QUESTION: I am confused as I take directions from multiple supervisors.
FACT: One should learn to live in a matrix organization.
As you move up the career ladder, you get surrounded by many stakeholders. Some of these stakeholders are at the job level of a manager or even senior. In theory, everyone has only one manager, but In practice, depending upon the role;” the number of managers can vary. The manager to whom one reports is responsible for issues, such as, sanctioning leave, appraisal, compensation, and discussions” on work. But the other managers, too, play an influencing role in your career. You have to provide them with status reports, updates on progress where relevant, and inform them on critical issues; they will also give you feedback either directly or through your manager. So, they all have an influence over your work life.
One needs to be careful in handling situations where several people are involved. If in a dilemma—about choosing a mailing audience for a particular issue—it is better to send the information as widely as possible so as to avoid missing out anyone important. Also, it is important to address a particular person on a specific issue so as to get a right and timely response, If another person has ‘an urge to respond, he can jump into the conversation. If you feel that you only have to send the mail to your own manager, who would then distribute it appropriately, it might not always work, as there are chances of slow response.
There are many advantages to a matrix organization. In case of a conflict with your Immediate manager, the other superiors provide an alternative audience; they might even be more appreciative of your work. A few stakeholders might also talk highly about you to your manager, as well as to his superior, The other advantages have to do with an expanded network, a greater opportunity to Polish interpersonal skills and learning different perspectives to the same problem. Most importantly, it helps In-increasing the visibility in the organization.
WHAT CAN YOU DO AS THE EMPLOYEE? Learning to excel in a matrix management is a key skill, and the sooner you learn it, the better. Since these stakeholders influence your appraisal directly or Indirectly, you need to work with them effectively.
You should accept that the manager cannot set objectives in isolation. In a matrix organization, objectives need to be aligned with the organization’s goals and with the other stakeholders. It is easy to get confused due to the different priorities of different stakeholders. To avoid such confusion, you need to have an open dialogue with all stakeholders and confront conflicting interests upfront to arrive at a mutually agreed set of priorities. If doubts still persist, it is better to check with the manager so that he can help in prioritizing. Once prioritized, it would be better to update the stakeholders so that they know about the priority of the issue. Let the stakeholder then negotiate with the manager in bumping up the priority if required. All in all, you should develop superb communication skills to keep everyone in the loop.
WHAT CAN YOU DO AS THE MANAGER? it is better for your employees to interact with as many people as possible in the organization. Learning to survive and then excel in a matrix organization is important for individual growth. Initially, team members may commit mistakes, but they are learning steps. if you accept that their mistake is your mistake too, and therefore, each and every e-mail and the minutes of each meeting are closely scrutinized by you, then they will not be able to learn and grow. In turn, you too will not be able to grow since you are constantly in the micromanagement mode, Yes, providing feedback on how to improve is a must. if serious mistakes occur, you have to quickly undo the damage—and take it as a lesson possibly for both you and your team.