Choices, stressors, negative vibes

Today, I had only one positive thing to say to anyone thus far. Meeting my friend K at the gym tonight, so that will change. She is doing really well with her barbell training and it’s inspiring and exciting to witness. But for now, I’m a squatter in the negative neighborhood and feeling justified in my wallowing.

Okay, maybe not justified, but having reasonable expectations of allowed humanity. My job has gone from being a huge source of satisfaction and pride to this dismal sinkhole of profanities strung together inside my head while my expression seems to say “what now?” every time someone walks into my office or my email pings.

This is so not me. My friend J, who has been a stalwart work-related supporter, mentor, friend for years and years, is starting to think I need to pull the pin now for my own sanity. He says when Pollyanna goes into hiding it is time to get out. He could potentially be correct.

Okay, work itself is gearing up and going well for the most part. For 90% of the staff, acceptance of the changes coming is starting to sink in and everyone is settling down and looking ahead to whatever comes next. Unfortunately, the other 10% are creating a lot of headaches and drama. For a couple of them, I can completely understand the palatable anxiety. They are non-attorney staff, more extreme on the head-down introvert scale, and were not treated like special snowflakes by the incoming firm members thus far. That’s a given; no one here is a special snowflake. But they have been here awhile – one 7 years, the other closer to 9 – and feel a little slighted. The types of personalities, they need a lot more hand-holding than the average professional. I am only capable of some much compassion and propping up before my expectations that they suck it up and deal kicks in.

Surprisingly to me, before today they were the biggest of my staff-related issues regarding the ownership change. My own stuff is my own stuff, and I have a pretty capable Plan B and Plan C to fall back upon. Then I came in this morning and was presented with a thornier problem that blew up my week.

So back embroiled in an HR-related issue for a firm expiring as an entity in a few weeks.

For the most part, I’m hugely disappointed in the staff members involved. It creates an unnecessary negative dynamic in an already tense work environment. But for tonight, I’m outta here on time. The problems and issues will be waiting for me here in the morning.

I get that we all have choices in our lives – what we do, how we react to events in our lives. Today, I am reminding myself of this throughout much of my workday. Thankfully I’m 20 minutes away of another being in the books.

Sometime soon I hope to be back to my regular level of positive motion blogging. The way things are going – it could be July 1 before it happens.

Budget sacrifices

We have a couple gifting occasions coming up this summer. Normally I don’t give it a whole lot of thought – if it’s a wedding I go to their registry, pick something out, order it, ship it, done. If it’s a baby shower, I do the same thing. If it’s a baby announcement, though, I like to go to some baby explosion store and buy some cute wearable. Because it’s a baby and they have amazingly cute, tiny things. And it’s remains a novelty for me to shop for tiny things.

Essentially, I make giving gifts all about me in the convenience and fun factor. Plus buying from a registry ensures the couple or parents get what they want or need, and the post delivery baby gift selection is typically functional as well as ridiculously cute. At my core I am pretty practical.

I never think about whether I’m being cheap or anything else. I typically have a budget range in mind that depends on who the person is in my life, their own circumstances, etc. In my mind gifts should be given and accepted graciously with little or no thought to cost. Of course, I am a complete Pollyanna who truly believes it is the thought that counts.

Lately here, discussion in my own life about weddings and baby showers are coming up more and more, and there seems to be a great debate over how much to spend on a gift. With 2 kids having weddings last year, apparently I should be more in the know about this stuff? Nope, not this mom of both a bride and a groom. The kids are adults, capable of handling their own gifting and financial affairs, and frankly the biggest concern I had was being the mother of “those kids” who did not write their thank you notes in a timely manner. Thankfully, both of mine got theirs done within a month of their weddings.

Sorry friends, I’m the last person you know to ask if a gift makes you look cheap. If you put some thought – even if the extent of the thought was to check their registry and select something – it counts. A few years back a client’s son was getting married and when I checked the registry, a single piece of their china was over $100, crystal was expensive as well. I felt weird giving a coffee cup or salad plate, so I wandered over to towels and such and purchased a set of towels that happened to be on sale. It was a registry item; obviously that’s what they wanted. I didn’t blow my budget and got them something they indicated they desired. My work is done.

This comes up periodically because I work with younger folk, many with a lot of student loan debt hanging over their heads and influencing their choices in jobs and career pathways. Something like gifts for a wedding and a shower can be major budget busters. One of my associates was recently asked to be a bridesmaid. She immediately said yes but is now having serious reservations about the idea once she began adding up the costs. There is an engagement party, so that means a gift. A shower gift, a wedding gift, the dress and shoes and jewelry, the bachelorette party, and it’s also a destination wedding. Ugh. I would have been tempted to say no to the invitation out of budget constraint, but I’m also middle aged and if my friends are getting married now, they are more far less concerned with the modern day wedding experience.

When is enough I wonder? I don’t know. I had the minimalist experience with my daughter last year and then the more modern tradition with my son. Both turned out beautifully and all parties are happy. My daughter had the small courthouse wedding she wanted, my son and daughter-in-law had the wedding of the decade (it was so much fun). The work leading up to the bigger wedding event was enormous, but that was what they wanted, so that’s what they had. I think they did a good job of managing costs and expectations, but it was still an expensive event. I also think it helps enormously that G and K are reasonable people – no -zillas that I saw or heard about – and were able to work with their friends to make the important parts of the wedding happen.

