In-house managers of lawyers should take into account people hate asking for help

“People hate asking for help,” according to Stanford Bus., Vol. 77, Nov. 2008 at 9. “It makes them embarrassed, guilty, and fearful that they will look incompetent.” Now, couple that commonplace with the risk aversion typical of lawyers and the premium most lawyers place on intelligence, and you understand why in-house lawyers rarely go through the “open-door” policy. Similarly, some clients wish they did not have to humble themselves, which is how they feel, when they ask for counsel from lawyers.

The Stanford article concludes that managers, which includes general counsel, “consistently overestimate the likelihood that others will solicit them for assistance.”

Ironically, research shows that “people grossly underestimate how likely others are to agree to requests for assistance.” They note, however, “How you make your request is likely to be more significant than the magnitude of what you’re asking.

All general counsel should ponder this paradox: “In short, employees don’t ask for help because they wrongly assume they won’t get it, and managers don’t encourage employers to ask for help because they wrongly assume that the employees will ask for it if they need it.

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