Upward delegation is an all-too-common phenomenon in the workplace, where employees pass their responsibilities and tasks back to their managers instead of handling them independently. This practice can lead to inefficiencies, decreased productivity, and strained relationships within a team. In this article, we’ll define upward delegation, explore its causes, and discuss effective strategies for stopping it in its tracks.

What is Upward Delegation?

Upward delegation occurs when employees shift their work responsibilities back to their managers or team leaders, rather than taking ownership and completing the tasks themselves. This can manifest in various ways, such as repeatedly seeking guidance on routine tasks, asking for help with minor issues, or even outright refusal to complete assigned work.

Causes of Upward Delegation

There are several reasons why upward delegation might occur in the workplace:

  1. Lack of confidence: Employees may feel unsure of their abilities or fear failure, leading them to seek reassurance from their managers.
  2. Unclear expectations: If employees are not given clear instructions or expectations, they may feel overwhelmed and turn to their managers for guidance.
  3. Inadequate training: Employees who have not received proper training may struggle to complete tasks independently and rely on their managers for assistance.
  4. Overbearing management: If managers are too involved in their employees’ work, they may inadvertently encourage upward delegation by not allowing employees to take ownership of their tasks.
  5. Avoidance of responsibility: Some employees may simply prefer to avoid responsibility and pass tasks to their managers to escape potential consequences.

Strategies for Stopping Upward Delegation

To prevent upward delegation and foster a proactive work environment, consider implementing the following strategies:

  1. Set clear expectations: Clearly communicate the tasks and responsibilities assigned to each team member, including deadlines and performance standards. This will help employees understand their roles and reduce the need for constant supervision.
  2. Provide adequate training: Ensure that employees have the necessary skills and knowledge to complete their tasks. Offer ongoing training opportunities to help them stay up-to-date with industry trends and best practices. Ensure you have a training and process library that is constantly being added to and updated.
  3. Encourage autonomy: Empower your employees to make decisions and take ownership of their work. This can be achieved by giving them the authority to make decisions within their area of expertise and providing support when needed.
  4. Be available for guidance: While it’s important to encourage autonomy, it’s also crucial to be available for guidance when needed. Be approachable and offer constructive feedback to help employees grow and develop their skills. You can also direct them to peers and other team members for help and guidance.
  5. Delegate effectively: As a manager, it’s essential to delegate tasks appropriately. Assign tasks based on employees’ skills and experience, and avoid micromanaging their work. This will help build trust and foster a sense of responsibility among team members.
  6. Hold employees accountable: Establish a system for tracking progress and holding employees accountable for their work. Regularly review performance and provide feedback to help employees stay on track and improve their skills.


Upward delegation can be a significant obstacle to productivity and team cohesion. By understanding its causes and implementing the strategies outlined above, managers can effectively put an end to this detrimental practice and create a more efficient, empowered, and engaged workforce.