It is likely you will encounter a difficult supervisor or bad boss at least once in your professional career. While many types of bad bosses exist, one type is particularly prevalent in the legal workplace. He’s intelligent, driven and competitive. He's time-challenged and high-maintenance. He has high expectations but provides little feedback and guidance. He’s quick to give criticism and hard to please. Below are eight tips on dealing with a bad boss in the legal workplace.
1. Don't Avoid Him
Bad Boss invariably calls at inconvenient and unusual times. While it may be tempting to avoid him, it is best to answer his phone calls, return his messages and respond to his e-mails. When the conversation concludes, follow points four and five below.
Make Bad Boss’s secretary, paralegal, junior associate and other assistants your allies. These are the people who know him best. They can gauge his moods and advise you on how to best handle him. They are also able to give you fair warning when he is displeased with an assignment.
3. Work His Hours
Mimic the hours of Bad Boss, if possible. If he arrives at the office early, you should arrive early as well. If he is a late worker or works Saturday mornings, you should do the same. Working his hours proves you are a ready, willing and available employee willing to go the extra mile.
4. Take Notes
Always arrive at Bad Boss’s office with pen and paper in hand and write down everything he tells you. Following conversations with Bad Boss, review your notes to clarify any ambiguities. Your notes will also provide a handy point of reference when completing the assignment.
5. Memorialize it in Writing
Memorialize all assignments in writing, documenting in e-mail or memo form what you understand the assignment to be. Place this writing in the file or, even better, send it to your boss to ensure you are both on the same page.
6. Confirm All Deadlines
Memorialize all deadlines in writing to avoid miscommunications or misunderstandings. Few things anger Bad Boss more than missing a deadline.
7. Be Timely
It is more important to complete assignments in a timely fashion than to craft a perfect work product. Bad Boss prefers to receive your completed written assignments well in advance of a filing deadline so he has time to review and rework it or return it to you for additional research or revision. If Bad Boss does not receive your assignment by the deadline, he will seek you out or reassign it. Either way you lose.
8. Learn From the Mistakes of Others
Pick the brains of the employee who worked for Bad Boss before you and find out what pleases him and what pushes his buttons. If his previous employee is no longer with the organization, find out why.
Law firms and corporate legal departments can be challenging work environments. Diverse personalities, high-stakes work, tight deadlines and fierce competition create a recipe for conflict and miscommunication. By keeping the tips above in mind, you will be better able to forge a fruitful relationship with your boss.