Resource Centre Career Development More than One Boss? Strategies of Managing Multiple Bosses

More than One Boss? Strategies of Managing Multiple Bosses

managing multiple bosses

The modern workplace dynamics are changing rapidly and most companies are getting caught up in situations that even the HR department wasn’t ready for. The rate a which startups are mushrooming every day creating a need for more partnerships and more collaboration between polychronic cultures. This has then led to the adoption of flatter organograms, where hierarchical structures are more project-based rather than the conventional linear reporting structures. With such structures, you might find yourself reporting to several supervisors at the same time. How do you manage this situation and at the same time perform your duties optimally?

Issues Associated with Multiple Managers and How to Handle them

  1. Prioritization of Tasks

    multiple bosses

Each manager you report to will probably emphatically tell you how urgent their task is and suggest that you get to it as soon as the previous day. This can be tricky for you, especially if you already have other tasks pending and close to three people pinging you every 5 minutes asking for progress.

How to Get Around this

Create a system that helps you manage tasks and ensure all your managers understand this system and adhere to it. Tools like Trello, Jira, and others. These tools will help prioritise tasks and ensure each manager gives the required lead time for the completion of a particular task. These tools also help everyone have a transparent view of the tasks you are handling, hence they are more inclined to give reasonable lead times.

  1. Politics and Power Play

    handling many bosses

Different companies have different cultures, structures and way of running things. These aspects usually determine individual behaviour of people in the company, which sometimes escalates to politics. If you have multiple bosses with individual expectations for you, you might be caught up in their powerplay moves as each tries to gain advantage.

How to Get Around this

Identify politics and power play when they happen and try to understand the motives behind these moves. Look closely and understand which boss has more power over you and prioritise. An assessment like this helps you know the pressures, goals, strengths and weaknesses of all the bosses, then planning on your approach to each request. Clear understanding of politics and power plays helps you keep all the bosses content and willing to compromise from time to time, depending on your schedule and workload.

4. Strained Relationships

multiple bosses - strained relationships

Any progressive career person knows that their relationship with their boss is the most important one in the company. This relationship affects their progress in the company, pay, perks and general well being. So, if you have 3 bosses and two of them are not happy with you, your life in the office is almost always miserable

How to Work Around this

The first thing to remember is that your bosses are human. Seek to understand their points of view, their goal, pains and where you come in. Develop a personal relationship with each and treat all of them with respect, grace and kindness. Try as much as possible to be fair in how you handle requests and avoid favourites. This will foster respect and understanding between all of you.

5. Unrealistic Expectations

managing multiple bosses- unrealistic expectations

The most common situation related to having multiple sources of requests and expectations is the need for each requester to have their task complete as soon as possible. While this could be your goal, it is not practical because not everything within a task is within your control. Sometimes there will be delays that may result in strained relationships.

How to Work Around this

Being transparent on what you are doing helps put things in perspective for everyone you are working with. Let each boss know what is already on your plate and how long you think it will take you to complete their task. This way, everyone knows when their expectations can be met.

In conclusion,

These strategies will help you plan around multiple bosses and successfully complete assigned tasks.


Doreen Mueke
Doreen is the Senior Content Marketer at Ringier One Africa Media.
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