How Many Bosses Do You Have?

Note: This is a guest post by Ron Haynes of The Wisdom Journal.
In times past, someone might work for the same company for 40 years, retire, and get that gold watch. Today, people change careers every seven years on average and may take on a position that reports to many people. For the purposes of this article, I estimated that at my company, a store manager may have to report to as many as 33 people on one issue or another. She may report to someone on loss prevention, another person on inventory issues, another on training, another on human resources, another on purchasing, another on receiving and still another on credit issues. Some of these “bosses” may be in different locations or even overseas.
Many BossesToday’s worker risks a high frustration level because of the multitude of bosses he or she must report to and it’s become a job just to manage all the different priorities that are thrown at one worker. The problem isn’t that multiple bosses ask a worker to do so many things, it’s that they ask the same worker to do so many things at the same time! Conflict becomes inevitable when so many people think their request should be your top priority.
Does this sound like something you’re going through? If so, consider the following suggestions when multiple bosses present conflicting instructions:
1. Be direct and specific. Chances are that no one else will stand up for you to insure you aren’t presented with conflicting instructions. Make sure you know what your job description entails and don’t be afraid to remind those making requests of your time and effort that you have multiple priorities and you’ll have to make a judgment call as to which one is your TOP priority.
2. It isn’t your responsibility to fight your supervisor’s battles. Don’t let one boss draw you in to his or her internal conflicts and turf wars. You don’t have to make a decision for a supervisor that has no positive outcome for you. If you aren’t involved, don’t take sides.
3. Remember that you don’t have to drop everything based on someone else’s lack of organization or planning. Gently remind someone who is constantly asking you to move his requests to the top of the stack, that a lack of planning on his part doesn’t constitute an emergency on your part.
4. Do what you can to encourage your bosses to have face-to-face or telephone conversations with each other to discuss their priorities. If your bosses know what they want you to do, as a team they can help you schedule your work, which will make everyone involved with your projects more productive.
5. Ask for specific deadline dates to help you prioritize. Be sure to get a specific date and not just “ASAP.” ASAP is not a date. If a boss cannot or will not give you a specific date, ask when things will “hit the fan” if this task isn’t completed and then work backward from there.
6. Have frequent meetings with your supervisors. Hold 10-15 minute meetings with your supervisors first thing each morning to outline their priorities and to give them an opportunity to communicate with each other face to face. Teleconferencing will help if they are at different locations.
7. Communicate conflict. Don’t hold it in or be afraid to speak up. If you do, you likely will be the loser. When multiple supervisors want their work done at the same time, let each supervisor know that there is a conflict. Find out which task has highest priority.
8. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns to Human Resources. They are there to help manage the softest asset €“ people. That means you! Voice your concerns if things get out of hand.
9. Know who your ultimate boss is. That person will have the authority to insure you’re not overwhelmed and that you can operate at peak productivity. If you have 12 people pulling you in 12 different directions, it’s a given that your productivity will suffer. The BIG boss won’t want that.
10. Above all, pick your battles carefully. There is a lot to be said for asking yourself the “Five Fives.” Will this matter in 5 minutes? Will it matter in 5 hours? In 5 days? In 5 weeks? In 5 years? Don’t let the urgency of a request push you into giving an emotional response. Stay in control of yourself and calmly evaluate the request.
Things probably won’t get any better in the workforce and you’ll always be called upon to solve many problems from different people and departments. But THAT is good news. You have a job! Many people would trade places with you in an instant because they don’t! Celebrate your challenges. Rejoice that you have the opportunity to meet and overcome them!
Ron Haynes writes at The Wisdom Journal, a blog about making wise choices in your career, life, and finances. He doesn’t claim to be wise, but he hopes to gather and share the collective wisdom from his readers on making the wisest choices on life, money, business, and balance.
This article is part of September 2008 theme: Fulfilling Career
Photo by gotplaid


  1. Great tips, Ron! I especially like No. 2 (don’t take sides when different bosses fight with one another). Surviving multiple bosses involves a great deal of time management skills, which I wrote about in “20 Tips for Highly Effective Time Management” at
    The first skill of work time management is making sure you know what each of your bosses expects from you and by what deadline. I discuss more in the article. Good luck, everyone! : )

  2. Thank you Shanel. That WAS a great article you wrote!
    Thanks for allowing me the privilege of guest posting Donald. I hope everyone enjoys the article and gets some useful tips to optimize their lives!

  3. Ron,
    It’s my pleasure to publish quality content like yours. Thanks!

  4. I love this blog!!! — especially the stuff about life’s purpose and optimizing life.
    I just finished reading a good novel by Jeff Vande Zande called Into the Desperate Country. It deals with the dangers that we face when we follow society’s path and don’t blaze our own path.
    Good stuff.
    Vande Zande would make a good guest blogger. I think he has a website.
    Keep up the good words,

  5. […] Latumahina presents How Many Bosses Do You Have? posted at Life […]

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    Welcome to the September 16, 2008 edition of career tips and news. This carnival’s focus is reacting to the poor job market through personal experiences, news, articles, and other guidance provided in blog posts. Nicholas Powiull presents Conscious Fl…

  7. Today, people change careers every seven years on average

    I must be really average then. I just changed from one job to another, although they are at least in the same industry – education.
    My guess is that comes from people realizing that their job isn’t just something they go to every day but it’s part of who they are. And what I was doing wasn’t what I wanted to be known as. Plus, the hours were terrible 🙂

  8. @ Ryan
    The job change every seven years statistic includes a lot of baby boomers that have worked at the same job for 30+ years. Once you factor those out, the average drops to something like 2.7 years.
    Congratulations for figuring out that you didn’t like what you were doing before you reached the 30 year point!

  9. Frank,
    Thanks! Regarding Jeff Vande Zande, I’m always glad to have quality guest blogger here. But, of course, it’s up to him if he wants to be a guest blogger.

  10. […] How Many Bosses Do You Have? by Ron Haynes from The Wisdom Journal […]

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  12. Well said. And you have spoken our feeling. Thanks for inspiring us. ^^;

  13. I officially have one boss but I really have 8. That means the whole staff at my work is my boss. Too many bosses and too few people to actually do something productive. And you know what’s worse? I give my best to keep myself busy and do everyone else’s work, and some idiot receptionist finds herself in the position to tell me what to do or whatever I’m doing it’s wrong.
    How to stop the idiots from giving me directions (the only employee that does his and other’s job)when they are supposed to mind their own lazy asses?

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