But I still know a lot of folks who worry about appearances. I suggest to my peeps that living within your means always looks good, but when you are a young attorney saddled with debt, most people only look at the profession and make the assumption that passing the bar automatically equates to healthy salaries. Perhaps, but when you factor in long hours, living expenses, and the burden of 5 to 6 figure students loan debt, they healthy salary sudden feels a lot like minimum wage.

This does not mean feel sorry for the well educated young professional, they have such a rough life. But it does mean that their lives are not so rapturously golden because they have a law degree and a professional job.

Once upon a time I was a budget coach, in that I helped people figure out their income and expenses and all the live they were presently living and really could not afford. It was some of the worst and most painful work of my life. Going through it myself was bad enough; trying to help people understand that their “needs” did not equate to cable television, 2 cars (with car payments), new electronics every year, etc. was a huge challenge. Once they realized they would have to give up most of if not all of their wants to pay down their debt, they wanted to get out debt as quickly as possible, which meant unsustainable budgets and more month than money and having to hit the credit card again for basic living expenses.

It was an ugly cycle.

I rarely do that kind of thing anymore. Dave Ramsey has getting out of debt pretty well covered if someone is serious about taking those steps. But chatting with my associate and her stress about the minimal expenses and bridesmaid obligations saddens me. Her heart is in the right place, her friend is her best friend since childhood. But the expenses are going to pile up and she is not going to be able to afford a cup of coffee for the next 7 months unless she diverts any bonuses (90% of which have been used to pay down her student loans) for the wedding expenses.

At least she has options; few people get work bonuses. Small comfort when she is trying so desperately to relieve herself of the debt burden.

Hard choices, difficult conversations ahead. But no, I don’t think she looks cheap for not wanting to spend thousands to be in her dear friend’s wedding. And yes, I do think her friend should understand if she says she cannot afford to be a bridesmaid and attend a wedding in Hawaii. If anything, I wish everyone were as disciplined and as driven to break out of debt enslavement. Law school was worth it, and student loans felt like her only choice at the time. I don’t care about that; what’s done is done. But I very much respect her smart choices now and the sacrifices that may have to be made to slay that dragon.

I am very proud of her, no matter what happens next. I advised she be true to herself, her values and priorities. True friends will understand or work with her to make it happen.

OMG – Losing my shit with my bosses

The attorneys are all out today, doing CPE or something like it. It’s me and the rest of the non-JD staff. We all went out to lunch – on the firm – and have had a lovely day just cleaning up around here, purging files, clearing the deck in preparation for the takeover.

A couple of the bosses came back this afternoon and made beeline for my office. There was a communication issue with something they are planning and the feedback received from the staff today about the merger was very negative and hard for them to hear. I get it – I have been getting buckets of it tossed my direction all week as well. Always my conversations with staff have been considered off the record communications; they are blowing off steam and bitching about life and times as an attorney. I get it. We all get it. But for some reason today the honest dismay over the merger – they took it personally and got their boxers in a bunch with something akin to hurt feelings.

I regret to say voices were raised and doors were slammed – for once I was not the guilty party on the door slamming, a personal behavior at home that has taken me decades to break.

But they do not get to yell at me when they are mad, frustrated, or anything else about a situation I have zero control over and not sharing what is typically considered other employees confiding in me privately. I encourage them to take their concerns and feelings to the bosses, and sometimes – like today – they take the advice to heart and pour out their feelings. I think – I know – the week is getting to all of us. They yelled at me, I yelled back. Everyone in the office was cowering like children when parents and other family members get into a knock-down, drag-out verbal altercation.

I am not proud of my knee-jerk reaction; I am much better than this and my professional self should have better control of my temper. Where a week ago none of the critical comments would have mattered enough to take personally, today it was like betrayal of the first order, blown completely out of proportion.

It took a good 45 minutes for me to cool off enough to wonder what I should do about it. I shredded old files in my office and finally acknowledged that while they are being childish, I sank to that level and let them get to me. BUT, as their office doors were both still firmly shut, there was nothing for me to do except work.

Partners 3 and 4 came in while I was debating my next course of action. They stopped briefly to ask me how long I would be in the office and very nicely asked me to stay and talk with the 4 of them. Of course. I figured the worst that would happen is that I got fired today and burned a professional reference. It was upsetting to imagine, but entirely possible.

So 20 minutes later the 5 of us are sitting in the conference room like so many times before. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to apologize, and if I was, could I fake it well enough to at least appear contrite? Nope, unlikely. So I didn’t say anything.

They spoke about the impact the merger is having on the staff, how they “probably” handled it poorly, and that the acquiring corporation being here this week was harder than they foresaw on everyone. Ya think? Part of the issue with these guys is that they are emotionally tone deaf when it comes to their employees. They think everyone thinks and feels and acts pretty much like they do, except it’s not true. I am living, breathing proof of that, and one of my functions within the firm is to be the sounding board and steering wheel for the morale and spirits of the staff. The news was hard for me – I characterize it like the ego-bruising heartbreak of a relationship ending when you still have strong feelings for the other party and do not want and are not ready for it to end – and I have been struggling with being able to listen to the staff as firm management and sort out my own feelings as their employee peer. It’s rendered me less effective in this role this week. Then I have the Hellbeast waltzing through what is still my territory and messing with my peeps almost immediately after finding out this change is going forward? So. Not. Cool. As M said to me, “territorial much?” to which I was completely unrepentant in my emphatic “oh FUCK YES!” reply.

