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Handling Multiple Managers

Posted on  23 August 11  by 

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How many managers are you working for right now?  With the variety of business partners researchers serve and the number of organizational structures available, chances are good that you have a number of folks to report to, update, and address issues for at any given moment. 

A recent HBR blog talks about tactics for avoiding the main challenges of managing multiple bosses, including assignment overload and balancing loyalties.  The author’s recommendations include:

  • Identify your ultimate boss (the one responsible for your performance review and career development) and prioritize activities accordingly
  • Be proactive in communicating what you have on your plate, and get your bosses to talk to each other to prioritize work

As researchers, we have to navigate the world of multiple bosses while also striving to have our recommendations heard and acted upon, which adds a whole new dimension to the balancing act.

So, it isn’t enough to just understand the informal power relationships amongst our business partners, we also need to consider who has the power to most inflect company strategy.

The good news is that we can wield a bit more control over what we are working on than most: part of our job is to make sure that the business is asking the right questions, so it really is your responsibility to be proactive in pushing back if your assignment isn’t going to impact company strategy.  In fact, my colleague Kirsten Robinson just blogged about how to reframe partners’ requests on what they really need to know.  And it even includes a formalized process for having business partners compete with each other for discretionary project funding…talk about getting your bosses to talk to each other about prioritization!

And speaking of inflecting business partner decisions, MREB members can join us for a teleconference on August 30th to hear tactics for embedding insight into the business using natural learning channels and breaking through strongly help customer misconceptions. 

And as the HBR article points out, at the end of the day it is important not to take things personally—these competing priorities aren’t usually an indication of horrible bosses out to get you, it’s usually just a case of getting caught in the middle of competing agendas. 

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