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Author: Christine Sato

How to Delegate to Difficult Employees

Delegation is an essential part of life, especially in the business world. Whether it’s managing employees, working on a group project, or dividing up tasks among friends or family, you’re going to need to delegate tasks appropriately and efficiently.

The delegating of tasks becomes even more of a challenge when you are working with difficult employees. If you find yourself having to assign work to a difficult employee, make sure to follow these tips to ensure that assigned tasks get completed.

Clear and Concise Directions

It’s common for careless employees to minimize their responsibilities and place blame elsewhere by saying they received unclear directions. In order to make sure they don’t push this back on you, you need to give crystal clear instructions and avoid micromanaging the employee.

When you micromanage an employee, it undermines their confidence and their performance, adding to the disarray. Instead of standing over your employee’s shoulder telling them what they should be doing at each step, you should focus on the intent of the job and give the employee room to explore ways to complete it on their own.

It’s important for it to be clear that you are assigning the responsibility rather than a specific procedure. Give them clear instructions on what the goals, purpose, requirements, and end results need to look like so there can be no other interpretations. Once they have an understanding that they have the responsibility of completing the task and are entrusted, all you will need to do is check in periodically to see if they have any questions or concerns.

Tailor Tasks to Different Personalities

You have probably worked with an employee that is always “too busy” to take on any more tasks. After giving the employee the benefit of the doubt, you are left with three options for delegating effectively. First, you can assign the person tasks more suited toward his or her abilities. If that isn’t an option, you will have to lower your expectations. And lastly, you must minimize the risk of a poor job, especially if you can’t fire the employee.

Get to know your employees. Find out what they love to do and what they do best. You can then pair their unique talents and passions to certain tasks that need to be delegated. A passionate employee does not need supervision and will generate creative solutions to problems all on their own.

Give Ownership of the Task

The most annoying employee is the one that never shows up or is constantly slacking off. If you are dealing with an employee that is inherently lazy, there isn’t much you can do. However, sometimes a lack of interest comes from the person not feeling “ownership” of a task. If the employee has no accountability or stake in the project, they are going to be less likely to invest their efforts fully.

A person will greet a task in one of two ways: with resentment or with pride. To make sure your employee welcomes a job with pride, never delegate responsibilities that everyone knows you should be doing yourself. The tasks you delegate need to be important and need attending to, not just chores you find unpleasant doing. A good rule to follow—never delegate things that you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself if you could.

Tell your employee why you chose them to complete a certain task. Let them know why you think their particular talents are well-suited for the project. Compliments go a long way and will give your employee a sense of being needed and a feeling of purpose.

Set Firm Timelines and Document Everything

You need to be very specific about deadlines when delegating to difficult employees. This is crucial for group assignments or if the troublesome employee’s participation is vital to others progress.

You need to keep track of every conversation you have with a difficult person about delegated duties. Follow up with an email that reiterates what you just discussed. Ensure your employee knows they can come to you for further guidance or questions. By documenting the steps, you take to ensure communication is clear you will be able to have a reference that can back up your claims if your difficult employee fails to do his or her task or tries to shift blame.