Abdicating Responsibility

In Episode 124 of the Lead From Anywhere Podcast, I shared a story about what can happen when leaders abdicate responsibility and work, instead of delegating. it.

Consequences of Abdicating, not Delegating – Listen Now!

A Perfect Example of Abdicating Responsibility

Over at my company, BeeSmart Social Media, we saw one of our clients really get caught in the middle of an abdication storm – and we got wrapped up in it with them. This client was abdicating responsibility to her employee without a clear guideline as to who was going to review the work we were doing for this client, and when that review would need to be done. The employee didn’t know one key element of that approval process, and the owner had completely checked out.

We got the greenlight from the employee to post something, and a day later heard from the business owner, who was upset about the post going out. It was content that should never have been approved because it could have potentially cost our client their customer.

The business owner was REALLY upset at us – we almost got fired. But we had gotten approval from the person whom we thought was supposed to give us approval. After pausing for a moment, the business owner, thankfully, owned that mistake and realized it was their responsibility. We worked it out, and have moved on, but that was a tense moment in our working relationship.

When Abdicating Responsibility Usually Shows Up

Usually when the leader is so burned out, she just has to get some things off her plate. Without the proper follow up and process in place, though, the leader will end up abdicating responsibility to the work instead of delegating it.

The problem becomes obvious when there’s an event that could have a major impact at work, and unfortunately it is often brought to the leader’s attention by a customer or client. The leader’s first reaction is usually anger and frustration at the employee who did the work. It can be kind of dramatic, as it was in our own story, but then hopefully after that dissipates, the leader will deal with it.

Dealing with Abdicating Responsibility

To deal with abdicating responsibility problems, the leader has to roll up their sleeves and fix it, own their mistake, and take the blame. Once the leader and her team move past the initial problem, the focus can then turn to process, training, reviewing the work, and supporting the team.

As leaders, we must always be aware of the slippery slope that can turn a great delegation plan into abdicating work. If you pay attention to it, you can sometimes spot problems before they occur, and address them appropriately.

For more on the topic of Abdication, check out the podcast episode, Delegating’s Evil Cousin.