I am a fresh, new female lawyer working under another female lawyer (a Partner in the firm). She gives me the most pathetic of jobs like ‘translating a one-line letter’, proof-reading letters and labeling files.
Other partners in the firm have more confidence in my abilities and have given me challenging projects, client counseling & cases which (thankfully!) I have fulfilled to their satisfaction.
I am upset that my immediate supervisor (the female partner) is not treating me as a colleague but as a pseudo-gopher. She refuses to allow me to meet with clients and RARELY gives me work (and when she does, it’s all those small tasks that a trained monkey could do).
I find this disconcerting because while I was doing my attachment in this firm (prior to being called to the Bar), she hardly said two words to me but once the Firm decided to take me on, she jumped and requested for me to work under her. Now she’s treating me this way.
I hope to clarify and fix this problem but the first thing I believe I should do is to understand why she is doing this. What do you think is motivating her to treat me this way?
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY FRANKE JAMES
At first glance your Senior Boss’ actions do seem perplexing and confusing. From your perspective you are left wondering why she chose you, only to assign you menial tasks. So, you are smart to seek insight into her behavior before taking action. What is motivating her to treat you this way?
Let’s think positively from the side of your Boss (the Senior Lawyer). She needs and wants a terrific Junior Lawyer to work with. You are identified by everyone in the office as a rising star. She snags you, and is thrilled with her ‘catch’.
Control, perfectionism and trust
But she has issues around control, perfectionism and trust. Perhaps thoughts are going through her head like, “What if the Junior does it wrong?” “What if she misses this?” Your Boss may sincerely want to unload challenging work onto you but she needs you to win her trust. She is taking ‘baby steps’ now by giving you easy jobs. She wants assurance that you are going to attend to the nit-picky details with fanatical attention. Only when she sees that you are as fanatical in your attention to details as she is, will she feel comfortable in giving you more demanding work.
Bosses like this Senior Lawyer can be extremely difficult to work for. But in my experience the fact that they give their trust so reluctantly can play to your favor. Once their trust is won, fierce loyalty (usually) follows. And the good news is that you will be thoroughly trained to do excellent work from the ground up.
Aim to win her trust and everything will fall into place.
Please let us know if this is helpful to you. Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.
Franke James, MFA
Editor & Founder, Office-Politics.com
Inventor, The Office-Politics® Game
Franke James, MFA is the Editor & Founder of Office-Politics.com. She is also the Inventor of The Office-Politics® Game a dilemma-based social game that teaches you how to play, and laugh, at office politics. It’s used by HR departments, and corporate trainers worldwide. The Office-Politics Dilemmas have been inspired by the hundreds of letters submitted to Office-Politics.com.
Publication note: This letter was originally published in 2005. We are republishing the best letters from Office-Politics and integrating them with our blog format.