I value relationships. I value my associates and the camaraderie and trust we have built over the past couple of years. I  prize that my bosses are men with whom I can speak directly and completely candidly without fear of retaliation or worse. I have never had anything like that in a corporate structure, and I dislike not trusting my peers or management. It does not make for a happy workplace wondering what direction I’ll be facing when the backstabbing happens.

So yeah, emotions are running high all over the place. I think we will all recover and regain our footing, but we need the stability of normal, business as usual for the next couple of weeks. There needs to be some time to adjust and get our footing with the change before the suits are in our midst and glad-handing us like professional politicians. They agreed.

And maybe some informal conversation and communications about what the future holds. Yesterday was the first new normal last of our present firm days and everyone was busy with various things related to the merger. Today the office was mostly empty and what they heard from the staff was to be expected.

Blaming me for not telling them what I was hearing was wrong. I received appropriate, unsolicited apologies. Accepted, let’s move on.

This is what I will miss about my great little firm experience. Business is business, family is family, but people get angry and lose their shit, sometimes inappropriately, but always understandably. Unless things are getting thrown across the room (my predecessor once had a tantrum where he pushed an entire desktop of work onto the floor in someone’s office becasue they had not gotten their paperwork in for a second straight month – the horror!), all is generally forgiven. People are people, and with the ruling body open to admitting their own mistakes and forgiving others when stuff happens, the workplace is a much healthier, secure place.

So I walked out tonight with same sort of grief over all that I am losing while at the same time feeling more comforted that I am not the only one who grieves. While this is an amazing opportunity for the partners, they are well aware that they are breaking up a really good firm filled with very loyal, dedicated people. It’s not personal; it is just business. But because we are loyal and dedicated employees, it is impossible for us to not take it somewhat personally. Intellectually we all understand it. Emotionally we are all still shell-shocked and saddened. The people we are, though – our emotions are on the clock to get sorted out and resolved before this change it fully implemented. Any expectation that we will be over our sad in a week is unrealistic.

The bosses all get it now. It only took a brawl with their “work wife” to slam the point home.

I do not look forward to the interactions with the Hellbeast the lie ahead, but I have big enough big girl pants to handle myself with a professional demeanor. She and I – we will never have the trust I share with my present partners; I cannot ever let my guard down enough to honestly express any of my emotions. And I genuinely suck at robotic impassivity.

Despite a rocky week, I will miss my firm in its present management and dynamic. I realize there are only 15 work days left for my job in this firm and work environment and it makes me sad. Best I can hope for is to rise above the rest of the corporate bullshit to savor each and every one of them.

Work-zilla has taken over the blog. Apologies in advance for reporting my day-to-day trauma drama.

Aggravated, crazy, sick to my stomach – TGIF

Probably the title should read “Ms. Crankypants has taken over the blog.” But that might be more negative than is actually necessary? Maybe, maybe not. It’s just been a very long week and some irritation must be vented and bled off.

Aggravated

Tuesday brought acquiring firm people into the office to kick-off the transition with introductions and reassurance all around about how thrilled and excited they are to assimilate us into the collective. Lots and meetings as a firm, in groups, and individually over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday. The administrative partner – she was a corporate suit with a resting bitch face that never seemed to fade even when she smiled and spoke. Had she been nicer, less dismissive and condescending I would not be so harsh in my assessment, but reality bites.

In truth, I am a hopeful person; I want a positive spin on everything, particularly work when such big and upsetting changes are in the works. This woman, though, was my worst corporate nightmare in very expensive shoes. She heads up human resources and is an employment law partner, so I suppose her credentials are impressive. However, her people skills, for those of us without a Juris Doctor degree, are horrendous. Going forward, I will simply refer to her as Hellbeast. The rest of the non-attorney staff in my office have far worse monikers for her, but I am trying to strike a balance here. Yes, I get that I am biased and failing miserably. But oh well.

The way she spoke at me, I thought at first she was just not good with women, or not good with people in general. Then I observed her talking to my bosses and the rest of the attorneys, and while her tone and demeanor changed depending on the staff level, she was still essentially civil and somewhat engaging. Professional snob, yes, but I have worked with worse.

Dismissive, condescending, and even mean – she is probably demanding of service staff and tips poorly. And I have a really hard time with that. Poor service, sure. But to brush off and actually speak sharply to my receptionist for doing his job – inexcusable. My receptionist is the lowest paid staffer among us and will gladly, happily do just about anything we ask him to do. One of the partners had sent an email that he was expecting a high priority phone call and to find and interrupt him no matter what he was doing, which is what my receptionist did in a respectful way, knocking at the open door, waiting until she finished speaking, and then starting to tell the boss about his call – only to be barked at by Hellbeast that he was interrupting when she was not finished talking. My receptionist immediately apologized, but she got up and closed the door in his face.

