Handling Association "Bosses"

by Kay Cavender 27. October 2011 07:37

In today’s flattened corporate environment, it’s not uncommon to have more than one boss. In today’s associations, it’s a fact of life, and has been for all eternity.

An article in The Harvard Business Review, “Managing Multiple Bosses,” outlines some of the challenges employees face when they find no limit to the number of people believing the worker bees are at their beck and call. The issues are be familiar to all of us who have ever worked for any type of member organization.

    • You become the dumping ground. When you get it from all sides and are quickly buried.
    • He said/she said. Who hasn’t been told by one board member to move forward on a project, only to have another say not to?
    • Who do ya love, baby? Many members – especially those that have been around for awhile, think association staff is there to do their personal bidding. You work for them. Not necessarily the 10,978 other members.

The key to the miasma of conflicting directions is to know who your one true boss is. For association staffs, that’s often the executive director. If you’re the ED, you need to identify the key influencers in your organization, whether they’re on the board or not. As the HBR article points out, “understanding who holds the most power will aid you in making decisions about how to act.”

When asked to add another “do” to your To Do list, be sure to let the requester know just what your workload looks like. When conflicts arise, get those providing direction to speak to each other and work out compromises with you. Ideally, you should try to schedule “Do Not Disturb” time so that you can actually get some of the tasks you’ve assigned accomplished without the need to report to the many who have given them to you.

Association staffers are often caught between a rock and a hard place – or between one board member and another. When you have members who think their opinion should always carry the day, managing your workload can be tricky. Keeping all your "bosses" informed will help.


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