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How to Be a Boss about Answering to More than Just Your Boss

In my side of the office, we all have a designated supervisor. But we are also all accountable to more than one manager, particularly in terms of workflow and higher-level review and approval of work products.

As someone in the middle of this system – those who report to me are accountable to others, and I am accountable to others above me beyond my direct supervisor – I have seen what does and does not work well.

Here are a few strategies for making this type of system work.

  • Document, document, document: While documenting is generally important (if you don’t document it, it didn’t happen!), this is especially crucial when more than two people are involved. For example, one manager may review work initially, then a second manager may sign off on it if the first manager is out. Documenting the first manager’s review saves the second manager time.
  • Foster communication: Communication should work well in all directions, to and from managers, and also among managers. Equally important is communicating to all involved which managers can and cannot do which tasks. For example, my supervisor has the authority to sign certain internal documents that I do not.
  • Build trust: Trust is crucial when I approve something another manager has reviewed. Building trust also means that we share successes and give credit where it’s due. Since several people are involved, the manager cannot claim to be solely responsible for the good (or the bad!).

For my office, losing the strictly hierarchical structure has meant gaining efficiencies in completing tasks. Could the same be true in your office?

Photo Credit: Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Elizabeth Slack is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She grew up in Maryland, earned BA and MS degrees in the Midwest, and saw more of the world in Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. After working for state government, she landed at Florida State University. Now a Grants Manager in Sponsored Research Administration, Elizabeth is responsible for helping faculty and staff with external funding. Among her proudest achievements is co-creating an award-winning form. During her time off, Elizabeth enjoys spending time outside in sunny Florida with her family.

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