Hellbeast. I think I am being kind.

My receptionist was understandably upset. He’s young, this is his first position in a professional office setting, and he’s done a terrific job for us. My horror at her actions was written all over my face, and if there was any doubt it was erased when I stood up, excused myself, and left the very informal meeting we were in, ostensibly so my boss could take his call in private, but really so I could (1) regain my composure and diffuse my own flash of anger, and (2) check in with my receptionist to ensure he knew he’d done nothing wrong. He can be a little sensitive about making mistakes.

Things went downhill from there.

When it was my turn to have a one-on-one with her, we went over the things that needed to be done in the transition and how my accounting functions would be moving to the centralized headquarters office and all my office/business management responsibilities for contracts, leases, and purchasing as well. Reporting relationships would be changing – attorneys assuming more of an administrative and supervisory load. Essentially, everything I expected to happen would be happening.

We went over my employment letter for the balance of 2017 because of the firm change, and where our present document is 3.5 pages long, the new one runs 12 pages. There was also the temporary portal to view their employee handbook and office policies, of which I was expect to read and document having reviewed these documents. None of this was a surprise; new firm, we are essentially being absorbed as new employees and have to get set-up in their systems.

I told her I needed a few days to review all those documents, but would likely have it back to her next week. She pressed, wanted to have as much of this done this week, preferably before she left on Tuesday. I pushed back, pointing out that as an attorney, she should not want me signing anything I had not read and understood thoroughly. Did not stop her from asking again before she left the office later that day.

When it was my turn to voice questions or concerns, I asked very directly what my role in the firm would be for the next 6 months? Essentially, my day-to-day workload was being transferred to corporate. I am not a paralegal, and I would be the most well-paid office clerk if that was what they envisioned. She hemmed, hawed, gave me the canned “we are still figuring out your skills and how to put them to use” type answer, but in such a way that was vague and about as clear as mud. So I reframed and asked again, and she finally admitted she was not sure how they could use me. She also pointed out with her creepy smile that my base salary was higher than their highest ranking non-attorney staffer, and I responded that was likely because I have superior skills and experiences and am paid a competitive wage to manage a firm professionally and efficiently. She did not like that, at all.

But oh well. In her words, we are here to do a job, not necessarily make friends.

Before meeting her and knowing most firms do not allow their employees to moonlight or have other forms of paid employment, I already knew I would be having my personal attorney review any employment agreements and the documents referenced therein. To protect myself and my self-employment clients, I have a waiver from my present bosses on file, and every time I acquire a new client that may present a conflict with the firm, I let them know and they sign off. My doing accounting work for other firms, including 2 other sole practitioner attorneys, has never been an issue. But we are a small firm. I have daily, direct contact and interaction with the principals. They know me, I know them. The new situation is big law firm, and I did not imagine them being so flexible about this typical clause in employment agreements. Hence the review by my personal lawyer. I wanted no unpleasant surprises.

Hellbeast is not amused or happy that I took this step. Wednesday we had occasion to talk about a couple of things by phone, and both times she asked me about my documents. On the second call, I said that the acquisition was effective July 1, so she would have my documents on or before June 30. That was “unacceptable” to her, because they need to get me and everyone else set-up in their system. Having done payroll and knowing the time and billing system both firms use inside and out, it does not take up to 3 weeks to get 25 people set-up. Maybe a day, if they are working at a leisurely pace. But I refused to back down or budge. What I didn’t say – you’re not my boss, yet, and if my existing bosses tell me I need to get this done this week, then I might be inclined to try harder. But my existing bosses? Take my time, read and review the documents, ask questions, let’s just shoot for June 25 to be courteous to the new firm. Done.

My attorney said not to sign anything without getting a solid waiver on my self-employment. He wrote an email to Hellbeast, the BLF partner moving in to our offices July 1, and my bosses as well outlining his concerns and changes he wanted before he would allow me to sign the document. That was Wednesday evening. My bosses here are fine with it, even applaud me for being proactive and protecting my interests, said the changes requested are actually quite minor and other than the waiver for my business, they did not see it as a big deal.

Crickets from Hellbeast and BLF. Which is fine. I can wait.

This morning I come in to 6 different emails from her about various documents I submitted, letters I wrote to various vendors and holders of office equipment leases with our firm – all at the direction of my partners here and with their review and approval of the missives prior to release. Her “dressing down” tone was in my view quite inappropriate, but I admit my bias. I replied, with cc’s to my bosses (who along with the rest of the attorneys are out of the office today) and consider the matter closed until they return on Monday.

Crazy

Crazy is my catch-all term for anxiety and apprehension about things inside and outside my sphere of influence and control. The decision about the merger is reality and I believe I am doing my best to take care of business and serve both our clients and the partners and staff through the transition. I am also doing my best to take care of myself, and in truth that is the primary source of my present job crazy.

I have a plan B, because I have little stomach or desire for a role in a large corporate organization. Been there, done that, learned it does not make me a happier, better, or even more balanced a human being. Now that I have this much time invested in my ability to help, influence, steer a business to success, I am reluctant to become another tiny worker bee in the a corporate hive. That’s my personal preference.

