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We never talk. You never listen. We don’t spend enough time together. The complaints of a disgruntled spouse? No. This is the message to top legal officers from a surprising number of in-house lawyers at 32 of the 36 companies surveyed. What do you like least about your company? And how would you improve office dynamics? More than 20 percent (or 70 out of 336) of the lawyers who answered these questions in the Quality of Life Survey echoed the words of one Beckton, Dickinson and Company attorney who wrote: “Communicate communicate communicate!” Some would like their bosses to praise good work. A lawyer at American Airlines (AMR Corporation), for instance, says what he hates about his job is that the “word ‘thanks’ or the phrase ‘well done’ almost never are used.” A lawyer at Praxair, Inc., says that what’s needed is “more internal department recognition, more ‘atta boys.’” And at Principal Life Insurance Company, part of the Principal Financial Group, a lawyer suggests: “Give more pats on the back and public kudos.” When managers criticize, others say, they should be constructive. “Less talk about ‘blame’ and ‘who is responsible’ and more talk about as a group learning from mistakes … would be welcome,” says a lawyer at CMS Energy Corporation. A lawyer at Payless ShoeSource, Inc. says that the two things she likes least about her job are “lack of appreciation for what I do [and] the cover-your-ass attitude — it’s always someone else’s fault.” It’s important to share information with staffers, others note. At The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, a lawyer complains about the “somewhat paternalistic approach to sharing information (shared only on a need to know basis).” An attorney at The Williams Companies, Inc., asks for “more direct communication and less passing through the grapevine.” And a lawyer at Unicom Corporation hates “the information -is-power-and-therefore -I-won’t-share corporate culture.” Communication is a two-part process — speaking and listening — and some respondents say that their managers are falling down on the job. “Permit and encourage open discussion on the issues; do not bury [your] head or avoid conflict,” urges a lawyer at Dell Computer Corporation. A lawyer at Principal Financial Group writes that managers should “listen to people who know more about a subject than they do, whether or not they decide to take the advice.” A CMS Energy lawyer says, “[Managers] don’t properly take into account the advice of their people on the ground.” And another lawyer there says he dislikes the “gulf between senior — most management and rank and file — they only listen to themselves.” Good leaders are visible, the rank and file say. “The general counsel ought to walk around more and speak to all the people in the department,” says a lawyer at Georgia-Pacific Corporation. A Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation lawyer suggests “more meetings with general counsel and operations counsel staff.” Another attorney there proposes: “Have the general counsel become more involved in the legal department and show some leadership.” A CMS Energy lawyer says: “Senior-most management needs to … get out and hear some issues from the trenches.” And a Nike, Inc. lawyer urges the general counsel to “spend more time managing lawyers to improve teamwork.” Just do it. Foster camaraderie with social gatherings, some lawyers advise. “Seek opportunities offline to foster team spirit,” says a lawyer at PECO Energy Company. A lawyer at PG & E Corporation proposes “more informal gatherings.” “Have the company pay for ‘forced’ socialization, such as the annual lawyers retreat,” says a lawyer at The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company. And an Eastman Chemical Company lawyer suggests “more opportunities to ‘celebrate’ … both during and outside work hours.” None of this is what lawyers are trained to do. As one attorney with Washington Mutual, Inc. observes: “Lawyers are not necessarily good people managers.” But they are not hopeless, he says. “Some HR and management training might help.”

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