Polly Jeanneret's HR agony aunt: Handling hippos

Polly Jeanneret By Polly Jeanneret
from a leading London-based firm, HR expert and employment lawyer

This article was originally featured as a HR agony aunt in the June issue of LPM. To read the issue in full, download LPM.

Q

I have recently been made up as a partner at a 10-partner firm. In the first few partner meetings, it has become clear that there is one partner who completely dominates and no one else gets a look-in. I’m pretty demoralised by it and cannot see a future for myself there.

A

Is this the Trump effect or has he or she always been like this (see LPM March 2017), I wonder? Before we pick over the options available to you with a Hippo (highest-paid person’s opinion) in the room, let’s remind ourselves of one positive: the firm was sensible enough to make you a partner, so the partnership is not all bad. But a dominating partner is pretty bad news. Not only is it undermining for all the other partners, it can also lead to poor decisions and, worse, seriously bad decisions. Studies show time and again that the ability to speak openly with your boss is absolutely key to sound management. My favourite report is a critique of a Korean air disaster which argued that the crash was partly as a result of a culture of deference in Korea, such that a co-pilot wouldn’t dare to refute their captain’s decision-making. I would wait and see. Perhaps the partner likes to show off a bit when someone new joins and the meetings may yet settle down.

Q

We believe that a senior ex-employee has a whole host of our clients as LinkedIn contacts and may try to reach out to them. Should we ask him to remove them?

A

Sometimes there’s a technical answer and a ‘get real’ answer. The courts have suggested that, technically, the details of a firm’s clients that are contacts on a LinkedIn account are the property of the firm, not the individual. Putting aside the practicalities of actually ensuring that an ex-employee disconnects (or is it ‘unconnects’?) from the contacts in question, this is definitely a scenario where prevention is way better than the cure. In future, you should ensure that social media accounts are covered in restrictive covenants in employment contracts and draft a robust social media policy.

Q

This general election – should we, as a firm, be doing something around it?

A

No. Clients don’t want any more briefings and staff don’t want any more polls. 

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