I had a couple of nice conversations with my primary private clients today, and it was nice. The longest of these relationships was actually who referred me to my present firm and he knows my bosses quite well. While we were talking about the work I do for him and his firm and working out the schedule for this week and next with my transitioning to Thursday’s for self-employment work, the topic of what transpired did come up.
My client has the advantage of being 25+ years older and managed his own practice all that time and then some. Once upon a time he had partners and associates working for him, but since I have been doing his books his partners retired or left law completely and his associates have been 1099 employees that come and go depending on workload.
Because we have worked together for a very long time, he knows me pretty well from both a business and a personal perspective. We routinely have a year-end review lunch every year, where we talk about highs, lows, and areas for improvement in our workflow and habits. This is a professional relationship I value, and his opinions and thoughts on work-related issues carry a lot of weight with me.
Throughout the work drama this week I have had concerns that I am creating Mt. Everest out of the tiniest of anthills. Yet for me in my professional capacity, one of the worst blows is to be disrespected or minimized publicly. In private discussions, pooh-poohing or dismissing my concerns and opinions is not pleasant, but it is what it is and comes with the territory of being an employee versus a business owner. I have learned how to compartmentalize my emotions and ego in that regard. What happened this week (and last in my absence) … if they had physically slapped me I would not have been more surprised or angry.
I have spent the majority of my career in professional services firms of one stripe or another. No matter what sort of consulting service provided – law, accounting, environmental – the prevailing attitude is that if you are not a licensed professional or in a highly billable position, as an admin staffer your position is treated like animated furniture. Not by everyone, and most of the time people like their administrative staff as people. However, bottom line – most administrative time is not billable and therefore cuts into profits and therefore is always expendable. The unspoken component of the attitude is that the job is meaningless fluff, and not only surviving but thriving in such an atmosphere has turned me into a bit of an activist.
So I asked my client for his thoughts, his honest thoughts after I explained what had happened and how it made me feel. What he said:
- Millennials have issues with their own sense of importance. Add to that being lawyers, smart lawyers, and you have strong potential for egotistical ass.
- For my part, he says I am a bit too laid back, especially with lawyers. I need to get my assertive on and stay in front of them if I do not want them pushing me to the flashpoint of frustration and reacting to them.
- While I have good organizational skills and instincts about people, I need to make them earn more of my respect and favor, or risk being perceived – incorrectly – as a weak or ineffectual leader. In other words, I am far too nice and need to demonstrate and wield my authority right from the start. Acting like a boss even when I do not have to is the only way to win this battle of wills.
Again, I hate being a manager. I hate being a boss. Yet most of the time I know I am good at it, because without me in my job, things could and would likely be a lot less pleasant at my firm.
But he did not feel I made Mt. Everest out of a tiny little anthill. My bosses bungled this and deserved to be the ones delivering the mea culpa. However, had I been more of a hard-ass on the front end the problem would likely not have escalated. Perhaps. I pushed as hard as I felt I could with the bosses about announcing the new office space plans and office assignments. This is a new boundary in our professional relationship and it has been enlightening.
About me and my own emotions and abilities at managing them, I know there seems to be a hot and a cold setting for me. Either I care a lot about something and am willing to give it my all, or I feel some graduated level of indifference. It’s why I am not a good teacher. While I really do want people to be happy and to be successful, too often we each fall short in our efforts to achieve that. My expectations are too high, or I cannot express myself clearly enough to impart whatever concepts I am trying to express.
Essentially, I suck at teaching. coaching, training others. I am kind of a sink or swim person, and if you are engaged, ask questions, listen to my answers, and learn … we will get along fine. Many sort of falter at that, and I believe at least 50% of the problem lies with me. I lack the special spark that makes me motivate people to action or to try to be better. And that’s okay. This is why there are jobs where that particular talent is not a requirement.
I care very deeply about my work and those I work with. Because of that, I am willing to go above and beyond to ensure the firm and those it employs are successful. This is true even for the spoiled brats. I want them to not be spoiled brats. I want them to grow the fuck up and go forth and have amazingly successful careers. But despite what their parental units have told them, it does take hard work and paying the dues to climb up and into the amazingly successful careers.
Or at least it does in the world I live in right now.
Anyone would be upset about the silly drama that unfolded and was sitting on my desk like a big pile of steaming poo when I returned. What concerns me is whether or not I need to locate the off/on switch for my emotions to keep them in check to retain my professionalism. Or maybe I simply need to suspend whatever judgmental instincts I possess. I am mostly unsettled by the whole dust up despite today being a perfectly normal, peaceful, productive day. It’s been awhile since I have been blindsided and made that angry about work. I hate that it happened.
Maybe if I could make myself care less life would be easier. But if my job were easy someone else would likely be doing it.