This past week I was working with a group of middle managers, assisting them with building a more empowered and engaged workforce. There was a concern amongst the crowd however that arose time and again. Multiple reporting lines kill productivity.
Unless you work in an archaic company, the days of the management hierarchy are dead. Today we commonly see organizations in which there are fewer levels of management, requiring employees to have multiple reporting lines. An individual working in IT for example, may report directly to the Vice President of IT, and have a dotted line reporting relationship to the Vice President of Finance.
These multiple reporting lines can create a significant problem for employees, a problem that ultimately can kill their productivity. The famous “dotted line” reporting relationship is intended to allow employees to support a variety of management objectives. Herein lies the problem.
Multiple reporting lines for employees create multiple, and often competing objectives. In essence, by creating a dotted line reporting relationship to a different manager we can create confusion, conflict and overwhelm for the employee, all of which diminish morale and kill productivity. Whose objectives should the employee focus on? Who sets the priority?
It’s unreasonable to think that employees will not or should not work with various leaders through out the business, however [Tweet “the onus lies with the business leaders to collaborate on objectives for the employee, rather than placing the responsibility with the employees to decipher priority.”]
Failure to create focused and pragmatic objectives for employees leads to the employee deciding which squeaky wheel gets the grease. So to create a workforce that is focused and productive with clear lines of responsibility, remove dotted line reporting relationships and have senior leaders collaborate on employee objectives and responsibilities.
Collaboration is a team sport that should be played by employees and business leaders. Stop placing the burden on the employees to figure out what you want them to do.
© Shawn Casemore 2014. All rights reserved.