Why People Don’t Delegate

In delegation, disadvantages that may bar you from delegating are often perceptual. However, because they seem real, they may keep you from reaching your delegation goals. To overcome these barriers, you must first identify them.

In the next few sections, we will cover:

  • Seven barriers that you may face.
  • Six barriers your teammates may provide.
  • Two barriers your situation may pose.

By the end of this section, you should be able to:

  • Identify and address the barriers in your own way.
  • Overcome your own barriers.
  • Support your teammates who may try to avoid responsibility.

These disadvantages can be overcome, and some are actually advantages! Read on to learn about the common barriers to delegation.

Barriers from You

The biggest barrier to effective delegation is often you. Like the committee chair of the LL2 described in the introduction, you must overcome your anxieties about giving others responsibilities in order to gain the benefits of successful delegation. The next 7 barriers are ones that you may find yourself posing.

1. Not Enough Time

One of the biggest barriers to delegation is the perception that you do not have enough time to either adequately explain the task or teach your team member the skills necessary for a delegated task. Even though it may take you less time to complete that task now, where does that put you the next time the task must be completed? This feeling is paradoxical, because one of the main benefits of delegation is saving time.

2. Losing Control

People new to delegation often feel as though they are giving up their control. It is a little frightening to allow a team member to complete a task for which you are ultimately responsible. It was this reason that kept the LL2 team leader from delegating at first. Communicating with those to whom you've delegated frequently to check the progress of the task can help decrease this fear and give you some sense of control.

3. Not Getting Credit

Some leaders feel that if they do not complete the task, they will not get credit. You must learn to share credit with others. Remember, the better your team looks, the better you look.

4. Losing Tasks You Enjoy

You may occasionally have to delegate tasks that you enjoy doing. Remember, as a leader your job is to ‘think big,’ not to be bogged down in recurring tasks. Seeing others succeed because of your coaching will also be enjoyable.

5. You Can Do it Better

Like the LL2 leader, you may think that you are the only person who can complete the job successfully. Especially because you and your team are part of a prestigious scholarship program, that is probably not true. Your teammates are highly capable!

6. Delegate Out of a Job

Some people resist delegation because they believe they may delegate themselves out of their job. Great! Now you can move to a higher position, or volunteer to take on more challenging tasks. Delegation improves productivity, and this will be obvious to everyone.

7. No Confidence in Team Members

Some leaders resist delegation because they don’t have faith in their team members. If this is true of you, start by taking small risks. Early successes will encourage you to delegate more. Learn to see the potential in your team and make sure that you have adequately prepared your team members for the tasks you assign. The more prepared they are, the less worried you will be.

You are not the only one that may be wary of delegation. Your team members may also have some anxieties of their own. Next, we describe several barriers to delegation from the members of your team.

Barriers from Your Team Members

If you understand why your team members have trouble accepting delegated tasks, you can help them realize the benefits in delegation for both of you. Once they begin to succeed, they will be more willing to take on additional responsibilities that you delegate. Here are 6 common barriers posed by team members.

1. Not Enough Time

Some of your team members may feel that they are already putting in extra time for your team’s project. This may be true, so make sure that you are fairly dividing tasks between yourself and all of your team members. If everyone feels overworked, you will have to explain that in order to get the job done, everyone needs to put forth the extra effort.

2. Not Enough Experience

Some people, especially freshmen or young students, may recognize that they do not have enough experience for the tasks that need to be completed. Do not be impatient with them for lacking experience if they have not had the opportunity to gain it. Begin by delegating simple tasks so that they will gain confidence with their success. As their skill level increases, you will be able to confidently delegate more difficult tasks to them.

3. Fear of Failure

Some of your team members may be afraid that they will fail to accomplish the tasks you delegate. Like the committee chair of the senior retreat, give your teammates adequate support and encouragement. Explain to them that you will be monitoring their progress and giving them feedback in order to correct any mistakes before they become serious problems.

4. Not their Responsibility

In order to have a successful team, everyone must be flexible and open to delegation. Emphasize the importance of the task and the benefits it will produce. Let them know that their strengths and skills are important to the completion of the task and the success of your team.

5. Fear of Being a Scapegoat

Some teammates may feel that you will try to pass the blame to them instead of accepting it yourself. Make sure that your words and actions say otherwise. Do not sacrifice your team members to save yourself if something goes wrong. This will only bring you contempt and resentment as well as an unproductive team.

6. Reactions from Other Team Members

When delegating to a team member, they may hesitate because of concerns of jealousy or confrontation from other team members. If this is the case, make sure you back up your delegation with enough authority to get the job done. Also, make sure that you are delegating tasks among your teammates fairly.

Finally, your environment may pose some barriers to the successful completion of a delegated task. Next, we explain two of these barriers.

Barriers from the Situation

Certain situations may cause barriers to delegation. These situations are most often lack of resources and an unclear hierarchy. If either of these two barriers are present in your situation, make sure you remain flexible and do not blame teammates for failures out of their control.


Money is usually a concern for most organizations. If this is a problem, try to work around it. Remember to be flexible. If there is not enough money to send your class on a retreat to Hawaii, be flexible with your destination. Not getting your first choice does not make the whole task a failure.


In some organizations, it is difficult to understand the lines of authority and responsibility. Staff and faculty members may share responsibilities, and ultimate authority may lie with someone that is not always available. Be aware of the situation and communicate clearly so that you may work to overcome this obstacle.


We have created a worksheet for you to assess your personal barriers to delegation, which is available in the worksheets section of this training module.

We have now covered the common barriers to delegation that may be posed by you, your teammates or your situation.

The next section will provide you with key points to remember while delegating.

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