Balancing the boss/employee dynamics in your practice


As we enter yet another new year, those looking to work their way up in their careers will often focus on a specific question: “What does my boss want from me?” Similarly, employers looking to keep staff engaged and happy are wondering, “What do they want from us? How do we keep them happy and productive?”

Unfortunately, these questions can often go unspoken, and starting a conversation concerning the boss/employee dynamic can take a while to achieve. But they’re well worth asking so that employers and employees can be on the same page, focusing on a tangible goal. If you know what each person in your office wants, then you know what each of you can achieve by the time the next New Year rolls around.


Whether a professional is brand-new to a firm, straight out of college or university, or in the prime of their career, it will not always be easy to communicate what one wants in the workplace. While one’s current work and projects are going to come first and foremost, secondary needs — such as planning out long-term career goals, the flexibility of work/life balance, and constant, productive communication to those higher up on the ladder— often loom in the mental background and may never be properly addressed.

Those lists of demands, though, are often pragmatic, vital things for a long and fruitful career, and the faster those needs are addressed, the faster an employee can start providing exemplary results.

Professionals most want an opportunity to learn and grow, to respect and trust their leaders. Leaders who are brave enough to grant staff the necessary flexibility in the way they work, providing the appropriate work/life balance in a firm, which gives way to staff having quicker access to the freedom to innovate and the ability to make a difference.

It’s becoming more and more apparent that employees desire more than just adequate compensation when they’re joining the workforce. In fact, non-monetary factors are statistically more significant.


Similarly, firm leaders often need certain things from their staff that go beyond the current project or client. The desire for non-technical, “soft skills” can be silently expected — whether it’s during the hiring process or during a professional’s overall tenure at the firm — but according to our experts, they’re just as important as any financial objective.

Employers most want engagement, loyalty, innovation, efficiency, reliability and productivity. Also employers sometimes need to seek more input from staff and share more transparently the market challenges and business model issues so professionals can meaningfully engage in the development and implementation of solutions.

Here are seven differentiating competencies and five threshold competencies that distinguish outstanding performers during interviews: Conceptual thinking; self-confidence; directiveness, assertiveness, and use of positional power; impact and influence; professional aspirations; commitment; and appropriate concern for order, quality and accuracy. Average-level capabilities: achievement orientation; customer service orientation; flexibility; team work and cooperation; and developing others.

After the hire, having the proper channel to communicate from the top brass to the staff might seem difficult or too cumbersome to set up, but there are some pragmatic solutions that a workplace can develop in order to have a vital flow of communication.

Employers can communicate their needs in a variety of ways. Having an advisory board is a good place to start, with two-way dialogue around ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ issues. Including staff in strategic planning and visioning processes will also uncover this feedback. Employers should share more, be more transparent about their business model and challenges, and allow professionals to truly participate in developing solutions that work for both the employer and employee.

One of the top areas for staff growth is building skills around prospecting and business development. Progressive firms are equipping high performers by training them with business development skills to bring in new business and increasing their prospects of reaching partner faster.

With the profession as a whole struggling to recruit and retain qualified staff, one way for firms to stand out in a positive way is to demonstrate a willingness to have an open discussion with staff concerning their professional desires. Creating transparency around what employers and their staff want from each other is an all-too-often untapped benefit, and simply moving towards a place of communication will undoubtedly progress your firm further.

By Sean MacCabe