However, I also have a good understanding of the parachute and severance package negotiated as terms of the merger. I will protect my rights to that and not allow anyone to try and remove it from my grasp. If I have to spend the next 6 months counting paperclips because that’s my new role, I will be the best damn paperclip counter anyone has ever met and continue to collect my salary and have my health insurance paid. However, I am unwilling to relinquish my self-employment clients. It was not a problem for my existing bosses and does not seem like it should be an issue for the new firm, particularly since all aspects of my employment agreement now in place should transfer to the new firm. How far they want to push it remains to be seen.

I dislike conflict. I am open to discussion of divergent points of view and trying to find an acceptable compromise. But I’m not feeling anything by contentious conflict from the Hellbeast and it’s stressing me out. I dislike being bullied myself, but professionally, I have enough self-confidence (and self-control) to manage the situation. However, when it comes to bullying someone who lacks standing or experience, I tend to get very angry very quickly. Concerns about my receptionist and the paralegals in my firm are genuine. The paralegals are professionals and will land well whatever happens – they are good at their jobs and will find another position if it comes to that – but my receptionist is a good kid and still quite green when it comes to big corporate politics. Perhaps I will be around to help, perhaps not. But whatever happens, I will be around outside the office if he needs help or resources to find something else.

I feel sucked into the type of toxic environment once more that I left years and years ago and allowing it to make me crazy. Which upsets me even more; I am allowing it to get to me. On the one hand it has been really great for my gym workouts and daily 300 kettlebell swings; the emotional aggravation tends to get drilled down to massive focus on whatever it is I am doing with the weights or form with the swings. On the other hand, gym and kettlebell swing takes up only about 2 hours per day. The rest of the time I have this “oh shit” sense of dealing with merger-related matters.

I hate that “oh shit” sense of anything, especially when it stretches out in front of me for at least the rest of the month, possibly the rest of the year.

Sick to my Stomach

This morning, woke up with a mild stomach ache and feeling not quite right. I thought it might simply be hunger – small dinner last night. Drank my protein shake and did not feel better. Went to the gym for my practice and found my stomach starting to roil, so I finished the slo-mo huffy-puffy and called it a day.

Now, I blame Hellbeast, just because I can. My temporary stomach ailment has nothing to do with the questionable lettuce I ate for dinner last night and everything to do with my aggravation with Hellbeast and her bullshit. I so rarely have any sort of upset stomach that is irritates me more that just about every other sort of sickness. Especially since we’re going out to lunch today and I will have to limit myself to even blander food than usual. We’re doing Japanese, and I figure plain white rice and miso soup should be fine. I can box up the rest for dinner or tomorrow.

But oh well. It’s the company that counts, and my peeps – the company is excellent.

TGIF

Glad it’s Friday. Busy weekend ahead with client events tomorrow night and Sunday, plus lunch and furniture shopping/browsing with K tomorrow.

Happy weekending everyone!

Sadness

While I do not want my return to semi-regular blogging here to be all about work and it’s changes, for the moment I have to accept that it is for this weekend at least all about work and it’s changes. This too is temporary and will pass.

Thanks for all the kind and supportive comments. I very much appreciate you reading and taking a moment to share your thoughts.

An email announcement went out yesterday after the papers were signed and originals shipped out via FedEx. Typically I am consulted on communications of such weight with staff, but as in the way things are moving forward, I am now part of the staff. It is appropriate and as it should be; the partners are the owners and shareholders of the firm and made this decision after much discussion and thoughtful consideration. It is like we are children of divorce: definitely a consideration of the parents’ decisions, but not a party to the actual decision-making process. I’ll be honest – I feel hurt by that. The decision-making is 100% theirs, but the communication afterwards? I am the one whose telephone and text began blowing up immediately after staff received the news. It would have been nice to be forwarned, as I am probably the only person in the firm who does not have her work email pinging on her iPhone. But this is my choice to not stay in touch with work 24/7; I suppose this is one of those minor consequences of that choice.

To their credit, it was an incredibly nice, sensitive, thoughtful and caring email. Or it was the best example of those attributes when such life-altering news is delivered to the unsuspecting. It outlines the primary reasons and motivating factors behind the decision and describes next steps with regard to the transition, the severance that will be offered to anyone who is not offered a position with the new organization. It reinforces all the reasons I like and respect my bosses to such a high degree, yet at then same time and to a lesser degree demonstrates a key weakness in their ability to relate to the long-term, far-reaching impact this has upon their employees.

While they built this firm themselves and have poured countless amounts energy and sweat equity into building it into something so viable and successful, I know that I done a lot of work to breathe community into the staff who grew it into something really special. That’s hard for me to release my territorial protectiveness of them right now. My anxiety over the impacts on the rest of the staff is real. If the partners are the originators and rainmakers, I infused the heart, soul, and got-your-back team spirit of those who work so hard most days of the week to make it happen. As a firm, we are not all about billable hours 24/7, although yes, we all recognize the importance of staying profitable. The dog-eat-dog culture of most professional services firms is a distant echo in our hallways, and I know it is a direct result of my influence on the human policies governing salaries, bonuses, promotions, office space, even taking time off.

