Advice column: how do I rein in an over-keen junior I am mentoring?

Dear Ash

I was recently asked to mentor a new junior member of staff, and although I was initially happy to undertake some additional responsibility, he is becoming a bit of a loose cannon. Whenever I ask him to conduct some research for me or draft some correspondence, I then discover that he has contacted the client directly without informing me, and has taken it on himself to provide advice to clients that I have the direct relationship with. Although I am happy to encourage him to take a proactive approach, I do think he is taking this too far. I have gently tried to make the parameters clear and confirmed that he needs to report back to me directly, but he seems not to be taking this on board. I don’t want to report his behaviour to my manager at this stage, but I need to know how to rein him in before he causes any issues.

Ash replies:

Welcome to the world of management! Management is often a thankless and sometimes isolating experience; however don’t lose heart. A good manager learns to adapt to different circumstances and personalities as there is not necessarily one particular management style that suits all those in a team.

Your colleague is clearly out to prove how good he is, but is missing the distinction between enthusiasm and arrogance. To give him the benefit of the doubt, this may be because of a lack of clarity on your part and you do need to establish clearly the boundaries of his role. I therefore suggest that you invite him to an informal meeting to discuss his progress and to clarify procedures going forward.

Make clear the positive work he has carried out, but also that you are required to report back on his performance to your manager and in order to do this effectively, you need him to report back to you in line with certain procedures. Have a think in advance about how you would prefer him to do this, but based on your concerns, you would presumably want to make clear that he should consult with you on any research findings, not advise clients without first referring to you, and consult with you about any issues before raising with clients directly.

Make clear as well that it is important that he follows any such procedures, not only for the sake of clarity but also to allow you to keep track of his development and identify new areas for potential career progression.

If the message is made loud and clear that it is in his interest to report back to you, he is more likely to comply.

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor:

peter@connectcommunications.co.uk, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s department. For one-to-one advice, contact Katie Wood, manager in the Registrar’s department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or KatieWood@lawscot.org.uk
 
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