Working With Multiple Supervisors

Many organizations have seven-day operations, and while their customers may visit only during operating hours, it still acts as a 24-hour operation in preparing for those customers. No one can be at work all the time. It’s necessary to have multiple supervisors within the same department. But with that arrangement comes several problems:

Relationships. You can easily relate to one manager better than another if for no other reason than you see them more often.

Communication. The more supervisors you have, the more conflicting the messages can be.

Overload. Employees are confused or overwhelmed by work given to them by different managers, each of them unaware of what the other supervisor is allocating.

The result is that often employees end up playing off of managers, “shopping” for the answer they want. It’s critical that as a team you take the time individually and collectively to deal with the issues that occur in multiple boss environments. As a team, you should ask the following:

  • What strengths does each supervisor bring to the table? How do their roles and responsibilities vary? How are they shared?
  • How do supervisors collectively make decisions? How will those decisions be communicated in a way that everyone is on the same page?
  • As direct reports, what is the protocol when we feel that we’re getting a different message or a different priority from one manager than with another?
  • How as a team do we keep from having one manager play “good cop” while the other plays “bad cop”?
  • How do we log our communications so that we know what is going on and what has been decided from one shift to another?
Success comes in mapping out the protocols for working with multiple supervisors, for outlining how decisions are made and communicated, and deciding how different priorities between one supervisor and another.
Finally, whether you are a supervisor or a direct report, be sure to find time to build relationships with those who may not be sharing the same shift as you are. It’s an important step to working with a department that has multiple supervisors.

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