As you engage in more responsibilities at work, you are likely to find yourself working with more than one manager at a time. You will usually report directly to one person but might be working on projects with a few other people.
This is a great opportunity to make a name for yourself and get recognized by a wider group of people in your organization. However, if you’re not prepared it can quickly turn into a bad situation (you don’t want to become the rope in the picture).
There are 2 key skills that can help you take advantage of a situation in which you’re working for multiple managers: Communication and Prioritization.
When you’re working with one manager, they know everything that’s on your plate and their job of giving you enough to do without overwhelming you is quite simple. With two or three managers in the picture, it is now YOUR job to make sure they know what’s going on and are aware of everything that you’re currently responsible for. In this situation, good communication will keep you from becoming overwhelmed.
If a task can’t get done before a deadline, you should let your manager know. If there is a conflict between this task and other work that somebody else assigned to you, you can work with your manager to figure out what the best approach would be.
Good communication will ensure that there are no surprises, and will allow you to be confident that you’re working on the right tasks at the right times.
Everyone gets to a point where they have too much to do in a particular day. This is where people that know how to prioritize can excel and people that don’t will suffer.
When one manager is assigning all of your tasks, they’ll often help you prioritize by telling you which responsibilities are the most urgent. It won’t be that simple when your tasks are coming from multiple people.
Prioritization begins with good communication between everybody involved. Managers need to communicate between each other and handle the ranking of big tasks so that the employee won’t feel stuck in the middle of conflicting requests.
At the same time, it’s the employee’s job to ask for clarification if he or she is not sure how two or more tasks should be prioritized. It’s common for two managers to each assign a “high priority” task at the same time, sometimes without even realizing. The employee should have them speak with each other and determine which one is truly higher priority.
Spending your limited time working on the wrong project can be costly. You should prioritize and tackle the most urgent tasks immediately. If in doubt, it’s always better to ask and clarify which tasks are important rather than guessing.
Don’t get frustrated if your company has reporting to two different managers (or more). It can be tough, but it’s a sign your employer trusts you a lot and needs your skill-set.
Stick with it, and use the two tips above to keep your head above water when working with multiple managers.
And if you find yourself in an ongoing situation for months and feel like you’re doing a huge amount of work for multiple areas of the company’s operations, consider asking for a raise, too!