Short Explanation:

My Manager is overworked and is managing too many systems.

In my managers mind I believe he thinks himself the only person capable enough to manage everything and he is unwilling to risk a more junior employee making a mistake that he has to fix.

How can I get my manager to trust me with some of his work?

Full Details:

In his defense he can manage all the systems better and faster than anybody else and he is probably the only person I know with his wide variety of technical knowledge.

This is a problem because:

  1. Deadlines on projects are approaching and I cant continue work on my part until he finishes his part. So I wait with a mountain of work that I cannot do.
  2. I create software to interface with the system he manages that never gets implemented because he is too busy to do the finishing touches, which I don't have permissions to do.
  3. New development projects are supposed to build off the system he manages but he hasn't even built or tested that part of his system yet so when people use my software it has problems because of his underlying systems. Generally, the underlying systems should be built and tested first and then we design and build the additional systems but this is happening backwards because he is too busy.

A consultant at my office tells me I am a greatly underused resource at the company and my manager should be giving me most of his technical workload. He has been a consultant for 30+ years and completely agreed with me on the situation and he is trying to help me change it.

I have asked my manager multiple times if I can take some his load or if I can do specific tasks for him but very rarely has he given his work away.

My manager likes me and considers me the most senior employee after him.

I am sure you can imagine how frustrating this is.

  • 3
    Would you say the core question is "How do I communicate to my manager that he is the blocker for my work and the company's forward progress?"
    – jcmeloni
    Oct 30, 2012 at 23:19
  • I wish I had good advice for you but I have found myself in the same situation many times and it seemed like anytime I tried to be proactive or approach my manager about it, that I made things significantly worse. You are dealing with a classic Micro-Manager and possibly also a Work-aholic. Unless power is forcibly taken from them by a superior then it generally never gets any better. Oct 31, 2012 at 11:43
  • @maple_shaft: The other possibility is that the manager starts to experience burn-out and this (in my experience) usually causes them to realize they need to delegate, though sometimes this is only temporary and they start hoarding work again. I'm not sure if this was better or worse than when they started to delegate more work aftger they got into a confrontation with a superior (well, a corporate partner more than superior) over their work-hoarding. Oct 31, 2012 at 15:08
  • Thank you for your responses. I agree with you guys and but i don't see my manager burning out anytime soon.
    – Quinma
    Oct 31, 2012 at 20:55
  • You could always go to your manager and ask him what happens to the project if he were to drop dead the next day. If that makes him see that you could take work off his hands, this gives you an avenue to follow up with "So why not spread the workload between the two of us and try to provide some redundancy?"
    – Cronax
    May 26, 2015 at 9:20

3 Answers 3


I'd suggest that the one key issue here is you hav outgrown your current role, and I'd add that you have significant insight based on your description of the problem.

If you have reached this point, then you know there are only two possible outcomes.

The first is actually the easiest, in many ways. You have outgrown your role, and your efforts to raise this to your manager have been ignored. Time to move on, and find the next career step where your skills will be appreciated.

The second, is harder. If you want to stay, you have to find a way of highlighting to your manager that he is essentially failing in his role as your manager, no matter how well he is delivering technically.

He's not monitoring your workload, seeing that you are under utilised, or that you are frustrated. He's also not looking for opportunities to increase your skills and experience.

One path into this is the fact that he is also creating a trap for himself. It will be almost impossible for him to be moved out of that role until he has trained up a replacement, and so he is busy painting himself into a corner.

This is experience talking - I've been in that "technical trap" too, and had to quit myself to escape. I've also been the "manager who couldn't delegate."

If you have a chance, start to ask him about career options; specifically where he wants to go longer term, and how he moved into his current role. Extend this to include career advice for yourself, what should be your next move, how you can improve on your skills and so on. Try and make this informal (holiday season coming!), but don't wait too long.

Hope this helps, and good luck.

  • Thank you for your response. I think I will try the harder option first but I have no clue how to approach my manager and tell him he is failing as a manager while keeping our relations amiable.
    – Quinma
    Oct 31, 2012 at 21:09
  • A lot depends on where the manager is in their career; this kind of thing is common with new(er) managers, often before they have had any training. You essentially have to coach your manager, which is not an ideal position.
    – GuyM
    Nov 1, 2012 at 10:05
  • Good insight, this is his first year as a manager.
    – Quinma
    Nov 1, 2012 at 18:59
  • 2
    In that case, it should improve. Technical team member to manager can be a brutally steep learning curve, and it can feel very lonely. The temptation to fall back on "what you know" (ie technical work) as opposed to leading the team is huge, and without some kind of "team member to team leader" training it can be very hard to reset. (Been there, done that!)
    – GuyM
    Nov 2, 2012 at 20:04

Trust is built slowly, but can rapidly erode.

Communication is key. Is the manager in question aware of the difficulty he is creating for you? Let them know that aside from task x,y, and z that are waiting on his parts, you need something to do until they progress.

Perhaps if they are unwilling to offload some of the key technical work, they would be willing to offload some of the non technical work that otherwise is impeding their progress, which is in turn impeding yours. This probably is not a great solution to the dilemma as non technical work for technical people is often less stimulating, but it is a route to consider until the manager is more comfortable with delegation of technical work.

  • Thank you for your response. I always try to keep my manager up to date on my stalled status but it is a very weak position to keep telling my manager I need something to do when he is so busy. Basically he doesn't have the time to give me a task while I wait for him.
    – Quinma
    Oct 31, 2012 at 21:02

Given: a. your manager is a good professional and enjoys learning new things. b. you two share a good professional relationship. c. "he can manage all the systems better and faster than anybody else" but not better and faster than THE WHOLE TEAM working together.

You can speak to him by means of a book that explains techniques for effective delegation. My favourite is "If You Want It Done Right, You Don’t Have to Do It Yourself!" by Donna Gennet.

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