Managing managers/peers/employers

PMs might find that they are required to manage their bosses. This may prove to be challenging and the potential difficulties of carrying out this role could include:

  • A lack of clarity about your managerial authority.
  • A lack of clarity about the joint aims and ethos of the partnership
  • A knowledge of inter-partnership struggles which may be confidential
  • An unrealistic, unacknowledged workload.


A lack of clarity about your managerial authority

Your job description may be clear and unequivocal about the boundaries of your authority but:

  • Not all the partners may know about it
  • Not all the partners may actually subscribe to it
  • It is overridden in practice

If the extent of your authority is unclear in your job description, then you may have discovered how things work in practice and yet this is covert rather than overt and needs constant negotiation.


  • Ask to attend a partners' meeting and state that you are seeking clarity on various matters concerned with what you are authorised to do. (You might want this to be global or you may have specific issues which are proving problematic.)
  • Say what your understanding is of the current situation, say what effect this is having on your ability to perform your role optimally, say how you would like it to be and see if you can get a consensus.

A lack of clarity about the joint aims and ethos of the partnership

Uncertainty about aims and ethos may cause conflict and/or confusion about priorities, financial decisions, employment of staff and any number of other matters. It's the kind of area that unfortunately often doesn't come to light until certain decisions are taken and acted on and then feedback is far from positive.


  • Ask to attend a partners' meeting and state that you are seeking clarity about the joint aims and ethos of the partnership because of events that have arisen.
  • State what these events are, state what happened, state why you think this concerns joint aims and ethos and ask for a consensus on these.
  • Insist on clarity as to what a consensus means in practice for the work areas that have proved most taxing or stressful.

A knowledge of inter-partnership struggles which may be confidential

Sometimes PMs may be confided in about practice policy, finance, workload or other matters by two partners who are struggling with each other. The PM is sworn to respect confidentiality, but the partners' needs are burdensome and conflict with the PM being able to do his or her own job effectively.


  • Tell the partners concerned individually how their difficulties are impacting on your work.
  • Ask them to meet each other and talk over their concerns and offer to be present if they would find that useful.
  • If one or other of them would find this too difficult, offer to take their concerns up in a general way at a partners' meeting. This should open the door to a general discussion of the issues, which may then be a step towards their resolution.

An unrealistic workload

Partners may easily lose sight of what is reasonable in terms of work expectation. The important and principal difference is that they are usually owners or part owners of the business whereas PMs are employees - an important fact which may be overlooked! If you are feeling overwhelmed and finding you are having to leave work undone or overworking to stay ahead, then you need to take action.


  • You may well already know what is tipping the scales of your workload but it might be useful to keep a log of your hours for a set period of time, noting activities. This will provide you with facts and figures to take forward to a partners' meeting and a very clear idea of what can reasonably be achieved within a given time frame.
  • Attend a partners' meeting and state the situation calmly.
  • State what you need and offer suggestions as to how this could be achieved. You may:
    • need to delegate,
    • need part-time staff,
    • want to train existing staff to carry out various tasks.
    • need holiday cover.
    • need some continuing professional development.
  • Get agreement on an action plan to take things forward.
  • An unacknowledged workload

    The role of the Practice Manager varies considerably and continues to evolve (writes Guy Patey). There may be potential to displace some traditional tasks to make way for new work:


    • Outsourcing can be cost effective - payroll, HR, pensions, health and safety, IT development
    • Federated working - combining with colleague practices to share tasks and functions
    • Internal delegation - also provides development potential for staff
    • Skill mix with the admin team to free up delegation opportunities e.g. you might appoint an office apprentice to free up secretarial, admin, data staff time.
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