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Shared decision making can improve the quality and acceptance of decisions, bolster worker motivation and self-esteem, increase sense of ownership and improve interpersonal relations with employees. But it is not always easy to delegate. A farmer wondered why his workers came directly to him with their problems and questions, skipping right over the foreman. Upon further reflection, this grower realized that he was encouraging this behavior by answering questions and solving problems for the employees. Instead, he needed to support his foreman by having employees go to him with these matters.

There is a tricky balance, here, however. While workers should feel a need to work out day to day issues directly with the farm foreman, the door should be left open for workers to sense that the farmer can listen to them, too. At one farm operation, the grower made it clear to the employees that his door was open to listen if they ever needed to talk. As soon as the farmer would leave the field, however, the foreman would close that door, by telling employees that they were not to ever bother the grower.

Delegation and empowerment work best when it is done in small increments. In an effort to get some of that empowerment potion into personnel, where employees will see things with managerial eyes, sometimes farm employers will over-delegate. And when the employee fails, much of this decision making or responsibility is taken away from personnel. Instead, as the employee succeeds at increasingly more difficult tasks, more can be delegated. When delegating, it is a wonderful feeling to know the employee will do the job just as well, if not better, than one would. To accomplish this, the supervisor needs to test for employee understanding before delegating

Gregorio Billikopf
University of California