Baton passing

As I was watching the Olympics over the past two weeks I reminisced on a conversation I had with a friend who at the time was lamenting about the behaviour of both bosses and colleagues who go on leave and require others to carry out their duties until they return. The problem is the absence of handing over of duties to the incumbent (the temporary employee).

It was further noted that they (the employee/boss) just leave and you are told that you have to go to their desk (hold on until they return) and try to pick up the pieces which more often than not results in mishandling of information (poor performance of duties until the individual returns).

The individual recalled that although they had tried on many occasions to suggest that employees (bosses and subordinates) physically hand over their work to the incumbent this situation remains unchanged. The article this week is about the significance of passing the baton as an auditing tool for managing teams/ groups.

We have all noticed that during the just completed Olympics the passing of the baton is a very technical process. This procedure requires that each member of the team runs/completes a leg of the journey while putting their best foot forward and then passing the baton to the next runner within a certain zone.

Now from what I have observed, passing the baton does not only relate to how fast each runner is at completing the course but how skilful they are at passing the stick. This action also requires that each participant has some knowledge of the other’s abilities, must take instruction about when to go while adhering to strict rules of the game. If this action is not completed correctly it may cause a team to either be disqualified or fail to achieve its goal.

The same can be applied to the work environment as it relates to promotions, resignations or simply going on leave of any kind (vacation leave, maternity leave or study leave). You see any well coordinated department/ organisation would have created procedures and policies where individuals are required to utilise effective skills when performing their work processes so passing the baton /handing over current files to each other should not be a problem. Actually, it should be an auditing requirement to safeguard not only the employee but the organisation.

Now you may ask: What has this to do with auditing? Well auditing, especially internal auditing, as suggested by Cornell University is an activity that is designed to add value and improve the operations of the organisation. In essence this activity can assist the organisation in achieving its goals by evaluating, assessing, reviewing policies and procedures.

This effort could result in improved effectiveness of work processes while mitigating any adverse risks. When this activity is performed correctly, it can result in identifying areas for improvement and make recommendations for enhanced processes, policies and procedures (

You may now be asking what has this to do with passing the baton or handing over to the temporary employee. When an employee knows that before he/she leaves the position they have to account for the various tasks assigned to them they would ensure that they have complied with all of the organisation’s policies and procedures.

In some instances, the departing employee may be asked to sign a declaration to this effect as a means of safeguarding information and systems, reducing reliability and ensuring integrity. So you see, passing the baton in not a simple process but involves the use of skill sets that can only be identified through the use of planned policies and procedures.

It is therefore important that managers and supervisors create certain security measures that would not only protect the employees but would mitigate the risk to the organisation’s assets as well as gaps in customer service. Until next time…

* Daren Greaves is a Management & Organisational Psychology Consultant at Dwensa Incorporated. e-mail:, Phone: (246) 436-4215

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