Three Warning Signs That You’re A Bad Manager

If you are a law firm manager, there are likely two ways you’ve risen into a position of authority.

First, you are excellent at the job you do. Second, you are excellent with delegating responsibility and bringing teams of people together productively.

The best managers possess both skills—an exceptional ability to perform the task at hand, as well as a capacity for leadership and mentorship.

However, it’s quite possible your promotion into the position of manager was a result of scholarly as opposed to supervisory skills. So, how do you know exactly where on the spectrum you fall?

What are the warning signs that you may, in reality, be a great lawyer but a terrible manager?

1. People don’t poach your associates

Successful leaders work to hone the skills of their subordinates. Leaders look to improve the analytical skills, the ability to follow direction, and creative thinking of all their employees.

If you have a go-to team, but nobody else in the firm seems to want to work with them, it’s a sign that you may be a dreadful mentor.

Your subordinate employees should be increasing their skill level, and therefore become in-demand throughout the firm. Instead, it may be that your subordinate employees know how to work within your own personal parameters, but not in any other useful capacity—which falls on you, not them.

Don’t create a personal team of minions; the firm has no use for targeted expertise that excel under a single person.

2. Your employees don’t share personal information with you

Not all employees discuss their personal lives at work. Yet, If you know nothing about the parents, children, or home life of your subordinates, it’s likely because they feel uncomfortable around you.

This is a bad sign for a manager.

Openness and honest communication are crucial for a successful working relationship. If your employees are hesitant to share innocuous information, such as weekend plans, they may be hiding more important work-related news.

Good leaders are generally not appreciated for their iron fist. Accept the fact that subordinates make mistakes, and don’t overly punish them. Welcome small talk and a modicum of socializing in the workplace. Productivity thrives on equal amounts of work as play.

Great managers are respected, not feared. Being fair and understanding of mistakes puts you on the start of a successful leadership path.

3. Your employees consistently work late, while others go home

Your employees are on their computers late at the office while other associates are heading home. This must mean your subordinates are harder working, right?


If you notice your team seems to be staying later than others, you may be a poor delegator. Too many late nights signals inefficiency. As a manger, you need to learn how to appropriately assign tasks to the employees with the proper skill set to complete them within a reasonable time frame.

Another reason your associates may stay later than usual is because they fear you. Do you verbalize your disapproval when somebody leaves the office early? Do you have unrealistic expectations for first-years and support staff?

Don’t waste client money with disorganization and bad leadership. Late nights do not equate to better work.

If you’ve experienced one or all of these warning signs, but still don’t understand what you’re doing wrong, seek advice from other managers in the office. And, consider taking a training session on successful leadership.

The skills to become an effective leader are not always innate; they are often learned.


Need help? Attend The Center For Competitive Management’s audio conference titled, “Leadership in Practice: Strategies to Meet Partnership Demands and Adapt to Changing Firm Needs.”

The conference is designed for law firm partners who know that being competitive means mastering the skills and techniques that meet daily partnership demands, adapt to changing firm and client needs, and effectively motivate at the firm and practice level.

During this information-packed session, you will learn:

  • Formal and informal leadership roles, duties and expectations
  • Best practices for being an effective role model (lead by example) and mentor
  • How to create opportunities for your team to be more effective, and client-focused
  • Techniques to sustain and adapt to change through leadership
  • How to lead with a focus on firm culture, cooperation and innovation
  • Challenges to identifying emerging leaders
  • Why communication is crucial and how to make internal communications more  strategic


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