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Ask Liz: how can I work effectively under multiple managers?

Ask Liz: how can I work effectively under multiple managers?
Dear Liz, I work under three different managers, and I’m finding it hard to juggle the workload of all three. They all have different styles of working, and don’t listen if I tell them I am on a deadline with another manager/on another project. All of them believe their work is priority, and I understand that, but they place last-minute demands on me and are not approachable so I cannot talk to any of them. I feel like this situation is having an impact on the quality of work I produce as I’m always rushing, and stressed. Help!

You are describing the classic problems of a matrix management situation when not managed effectively. Slicing and dicing people's time across accounts seems to be a trend at the moment.

If you are a manager reading this, you need to be clear of what percentage of a person's time you have access to and what is reasonable for you to expect in the time available. You also need to collaborate with the other managers who have a stake in their time allocation to make sure all of your respective clients are receiving the agreed level of service and, importantly, that the person is not mashed up in a professional "ménage à trois".

So, what can you do? You need to talk to your managers and they need to listen to you. You need clarity from them to make sure you are able to deliver what is required. You could call a meeting with all of you to clear the air and then have weekly 20-minute status meetings so you are all aware of what is coming up that week. All your managers need to contribute to your appraisal. If you have not had one, ask for one and record your experience.

If, despite your best efforts, they really do not want to talk to you (but what is there to be gained from a stalemate?) go and take counsel from your HR team. Perhaps they could broker a meeting where you will have to be clear about what you need from each of them and what you need to make this work. If this is affecting your health you may want to see if your agency has an employee assistance line or check out NABS and their employee support services.


If you have an HR-related issue that you need answering by our expert Liz Nottingham, Starcom MediaVest Regional HR Director Western Europe, please contact her via

Any questions published will appear anonymously. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA's terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA's newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 11/03/2014

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