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Delegation double-bind:
"Damned if I do it,
damned if I don't !"


One of the best symptoms of a poor team due to defensive interactions is the claim that delegation does not work. Usually this claim comes from both the team members and the team leader, but under a different form !

Team members tend to share easily their frustration about empowerment, usually using the following arguments:

  • the leader prepares the decision with one or two members she chooses arbitrarily, without involving the others, and then suddenly they impose their decision to the whole team

  • the leader ask us often our opinion before a decision is made and we believe that this will be a collective decision, but then suddenly she imposes us a decision "out of nowhere" (see team processes issues number 4.)

  • the (team) leader gets too often into micromanagement and tells us what to do in details, leaving us very limited action freedom

  • when the leader delegates, she complaints later that we have not done what we should have done in her perspective. But she did not tell us clearly her expectations

Team leaders do not usually share as easily their experience of empowerment. They often feel that they are prisoner of a double-bind:
"I am damned if I empower and I am damned if I do not empower !". When they accept to share their frustration, it looks like this:

  • depending on the type of decision to take and the interest of the team members in the outcome, I know who I can trust to bounce ideas in the company interest and who will try to influence me in their favor even at the company cost
  • when I do not empower - I tell them what to do - and there is a problem during the implementation, members turn back to me and tell me that I have to (give instructions to) fix it. And I just have no time to do that: it is their responsibility

  • when I empower and there is a problem during the implementation, (team) members do not seem to care: they either procrastinate to set up corrective actions or they all say that they are not responsible - "it just fell between the cracks!"-


Helping the team to learn constructive interactions will rapidly improve the quality and the experience of empowerment. The issues above - first from team members and then from the team leader - will get openly discussed with the help of discussion cases and resolved with discussion role plays.




Return from delegation to root team building issues

Return from delegation to team building results



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