10 Ways to Manage Multiple Bosses

Guest post by Simon North, Founder of Position Ignition, the UK’s leading career development and career learning company and the Career Ignition Club. Simon is also the author of How to Get the Job You Want eBook.

Having multiple people to report to is not a new phenomenon. Many organisations practice matrix management. The complexity of what we need to do in certain contexts means that we don’t have a clear command-of-control line, not a single line anyway. This article touches on 10 ways we can help ourselves manage these multiple bosses.

1.       Ask Yourself Who They Are

It may sound ridiculous to ask this but it’s useful to know who it is that has an expectation from us. Who are we accountable to? Who are we responsible to and for what? How clear are these arrangements? We will get into a tangle about this if we don’t have boundaries and expectations.

2.       Find Where the  Priority Lies

If we’ve got multiple bosses we’ll have multiple tasks too. Do we do what our bosses require us to do? Is it as simple as that? Who is the best judge of what needs prioritizing? Make sure you’re clear about your priorities.

3.       Look at Your Performance

What is it we’re actually judged on? How clear are we about what matters for us in this job and for any future that we may hope for in this organisation? Can we make sure that we can do a good job day in day out without actually ending up going backwards?

4.       Practice Self-Discipline

Our time is finite. And even if we think our time isn’t finite our energy isn’t finite. We will underperform if we do not get ourselves really disciplined to do work we have to do. At worst we’ll end up ill so we have to be really, really self-disciplined and smart about how we manage this.

5.       Report Regularly

You will set up arrangements with the people you’re doing tasks for and they’ll expect your reports at key meetings or whatever. What we’re talking about here is short, sharp check-ins. Either leave a message on their cell phone or send regular texts letting them know how things are going. It keeps them in your mind, keeps you in their mind and gives them confidence that they are in your mind.

6.       Let Them Know if your Priorities Change

With multiple bosses they’re going to be multiple shifts in priority. The sooner you communicate those, the better. It is an increasingly important issue for all of us. The best way of dealing with it is to broach it early with people who are adversely affected by any change you’ve needed to make.

7.       Find Someone to Turn to for Support

Who is your ultimate boss? Who’s the person you are responsible to and who takes responsibility for you – your health, your welfare and your personal rations. Who’s the person who’s going to provide you with support. Who are you going to go to for refuge if somebody gets upset by a project running late, for instance.

8.       Build Good Rapport

We need to get on well with all our bosses. We need to develop strong relationships where they absolutely trust us. This is not just crucial in whatever our job is today. It’s crucial in terms of the boss’ and the organisation’s view of us as we go for potential roles in the future.

9.       Be Clear About Tasks

We need to be clear about our tasks and deadlines. Look out for the conflicts that may be looming up ahead. This is not just about dealing with present day changes. It’s about being able to predict downstream. You know a key decision is going to be made; you know when you’re going to take vacation. Things that you can see are going to impact on your schedule and that of others you can start thinking and planning for.

10.   Learn to Re-Contract

Re-contracting is such a powerful skill to learn. What we’re doing is basically saying to our superior that we share this set of agreements and criteria with them: tasks, completion dates and deadlines and so on. This is an adult to adult conversation you’re going to have with probably more than one of your bosses. If re-contracting is a skill you’re not practised at, invest time in getting it right.

Position IgnitionAbout the author:

Simon North is the Founder of Position Ignition and the Career Ignition Club. Position Ignition is one of the UK’s leading career development and career planning companies. The Career Ignition Club offers a range of career support tools, advice and e-learning materials for its members. Follow Simon North and his team on twitter @PosIgnition and get more advice from him on their Career Advice Blog.

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