The majority of supervisors are promoted into their supervisory positions from the ranks of the operative workers. Moving from operative worker to supervisor presents some differences that can affect a new supervisor`s ability to delegate. As an operative worker, a person`s performance is, for the most part, entirely a function of what he or she does. In other words, an operative employee`s performance is not normally dependent on anyone else. As supervisors, however, these same people`s performance is almost totally dependent on the performance of others - namely the employees directly responsible to them. The problem occurs when supervisors do not fully realize this difference, and rather than concentrate on the functions of supervision, spend the majority of their time trying to do everyone else`s job. The justification running through the supervisors` minds is that the way for them to look good is to ensure that everyone`s job is done right. This is a very natural trap to fall into. It also provides the foundation for most of the reasons why supervisors are reluctant to delegate.

If you want anything done right, do it yourself. Many supervisors subscribe to the old saying, “If you want anything done right, do it yourself!” This attitude reveals that supervisors not only do not understand the supervisory process, but also shows that supervisors have done a poor job of selecting and training their employees. Supervisors who attempt to do it all themselves or to prove that they are superior operative workers find that their time is consumed by rather unimportant tasks. Thus, they do not have time to perform their supervisory tasks.

It is easier to do it myself. Supervisors often say that it is easier for them to do the job than to explain it to their employees. While this may be true in some cases, it usually represents a very shortsighted view. It may be easier for the supervisor to do the task the 1st time or even the 5th time, but is it still easier the 20th or 50th time? In other words, it may require some investment of the supervisor’s time to train the employees to do the job, but this is usually the best approach.

Fear of an employee looking too good. The fear that an employee will “look so good that the employee might replace the supervisor” can inhibit some supervisors from delegating. Such fears are totally unfounded for good supervisors. A supervisor’s performance is, for the most part, a reflection of the performance of his or her employees. If supervisors’ employees look good, the supervisor looks good. If the employee looks bad, the supervisor looks bad.

More confidence in doing the detail work. Some supervisors feel much more confidant when doing the detail and operative work than when performing their supervisory functions. Most people have some fear of the unknown and tend to shy away from it. Thus, it is understandable that new supervisors would feel much more confident doing those things that they have had success with in the past.

Preconceived ideas about employees. Sometimes supervisors erroneously jump to conclusions concerning the capabilities of subordinates. For example, a supervisor might form a negative opinion about an employee’s ability based on one occurrence. Further, this occurrence may be very unrepresentative of the employee, or the supervisor may be unaware of the circumstances surrounding the occurrence.

Desire to set the right example. Most supervisors want to set a good example for their employees. The problem that arises, however, is in deciding what is a good example. Some supervisors think that in order to set a good example they must be busy or at least look busy all the time. The result is that the supervisor hoards work that logically should be delegated.

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