Quick – give me the name of your boss. And, notice that the word is singular (boss), not plural as in “bosses.” Even though I know that it’s often the practice in today’s businesses to foist more than one boss upon the company’s employees.
It is, however, a practice that should be absolutely disallowed. In a recent survey, two-thirds of all employees say they have to consult with more than one boss to get their jobs done. Being answerable to more than one boss confuses employees, and it causes the company’s processes to grind to a halt while the employee is checking in with Boss #1; then with Boss #2; and sometimes even with Boss #3, as incredible as that might sound. In an attempt to get the “official word” on future direction and actions, the employee must twist himself into a pretzel to try to gain appropriate operating information. As often as not, Boss #1 is not in communication with Boss #2, and the employee, therefore, will be likely to hear conflicting replies from each “boss.” Where would you guess this leaves the employee? Confused – and facing the option of making up his own mind about what actions should be undertaken. In all the jobs that I have held during my career, I have only had one boss while I held any given position. That doesn’t mean I always liked the boss, but, at least, I knew who he was and where my reporting responsibilities lay. The practice of multiple bosses sprang up almost 25 years ago, now, when project management teams became popular, necessitating that employees were beholden to their “team leader” but also to others, outside of the team, to whom they also reported. The idea of Project Teams was to pull their membership from various existing departments/divisions, leaving the team members “on the books” (and answerable) in those departments as well as answerable, practically, to their team heads. It’s no wonder that Project Management teams have failed more often than they’ve succeeded – while so much effort has been devoted to studying their processes and attempting to get the strange idea to work. And, when cross-team pollination practices were employed, the process became even more impossible to navigate as well as to manage. In hierarchical organizations, such as businesses, there can be only one boss – and every employee has the right to know who his boss is, as well as to have the opportunity to develop a relationship with his superior. It’s the only way that things can work out in organizations; the only way that goals can actually be developed and achieved – the only way that people can feel accountability for their own part in the organization.