Previous blogs written by my spouse/business partner and me have addressed the issue of having two bosses who happen to be married to each other. It is challenging to have one boss, but having two bosses (who are usually going to side with each other in the event of a dispute with an employee) is particularly challenging in a small business environment. Ultimately, however, there is always one boss, one CEO, one company president, one chairperson of the board, etc. and ultimately, regardless of how many other people supervise an employee’s work, it is this ultimate boss whose work demands must be met by every employee. Some employees learn this the hard way: They perceive my partner as the “nice” boss and therefore, strive diligently to please him, all the while forgetting it is I who is the primary (and virtually, exclusive) source of revenue for our corporation and therefore, the main person who must be kept happy by each and every employee. In the context of working with multiple clients, the concept of the ultimate boss is also crucial in ensuring positive client relations. When my company is retained to work on a case, there are often numerous attorneys who are involved in our work, all of whom are our clients. However, there is only one of these attorneys/clients who is the ultimate boss and whose decisions about the course and scope of my company’s and my work are the “final word.” All of us who work for a living should do whatever it takes to establish a positive rapport with the person who is the ultimate boss and without whose blessing our work will cease. Other people’s opinions may count, but in the end, there can be only one boss.
Melissa is right. The buck does, and has to, stop somewhere. In any organization someone has the last word or is responsible for everything else. And, it is sometimes that concept, that the ultimate boss’ reputation is a key component of the business’ success. Even though we are a small practice and we have a rather “flat” organizational structure, we have had a few employees who only considered the directives of their immediate supervisor without considering how their actions impact everyone else. These have usually been myopic and/or timid employees who wanted to keep a low profile. But, doing so is impossible in a small company and is not advisable, for career advancement reasons, in a larger one! And, we have to always be mindful of the hierarchy involving our clients. Often, an associate in a law firm calls to initiate a case consult at the instruction of his/her boss, the senior partner. Sometimes these senior partners are “too busy” to speak with me when setting up a research project. This is a red flag that a problem is coming. Though there are other potential problems, the main one in this instance is that it is impossible for me to customize the research, as we do, to meet the expectations of the client if the client won’t speak to me ahead of time. It is bad for both us and for that paralegal, associate, or junior attorney when the lead counsel was unavailable or unwilling to talk prior to me creating a proposal. It has surprised me that I have had to explain this to many paralegals and/or attorneys who are not in the lead position. Often these people, while well intentioned, are used to making requests of vendors and they fail to differentiate that when dealing with a professional or consultant, that a different level of discussion is required to please their own boss and end client. Thus, while I know that figuring out who the ultimate boss is, and training our own staff on this point, I have found that this same issue exists on the part of our clients’ staffs and that I have to educate them on why it is in their best interest to keep the ultimate boss in mind.