Increasingly, IT professionals find themselves working in matrixed organizations with two or more managers to whom they directly support. Though this type of multi-pronged work environment can be challenging, when you are proactive in identifying the possible pitfalls, it can also offer a variety of development and career progression opportunities.
Cover the Basics
One of the key issues in a matrixed environment can be that your functional manager and other lines of report don’t communicate with each other regularly, let alone coordinate their demands on your time and energy. This can be challenging at best and result in disengagement at worst. Here’s how to remain positive and engaged when faced with competing expectations:
- Maintain a solid understanding of what deliverables you’re responsible for and how they map to the goals of each initiative in which you participate. If you don’t have a good overview of your deliverables, get clarification early on.
- Communicate your progress and achievements on a regular basis to both the hard line and dotted line managers involved, as well as the appropriate stakeholders.
- Unresolved issues, unlike good wine, get worse with age! If you’re hitting barriers or working on high-risk items, communicate often to both managers so there are no unforeseen challenges and negative implications can be minimized.
The essence of a matrix is dual command. However, it’s possible to feel caught in the middle of a power struggle or competing priorities between two or more managers. This, in turn, can result in confusion about whom to align with, as well as a loss of interest in your work. Here’s how to navigate power struggles and remain involved in your work:
- If managers are disputing your allotted time on each project, be proactive about offering solutions as to how the time and effort can be applied from your perspective—after all, you’re the one working on the projects.
- If you are asked to reduce the amount of time you dedicate to one of your main projects, don’t undermine the decision. Instead, keep a positive attitude, and look for future opportunities to ramp back up or find similar projects that you can engage with.
- Even if your time is reduced on key projects, remain in the communication loop. That way, if a ramp up takes place, you’ll be up-to-speed.
Sometimes, a manager who’s trying to stake claim on your time and energy can cause you to become isolated from your other projects or networks. This can have the double consequence of reducing your work satisfaction, as well as reducing the amount of time you spend with those in the organization who can help you advance. Here’s how to maintain your network despite demands on your time:
- Continue to make it a priority to network and add value to the contacts with whom you’ve connected in the past.
- When your time is fully dedicated to a single project, catch up with key contacts in your network during lunches or coffee breaks.
- If your workload is so heavy that you find yourself unable to network during breaks or “after hours”, let your manager know so that a collective plan can be put in place to normalize your schedule and, therefore, minimize your disengagement.
In addition to these points, pay attention to success stories from other professionals who’ve effectively participated in projects in your matrixed work environment. By learning from others, you too can become more engaged and equipped to succeed. And, if you have success stories, make sure to share them as your manager and others may not be aware of the significance of your accomplishments.
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