Better Me Than You

A study finds women are less likely to delegate work than men

If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. How much you agree with that old cliche might depend on if you identify as male or female. If you’re a man, you probably don’t mind passing off work. If you’re a woman, you probably do. That’s what researchers at Columbia Business School found.

According to the researchers’ five different studies, women are less likely to delegate workplace duties than men. The study also revealed that women are more likely to feel guilty about delegating than men and tend to have “difficult” conversations with subordinates when they do delegate.

In one of the five studies, the researchers presented a hypothetical scenario in which they were a marketing exec with a jam-packed schedule. As the Wall Street Journal reports, one of the tasks at hand was to interview someone for a vital role at the company. When the researchers asked the participants if they would pass on this interview to a subordinate who was also very busy, the women were less likely to than the men. The women participants were also more likely to report possible feelings of guilt if the subordinate did a poor job with the interview.

The researchers hypothesized that women don’t like to delegate because they view it as aggressive, a behavior women have been conditioned to consider negative through societal sexism. The problem for women is that when they refuse to delegate, they lose out on the chance to concentrate on big picture tasks. The researchers suggested that women should do their best to identify items that can and should be delegated so they can be free to perform more important duties.

Chris O'Shea

Chris O'Shea

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