It’s not unusual for people to have more than one boss. According to a 2017 Gallup survey, 44% of U.S. workers report to more than one person. This can sometimes lead to stress and conflict, especially if the two bosses are demanding that the employee devote all of his or her time to different projects. It can be a very difficult balancing act. But according to author Joann Lublin, it is possible to make it work. Just follow these steps:

  • Talk about expectations – Find out what your bosses expect from you. And if it seems like those expectations might conflict with each other (or there simply isn’t enough time in the day to complete all of the tasks they’ve assigned to you), make sure to discuss it with your bosses right away, before problems arise. Ask them to work with you to prioritize the work that you’ve been given. Hopefully they’ll be able to compromise, and you’ll be able to get your projects done without feeling overworked or overwhelmed.
  • Communicate frequently – Talk to both of your bosses regularly. They should both know what you’re working on, how it’s going, whether you’ve encountered any obstacles, when you expect to be finished, and what you’re going to be working on next. Talk to them every day, if you can. If both of your bosses are always fully informed about what you’re working on, they won’t feel slighted or ignored. They’ll know that you’re committed to getting their projects done.
  • Go over their heads (but only if absolutely necessary) – If your bosses just can’t seem to agree on what you should be working on, and you have multiple deadlines that you can’t meet, it might be time to talk to your bosses’ boss. This could make your bosses angry, so only do it as a last resort. And don’t blindside your bosses. Tell them that you’re going to contact their boss in an effort to work through the conflict and reach a compromise.
  • Give priority to the boss who has the most control over your future – Of course it’s important to try to please both of your bosses. But you might want to try the hardest with the boss who has control over whether you get a raise or a promotion. The boss who holds the most sway over you is the most important one to impress.

Lublin, J. S. (2020, August 3). When you have two bosses. The Wall Street Journal. p. R4.