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Editorial
3 Unexpected Ways Having Multiple Managers Actually Hurts You
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Lucille DeHart via SharpHeels,
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Dual reporting structures have a legitimate place in certain organizations. They are best served when you have corporate and divisional responsibilities or are trying to align functions more organically to build synergy vertically as well as horizontally. Some organizations, however, misuse the dual reporting structure to compensate for a lack of clarity among roles and responsibilities, and many bosses and employees find that the work demands resulting from a dual reporting structure can be overwhelming. To be successful, dual reports need to be able to manage their situation so that they can reap the benefits while minimizing the risks.

The main benefits of being a dual reporting employee are:

  • You have two potential advocates in your company. Even if their management styles are different, having two bosses gives you two people who can advocate for you to executive-level teams, giving you additional access to new opportunities and valuable feedback.
  • You gain more insight into the company. Single reporting employees rely on the lens of their supervisor, while dual reporting employees have a broader perspective of the organization because they obtain information from more than one department.
  • You get more visibility and greater exposure. Having more than one boss gives you more access to a variety of committees, projects, presentations, and meetings. Because your sphere of colleagues is broader, you have an advantage over single division employees when it comes to networking.

While there are certainly benefits with a dual reporting structure, there can be risks as well. The most common to be aware of are:

  • The situation can get political. Even if your supervisors are in agreement on most issues, status and pride/ego can come into play, requiring you to navigate carefully during those moments.
  • Your workload can double. Having two bosses can lead to twice the work if you don’t manage your time effectively. And if you are given autonomy by one or both supervisors, you likely also have more accountability.
  • You may encounter conflicting priorities. While it is rare that two projects are due at exactly the same time, it is possible that the deadlines to complete individual tasks can conflict. Navigating those times requires awareness and time-management skills to avoid finding yourself in a no-win situation.

Whether you manage a dual report or are a dual report, the following tips can help ensure your success.

For Managers:

  • Align your goals. It is important to align your goals with your partner supervisor and clearly establish expectations and deliverables that are not in conflict with one another. It is your responsibility to set your employee up for success.
  • Communicate regularly. Having regular communication with your partner supervisor is critical. Fluid conversations, formal and regular touch-base meetings (with and without your dual reporting employee) will ease tensions and maintain a single vision of what success looks like. It will also allow for small conflicts to be resolved easily and early.
  • Give feedback. Keep your employee on track by providing feedback on his or her performance, time management, and ability to manage up effectively. Don’t rely solely on scheduled reviews; coach continuously and with your supervising partner so that your employee knows where you stand and that you have a unified front.

For Employees:

  • Request and establish clear priorities. While it is ideal for your supervisors to establish goals and priorities for you, it is your responsibility to clearly understand expectations and make sure both bosses are on the same page at the onset.
  • Meet together. One-on-one meetings may be necessary for daily workflow and projects, but it’s also important to get both bosses together regularly to discuss issues and make sure they are both still aligned, especially if priorities have changed.
  • Stay neutral. It is tempting to pit one supervisor against the other (mom/dad syndrome) in order to get what you want or to avoid blame for a situation or circumstance, but resist the urge. You will be better served if you resolve conflicts productively and set both bosses up for success.
  • Ask for what you need. Dual reporting can be complicated because you have twice the number of people to keep happy. Help yourself by assessing the tasks and job responsibilities to ensure you have resources, time, and assets to succeed.

If you are being hired into this organizational structure, make sure you know what the situation is and that the alignment makes sense for the company and the role. If you are being evolved into a new dual reporting situation in your current company, be sure to consult your human resources office to help guide you through the process. Don’t assume your supervisors have had prior experience in these situations. They most likely will need some support and education themselves. The objective across the teams should be to put you in the most optimal position to address the company’s ultimate goals while  avoiding short-term conflicts and personal friction. It may be tricky to manage and master, but when done right, dual reporting can be stronger and more effective for everyone involved. 

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This article originally was published on SharpHeels.

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