I could. Was I motivated to comply with his request anyway? You'd better believe it!

If you think your current workload should be split between two people, or you want to change your hours, condense your workweek or even work from home, think long and hard about what's in it for everyone else if your request is granted. Write it down. Refine it. Show it to your mentors. Then request a meeting with your supervisor to present an idea you've been working on to increase productivity.

I can't emphasize this enough: Don't go to your supervisor unless your solution has a strong benefit for the company, preferably with direct benefits to the person deciding whether or not to grant your request! Presenting a problem with no workable solution in the company's best interest is called a complaint, and managers/supervisors often don't respond well to complaints (or complainers). A complaint from a person reputed to be a complainer will seldom change anything. Bottom line: You won't get what you want by complaining.