Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being told to delegate:

My boss has asked me to delegate work to my coworker. He has asked me to do this before but I haven’t as I didn’t feel right about it. When she heard of this she was very angry and told me we have the same job, so there is no way she would be delegated to by me. We both have the same job title, but I have been there longer. Usually he would delegate to both of us so it was never an issue. He told me today that basically I was his assistant and the other coworker will be my assistant. I have no choice – my boss told me I have to delegate. I am unsure how to go about delegating things to her without her getting angry at me. I also consider her a friend. Any suggestions?

Signed, Worried About The Outcome

Dear Worried About The Outcome:

The first option: Tell your boss you need his help to make this work without creating terrible feelings between you and your coworker. Suggest that he talk to either her or to the two of your at the same time to explain how he would like to have the team roles from now on. If he will not do that, ask if he will send you an email to both of you, clarifying the new roles. If that isn’t something he will do, talk to your coworker and tell her honestly that you feel very uncomfortable, but as much as you don’t want to make her angry, your certainly don’t want to disobey your boss. Suggest that both of you meet with the boss and she can discuss her feelings. Or, suggest that she see the boss on her own.

Then, begin delegating as you were told to do. As you receive work that you are going to pass along ensure that it is appropriate for her to do, and that you do not just dump work on her at the last minute because you do not want to do it. Make your requests in the name of your boss, rather than yourself, at least at the beginning.Give something to her personally and say, without apology, “Tricia, Bob needs this form completed and mailed by tomorrow morning. Would you please handle it?” When she says yes, thank her and finish the conversation. You don’t need to apologize for doing what you have been told to do. Say please and thank you, and thank her when work is done.

Try to keep communications open and even if she is less than pleasant at first, stay friendly and available to talk. You don’t need to push it…she probably needs some time to adjust. But, you can at least not respond in a harsh way or argue with her. Just stay approachable and courteous all the time.The concern I have is that if she is your assistant, you are responsible for the quality of her work. So, you will also need to check to make sure things are done correctly. I wonder if you are being paid to be a supervisor!I get the feeling you want to be nice and might come across as able to be pushed around a bit. For example, the remarks of the coworker certainly don’t sound like that of a friend, and yet you categorize her that way. And, you are more concerned about your friend’s anger than about what your boss has instructed you do to.

This needs to be cleared up, preferably by your boss. If your coworker realizes you have not requested this change and she still is angry, that is something you will want to monitor. If her anger results in continual conflict and sulkiness, you will need to let your boss know how disruptive she is being.I think your boss has not handled this as he should. But, maybe if you let him know how awkward it is, he will be more inclined to explain things to your coworker. Best wishes with this challenging situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how it works out.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.