4 Project Management Tips You Need for Supporting Multiple Bosses

Gone are the days of the single prevailing boss. In today’s workplace, legal professionals, particularly legal support personnel, often report to two, three or even more managers. When answering to multiple masters in the office, it can be extremely challenging to balance conflicting priorities, expectations and deadlines. With the right tools and techniques, however, it’s possible to elegantly accomplish an otherwise daunting feat.

Here are four fail-proof project management tips to help you master this juggling act and consistently deliver top-notch results for all your bosses:

1. Get your priorities straight. When you’re managing multiple projects for a handful of bosses, a priority list is essential. During your project planning process, ask each of your supervisors to rank their assignments by importance and urgency. With that information, you can then create a “master” priority list. This will allow you to tackle the most pressing assignments first without letting any of your smaller assignments slip through the cracks.

Of course, it’s inevitable that one boss will ask you to drop everything because his or her request needs to jump to the top of the list. That brings us to the next tip . . .

2. Never take sides. Few situations are more uncomfortable than when two bosses both insist their project should take precedence over your other assignments. The solution: Let your supervisors know about the conflict and have them hash out the project planning dispute among themselves. Be as neutral and straightforward as possible: “Mr. X, I realize this project is a top priority for you, but I’m currently working on an urgent assignment for Ms. Y. Could you and Ms. Y please talk it over and let me know which assignment I should focus on?”

In this scenario, you could also offer a potential solution: “I can’t finish both projects by 8 a.m. tomorrow, but I can draft the affidavit by 8 a.m. and summarize the deposition by noon. Would that work?”

Don’t take sides or try to serve as mediator. Not only will this put you in a precarious position now, but it also could hurt your relationships later if either person thinks you’re playing favorites.

Of all the project management tips for professionals with multiple bosses, this is perhaps the most important. Whether the bosses’ argument is over conflicting priorities they’ve assigned to you or some other issue, let them work it out.

3. Stay transparent. It’s crucial to keep all of your bosses in the know about your current workload, your priority list and your overall use of time. This will help set everyone at ease because they’ll know you’re not overlooking urgent projects or paying insufficient attention to them.

Keep your bosses informed when your list of projects grows long and be honest if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Also make sure your managers understand exactly what is required of you to complete each task they assign. They may not be aware of all the project planning and backend work each assignment requires and how much time it will take you to complete them.

4. Set boundaries. Constant interruptions can destroy your productivity and sap your energy. When you have people frequently stopping by your desk for project updates or calling you into meetings throughout the day, it can be difficult to accomplish your actual work. This is why it’s critical to set boundaries. Try to set aside a few hours of “Do Not Disturb” time into each work day and make sure your colleagues know not to disrupt you during these periods of concentration. These blocks of time will allow you to focus on a particular project or respond to the urgent request from your bosses that will inevitably pop up.

Although it may seem like a hopeless balancing act, it is possible to master the art of serving multiple bosses in the law office. With these project management tips and plenty of patience, legal professionals can deliver successful results for all of their bosses. 

Have you ever had to report to multiple bosses? Share your experiences and successful project management tips below.