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How To Present a Problem to the Boss

Posted By NALS Editorial + Marketing Board, Monday, February 19, 2018

Dear Eula Mae:

 

I’m a legal assistant who works for two attorneys in a small office that has a receptionist, paralegal and office manager.  I’ve only been here for six months, but as time goes on, there are more surprises that crop up nearly daily.   I’m not so sure how to deal with these problems and not very comfortable with interrupting the attorneys to ask about solutions because I don’t want to waste their time. Although it is a small office, it is a busy one.  Do you have any advice?

 

--Hesitant in New Hampshire

Dear Hesitant in New Hampshire:

 

This is a very important question.  You know bosses don’t really like problems, but they are asked to solve them every day.   The issue of presenting problems is really about planning and management.  There are different types of problems and each requires different solutions.  Problems could be urgent, priority, or your work problems.  An urgent problem must be dealt with immediately and, typically, this would need to be solved by the attorney boss. A priority problem is important but can be dealt with later.  Your problems on the job are also important, but you will need to do the thinking toward a solution first, then present to your boss if needed.  First, we will think this out and then prepare for a conversation with the boss.

 

To begin preparing for how to present problems to the boss, think about situations that you have had on your job or that could possibly happen. What do you consider urgent and immediate?  What are some examples of problems that are important but could be solved later?  Do you have ideas about problems on your job that affect your performance?  Write these down in the three categories and prepare to have a conversation with your boss on how the boss would like to handle these issues and consider these questions:  What if they are on their way to work, or in court, or going to the airport? What if they are in a meeting at the office? Is there someone else in the office that could manage the problem until the boss is available?

 

Now, how to manage your problems, issues, or concerns?  One wise boss said, “Don’t just bring me problems, bring  me solutions.”  When you have an issue, think about three solutions to it.  This takes a lot of thought, maybe some research, maybe visiting with the office manager or other legal support people who might have had the same problem.  Remember, this cannot be specific to any client, just a problem in general.  When the boss is receptive and has the time, present the problem and solutions.  The boss will give you a wise choice of a solution and you will both have peace of mind toward a successful outcome.

 

Having this conversation with your boss could save you both a lot of grief later.  Start by considering a time most convenient for your boss to talk about this and when they might be most receptive.  Do you need to schedule a meeting with them or do they have a more open-door policy?  Be thoroughly prepared for this meeting and you both will have a greater understanding of working together.

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