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Who's the Boss Now? Answering to Multiple Bosses

Handling workloads coming from multiple higher-ups can be tough but here are tips that will help you manage

Who's the Boss Now? Answering to Multiple Bosses

As an employee in an entry-level job, you might know this situation well. You have a primary manager. You also have a supervisor on another team that you’re on. And then there’s your boss’s boss, who sometimes hands work directly to you. And if you’re lucky, your co-worker who is leaving the company will bequeath you their work on their way out the door. And hey, maybe tonight between thunderstorms it will rain deadlines. You can always dream.

I had three bosses in my first full-time job who rarely communicated with one another about my workload. They were exceedingly busy people working in high-pressure positions. What they handed me was important work that needed to get done.

When it came to starting my to-do list, it felt kind of like choosing a favorite family member, which in my family is easy. Just kidding, love you guys equally.

Obviously the best course of action is to complete the work of the manager you like best, first. No, wait. That’s not right. Do all of one manager’s work and then start in on another’s. Hmm. That doesn’t seem to make too much sense either.

Handling workloads coming from multiple people can be tough. Here are some tips on how to manage your managers’ assigned work.

When’s it due?

Even if it’s something simple like proofing a PowerPoint presentation, find out from the manager who assigned it when they’d like it completed. This will help you prioritize your to-do list and juggle multiple managers’ assigned tasks. It also demonstrates that you’re on top of it, as well as subtly communicates you’ve got a lot going on.

Keep a spreadsheet of deliverables with columns like Date Assigned, Date Due, Assigned By and Next Steps. With just a few clicks you can sort the list and prioritize your order of business.

Manager ≠ mind reader

And good thing too! Otherwise it would be the pink slip for me.

Your managers are busy people. They don’t have time to regularly communicate with your other managers about your workload or sometimes even track all the work they themselves have assigned you. It’s your job to keep up with the moving pieces and let them know if a project becomes overwhelming.

Be transparent. Share your to-do list with each of your managers on a weekly basis. If one of them insists his or her project should come first, the onus then shifts to him or her to speak with your other supervisors.

Really, who’s the boss?

Even if you have multiple bosses, chances are only one of them will be responsible for conducting your performance review. I don’t mean you should blow off the work your non-performance-review-completing managers assign you, but it is worth keeping in mind who has the main say in your vitality at the company.

Remember, having multiple managers hand you work means multiple managers trust you. It beats the alternative — you could be twiddling your thumbs. Always look on the bright side.

Monster Wants to Know: What are some stories you have from managing work for various bosses on tight deadlines? What worked in your favor? Share with us in the comment section.

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