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How can I work effectively under multiple bosses?

How can I work effectively under multiple bosses?

Workplace Issues

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Not everyone in the modern workplace works in a straightforward company structure and you may have allocated dotted managerial lines to various people.

You need to consider how to juggle your workload to keep them all happy.

  • Identifying the boss – Nobody likes being told one thing by one person and another thing by another but this is what can happen when having to work for more than on senior figure. As often with multiple bosses, they probably don't communicate with each other until your work quality begins to suffer.

    Such a situation can present you with serious problems and reflect badly upon you. It's best to confront the problem (or potential problems) as early as possible. Don't forget, in the midst of catering to many masters, your work must still get done, so you need to sort matters out fairly quickly.

  • Working around the situation – If the multiple bosses' scenario sounds familiar then first try to get some sound advice. Somebody in a similar position (or who has done it before) will be able to give you some practical tips and proven techniques to help with your handling of the situation.

    It may simply be a question of prioritising between bosses or playing the 'game' more efficiently. Here are some familiar situations and what you should do:

  • Caught in the middle – You're caught in the middle of bosses who can't agree on the best way forward – but you're in the middle and expected to do the work?

    In this case, try approaching each manager individually and telling them exactly how the different interpretations of the job are creating problems. This puts the end result of the job foremost, rather than just your own problems. You might also try arranging a meeting with your bosses to address the problem – and your involvement – realistically.

  • Not being kept up to speed – Sometimes you need each part of the command chain to provide input to complete your job but some of your bosses do not provide this input on time – and thus your whole schedule is ruined.

    You need to address the late responders and make them only too aware of their obligations (if not only to you) but to the outcome of the task or job in hand.

    At the very least you need a commitment from them to clarify your role and acknowledge their own compliance to ensure the success of what you are doing.

  • Procrastination – People only tend to really respect their own deadlines. It's a fact. If your deadlines are being ruined by a procrastinating boss, who is causing a problem for you by last minute requests, then you need to let them know you need more lead time. Prepare a calendar of due dates and use this as a guide to keep the procrastinator on track.
  • Style differences – Some bosses like to talk things through but not make firm commitments, some like to have every 'i' dotted and 't' crossed. This is purely a difference in working styles but you can address it if these stylistic differences pose a problem. For example, taking up too much of your time, then in your regular meetings take the time to address the issues you are having.
  • Training your bosses – Whether you have one boss, or several, part of your skill will be in training your boss/bosses on how best to use your time and talents. In other words it is a learning process for all of you and will evolve as your produce concrete results.

Remember, you may be a 'go-to' person, but instead of being a problem, you can turn this to your distinct advantage. Being a 'go-to' person means you are pivotal and necessary. However, from here you need to evolve from being someone who is respected rather than used and abused.

Planning and requiring commitment from others to get your tasks done will place you in a strong position and make others less likely to ask you to do things on a whim.


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