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I wonder which choice fits best in my provided context and why?

  • A colleague was complaining about an employee and I said to her “You know, he’s doing the best he can.” Not to mean that she should accept low performance, but to mean that if he is not the right person for this job, slamming him probably isn’t going to change that. She came back to me later and said “I heard what you said. He’s doing the best he can. We need to find him a suitable position where he can thrive.” And I said: “that’s right! You should ............. a task to someone who specializes it.

a) delegate
b) entrust

I think “b” is the correct answer; because, we often “delegate” tasks to a subordinate, while we can “entrust” a task / duty to anyone who we want them to do that for us and not necessarily an underling. However, I am not quite confident about it and need your confirmation on that. Besides, I am wide open to better suggestions.

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    I agree with you and not with @user45266's answer. Delegate implies that your colleague was responsible for a task, but got someone of lower status to do it for her. Commented May 17, 2021 at 13:04

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The important thing to note here is that both are correct options, as you've noted. I would argue that they are of equal merit. You can delegate a task to a subordinate, or really to anyone who you can assign a responsibility to. You can also entrust anything (such as a task) to someone in the same way.

Both options are valid here, and neither is better than the other - they are essentially equivalent. I would say that entrust carries a slight implication that the arrangement is temporary, but delegation would also be a correct phrasing in almost all cases. I could entrust you with my teddy bear, which more often than not means that at some point in the future I will relieve you and resume my teddy-bear-related duties. However, were I to delegate care of the teddy bear to you, it makes more sense to assume that you will be taking care of the bear indefinitely or for an extended period of time.

Entrust comes with a slightly more vulnerable and positive connotation - if I entrust you with something, you would be betraying my trust or letting me down by not doing what I asked of you. Using the verb entrust seems to indicate that the entruster retains ultimate liability, whereas using the more neutral word delegate signals that the receiving subordinate is now the one bearing liability. I could entrust you with babysitting my child, because at the end of the day, if the kid gets hurt I'm the one on the hook for it. On the other hand, I might delegate household chores to that child, since once I hand down the task it's really their fault if the dishes don't get done.


Overall, there aren't many differences between the two verbs, and in the example in the question either verb would fit. Most scenarios will allow for either method of phrasing.

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