The small, sturdy law firm (4): removing the disruptive genius

Fortunately, this is not a problem that Anderson Law LLP has had, and hopefully will not have for many years to come. But IP Draughts has discussed the issue with others who have experienced it, and he has seen enough disruptive geniuses in other organisations, including universities.

In the context of commercial and professional organisations, the issue is this: you have someone senior in the organisation who generates large profits, and may even generate more profits than anyone else. So far as clients are concerned, they are fabulous. In universities, they might be the professor who has international accolades and helps to maintain the rankings of the university.

But within the organisation, they are a nightmare to deal with. They cause stress everywhere they go.

Senior management can’t control them. Some people are terrified of them. Others like the drama that surrounds them. They help to create a ‘political’ environment where people take sides and try to curry favour.

It is tempting for many people to turn a blind eye, and not face up to the problem. Oh, Jimmy can be a little difficult at times, but it isn’t that bad, he just has strong views on our strategic direction, and some of those views are very good. Sure, his assistant left the firm on medical grounds after complaining about him, but she was rather highly strung. And he must be doing something right, because clients love him.

When senior management tries to rein the genius in, he plays the game. He can appear so reasonable and persuasive. He might promise to do better. Or he might challenge the competence of senior management. Perhaps his partners or colleagues who don’t have responsibility for managing him genuinely don’t realise how bad the situation is. Or perhaps they think that dealing with Jimmy goes with the territory, if you want to be managing partner or CEO. Whatever the reason, they fail to give robust support.

There is only one answer in this situation: remove him from the organisation. Sure, your profits or reputation may suffer. But this is better than allowing the disfunction and stress to continue. In the longer term you, and perhaps he, will be happier.

Now, how you get any necessary consensus to fire him is another question. But don’t keep giving him the benefit of the doubt when you know in your heart that he is wrong for the long-term health of the organisation.

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Legal practice

3 responses to “The small, sturdy law firm (4): removing the disruptive genius

  1. You have a redundancy programme, which removes him. Unfortunately, it removes many good people too. Also, the fallout from his past “genius” status takes a long time from which to recover.

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