Has The Firm Failed Its Associates? 2 Of 3 Employees Unhappy At Job, Says Gallup

Here, take a quick test. The responses are “yes” or “no”, and there’s no right answer.

  1. I know what is expected of me at work
  2. I have the material and equipment I need to do my work right
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count
  8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work
  10. I have a best friend at work
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow

Ok, there may not be a “right” answer, but it doesn’t speak well for your career choices if you answered predominantly with “no”.

These questions form part of a Gallup studying worker attitudes on the international plane.

It turns out that unhappy workers around the world outnumber their happy counterparts two to one, according to a recent poll by Gallup, which means the vast majority of people feel that their colleagues don’t care about them as a person, that nobody encourages their development, and that they have no opportunities at work to learn and grow.

For the world’s CEOs and managing partners, that’s a harsh realization.

In the U.S., Susan Adams for Forbes summarizes America’s dismal statistics: “30% happy in their work, 52% feeling blah and 18% who hate their jobs.” Except, these statistics are on the top-end of the survey. America is happy compared to their Asian counterparts.

Of course, Gallup dresses up depression with fancy terms like “disengaged” or “actively disengaged.” But, ultimately, 63 percent of employees are disengaged, checked out, disenchanted by their employers.

As if this worldwide epidemic of despair wasn’t enough, associate attorneys have drawn an even shorter straw.

According to another survey by a firm known as CareerBliss, “Associate Attorney,” is the lowest ranked in employee satisfaction (via Above The Law). American employees aren’t happy and American associate attorneys are, well, suicidal.

It could be argued, however, that this has nothing to do with the floundering of the economy or the fault of individuals. In fact, it’s a sign of the failing of the firm.

The firm should act like a family. Instead, today, firms are cold, profit-seeking automated machines. What happened to personalization? Sacrifice today for tomorrow’s gain? Where are the innovators, entreprelawyers?

It’s time to take matters into your own hands and re-energize and re-engage your associates. So, for law firm managers, here’s a start:

1. Create mentorship programs for associates.

Having a poor relationship with one’s boss and co-workers is one of the leaders in office dissatisfaction. So, start a mentorship program between associates and senior attorneys.

Create a unique lunch roulette game. Offer after-work activities—yoga, soccer, or other team sporting events.

2. Increase workplace resources

One of the sources of dissatisfaction for associates is job resources. Although compensation is also a complaint, sometimes employers forget that money isn’t the only way to increase productivity. Increasing the tools of the job will ensure employees are properly equipped.

And, when employees feel they are able to do a good job, then they enjoy their job.

3. Give growth opportunities

In the same survey, ranked number seven in unhappiness are legal assistants. Perhaps one of the reasons why both lawyers and legal assistants are dissatisfied with their positions is that there is no room for growth.

Employees are more likely to invest in their work if they feel the firm is investing in them, in return. The possibility for career advancement is key—especially for staff. So, make sure that every position has the possibility for expansion (if not in title, then in compensation or skills-gained), from legal assistant to senior partner.

4. Provide autonomy.

Finally, employees are happiest when they’re autonomous. Autonomy doesn’t necessarily mean decision-making power. After all, associates are still low on the law firm hierarchy.

However, it does mean a modicum of control over the work an associate does on a daily basis. For example, if your firm is rigorously controlling the case matter assignments, meeting times, deadlines, scope of the project, etc., it’s likely that your subordinates are super bored.

Allow your associates a bit of freedom in their cases. Lawyers as a whole may not be able to move down in the ranks of America’s unhappiest employees, but employees at your particular firm can.



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