Matrix Absence Management – Finding a Way Through the Maze

Multiple reporting lines present opportunity for great work and collaboration. However, this ship of success can capsize easily if finer things like absence management go haywire. Are you ready to sail?

I have often heard people complaining about how they are torn between conflicting managers and differing priorities, making their productivity suffer.

What starts out as a breakthrough work system often ends up being a headache for those involved!

This made me wonder if these fancy ways of operating are worth it. Probably Yes. But only if you get your basics correct.

84% of US employees are at least slightly matrixed

One such popular work arrangement is the Matrix Structure. A 2015 Gallup Survey revealed that around 84% of US employees are at least slightly matrixed.

This brings us to our primary question – What is matrix management?

Various web definitions describe it as “practice of managing individuals with more than one reporting line” “managing cross functional teams” “managing network of people from different geographies, businesses and even outside the company for a common goal”

Matrix management, with all its futuristic mojo looks great on paper, but many a times goes hazy in implementation owing to mainly two things – ignorance about the individual behaviors and discounting technology to make this work order fully functional.

Matrix absence management, branches out from the technology wing to ensure fundamentals like leave management don’t make the already adventurous ride bumpier.

Why Managing Absence in Matrix World Tricky?

The critics and detractors of Matrix structure describe it as a complex and frustrating world of multiple bosses, endless solid-line and dotted-line reporting relationships and cloudy obscuring accountabilities.

The communication lines propel ambiguity where collaboration and role clarity become worse instead of improving.

In wake of these notorious situations frequently associated with matrix services, it becomes highly imperative that the supporting elements like attendance and leave don’t add fuel to the flames.

A nimble absence management system that matches the speed and intricacy of matrix workflow then becomes a huge advantage for the organization.

With matrixed companies having their plate full with delicate issues, the last thing they want is any misfire owing to ignorance about availability of people across varied time frames and departments.

How Matrix Absence Management Can Benefit Your Organization?

If your company adopts any form of matrix organization – be it weak, balanced or strong, an absence management system specifically designed and catering to the needs of matrix teams can add efficiency to their functioning.

Knowing and controlling who is available when and where, can allow functional and project managers to have clear lines of communication and responsibility sharing.

This also becomes a boon for individual members in the network from the standpoint of planning and execution.

Here are some of the biggest advantages of investing in a matrix absence management tool or system:

1. Avoids individual stress

Due to the nature of the matrix set up, the team members get pulled across multiple initiatives involving multiple bosses.

This creates a palpable stress in an individual.

This can be lessened to great extent if a common system shares the availability of the member that is notified to all his team mates as well as concerned bosses.

The aftermath of “I didn’t knew you had taken time-off” or “You could have planned your holiday better” can be totally avoided.

2. Allows realistic work planning

Matrix structure often puts the pressure of extra workload on an individual with each of the supervisors feeling shortchanged.

Having a system that tells the days employee is on leave lets the managers communicate better among themselves and allocate tasks basis the accessibility of the team member.

This also prevents cases of excess and unplanned assignment of work.

Team becomes more synchronized, coordinated and achieves perfect timing of work plans.

3. Supports autonomy and self-management

Matrix organizations work on the basic philosophy of self-management by the members involved.

To make it a success, a customized absence management tool can allow real time information sharing with all points of contact in the network.

This helps those in authority to make better decisions without delays without worrisome confusion.

Employee initiated time-off requests go through proper channels of approvals saving the awkwardness of missing out important link in the reporting structure.

This also eases the problem of competition for resources among managers to an extent.

4. Fosters Trust among different units 

With a transparent absence management system the managers and team members have little doubts over withholding of resources.

This facilitates stronger alliances among units by discarding personal conflicts and alignment of efforts.


This works best when the reporting lines keep shifting as the matrix absence management meets the expectations of different bosses across functions, geographies and time zones.

5. Reduces the complexity of the Matrix

A uniform and flexible absence management system can alleviate the complication of the matrix structure.

When the availability of people can be viewed and managed with perceptive and focused absence portal, the ambiguity is slashed to minimum and employees can enjoy anxiety free association.

6. Allows smooth transition to Matrix

For those organizations that are new to the matrix work pattern, having a solid and sorted absence management system enables better acceptance of the ideology of sharing resources.

It helps to plan any rotations and changes in work allocation basis the employee availability.

The system discourages using hierarchy or pulling rank for management of employee leaves thus making the matrix structure conducive to positive organization culture with undertones of equality and openness.

Matrix structures have proven to be cost-effective than dedicated and expensive project teams. Plus, they are less wasteful and deter silo functioning.

Matrix management sure comes with its share of troubles but with active involvement of team members and supporting tools like a feature rich absence management system, it can be a favorable deal for the organization.

Matrix management can be extremely rewarding with right people at right time.

Don’t want to mess up with employee availability? Explore our intuitive and flexible leave management solution from CakeHR by signing up for 30-day free trial.


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Mitalee Chhatre, a true professional with over 5 years of corporate experience in Human Resources and Health Sector. Contributor on CakeHR where tracks the newest trends and practices of the work-life world.


Written By

Mitalee Chhatre

Mitalee, a true professional with over 5 years of corporate experience in Human Resources and Health Sector. Contributor on CakeHR where tracks the newest trends and practices of the work-life world.