Avoid Duel Reporting Relationships

Put yourself in the shoes of your employees. Would you want to be subjected to having two or more bosses? Some organizations do, in fact, have an ill-conceived organizational structure that calls for an employee to report to more than one supervisor.

Since this situation nearly always creates confusion, conflict and indecision, it is wise to avoid it completely. An employee might have responsibility across two or more functional areas. But does that mean the employee must take direction from more than one supervisor? Rarely. It is vital that employees work closely with one supervisor to set expectations and goals, take direction and receive feedback about performance. When more than one supervisor is involved, the employee is subject to the potential for far too many mixed messages.

Because management styles can vary widely, the employee is subject to differing approaches. Supervisors who are expected to manage the same employee can become frustrated, angry and possessive leading to potential conflict with the other supervisor(s).

Look for situations in your organization where there are formal or informal duel reporting relationships. Work closely with the supervisors involved to resolve the reporting relationship. Many times employees are taking direction from more than one supervisor without the formally designated supervisor being aware of it. The employee continues to take direction often out of fear or confusion about who he/she reports to.

Clearly define the organizational structure for each work unit in your business. Keep the structure as simple and easy to administer as possible. Once completed, communicate it very carefully and completely to all employees. Supervisors and employees must understand who reports to whom.

If, for some odd reason, an employee must report to more than one supervisor, it is essential that the supervisors work together closely to define each of their roles in the relationship with the employee and to break down responsibilities. This is often best accomplished with the supervisors’ manager involved. Once the details are worked out, they should be communicated clearly to the employee.