My little self-employment business is nearing its first anniversary and thriving. However, because of my part-time job for the law firm, I am more of an almost-full-time entrepreneur. If I wanted to indulge my inner workaholic, I could be part-time employee and full-time-plus entrepreneur. But what would I cut? Time with M? Hanging out with friends? Family dinners? Gym? Reading? Blogging? Any other hobbies I may wish to pursue?
Money is not everything. I want to work to live, not live to work. I have done both and this work/life balance when it is done right is worth every single penny I am not earning. And I understand I can say that because I am comfortably compensated and meet my financial obligations and objectives. Not everyone is so fortunate.
The arrangement as it stands actually suits me very well, because I enjoy the interaction with my associates at the firm as well as the benefit structure and reduced costs for health insurance for M and I. While I am extraordinarily disappointed with my Kaiser experiences, it is/was good for me to go through the experiment and find that no, mass production medical care does not work out that well for special-snowflake-in-this-regard me. Being a diabetic is unfortunately a far too common problem, and I think for 90% of the diabetic patients out there Kaiser probably does as good a job or better as any medical bureaucracy as any other. For a diabetic who is trying valiantly to stay in good control of the condition and more wisely manage her overall health, Kaiser kind of sucks.
But I am grateful that the firm offers me very affordable health insurance, and when open enrollment comes around I will simply switch to a more expensive high-deductible HSA plan that allows me to see the private practice physicians I trust. When I went away from meeting my new doc yesterday, I was thinking it must suck these days to be a physician, especially a Kaiser physician. And I actually prefer to have my village staffed by starters who actually think about me, individual person, not be second string, check-box-that-seems-appropriate-for-this-situation type people.
Spoiled, I know. But at least I am honest about my expectations.
So for a part-time gig, I have terrific benefits from the firm. But while that was a big part of my decision to join them, it was not the only factor. I like the way the partners manage their business, the manner in which they do strive to offer their employers an intellectually stimulating and productive work environment with superior benefits and compensation. I really felt as if I were a good fit for their philosophy and the type of environment they wanted to craft, a place where people are encouraged to work hard and put in the hours as necessary to make the firm a success with a bonus structure to make the periodic work/life balance inequity tolerable.
For the most part, like 90% of the employees, I think the bosses are largely successful in their approach and management. However, there always seems to be some small minority of holdouts who want to bitch, moan, complain, or simply not participate in the culture of the firm. I find it peculiar, because from my experience and observations with other firms, requests and demands upon time are straightforward and fair. Yet always there is someone who will not participate because it is not mandatory – which is fine – and if it is mandatory then they whine because it makes for a long day or infringes upon their personal time or they just don’t want to and therefore should not have to.
To them I say … suck it up, buttercup. I mean, seriously – I do not particularly want to have an administrative meeting every month either, but it’s part of our firm’s culture that we come together and talk about all those pesky administrative and operational details. Because we all know how we suffer through these things, we bring food and drink. Granted it’s not the adult beverage variety, but we do what we can to make it tolerable.
For a small firm like ours, coping with the 10% minority is a fairly straightforward process – someone in management talks to them. Those who tend to complain, who wish to be outliers and only work as part of the team effort when it is convenient for them or under some sort of threat or other coercion, tend to either clam up, put forth a realistic complaint that can be addressed, or not last very long around here. My former receptionist is a terrific example of what I mean.
At least a portion of my office days are spent listening to someone talk about problems and issues with their jobs, relationships, lives, work/life balance, or all of the above. Big problems, little problems, issues of all shapes and sizes. Some of them are within my realm to resolve, some would need to be elevated for discussion, a lot are just people venting or blowing off some steam. I get it; I just happen to have a blog where I do the majority of my weenie-whining about my first world problems.
Earlier today I was reading a blog about a woman getting laid off from her job, yet immediately before that she was writing about expectations from the team she has been assigned to for the last 6 months and wanting to fly under the radar for a few more years until retirement. A lot of the first post was complaints about her large-scale corporate employer – meetings in other cities, long days with no compensation for an overnight stay instead of 3 hour drives on either end of a day of meetings, working remotely from the rest of the team and making little effort to participate in opportunities to meet with and integrate with them, etc. And the layoff was a surprise? In my opinion flying under the radar like that at a large organization makes you a primary target when cuts must be made. After all, unless your work product is uniquely spectacular and valuable to the organization, tolerance is limited for prima donnas.
