Have you ever delegated a task to your assistant and, after realizing it wasn’t going to be done, assumed responsibility of it again? If so, the following story may sound familiar.  


Directory, Redirected

An executive had been asked by a co-worker to get a corrected list of contact information compiled for a large directory. There was a deadline, which was quickly approaching. Since the executive was involved in another, more important project, she asked her assistant to find the remaining few e-mail addresses. This request involved calling four people to confirm their new addresses.


Upon receiving this request, the assistant “teased” the executive about waiting so long to involve her in this job, “jokingly” indicating that she might be able to do this in her spare time, and left the office. At 4:45 PM, the assistant turned off her computer as she made one more personal phone call and was about to leave for the day. The executive asked for the corrected addresses and the assistant indicated that she had not had time to make the necessary calls. In a friendly voice, she suggested that if the executive would just stay a few minutes later than usual, that she could probably find the people herself.


The executive re-assumed the task.


Resentment Due To Perceived Lack Of Value

One question I am often asked by office assistants is, “When does my time become important?” The answer is, your time is always important, as long as you are using your time at work to help your executive accomplish work they need to accomplish in order to properly do their job.


What is the solution? How can I avoid this situation?

Both people were not happy with the way the process happened, and yet neither wanted to fully address the issue for fear of further damage. This is always a negative in an office setting.


When the center of power shifts from management to subordinate, it is not a productive situation. The manager is usually seen as weak and in a more negative light than the employee because no manager should ever “concede” to a subordinate concerning an assigned task.


Managers can certainly utilize productive criticism from an assistant however the manager should never allow themselves to be railroaded into taking back a task they have delegated to an assistant. As a rule, this practice greatly jeopardizes the manager’s authority in dealing with that employee in every other future office matter.


The best way to avoid the situation is to have a clear understanding of job responsibilities and clear communication at the beginning of the working relationship. Such incidences can be prevented through the proper exchange of information initially and by managers understanding their role in leadership.

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