Passive-aggressive law departments: is yours one?

The doctor is in. A fascinating article in Harvard Bus. Rev., Oct. 2005 at 83, explains what it means to be a passive-aggressive organization, what causes that dysfunction, and some techniques for exorcising the demon. This short post can only choose bits and pieces from the article as they relate to some law departments.

Do lawyers in your department openly agree with a policy directive but silently resist or sabotage it? Has your department, for example, installed a matter management system that languishes or designated preferred counsel who still get only a portion of the work, or trained everyone on delegation and teamwork but they still act like warring tribes?

Is there plenty of lip service but no accountability and no enforcement? Does everyone espouse client satisfaction but no one changes how they serve clients? Are smiles and congeniality rampant but a new initiative, like knowledge management or work/life balance, is hamstrung by second-guessing and struggles to make any headway?

If your law department moves along with much agreement but little cooperation, such as on sharing administrative assistants or doing useful reviews twice a year, you show signs of passive-aggression.

According to the article, the cure might follow from (a) diagnosing the disease, (b) transfusing new blood, (c) removing or replacing many organizational organs at once, and (d) making decisions and making them stick.

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