I suppose if I am freaked out over anything, it’s how to help the staff manage their own emotions in this tumultuous time. I have known about this outcome was a possibility for more than 6 months, yet even I was blindsided by it actually coming to fruition under cloak of secrecy and cover of darkness. While I understand business is business and family is family, the attorneys, paralegals, and my receptionist/admin – I genuinely care about their long-term well being. And accepting things will change so dramatically in less than a month is difficult. I console myself it has been less than 24 hours, and tomorrow there will be an office full of people waiting for more information and hoping for some reassurance about the future. I am presently scheduled on my work-from-home day, because Tuesday we have several things going on that require my presence.

My own codependency is starting to bubble, in that I feel the need to go in and get started taking care of everyone. Today was a struggle to manage my emotions as the realization that the job I love is fading away and my role in this firm is already being eradicated. The phase out began yesterday with the blanket announcement to the staff and continued with small group meeting invitations/announcement for the various hierarchies, something I would have once sat in on as well and now only know about because the associates are telling me and asking if I will be present. No, apparently not.

Much of the Saturday I anticipated being spent working on self-employment matters was instead devoted to text and phone conversations with the staff about what it all means and list-making for things I need to attend to in the next 20 days before we officially merge. There are many questions to ask, plans to be made, training to commence, hand-off of responsibilities. My sense is the merger of systems and administrative tasks will happen quickly. Fortunately for me I have good practices in place and can efficiently hand them off when the time arrives. The way announcement and shutdown of the firm is being handled also leads me to the conclusion that I will be made redundant from day 1, so this could be my final month of having to report for duty with this firm in this office. I am a good and loyal employee, though, and I will do as I am asked to for as long as they need me to continue. I am prepared for that to not extend beyond June 30.

The thought should scare me, yet it doesn’t, not at all. As I said, mostly it hurts my feelings. I want to help with the transition, but instead it feels like I am already just part of the furniture to be transferred to the new entity.

I stopped in the office today to complete a few things minor tasks and bring home some personal files and records I might forget when the time comes to clean out my desk. While I was there a couple of the bosses came in and of course stopped in to talk with me.

There are rare moments when I wish I were not quite so honest about what I think and how I feel. It’s barely been 24 hours and I have already got a bad case of the sads. Staff are blowing up my text and my phone with question for which I have no answers and that’s hard. I feel as if my hours are numbered and not sure how I feel about any of it. And I am mad at them for doing what is in their best interests as owners and shareholders of the firm. While intellectually I understand it, emotionally I know they are ending a job I love. It’s just business, it’s not personal – and I know that, but admit I am still taking it personally because I care, probably too much. I know I will get over it, put on my business manager clothes and game face and push through this. As I said to my bosses, I am just a little heartbroken that it is ending before I am ready to let go.

Which is a big, defining difference between me and them, I think. I may be capable of being professional and fulfilling my responsibilities with autonomous precision, but I am not able to completely compartmentalize in the purest business is business type of ways. I see the human beings behind the job titles and social security numbers in ways a large corporation will never replicate. I don’t know that I want to separate myself so completely that it doesn’t sting when change of this magnitude happens, even when I know the changes are the best things possible for the decision makers.

Knowing I will get over it, that this emotional storm is transitory and come Tuesday (I am off tomorrow doing a Monday self-employment work from day) I will have my business manager cape on and efficiently carrying out the directives to make the transition a smooth one, right now I am sad and unhappy about the direction of my career. I barely slept last night thinking about things. In the gym this morning I found myself blindly pushing forward to burn off some of this fierce emotion, to the point that my shoulder started a slow to furious blink of ouch, Ouch!, OUCH!!!!! before I realized that I was pushing hard and doing something wrong and ignoring it. Thankfully no permanent damage done, but it’s been awhile since my inner angry/hurt girl got loose with 20 lb. dumbbells in her hands.

Perhaps it is better we had the honest conversation today, rather than next week. They know this is particularly hard on me, because of my unique standing in our little firm and likely not even a position to be had after the merger. They were frank with me that my role may possibly be shrinking even during the transition. While they tried to tell me that my exclusion from group staff meetings was because I would not be in the office, the disbelief on my face made them come clean that yeah, it was a decision they made because I am unlikely to be around for the the staff into the future. Weak, but okay.

This is all still brand new and very raw. I have an extra day to pull myself together emotionally and get my game face on. Right now I’m just not sure what that looks like at this point in my career.

Unexpected endings

This is not the post I expected to be writing today. Really, this is not the post I expected to be writing anytime in the foreseeable future.

My full-time job is likely ending. The partners told me today they have agreed to terms to sell/merge with a big corporate firm. This has been under discussion since the first of the year and I have been peripherally involved in those discussions. However, as of the end of April it appeared to be filed away under not-going-to-happen. Apparently there were some other things going on behind the scenes as of today, the deal is done. I went to the office to notarize documents and agreements and have had opportunity to skim through the highlights. The firm as a separate entity ends on June 30, but there will be up to a 6-month transition term to ensure our existing clients receive the same level of service and we figure out office space and other matters.

