One employee, many bosses

Dealing with one boss can be a challenge. But imagine dealing with two bosses, neither of whom is willing to cut you some slack in view of your multiple duties. You confront conflicting deadlines, confused priorities and dual expectations. In all the chaos, it seems impossible for you to ever take a break or get a breather. But it is possible to navigate this quagmire and many have done it before with success.

Anil Salvi, group head, HR, JM Financial Institutional Securities Ltd was placed in such a dilemma early on in his career. “At my first job itself, I was a shared resource between two bosses and had faced a lot of challenges as both bosses used to wonder for whom I was working more. Since I was a beginner, one of the ways that I used to adopt was to be brutally honest about my challenges with both of them and most of the times, they understood.And there was the first lesson of the career that honesty works and it works well. Till date, after 25 years of my career, that stint remains the most cherished one,“ he says. If your strategy is to let both your bosses remain in blissful ignorance about the other, you may be charting dangerous territory. It may not be pleasant to turn down a plum opportunity, but if it clashes with a commitment you’ve already made to your other boss, honesty really would be the best policy.

Sometimes, circumstances conspire to turn you into a ‘shared resource’ where you have to dance to the tunes of not one, but two or more bosses! So how do you walk the tight rope and emerge victorious?

Being extremely organized is your bet as a shared resource. “It is the toughest position to be in since every manager wants full attention and contribution from the individual. The best thing for the individual to do is to set the objectives and role expectations with every manager they report to. Maintain a list of things to do and follow up whenever required. Let the other managers know if there are any priorities that you are working on, which could potentially delay theirs. It is key that a constant review and discussion is done with all managers to course correct if there are any gaps in their expectations.

Salvi warns against showing one boss in bad light to the other in order to gain sympathy, “Being very honest is the most critical part as that would give you credibility.Being solution-oriented would be the next thing as at the end of the day, you are responsible for yourself, so you would need to take that initiative.

Third, never ever play one boss against another as remember that they are your bosses and you never know when they would share notes and also simply, it is not a right thing to do.

Fourth, when you can’t find a solution pertaining to the bosses, don’t be ashamed to approach them and seek their help in finding one.“

Of course, the above tips assume that all managers concerned are willing to make allowances for the employee. In some cases, bosses behave as though the other boss doesn’t exist at all and all 8.5 hours of the employee are theirs to command. Menon agrees, “Most of the bosses are not empathetic. Everyone has their own priorities and there is competition for attention as people suffer from the ‘first service syndrome’. The best thing is to let the other bosses know on a constant basis how you are managing the issues and deliverables and build rapport and trust. It is mutual respect and honesty that brings it together. The key is to manage each person’s ego.boss

Additionally, having an informal chat will also help. Bosses are expected to be empathetic in such a situation. If they are not, it is their problem and not that of the shared resource as long as the shared resource does hisher best under the prevailing situation and stays tuned to the purpose (serving the external customer betterfaster) than responding (wasting time) based on organisational hierarchy.

Continue to work hard and smart for the bosses as you are learning twice as much compared to others who have a single boss.

Source: Times of India Ascent 09 Dec’2015