How to Delegate a Simple and Boring Task
There are tasks that you or I may not like to do but somebody else would revel in doing.
That, of course is not what is meant here.
We are Talking about Assignments That Nobody Wants to do
Otherwise, just find somebody who has the talent and the motivation for that task.
For example, suppose you are run a small advertising firm and the design team created a terrific poster promoting your best client’s next big event.
They need you to now send the poster out to 20,000 of their clients.
Sadly, the job was under-priced, so the cost of outsourcing the job to a professional mailing firm would well exceed your budget and make this project a money loser for your firm.
You decide to do the work in-house.
The trouble is life and business being what it is, the posters came back from the printer much later than you expected and they need to get in the mail this weekend.
This task is the very definition of routine, if not boring.
The people participating must:
1. Roll up the posters
2. Slide them into the mailing tubes
3. Cap those tubes
4. Apply a mailing label and the proper postage.
Four steps, none of them terribly interesting, and on the weekend no less.
1) You could try coercion, after all you are the boss and you can force people to spend their Saturday and Sunday on this mind numbing project.
They might comply but the damage to their morale and long-term commitment could be substantial.
2) You could ask for volunteers. But face it, most people can think of better ways to spend a weekend.
3) You could use intrinsic reward and pay people a small sum for every poster they insert and send, in the hope that the piecework fee will boost their productivity.
In this case, routine, mindless, uninteresting work, extrinsic rewards won’t hurt and might help.
What to Do
But it will help if you add these three important caveats.
1. Acknowledge That the Task Is Boring
This is an act of empathy, of course. And this acknowledgement that this is not quite fair will actually motivate people to work with you and help people them understand why this is the rare instance extra effort is needed.
2. Offer a Rationale for Why the Task Is Necessary
A job that is not inherently interesting can become more meaningful and therefore more engaging, if it’s part of a larger purpose. Explain why this poster is so important and why sending it out is critical to your organization’s mission.
3. Allow People to Complete the Task Their Own Way
The moment you tell people how to do the job, it is no longer their job. Think autonomy, not control. State the outcome you need. But instead of specifying precisely the way to reach it, how each poster must be rolled and how each label must be affixed, give them freedom over how they do the job.
In other words, the “what” is yours and requisite; the “how” is theirs and is negotiable.
Lastly, extrinsic rewards should be unexpected and offered only after the task is complete.
Note that this might not always be entirely possible in some situations for example a Ford factory line etc. but I do nonetheless trust that this will help you better your situation.
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