How to Approach Delegating Upwards

Delegating downwards is far easier than delegating upwards. Approaching more senior figures can seem a daunting task, and it must be handled with care.

The most common delegation is either downwards or sideways. It feels easy enough to delegate a task to someone working for you, or working at the same level as you, but it's far more difficult to navigate passing it on to the person above. Upward delegation is often a last resort, simply because it can feel awkward and people would rather look for alternative solutions.

There are all sorts of reasons for delegating upwards. It could be that you simply don't have time whilst juggling other things, or because you think a more senior figure might have greater expertise. Whatever the reasons, you need to be honest when you make your request so that the recipient can see the context surrounding it.

First off, remember that there's no shame in asking for help if you're struggling with your workload or with a looming deadline. Senior colleagues would rather a job was done well than have you rushing it or, worse still, pushing it onto someone less well-qualified for the task.

The trick to delegating upwards is choosing your moment and always being respectful. When you're delegating downwards, you can be much more assertive and flex the authority you have. When you're delegating upwards, it requires more tact and diplomacy. When delegating flows in this direction, you're always asking rather than demanding.

Despite them being more senior, you need to set out in detail what needs doing and set a time frame. If you don't provide enough details then you'll end up making more work for yourself, correcting any mistakes the other person has made.

When it comes to setting time frames, it's always best to delegate less urgent tasks which you know in advance are going to be tricky for you to handle. They're people with responsibilities and are more likely to decline if the time pressure is too great.

Overall, upward delegation needs to be handled with care. You will need to be honest, respectful and show your appreciation if you want your request to be accepted.


Be honest
Choose the right moment
Be respectful
Set out details and time frames
Always show appreciation