Girl Drama. It’s everywhere you turn. Reality TV show producers (think The Bachelor or Real Housewives) know one thing is for certain. If you get a group of women together there WILL be drama. There will be gossip, back biting, rumors, jealousy, outbursts, whispering, looking over your shoulder and all other kinds of glorious entertainment. Unfortunately, it feels like so many women are bored unless they have drama going on in their lives and, more specifically, in the work place. When I started working in a medium sized law firm almost 2 years ago, I was so excited to make both money and girlfriends. It had been 2 years since I’d been in a law office setting (I had been working from home as a contract laborer) and I missed it very much. I was so excited. But, I had been very warned by HR, my assigned mentor, and my friend Amy about the possibility of cat fights at work and the territorial and micromanaging nature of some of the women. I mostly stayed to myself or with a small group of 2-3 women that I knew to be helpful, team-work minded and professional. In fact, they taught me a lot and made me a much better worker. Iron sharpens iron.
But lets face it, it’s impossible to stay under the radar forever. Especially with my bubbly, loud, outgoing and occasionally high-strung, overly hyper personality. Oh yes, I know that gets on some peoples nerves and from their first encounter with me they automatically don’t like me. (Don’t studies show that 10-20% of people won’t like you anyway LOL?) I’ve also noticed that my run-ins, when I do have them, seem to be with those who are not so happy, bubbly or outgoing. It’s almost like they’re unhappy and so they want to make others unhappy. They have co-worker issues so they want you to have co-worker issues. They don’t like their attorney and so they don’t want you to like your attorney. They have issues with management so they want you to have issues with management. Well, I have absolutely LOVED the 3 attorneys I’ve been assigned to. Sometimes the workload was too much, but the attorneys themselves have been amazing and I could not ask for more. And that’s saying a lot. You know lawyer jokes right?
Look, I know that I am no angel. But I can honestly say that I rarely – very very rarely – ever start conflict. When people get overly aggressive with me in the workplace or I feel threatened, I typically choose flight over fight. I typically flee and remove myself from the situation (leave the building for a few minutes, don’t reply to harsh emails, etc.) In doing so, I think some women have assumed that I am a doormat. However, in reality, I am not fearful of workplace bullies or afraid to assert my boundaries. I do not mind standing up for myself in the workplace, I just think it’s sad that I have to. I told 4-5 attorneys outside of my desk this week that many of the staff are NOT team work minded (no, I did not give names. I was just discussing the spirit of the office at times). Instead, they go around marking their territory (even though it’s not theirs to mark), asserting their seniority, and demanding fellow co-workers to submit to their expectations. I even went as far yesterday as to tell 2 of the attorneys that I don’t want to do overflow for them anymore because their secretary gets angry when I do (i.e. criticizes my work and demands it flow through her even when she is not in the office). Today I woke up regretting that statement. I do want to handle their overflow and, in fact, want to learn new areas of law when possible. Because it’s new to me, it challenges me in a good way. Should I become a girl who puts aside her own professional goals simply to avoid workplace drama by long-term employee alpha females? I don’t think so. And I love strong alpha female types and those who speak their mind. I just don’t like the competitive spirit. We should all be working together to make the whole firm look good not working against each other.
So, how do we as professional working women, work alongside those who refuse to work alongside us? We watched a training video yesterday and it was a bit disheartening. It basically said to tattletale and report any and every possible offending event by any co-worker, boss, etc. Oh my gosh… that’s not right. If I had reported every harsh word, harsh email, and eye roll I’ve experienced by staff since I was hired, HR would get sick of hearing from me. And report my lawyer? Are you kidding me? Maybe if he was like psycho-temper violent or something but even then, sometimes that’s just passion when it’s verbal. Litigators are their own breed. Of course they are loud and brash. They’re bulldogs. It’s what makes them great trial lawyers. Maybe that’s why several of my friends refuse to work in litigation haha. Not everyone has the thick skin required for that job. Me personally, I LOVE them!
Fellow paralegals and assistants – lawyers aren’t in the office for us, we are there for them. Being a legal assistant is a SERVANT position, not a power and authority position. And the lawyers are there to SERVE their clients. They, too, are in a servant position. It’s important and necessary to remember that we are a TEAM, not competitors.
And on that note – I want to thank the ladies I’ve met that remind me how much they love my teamwork spirit because they have that same spirit. One of the file clerks told me yesterday “we were talking about you in the file room. We just love your personality, your bubbliness and how fun you make work”. I just melted on the inside. I really needed to hear that. The runners, file clerks, IT department and copy center employees are life savers to my job and I love them all. They save me and often times make me look really good. Without the help and support of my co-workers and teammates, I could never have met all of my attorneys needs and deadlines during the crazy seasons. One clerk wants to learn e-filing. I told her to come to my desk anytime. I started from the ground up. I answered phones and filed papers in a law firm at 18 years old while attending legal assisting school. Without experienced people showing me along the way, I would not be the worker I am today. I consider it an honor to help others learn the ropes.
No quarterback can win a game by himself. He needs his offensive line which protects him, talented and skilled receivers to catch the ball, and at the end of the day a mentor and some encouragement never hurts either. Our attorneys (collectively – all of them) need us to be a TEAM. They need us to work together, not against each other, to get the job done.
Ladies – let’s put aside the drama and cat fights and be the best team we can be.
On that note … Rant complete. Blogging is so much cheaper than therapy 🙂
Have a great weekend everyone.