What that means for me – I already knew I will be leaving, even if offered an opportunity to stay. Life is short, and I do not want to work in a corporate firm again. One of the things I enjoy most about my job is the small firm aspects of it. I am within 10 feet of the owners and decision makers; there is no layered bureaucracy to wade through and navigate. While we have a chain of command and a defined organizational structure, everyone in our firm is comfortable talking to the partners about anything and everything. It’s informal and comfortable, yet very professional with high integrity and sense of fairness. From working with people of rather flexible moral standards when it came to running a business, I have found this to be of immeasurable importance and priority for me.

The partners – they are good people; they put measures in place to protect the staff. Whether I stay or go, I will be collecting a paycheck through the end of 2017. Because of health insurance benefits and other severance package incentives, I will honor my commitments to them in whatever shape it takes me. However, I already know I am likely to be among the first to exit the firm. As a supervising manager in our office and an almost purely administrative overhead employee, my job functions of billing, accounting, payroll, and human resources will be absorbed almost immediately by existing staff in the Los Angeles office. A new leader has already been appointed and will be in the office the third week in June meeting the staff and outlining the way forward. The partners will continue to function as consultants to the new enterprise, guiding existing client cases as needed until they can be moved to another attorney.

Surprisingly, I am actually quite happy for the partners. From a business and financial standpoint, they made an excellent deal that sets them up for either early retirement or with an opportunity to pursue other types of work that may interest them. Reading through the outline of the agreement, they put protections in place for the staff with regard to severance pay and offers of continued employment. Who will end up staying or going I cannot predict, but at least the parachute the partners negotiated will soften our landings.

While I should be more upset about this turn of events, I am really not. I will miss my crew; I have made some great friends and helped create a very special work environment. In truth, of all my professional accomplishments within this firm, I am most proud of the team we have built and the work ethic we have instilled and built up around one another as individuals as well as the firm as a whole. To see it absorbed and become just another tiny cog in a big giant machine with bazillions of cogs is difficult to swallow. But that’s business.

Most people in my situation would understandably be freaking out, but I guess I am not most people. I still have a thriving little self-employment business and with more time and a little energy I can return to a level of billing that comfortably pays the bills and provides freedom to continue pursuing our interests. I recently cut ties with a couple of clients, and I still have zero regrets about it, despite this new news. With a steady paycheck and maybe a job to report to for the balance of the year, I have room to plan and create a strategy for moving forward on my own again.

Maybe the freak out happens next month, when this all becomes a lot more real. Or perhaps I will just become enthralled and excited about more time to pursue my better health objectives and develop a hobby. Or something like it. Heck, maybe I’ll even blog more frequently than I have been this year.

Whatever happens next, I have the luxury (and trust me, I recognize how fortunate we are in this) of looking at it as an adventure rather than a setback.

 

This, that, the other thing(s)

Kind of mish-mash post of things I have been meaning to write about and just have not had time to write and publish.

Decluttering Efforts Continue

Time just slips right by me these days. I have had a glorious 3 days working on my house, the various storage spaces, and yard, yet it seems like this never-ending battle with crap. Or as I console myself, 25+ years of crap. But still – it’s a lot of stuff, much of which has not seen light of day in years. So many years that I doubt we would miss it or think about it further if it ended up in the landfill or dropped off at Goodwill. M disagrees. M also disagrees with me on a lot of crap I have tossed, but he’s more sentimental than I am. He also did not grow up with my parents, have my childhood, and is not triggered by seemingly innocent or charming objects. It’s hard impossible to have a rational discussion with an emotionally irrational me. M expresses himself and his opinions, but knows that when it comes to that pile of stuff, I am the final and only decider on its fate.

I did keep a few things from the piles I thought sure were destined for the dump pile. My mother’s high school yearbooks. A couple of old scrapbooks that belonged to my mother’s sister who died young and before I was born. A senior portrait that has hardly faded in almost 70 years. When I was little I always thought my mother was so beautiful, far prettier than the other mothers I knew, and so tiny and petite. For as abusive of her body as she was (long-time smoker) as she was, mom aged really well. I can only hope the good genes I got work in my favor as well.

IMG_1514

5/30/2017 – Mom’s senior photo

For the most part, the last of the stuff remaining from my parents house has been dealt with and whittled down to an envelope of photographs and a few photo albums. It can stay in storage awhile longer until the next need to purge overwhelms and I can see how I feel about it then.

Otherwise, things are going really well in this effort. M and I are working together toward the common goal, versus bickering and growing impatient with each other about the decision-making process. He has his stuff – his racing career memorabilia and childhood mementos – and I have my stuff to deal, make decisions, organic into defined spaces. Part of our issues, and likely the source of our bickering and impatience with each other, has been the way this stuff has been stored. M has endless numbers of little boxes of things, whereas all my crap is boxed and bundled in bulk, because I knew it would be dealt with and (likely) discarded at some point, after which it would be boxed, labeled, tucked away. We now have the time and sorting space on our pool deck and RV driveway to spread out and figure it out. Our progress is far smoother and more efficient this time.

We were in the garage yesterday moving some of the building supplies out of there and into storage when M caught me staring at the wall of shelving overflowing with crap and suggested I stop staring or I would have an anxiety attack over it. The stuff will be dealt with, but we need to stick with our plan and focus on the pieces and parts in the order and stages. He is absolutely correct; I wander into trouble when I get overwhelmed.

