How do I juggle the demands of two bosses?

Jim Berlucchi

I’m an administrative assistant for two attorneys who are both partners in a law firm. I’m often in a position where they’ve given me too much to do and the work needs to be prioritized. Neither one sees his work as being “second.” How do I juggle their demands?

Sue them?

You’ve got three problems: overload, ambiguity and two “me first” bosses. Three solutions are communication, coordination and clarity.

Communication. Outline your dilemma in writing to both of them. Your production will be greatly enhanced by regular communication among the three of you, and the two of them in particular.

Coordination. Having two bosses is not a good setup. Three’s a crowd, so the work needs to be orchestrated. Give them a real, recent example of assignments that overlapped or clashed. At a minimum, request a brief weekly meeting where they forecast and sort out the workflow. Plan the work and work the plan.

Clarity. “Plans fail for lack of counsel.” (Prv 15:22) Airplanes board passengers by status – diamond, platinum, gold, silver, and suckers (so to speak). Propose a simple coding system to rank tasks by importance or urgency.

Assuming you get agreement, expect glitches and actively subordinate. Make it a habit to alert them when tasks are excessive or competing, and keep settling out of court.