Law Office Anthill: How To Organize A Staff Meeting Without Disgruntling The Troops

Occasionally, an all-staff meeting is necessary. The hire of a new associate, announcement of an important departure, or reminder to reread the handbook about dress code are a few of the myriad reasons behind mass congregations in law-office conference room

Whatever the occasion, there are both effective and irritating ways to require associates, assistants, and staff to gather at once.

Follow these guidelines so that your good news doesn’t backfire into bad vibes.

Announce it a day before. Law firms are like anthills. People run around in every direction to file emergency briefs, to meet impending deadlines, and to get to court.

For a variety of reasons—a few legitimate and others not—some associates will seek to circumvent the hive meeting. There’s little an administrator can do to encourage their participation. Sending the invitation to meet one month in advance, one week, or one day won’t matter.

For those who are willing and able to attend, one day’s notice allows them to reschedule phone calls or their own casework appointments to accommodate the hour. It also leaves less time to forget.

Partners and managers are prone to sending out mass e-mails reading, “Staff meeting 10 minutes in Conference Room A,” which sends the message that their subordinates’ time is not valuable.

To the masses, managers who send last-minute messages appear disorganized, discourteous, and self-important.

Make them a rare occasion. In the event an all-staff meeting is necessary, make sure they are, at least, infrequent. Attendance for all-staff meetings increases in indirect proportion to the number of meetings held per year.

You’ll assure that 90 percent of the office hears your message when you hold bi-annual meetings. Any more, however, and that percentage will begin to drop exponentially. And for good reason.

Firms rely on attorneys fees from client cases to survive. Not only do meetings disrupt the productive flow of work, they also reduce the billable hour. It turns out, the only two true distractions at an office are meetings and managers.

Good news, bring food. Bad news, send an e-mail. If the meeting surrounds good news—a case won, a baby born, or partner named—than share the joy with breakfast or lunch. Plus, food almost always encourages 100 percent attendance.

At the same time, if the news is bad, consider sending out a mass e-mail instead. It’s unwise to blindside people with bad news. Allow them time to digest the information, and seek out a manager on their own terms and timeframe to discuss.

Also, controversial news may be met by disgruntled employees. An all-staff meeting can quickly turn into battle to the death between queen ants. Keep your employees from saying something they’ll later regret by eliminating the forum for debate.

Don’t have it! Finally, if you’re confused about how or when to organize an all-staff meeting, consider not having it at all.

The majority of announcements can be handled with firm-wide e-mails, or, like most professional environments, in hushed tones at the local tavern during happy hour. Most likely, whatever you’re about to say has been already spreading via underground gossip tunnels that reach far beyond the office.

The secret truth about all-staff meetings traces back to that anthill. When you see a long line of ants trailing into the distance (or to your picnic) it usually leads to trouble.

-WB

Read more about productivity and office distractions here.

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