Employee engagement results from “business, boss, buddies and briefs” – Part II

In its recent survey of career satisfaction, InsideCounsel, May 2008 at 61, more than 1,200 in-house counsel responded. One question asked respondents to choose from a list of 11 the MOST rewarding parts of working in-house while a second question asked them to choose from another list of 11 the LEAST rewarding parts.

“My supervisor” came in fifth out of the 11 demoralizers (5.9% chose it), but there was nothing about managers on the list of things that pump up in-house lawyers. Many people talk about the inspiration of leaders and mentors so it would be good to offer that choice on the next survey (See my posts of April 30, 2006: looseness of the term “mentor”; July 14, 2005: differences between mentor and coach; April 27, 2005: Eastman Kodak offering; April 30, 2006: mentors and threatening successors; May 7, 2006: diversity and mentoring at GE; May 10, 2006: skills Canadian corporate counsel will need; Sept. 25, 2006: mentoring compared to other forms of assistance to employees; Nov. 25, 2006: C&I mentoring scheme; Oct. 31, 2007: programs cut across organizational boundaries; Jan. 18, 2008: rating professional development programs.). Other research shows that the single largest determinant of an employee’s contentment with a job is the behavior of the employee’s manager. That makes sense in the context of a law department.

I began a series on four drivers of employee engagement (See my post of Jan. 10, 2008: “business.”). With a burst of alliteration, the second driver is “boss.” It goes without saying that every boss significantly influences the level of engagement of those who are bossed. Some earn deep loyalty among those who work with them. They are role models, leaders, co-workers who help others produce their best work.

Other bosses are caricatured in comic strips. Boorish or ineffective behavior by the person you report to can ruin your job (See my posts of Jan. 19, 2008: bullying; Jan. 13, 2006: a troika of consequences from managerial incompetence; Aug. 4, 2007: jerks; Oct. 12, 2006 and March 18, 2007: general counsel who are bad managers; Aug. 22, 2006: the Peter Principal; and Feb. 15, 2006 on the ten dumbest management mistakes of general counsel.).

By the way, for in-house counsel the term “supervisor” feels mechanistic and inapposite, too intrusive, although much preferable to “boss.” “Manager” hits the right balance.

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