Over Assigning And Delegating Work - Part 1

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • Can I delegate more to busy directs?
  • How do I get my directs to do the tasks I want them to?
  • How do I delegate to my directs?

This guidance recommends developing your directs by always having them have more to do than they have time to do...by assigning and delegating more work than they think they can do.

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Great bosses assign more work than their directs can do. It's that simple. Great bosses don't try to figure out what each of their directs' comfort level is. They don't negotiate a balance. They don't start small with an amount that anyone could do, and then develop a gradual plan of improvement.

Nope. They intentionally give everyone more work to do than they think or know or believe or hope they can do. They OVER-ASSIGN. They OVER-delegate. They don't try to get an exact right balance - there is no such thing. What is true of communications is true of work responsibility assignments: you're either going to do too much, or too little, but the chance you're going to do exactly the right amount is marginally ZERO. So, the only question is whether you're going to be above or below what your team is capable of. What most managers do is try to balance two largely unrelated factors - how much work the organization seems to be demanding of you, and how busy your directs say they are.

We are tempted to call this cast the Peter Drucker Productivity Guidance. Why? Because Drucker once said, the productivity of the worker is not the responsibility of the worker but of the manager.

The productivity of the worker is not the responsibility of the worker but of the manager.

Peter Drucker

Isn't some of what the organization asks of you and yours largely unnecessary? (Of course it is: you're not doing it and not getting in any trouble). And isn't it likely that your directs are over-stating how busy they are? (Of COURSE they are - no one, we'd bet, has ever said to you, hey, I'm not that busy, give me some more to do.) So, effective managers realize that the way to address this is to have the right, best work efforts force out the work that is least likely to be valuable. And that means over-assigning...and teaching triage and prioritization to your team.

Here's how you can get more productivity. Because you do NOT want to disappoint Mr. Drucker!

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So I'm unique?!?

 You state that you bet that no direct has ever gone to their manager to say they're not that busy and want more to do.  How much was that bet?  You'd lose it.

I've quite often gone to my manager and said that I've got some spare capacity, is there anything else they want me to do.  They do tend to appear quite surprised.  

I do have busy times when I can't fit in other work and also do what I've already been assigned, fortunately when I say so I'm usually believed. 



Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack


I would agree with

I would agree with Stephen.

I do have members in my team, who are constantly in search of doing more and more and more work. Now that don't mean they are not already doing to thier 100% . What I tried to learn from the O3 with these "energizer battery" people (that's the way I would like to call them:) )  are that they keep challenging themselves. And each time they optimize the way they do the tasks and increase efficiency by finding more efficient ways of doing the tasks, which gives them additional time.

I also do have the kind of people Mark/Mike are talking about. Who don't want to take on more task and just be happy with their routine.

I'm yet to listen to the podcast, might add in some more views after listening to the podcast.


Rudy | DiSC : 5334

Manager Tools Productivity Review

This cast mentions a "Manager Tools Productivity Review."  I searched the site and all the casts and notes and I don't find it anywhere.  What is the "Manager Tools Productivity Review?" And where can I find it?

+1 to asking for more work

Since I started my career, I always went to my managers to tell them I had some bandwidth and they could give me more work when that was the case.

I I never regretted asking for more work -- this way I got involved in interesting and high-visibility projects that helped me progress in my career.

I know other people who behave the same way, so I also have to disagree with the notion that no employee will ever do such thing.


When I started listening to this, I was almost sure that I'd find out that I've been over-assigning work and that I need to back off.  Not so! 

I LOVED this cast, because it speaks so deeply to what is going on between my team and myself.  I'm a new manager.  I haven't done the DISC profile, but I informally identify as a high S, and I  know I tend to overprotect.  I've been successful at doing that less, thanks to the power of delegation, but this cast opened a whole new door for me.  I especially appreciate what you say about tolerating a dip in quality for the sake of innovation.  So brilliant. 

When I finally do become that great manager (many years from now), I will absolutely give Manager Tools a big credit for starting me down that road.

Thanks for making this hard work a little more manageable.



Of course may of you have

Of course may of you have gone to your boss and asked for more work ... you wouldn't be here unless you were exceptional, right? ;-)

I stand corrected! :-)


I'm really glad my boss (s)

I'm really glad my boss (s) have not overdelegated work - because they don't understand the project, and instead, I've used the time to read more papers about the science, make long range plans, and write proposal for my work. In my four years on this very complex early stage pharmaceutical project, I've had four bosses, and we've been acquired. No one understands it like I do, and each boss comes in thinking they have to X, but that X doesn't work on this. I used my spare time to read more and more and more papers about the science, identify vendors that could help, and craft proposals for what I wanted to do (Quadrant II from Seven Habits). My boss (s) had no idea I was doing this. When money became available, I was able to articulate my plan -- unfortunately, I don't get much credit for having this ready to go. Ultimately, I'm really glad they did NOT overdelegate work, so I could plan all this.


It is unlikely that you are not focusing on important things.  It is very likely that you are not focusing on all the important things.  When you loose focus of some of the important things it looks like you don't know what you are doing...like your not capable of accounting for all the variables.

We can all tell from your post this is not the case.  How do you think you could team up with the people around you to show your boss that together you've got it all covered?  It is also possible that your boss will have to be on "that team" if you truely want to make sure all of the important 'X's' are covered.

Having time to plan is good, having the time to execute it is better.


MT Productivity Review

Did you ever find out where to find the MT Productivity Review?  I've been looking all over the web site for it, to no avail.


Hi Micheal

The productivity review is described in the time management casts. You can find them here:




I work on chipsets.  Quality can drop for a little while to add more features (more done).


I view "over assigning" as

I view "over assigning" as an amplifier of productivity that can work two ways, yes in my experience it absolutely can improve productivity, the old adage if you want something done give it to a busy person is true, with a genuinely busy team the work just flies !  

BUT I have also seen this done in a haphazard way with insufficient guidance on the priorities of the team/the manager so people can drop the wrong things or just the wrong things for the team so productivity can really suffer - for those situations my managers had not done any O3 with me or even their bosses...

whenever I think of productivity and busyness a phrase "hair on the floor" springs to mind - not sure where I heard it but it refers to the fact when you pay for a decent haircut you pay for what's left on the head  - not for the hair on the floor


What about compensation ? When is over assignment unjust ?

I am constantly being asked by my supervisors to do this with my Directs.

I am reluctant to do so because I often feel they will not get adequate compensation or recognition for the additional work they accomplish and take on.

Job Class and Pay Scales are generally static in my organization. 

And the best annual Merit increase ever seen by my directs in 18 years has been 4%. (Usually around 3%)

Any growth only comes from changing jobs and there is a ceiling (gap) for jobs in my organization between workers who have Masters degrees and those that don't.

Often various tasks are traditionally designated for "Professional" workers with the requisite Maters degrees.

If I assign or delegate these tasks to "non-professionals" there will be no chance for adequate compensation, unless they go get a Masters Degree and apply for a new job.

And the organization will then be getting traditionally "Professional" level work from a Tech Assoc. level employee.

I'm concerned about ethics on this topic ...

Uncle A.


I love that quote by Drucker.  This is probably very good policy except you can overdo it with some people  There are employees who feel like failures when they don't get their work completely done and you have to cognizant with this and make sure that you give them positive feedback.  Also, some hard-driving bosses can almost go over the line to workplace bullying with their behavior.  You have to know your workers and what they can take.  If you give too much work deliberately make sure that you don't berate them when they can't finish.  There is a fine line here.