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Everybody Needs More Managers, Right? Why Cross Management Is Not a Good Thing

I’m been working with a client where there’s a lot of siloing. People are hoarding knowledge, and communication is poor.

And this client has a big problem with cross-management (a term coined by one of our team members, Jeffrey Malkin).

Cross-management is the propensity of one manager to veer out of their own lane and manage into other departments.

Basically, one manager will go to the employee of another manager and manage that person on how things should be done (even though there are no documented processes in the first place).

To be clear: this is bad. It leads to low morale and low retention for the person that’s cross-managed, their manager, and the person who cross-manages (because honestly, the rest of the organization loses respect for the cross manager and thinks of them as a bully).

But it happens everywhere. Unfortunately, it’s part of human nature to sometimes think you know better than others including other managers.

Here’s one key thing to do to head off cross-management: look at your management structure and make sure it’s clear.

At this client, there’s a super flat structure with just a CEO over the managers, no other C-level executives, and a policy that anyone in the organization can talk to the CEO. It’s folksy and cool, to a point, but it leads to some problems because it’s not always clear who’s in charge.

At this client, titles are meaningless and the company doesn’t have an organizational chart showing the direct chain of command.

None of this makes the cross-management that’s going on okay. It just means they need a clearer organizational structure. A good manager protects their people from BS, and this is BS. No one says, “Hey, you know what would make my job easier? If I was managed by multiple people!”

This is a culture issue.

At this organization and every organization, we need to make it culturally acceptable for one manager to go directly to another manager to talk to them (instead of their people). People sometimes need to see that the culture is accepted so they can start to adopt it. From the CEO on down, it needs to be clear – “we’re changing our culture.”

If you’re in a culture where one manager doesn’t feel like they can speak up to another manager who’s cross-managing, there also needs to be more management training so they understand when and how to speak up, what the boundaries are, and how to set boundaries effectively.

This applies to all businesses. In a business that doesn’t have a set, defined organizational chart, a clearly defined chain of command, and no defined and written business processes, this siloing and cross-management becomes rampant.

Bottom line? It makes it hard for anyone to get work done, and it deeply affects morale.

If you see these problems in your organization because of fast growth or lack of organizational development, give us a call.