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Posted: February 27, 2013

No worker should serve two masters

Split loyalties cause chaos, confusion and cussing

Todd Ordal

You likely have multiple “bosses.” These might include your spouse, a religious leader, the neighborhood homeowners’ association, the IRS, building inspectors or perhaps a fire chief if you’re a volunteer firefighter. I’d argue that, to a point, shedding bosses is as healthy as shedding pounds (keep the spouse). Nowhere is this more important than at “work,” how ever you define it.

A friend recently received a call from a headhunter to apply for the position of president of a large chunk of geography for an enormous company. As he started doing his homework, he discovered that this position had been a revolving door for numerous years. Many people in this territory have multiple bosses. I groaned as I heard this, and he laughed.

I guess if you’re a Delta Force trained killer and the CIA wants to borrow you to hunt a terrorist, you might consider the assignment. But if your role in a company entails having two bosses, I’m confident there are three possibilities: 1) You work for partners who each own 50 percent of the business (another bad idea). 2) You have two jobs that are really part time. 3) The situation occurred because of turf battles in the organization that someone should’ve said no to but didn’t have the brains or assertiveness to do so.

I’m sure some folks reading this work for two people whom they adore and everything is harmonious. They might also believe that Warren Jeffs was just a man with too much talent to waste on one woman. However, every situation I’ve observed with split loyalties causes carnage, confusion or cussing. Usually all three.

We might think we’re really in synch, but when you say “pot-ae-to” and I say “pot-ah-to,” people get confused. Let’s call the whole thing off! Have you ever observed kids in a family where the parents cannot agree and the child is caught in the middle? The result in the corporate world is similar.

The Bible is not commonly known for organizational design advice, but it says, “No man can serve two masters.” Good source, good advice.

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at,  303-527-0417 or

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