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Surviving a Matrix Management Structure

Working in a matrix management structure often means being accountable to several people/having multiple bosses, and having lots of accountability without much authority – both challenging. The key to making a matrix management structure work is lots and lots of good communication.

It’s not uncommon for people working in a matrix management structure to be frustrated. People with dotted line employees or managers often say they’re unsure of who they really work for, who to go to with challenges and needs, and that they don’t have the authorimatrix managementty to lead people or processes. All of these frustrations are avoidable and manageable.

If you work in a matrix management environment and are thus accountable to multiple people, take charge of the management structure by asking the questions:

  • Who is my ultimate boss?
  • Who has input on my performance feedback and review?
  • Who writes my performance review?
  • Who decides on raises and promotion opportunities?
  • Who do I go to when I need help?


  • Quarterly (at a minimum) joint meetings with all the managers you answer to
  • That all the managers you’re accountable to provide input on your performance appraisal
  • That all the managers your report to participate in your performance discussion(s)

Follow the same practices for people who dotted line report to you. If you’re accountable for someone’s results, but you’re not his/her direct supervisor, ask for quarterly meetings with the employees’ boss. Ask to participate in the appraisal process, and keep the lines of communication between you, the employee, and the direct supervisor transparent and open. Talk regularly. Agree on who sets expectations and gives feedback. Be sure you know your role and the direct supervisor’s role.

The key to making a matrix management structure work is:

  • Everyone knows who does what and who has what authority
  • Joint meetings happen regularly
  • Expectations are clear

Ask more. Assume less.

Matrix Management


Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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