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Who's the boss? Many workers say they have more than one, and that's causing frustration and confusion in the office.
More than two-thirds of employees around the world say they have to consult with more than one boss to get their jobs done, according to a Gartner survey, and nearly as many waste significant amounts of time waiting for guidance from senior leaders.
The lack of clear goals has caused some employees to try to manage their managers.
A few years ago at a prior job, Girish Rishi had a boss who got distracted by every minor crisis or triumph, leading to "whiplash" for his subordinates, says Mr. Rishi, now chief executive of JDA Software.
"If there was news about a competitor, it would take up half your day," he says. "If there was a customer win, the celebration would go on too long. Focusing on structure and priorities was missing."
Mr. Rishi says he tried his best to insulate his team from the chaos. He also developed his own management system based around efficiency.
At JDA, a maker of supply-chain software, he requires meetings to be intensely focused and only eight or 30 minutes long, and he asks participants to submit materials 48 hours in advance.
While that isn't always possible, Mr. Rishi says, he finds that for roughly 70% of all meetings, "people come prepared, they've summarized their thoughts and they've given us adequate information."
Bosses now manage, on average, nine direct reports, up from five in 2008, according to Gartner, which can spread leaders so thin that they don't have a close grasp of what their employees are doing.
Only about 35% of employees surveyed in the Gartner poll last year say their manager understands their day-to-day work.
"Managers are less likely to provide good feedback and coaching when they don't understand what that employee's workflow is," says Brian Kropp, human-resources-practice leader at Gartner.