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Your Boss Is the Problem, Says Survey

Vivia Chen

October 17, 2012

© auremar - Fotolia.comI don't know how I could have missed it. But October 16 was National Boss Day, and I didn't do a damn thing about it. I didn't send flowers, candy, not even a cheesy Hallmark card (yup, they actually sell them for the occasion) to my betters.

Did you forget too? Don't worry. It seems everyone did. That's probably because there isn't much popular support for the day. In fact, it seems that most folks would rather have a Tell Your Boss to Go to Hell Day.

That's the upshot, according to a new survey by psychologist Michelle McQuaid, who interviewed over 1,000 American workers in a range of professions. Her finding: People are not happy campers at work, and the boss is the reason.

Here's a summary of McQuaid's study by The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch:

      - Only 36 percent of Americans are happy at their job.

      - By almost 2:1, workers would choose having a "better" boss over money (65 percent say a better boss would make them happy, while 35 percent say they would rather get a pay raise).

     - Almost a third (31 percent) of employees feel uninspired and unappreciated by their boss, and close to 15 percent feel downright miserable, bored, and lonely.

     - 42 percent say their bosses don't work very hard, and close to 20 percent say their boss has little or no integrity.

    - Almost 70 percent say they would be happier at work if they got along better with their boss.

    - When stress levels rise at work, almost half (47 percent) say their boss does not stay calm and in control.

The good news is that 38 percent of employees describe their boss as "great"—not close to a majority, but much better than I would have guessed. The other good news is that older workers didn't seem as disgruntled (70 percent of boomers didn't complain that their boss lost control in times of stress).

This study of employee attitudes, like the one that I blogged about earlier this year, paints a rather dismal picture about managers' performance in general. It doesn't focus exclusively on lawyers, but I think it's safe to say that associates wouldn't have better views of partners.

To me, what's striking is that most people in the survey would gladly forfeit a fatter paycheck for a decent boss. Would those who work in Big Law have the same priority? Among partners, there's generally an attitude that associates have no grounds for griping because they're paid so highly. It's kind of understood that if you want to make the big bucks, you have to put up with a lot of garbage.

But my bet is that many associates would gladly trade higher earnings for decent treatment. Am I right? Or am I giving them too much credit?

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Hmmm, this seems intriguing to me. Anyways, I agree, boss is always a problem in most cases.

I don't think this is limited to big law or associates. I work for the government and those in the executive office are just downright horrible to work for. They treat the employees like garbage, have no subject matter expertise, are loose cannons who shoot from the hip (which you don't want in a lawyer), and are just plain arrogant. People are trying to retire and find other jobs not because they hate their jobs, but rather because they hate the people in charge.

At the end of the day, there are just too many (poor) managers and not enough worker bees. As Andy Rooney said: "We need people who can actually do things. We have too many bosses and too few workers. More college graduates ought to become plumbers or electricians, then go home at night and read Shakespeare."

The other comment I have heard from bad bosses is: I don't suffer from stress, I am a carrier.

Here's the reality - You don't quit your job. You quit your boss.

When I was a Biglaw associate I had the misfortune of spending years working with a partner whose motto was, "The way to deal with stress is to inflict it on other people." No, I'm not joking. I overhead him give this explanation to a client. I would have taken a sizable reduction in pay to avoid working with him!

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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