Recent research conducted to better understand law firm culture and employee retention amidst The Great Resignation uncovered some common trends, one of which we’re sharing today. The challenge may be for the decision-maker in the firm to do some self-reflection and thoroughly and thoughtfully examine the current firm culture when considering turnover. 

Culture starts at the top. And your words may be portraying you as the problem. 

And you may BE the problem if you find yourself saying…

  • I’m the smartest person in the room. 
    • The smartest person in the room EVER was William Sidis. Sadly, he died in 1944 at the age of 46, working as an office clerk – penniless and utterly alone. And, while Sidis’ experience is certainly not indicative of high intelligence resulting in failed aspirations or of finding oneself alone, hubris is. From William Shakespeare to James Woods, people of influence have recognized the negative impact that ego fueled by power has on relationships. After all, when you are the ONLY person left at your firm, you are definitely the smartest person in the room.
  • If people want to work for me, they just have to deal with (my bad temper, my “directness”…)
    • In this worker-driven recruiting climate, hiring managers currently find themselves, candidates simply don’t have to put up with poor management behavior, which contributes to job stress. Effective leaders with long-standing teams actually facilitate their employees’ efforts to serve them or their goals successfully. 
  • I do not like to explain something twice. 
    • Neither do they. If you have seen ongoing, high turnover, the chances are good that before 5 pm on an exiting employee’s very last day, they TRIED to enlighten you to the reasons why your firm is in a perpetual state of hiring and training new employees. In fact, 60% of employees polled by Gallup attempted to let their organization know they were unhappy and were considering leaving. And, 52% shared that management, had they wanted to, could have convinced them to stay just by implementing some “minor” changes.
  • There’s no money in the budget for that software/service/efficiency.
    • Skimping on standard efficiencies not only creates costly bottlenecks but frustrates your fastest team members trying to meet deadlines. Forcing them to work on archaic systems is like buying a racehorse but refusing to let them out of the barn. If work doesn’t change, they’ll change where they work.
  • Overtime will be reflected in your end-of-year bonus.
    • Haven’t you heard? It’s all about living in the now. With such high stakes brought about by a worldwide pandemic, this sentiment has been received by America’s workforce and digested. Even Disney movies are spreading the word that “Yesterday is history…today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the PRESENT!” So, giving up valuable personal time for compensation paid in months to come is presumptive and, by some standards, kind of slimy since the firm will be making use of the revenue earned from those billable hours. Firms that apply the golden rule enjoy longer, more fruitful relationships than those that hold earned income hostage.

Too often, I’ve heard managers dismiss staff turnover by saying, “They left for more money.” The truth is, according to Gallup, Time Magazine, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “seeking a better-paying position” was not listed as a top reason employees provided for their reason for quitting. The top four were: a.) work/life balance, b.) burnout, c.) negative firm culture, and d.) poor management. Numerous sites such as Reddit, LinkedIn, and Tumblr provide (usually anonymous) forums where legal professionals – from receptionists to attorneys – share jaw-dropping stories of jobs where expectations were unreasonable, criticism was doled out publicly, and, in some cases, treatment in their workplace was downright abusive (a story where an attorney threw his telephone at his longtime paralegal springs to mind). In an industry where profit margins seem to be ever-shrinking and performance metrics drive decisions, it is surprising that the cost of turnover – estimated to be one-half to two times an employee’s salary – isn’t a problem of the highest priority. Churn is costly, and the first step in resolving the issue is admitting the problem. From there, a course of correction can begin.



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