Saturday, August 16, 2008

The next chapter

I think I quit my job today. It feels like it, as I had an uncharacteristic loss of temper and snapped.

Things haven't been good at work for a while. The work itself was bearable, but there was a break between me and my boss. We have a complicated relationship, to say the least, and while it has been mostly good and positive, there was something that happened about four months ago that has made the past few months like living in a bad marriage.

I had something of an emotional breakdown. A delayed reaction to everything, sure. A serious bout of depression that manifested itself on just wanting to be quiet and alone and cut off. To make a long story short, I took some time off, but didn't do it right. I haven't officially taken vacation time in years and I felt entitled to it, but I should have handled it better. I own that and take full responsibility for it.

The day I came back, my boss decided to have a sit down with me and list off every issue he has had with me over the years. I need to be clear here - he mentioned being perturbed by an incident four years ago, when we were at dinner with a client who handed me the wine list. My boss thought I should have yielded the wine list to him. I had no way of knowing this at the time, as my familiarity with WA wines is part of how my firm gets clients, and my boss never said a word (then or the next day). However, he thought it prudent to bring up this and related incidents at a point when I was, I hate to say it, fragile.

It took every fiber of my being not to react to all this. I am not a reactor, generally. I soak it in, noodle it, and give a measured response. At that particular moment, however, I was kind of devastated. I never ask for help or admit that I am struggling, but I had, and this? This was how I was greeted upon my return? This is what you throw at someone when they are down and trying to get back up?

I didn't blink. I listened to every word without reacting or commenting or rebutting. Just listened. At the end, I told him it was valuable information and, true to form, proposed a few 'going forward' points to avoid this type of build up. I told him that I was a very direct person who believed that conflicts should be addressed at the time, not years later, and that I was not impervious to criticism. I encouraged him to tell me directly when he had an issue with me, as hearing it four years later sort of negated its import and relevance. I am solution-oriented, not conflict oriented, and put a tourniquet on what was clearly a gaping wound.

I lost respect for him. Entirely. Just like in a marriage, when you utter the word "divorce," you start to see everything differently. All of his quirks suddenly became blatant signs of terrible management. I hadn't realized how passive aggressive he was until then, and then I saw it. We are a small office - eight attorneys total, all but two associates. I have, by far, the strongest personality of all of them, which isn't necessarily a good thing, but a fact. I am the only associate in the office who "eats what she kills" (works for clients I brought in), and while that is usually a good thing, he somehow made that a bad thing.

I know enough about the world of blogging to not divulge details, but suffice to say, he very oddly played associates against one another. In our small office, there is almost no interaction between colleagues. It is bizarre and, as I now realize, calculated. My boss wants to be the superstar, with his underlings seen but not heard. He hasn't written a brief in all of the years I have been there, yet slaps his name on anything he edits, which, by the way, is a tiresome task - he doesn't use a computer and makes all edits via pencil. Once I enter those edits, I print out the brief again and the process repeats itself. Clients pay upwards of $700/hour for this, since I am sitting at my computer, waiting for his edits, and that time is "billable," and he is a name partner doing these "edits." So we're clear, they are all stylistic, not legal. That is horse shit. Utter horse shit.

I love the law, and sometimes the practice of it, but this is why we all burn out. I don't think I want to do it anymore, at least, not like this. There is a reason I fantasize about becoming a nurse. Go to work, do a good days' work, come home and not think about it. Work to live, not the other way around.

I am going to find a way to do just that.


Talix said...

K, you are someone I admire and envy because you found something you love and made it your job. There are plenty of other ways and places to do law. Don't surrender your dreams.

Talix said...

(She said, several weeks after the fact.)

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