So today he’s dealing with the last of the what we have on site and making a run to the dump with what we’ve agreed it trash. I have the back of his Highlander filled up with donation stuff for Goodwill. After the dump M will be bringing another load of boxes to be viewed and sorted from storage, including everything that is not the box of Christmas lights or Christmas tree. I have at least 6 boxes of Christmas to go through and decide what to keep, what to offer up to the kids, what to donate. My goal is to whittle it all down to just 2 storage boxes, because if we put up our tree, I enjoy it just as much when it’s just the tree with the lights and very minimal to no baubles. I can also easily see a time when we revert to no Christmas tree once more.

Dinner with G

Sunday night we hand an impromptu dinner with my son. K was out of town camping with the pup-pups and a friend, so when I decided to invite them to join us for dinner at a new-to-us local restaurant, it was just G.

I love my kids, all 4 of them, and I love spending time with them as a group and individually. K and I had hung out last week – so much fun – and having dinner with just G was interesting as well. The dynamic is a little different when it’s just one half an established couple, neither good nor bad, just different. Hearing his perspective on their life events and his particular slant on work and their activities is always refreshing and good.

Mostly, I am really glad that they are a thriving, happy couple as well as thriving, happy individuals. Unfortunately the story when hanging out with one half of a couple is not always the happy face united front they present when together. It’s good to hear from them as individuals, to hear the genuine affection and care they have for their absent partner, to listen as they describe their own struggles and triumphs. I’m very fortunate, I know; I probably spend more time chatting with K than I do with my son, particularly lately. But it’s all good. I have always wanted and worked hard to have close relationships with my kids. I’m lucky they chose people that fit well within out tiny family dynamic.

K’s Job Search Success

For about 2 months, K has been seeking a new job. Her former supervisor had left the firm last October and K was promised a promotion and salary adjustment after the first of the year. That came and went without any communication about the promised promotion and salary increase, so finally mid-March she requested a meeting with her supervisor to discuss it. She prepared well, making list of all the additional responsibilities she has assumed, the projects she has shepherded to successful completion, the many accomplishments in the 6 months between her former supervisor’s departure and her increased workload. There was plenty of praise and agreement that she’s done a stellar job, but there was also regret that there was no money in the budget to increase her salary.

We had discussed this extensively before the actual meeting, and privately I hoped she would be successful in getting the recognition, managerial status, and salary bump, but I was not especially hopeful. When they failed to fulfill their promise, I applauded while K refreshed her resume and went to work applying for jobs.

Multiple interviews and 3 offers later, K landed a terrific opportunity in a travel-related non-profit at a 40% increase in salary, shorter commute, and higher quality healthcare and benefits. Trade-off is that the job is likely different type of stress and potentially longer hours, but also offers exposure and networking opportunities unmatched by any of the other firms that sought to hire her.

I am so proud of K for her pursuit and patience through this trying ordeal of dealing with multiple firms, interviews, and offers. Her efforts paid off.

To and fro in Tampa

My other son, A, will be coming home for a brief visit in August. Because of vacation time accrued and their multiple pets, C will not be accompanying him this trip. He has a large family and they are very close-knit, so being clear across the country has been hard on him and he has been terribly homesick since they moved 6 months ago. We will for sure see him for a meal (or 2) while he’s here, but we also understand that realistically he only has a few days with the travel time from Tampa and we will have to share.

M and I are tentatively planning a trip to see C and A in early December, and hopefully G and K will be able to go at the same time as well. With K’s new job, and G’s job in general, it’s a challenge to get all of us together and away for more than a few days. But going clear across the country – I’m hoping for at least a week. C and A will have to work during some of the time we’re there, but that will be okay. We are all grown-up and self-sufficient and can amuse ourselves.

Planning will start in earnest later this summer. But for now, I’m excited about the idea of going east to see my Florida kids. And Disneyworld, too. But really, I’m excited to see my Florida kids. Probably at Disneyworld.

And Finally, Work

Since parting company with a few private clients a couple of week ago, my life has been irrevocably changed. I am getting more sleep – good, solid, high-quality sleep – and my self-employment workload seems lightened by at least 50%. Funny how I barely realized the impact it was having on the whole of the rest of my life.

At the office, we are actively recruiting a new administrative person and another couple of attorneys. There are days when it seems I spend much of my workday reading resumes, scheduling interview, following-up with candidates, writing “thanks but not quite the right fit” letters and emails, or doing some sort of new employee orientation. Comes with my job description, and I do love my job, so I cannot and will not complain about it. The people are probably 89% of my satisfaction with the job; bosses and associates and even clients make even the drudge days more pleasant than other places I have been.

Unfortunately, the work is not always pleasant for me to be around, even if I am only inhabiting the same office space. There are presently a few truly contentious matters going on, the type of thing where voices are raised in conferences and in phone calls to opposing counsels. It is par for the course, even normal, but it jangles my nerves and adds a thin layer of negative stress to my day. To the partners and staff involved, though, it’s like a jolt of fresh energy that lights up their days. They LOVE the fight. Which probably explains whey they do what they do and I do what I do. I don’t know that I will ever get completely used to this side of the lawyering business.

Life continues in a largely positive manner. No (new) complaints here.