The disastrous myth of delegation

Passing off your work to others can increase your stress.

Jessica Wildfire
6 min readJul 27, 2018


Tithi Laudthong

Four simple words can strike true terror into the heart of any competent adult. “Let me help you.” If someone offers to help, don’t let them. Run. They’re trying to trick you — even if they don’t know it. Just say no. This is your brain on delegation. You see where I’m going here.

Actually, let me rephrase. Don’t let just anyone help you. Because help from the wrong person can screw things up even worse.

Functional grownups know how to turn down help. They also know better than to go around offering it all the time. That sounds weird. Because we’re so often told to delegate. To work together. Teamwork, everyone cheers. You may have heard similar mantras at your company retreat.

Your boss might love to delegate. In fact, that’s all some of them do. They sit around and come up with extra jobs for people.

Sometimes they don’t even know why. They’ll just say something like “increasing productivity.”

But most often, it’s just paperwork they don’t want to do.

For the rest of us, delegating is bad advice. Why?

You’re still responsible

We aren’t bosses, or we’re middle bosses. We’re held accountable for what we accomplish, or don’t. So when you delegate work — even if your boss encourages you to — guess who still has to answer for mistakes?


Because blaming other people looks bad. Even when it’s true. That sucks, but get used to it.

Allow me to speak from experience. I’m part professor, part staff. That means my boss(es) often delegate a lot of their grunt work to me.

Sometimes they tell me to “put together a team,” or a committee, or hire a student. That would be great, except I already can’t trust half our staff to get things right the first time. Paperwork. Scheduling. Budget issues. Every single day, I’m checking up behind someone else for mistakes.

That’s a given. After all, sometimes you have no choice but to work with other people and trust them. In the Ronald Reagan sense — trust but verify.