Managing Multiple Bosses

July 28, 2009 by Lynn Faughey

Do you find yourself getting pulled in multiple directions during a day?  Whether you realize it or not, this is because you have more than one “boss” to be accountable to!
If you have more than one manager at work, you know exactly what I mean.  It’s tough to keep them all happy and convinced that you are doing a good job. But, whether you actually have more than one manager at work or not, the reality is that when you factor in work life and home life, you really do have multiple “bosses” who are counting on you to get all of your jobs done.  

Many of you are accountable to your spouse and your children at home.  And, some of you may have older parents or other family members who need you as well.  Others have volunteered time for community activities and have commitments there.  It’s a very common conflict that causes extreme amounts of stress for people.
During my typical day, I find myself making decisions hourly on whether I do tasks to satisfy my family, or my multiple priorities at work.  How do we do it all without feeling like we are letting any of our “bosses” down?
Here are three tips that have helped me over the years that I would love to share with you.  If you have other tips that have helped you along the way, please let me know.
1)  Ensure each boss that they are very important to you.  Since you are not dedicated 100% of your time to each boss, it is easy for them to feel unimportant or unsupported. It’s critical to remind them occasionally that you are 100% committed in your heart, even if you are not available 100% of the time.  You might want to check in periodically and say something like, “I want to make sure I am doing a good job here.  Is there anything else I can do better?”  Additionally, being flexible and responsive also shows your boss that you value that relationship.  Make them feel important and they will see you as dedicated individual.
2) Set clear expectations upfront about how you plan to manage your multiple commitments.  It’s important to make sure that each boss knows you have other commitments; however, they need to feel that you are still fully committed to meeting their needs.  The reality is that your bosses are most concerned about their own objectives and want to be assured of your dedication.  It’s best to have an honest conversation early on about your other commitments, while remaining focused on the positive (e.g., when you ARE available instead of when you AREN’T available, your ability to be flexible, etc.).  While it’s important that they know you are not 100% dedicated to them in terms of time, it’s also best to show some sensitivity about it by not reminding them constantly about your other commitments.
3)  Allocate your time in substantial focused chunks to each boss.  Dedicate a specific length of time to satisfying each boss, instead of jumping back and forth with lack of focus.  Lack of focus is easily read as lack of dedication. This is especially important when you are in a flexible work arrangement such as telecommuting.  For example, you might decide to focus on a conference call for work for one straight hour and ignore the home phone when it rings or home e-mail as it beeps on your computer.  Conversely, you can also choose to spend an hour playing a game with your child but ignore your Blackberry for that period of time.
Finally, give yourself some credit for being able to satisfy all of those demanding bosses!  Although they are not all paying bosses, hopefully, the rewards will be worth it in the end. 

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