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Employee Delegates Job to Computer, Then Forgets How to Do It

Do you ever have days when you wish you could delegate your entire job to somebody else? One programmer decided to do just that, and eventually forgot how to do his job.

The employee set up a computer to run all of his software tests so he could spend his work time engaged in non-work-related activities. The anonymous employee writes that he didn't have any friends at work, so nobody noticed.

After six years of letting a computer do his job, the employee got caught and was fired.

The problem, other than having to explain the situation to potential employers? In the course of delegating his entire job for six years (!), the employee had forgotten how to do the work. He writes that he didn't know how to write "good" software anymore, and had "basically forgotten everything." Just in time to find a new job.

It's vaguely like a Big Head situation from HBO's awesome show Silicon Valley. Just nod and smile, you know?

Is this whole story a hoax? I don't know -- it's the internet -- but it got me thinking about the ways that delegating our work can affect our skill sets over time.

Delegation at work is everywhere in this economy. Business articles encourage start-up entrepreneurs to delegate, delegate, delegate -- and as soon as possible, because otherwise they'll become the dreaded micro-manager nobody wants. Overburdened employees look for opportunities to off-load busy work on to unsuspecting new hires. Maybe we get promoted a level or two up, and begin to lose touch with some entry-level job functions. It happens.

Meanwhile, apps, software, and streamlining initiatives help us delegate so we can focus on the work we want to do. In a pinch, we can outsource to the cloud, which will take care of the dirty work for us.

So it doesn't seem far-fetched that we might start to forget some of the basics. Because if we don't use it, we lose it, right?

It's funny, because we tend to associate rusty skills with the long-term unemployed, not the actively employed. But through the process of delegation -- to a computer, to a co-worker, to a third party -- employees at all levels run the risk of forgetting basic skills over the long term.

Think about the job skills you used five years ago. How many of these skills have you delegated since then, and how many of these delegated skills would require a (cough) quick refresher course? Do I press F7, or F10? I can't remember anymore, it's been too long!

Sigh. Nobody at work likes to admit what they've forgotten how to do, and perhaps you've worked your way up to handing off many things. Good for you! Delegation works for many of us, especially when we're doing the work of three people.

Just don't get caught out when a new hire asks a basic question that you've forgotten how to answer, or it takes you awhile to walk through it step by step. You might need to cleverly delegate the question to another co-worker because you're too busy. Cough.


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