I recognize my own bias and tolerance of what I consider penny-ante bullshit, and that particular brand of mindset is a big part of why I hope to not ever have to return to a larger corporate environment for the balance of my career. I like feeling as if my input makes a difference to my firm and directly to my clients in my self-employment gigs. I really do not want to be another nameless, faceless worker bee cog in a big giant corporate machine. Been there, done that, retired the t-shirt long ago.
As I am getting older and becoming more and more aware of the limitations and opportunities for someone in my realm of experience and maturity, I understand the frustration of my boomer peers when coping with the competition of millennials and their fresher, hipper, current outlook and experience. They feel undervalued, their experience now worthless. At the same time, I can see and feel the hubris when faced with a modern employment market. Quite frankly I am not certain I could compete these days, and the idea of it kind of terrifies me. I cannot deny thinking these sorts of thoughts, facing up the reality of these kinds of fears factored into my better health quest. It is bad enough being an older worker, but being a heavy, unfit older worker? Seems like the kiss of death for acquiring another position that I might enjoy.
I do consider myself quite lucky to have landed on my feet as I have. My law firm bosses are smart and thoughtful people, the associates – even those given to more frequent bouts of whining and complaining – are professional and seem to be very focused and into the work they are doing and their chosen career paths. As for my little business, it is about as big as I want it to be right now, yet it is still so hard to turn away new opportunities. My current strategy is to simply ask top dollar when it’s a small engagement that does not particularly excite me or for which subcontracting or referring to someone else is resisted by the prospective client. I have thought long and hard about hiring some help, but for the moment, I prefer the absolute control and perspective of being a solo operation. Essentially, I really do not want to supervise someone; reviewing the work done by the couple of subcontractors I use is more than enough.
But it is so hard not to just say yes to every little task. And turning away work is not because it feels too small or somehow beneath my skills and qualifications, but because I am seeking my own life/work balance and feel just slightly over capacity most of the time anyway and really pushing hard to stay ahead of the overwhelmed curve when a special project arrives in my inbox. While I enjoy the challenge of staying busy and the adrenaline rush that comes with a short-fuse deadline, it is truly no way to live 24/7. Pacing and balance are important in all things and not just my Lists of the day at the gym each morning.
I am actually in a bit of a cranky mood tonight, as M is miserable with some sort of ongoing back ache, will not reduce his high mileage days much less take a day off (and if you ever wonder why I am as persistent as I am about my own practice, this is the attitude I live with and yes, it influences me very directly). When M is miserable and hurting, I tend to be just miserable to some degree as well. He is not a good patient. He is short with a tendency toward biting (which I think of as the male form of bitchy). And while I am sympathetic and tolerant to a greater degree than usual, when I have had enough, I have had ENOUGH.
And that’s the phase of this that we are at right now. So reading stuff about getting laid off, how shocking it is, yet in the previous post complaining about the demands her employer was putting upon her … it is a huge challenge for me to muster sympathy and compassion.
I will be out of my snit with M soon, because I cannot stay irritated about this kind of small-ball stuff and just need a little room to bleed it off. But the rest of the world? I suppose I am pretty old fashioned in my belief in that if you are engaged and being paid to do a job, you do it, and if you really want or need to retain that job, you do it well AND you play nice with the rest of your team and the firm at large. Or you find another job, a situation this woman was forced into. Having had shitty jobs with awful bosses and coworkers, I understand not wanting to be there, do more than is absolutely necessary and clinging to her job description as support for that attitude. As someone who has hired and fired people throughout the course of her career – and has been fired myself from a job for not being quite grown-up enough to understand these basic requirements for paid employment – I know when it comes down to having to make cuts, it is not the minimalists I tend to retain.
Mind reminds me we have an extra early practice tomorrow, so time to power down. While I do not envision myself walking through the gym doors just after they open at 4:30, I am going to try to get there by 4:45. While it’s only about 15 minutes earlier than my lately usual start time, it sounds ghastly early.