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Showing posts with label private equity venture capital leader leadership business entrepreneur. Show all posts
Showing posts with label private equity venture capital leader leadership business entrepreneur. Show all posts

January 24, 2008

Friends at Work?

Here’s a big tip – if you are having trouble at work, maybe it’s not the job. Perhaps you need to have friends.
A Toronto lawyer who left his job (or was given a polite push off his perch by the partners) wrote about his experience in an entertaining article in Toronto Life. Mr. Scott confessed he was relieved to get shoved out of a career in law. He described the cold pit in the stomach as he read all the horrible emails he got first thing in the morning or the shock of having a warm, cuddly chat with another firm’s lawyer and then receiving a nasty letter just hours later with an absolute 180 degree turn in tone. Hmmm. Maybe this fellow Scott did not watch enough LA Law but that seems pretty well par for the course. Aren’t lawyers paid to be the pit bulls so that we don’t have to be?
Sure lawyers earn great money to be cruel; Mr Scott mentioned - $100,000 and up - but if you’ve been following the Toronto city employee salaries stories in the papers, you will know there are talented subway ticket collectors cashing in pay cheques of a similar amount. Maybe Scott has a point.
But I digress.
Perhaps what Mr. Scott lacked were work friends, not his artsy friends so easily appalled by the harshness of Bay Street (can you see them with their hands clasped to cheeks like Edvard Munch's famous painting "The Scream?) What about other lawyer friends who truly understood the pressures of the job. They could share a quick laugh about who has the worse letter from that particular lawyer and sooth the pain. Maybe they could have come up with a nickname – Shark, Jaws, Billy Bob or Bob Rae are all good.
Friends at work can help you through the dark spots. As the song goes, that's what friends are for. Research by Tim Rath of the Gallup organization confirms that those with a good friend at work tend to better engage with the client, contribute more creative ideas, and stay on the job longer. In other words, friends at work are a predictor of job satisfaction.Rath's study labels the different categories of friends at work. There's the navigator, who shows you the way; the encourager, pushing you to shine; the collaborator, who brings out your best skills, and so on. Each type of friend brings a different contribution, and you cannot expect one to fulfill all your needs.
Mr Scott’s firm was trying.
They had a formal mentorship program which sounds great when the management consultant goes through the PowerPoint stats showing how productivity goes up, but in the cold light of reality, it almost never works that way.
The pressures of billing hours described by Mr Scott’s meant that his mentor did not have the time or personal benefit to take Scott under her wing and teach him. People do what gets measured and in law, again, billable hours pay for uber-expensive offices on Bay Street so billable hours are what get measured. Every hour has to count. If you want to spend more time with the family or on mentoring, there are cheaper offices north of the 401 and many excellent law firms operate from those geographic locations in exactly that way. There is less pressure to pay the landlord each month and more time to give on mentorship or to life outside of work.
Each type of friend brings different abilities and you can not expect one friend to fulfill all your needs.
It seems calculating to analyse the features of relationships but sensible.
Friendships take work on your part too. What do you want? How could you make it more enjoyable for the other person?
A human resources person handling confidential information became friends with the corporate lawyer who also worked with confidential information.
If you are going eyeball to eyeball with lawyers, have a friend who goes through something similar.
Scott would have been better off probing his mentor or identifying his own Navigator and asking how they managed to deal with the harshness of the career. He may have been surprised to learn that perhaps his mentor was one of the many, many lawyers who are writers like himself and spend Saturday mornings honing their novel writing skills at the Humber College Writer’s Circle.
I know many lawyers who are warm, humorous and great family people. A range of careers require a similar time sacrifice but minus the mega salaries of lawyers. Most lawyers do drift away from Bay Street firms though to work at a level that suits their own needs.
Scott does talk to other lawyers but to confirm his view, that working downtown is spending long hours in the devil’s workshop. These lawyers probably do not want to tell Scott, “Yeah I work long hours but I do enjoy the satisfaction of doing a great job for my client. It’s not all about the money. Plus I am paying for the lifestyle I want.”
Reading Mr Scott’s article surmise he is in his early thirties so probably thought law office would be more like Ally McBeal where the lawyers all spent an odd amount of time in the co-ed loo, sharing their deepest feelings and then meeting up later at a bar to karaoke the night away. The phrase “billable hours” was never mentioned, all the more time to give screen time to Ally’s latest love unravelling.
Sharing such lurid details of your lovelife over a bucket of icecream is probably not the way to go with a work friendship but sharing daily battles and disappointments over a coffee with a work friend definitely helps.