Ax Me Already

Bitter and Abused Columns, Lawyer 31 Comments

Every two weeks since last fall, our firm (let’s just say that we’re about fifty lawyers in a boring part of the country most of your readers probably fly over) has been overrun with rumors of layoffs. Except they’ve never happened. Hate to say it, but it’s now to the point where I wish someone would just put me out of my misery and lay me off already.

Since fall of last year, not a single person has been let go. On any level. Not a secretary, paralegal, no one. We even have the usual number of file clerks and summer interns, which is only a few, but whatever.

Despite business as usual, the rumors have been going around non-stop all year. And the managing partner even admitted to thinking that they’ve actually been a good way to motivate people and kept everyone on their toes. Instead of ever once saying, “We’re doing fine, we care about you, we’ll survive this,” he’s let it feed his ego to the point has ACTUALLY walked around the office and personally told associates, “We’re taking a hard look at everybody’s performance these days.”

He seems to actually enjoy reminding us that our jobs are on the line every day. He sends out firm-wide emails and forwards news stories every time he reads about layoffs at other firms, and he adds a stupid, little note that says something like (paraphrasing), “It’s bad out there. Lucky it wasn’t anyone here.”

I can’t even decide how I feel about it anymore other than it literally makes my stomach turn.  Seriously, I think I have an ulcer now, and I’ve been taking Pepto-Bismol whenever I feel like it. One day, someone saw it on my desk and made a comment about how the stress must be getting to me, and the managing partner overheard and laughed.

Well, it is, but I’m not sure that’s so funny. I’ve been a lawyer for six years and here for four. I love practicing law, and I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do. And I love working at a firm this size in market I’m in. I get great client contact, can call it a day at a decent hour, etc. But the managing partner is killing this place. He’s like a sadist.

Oh, last month, he even hand-delivered our paystubs, and people said he kept making comments like, “Things are getting pretty tight. Let’s hope this isn’t all of our last paychecks.” One woman started crying.

It’s not the fear of losing my job that makes this so awful, it’s the way the managing partner handles things. What I loved about the “big family” firm has had the atmosphere of a cancer ward. It’s like we’re all waiting on death row. And instead of being human about it, the managing partner has turned this place into a sweatshop.  I don’t do as good of a job as I could because I’m always worried about protecting myself from getting axed. And I don’t know if the end is in sight.

It’s been the most hellish year of my legal career, and part of me just wants the shoe to drop. At least the wait would be over.

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  • Guano Dubango

    Why would you want to loose your job?  I do not understand.  If you do not like what the managing partner says when he hands out the pay slips, just tell him to stop being so negative and to go back to work to get more clients.  In my country, our leaders lead by example.  If this man can not do so, he should be retired.  If you are afraid of saying so, just copy this post and tell him that Guano Dubango says this is the way in Ghana.

  • KateLaw

    I think you’ve got to do your best not to focus on it.  It sounds like the managing partner has just come to discover that fear motivates and maybe he’s even seen this effect in the firm’s numbers.  However, he probably doesn’t realize that this is a short-term gain and, in the long run, it can have a significant negative impact on productivity due to the very reasons you mention in your post -you’re stressed out to the max and it’s affecting your work/attitude/sense of enjoyment/motivation.  The best advice anyone could give you is to just do the best you can in your situation, actively try to ignore the partner’s extremely poor management style (and all the fear-invoking comments directed at others that go along with it) and keep plugging ahead.  Chances are, you won’t lose your job and this situation will have a way of resolving itself (possibly another partner with some more insight will eloquently point out the err of his ways).

  • Guano Dubango

    You are very intelligent sounding, KateLaw.  If you ever get un-involved with your “boyfriend,” please to look me up, either here in New York or in Accra.  If I haven’t found someone else by then, I will be interested in you again.

  • BL1Y

    Having been laid off, I can say I’ll take a few weeks of fear and paychecks over unemployment.  And Kate, the boss doesn’t realize the motivational power of fear.  Fear doesn’t motivate people to work harder, it only motivates them to look like they work hard.  Really they become less productive because they spend their time worrying, gossiping, etc.  He’s just discovered that he can manipulate people’s emotions and enjoys the power, regardless of the outcome.

  • Craig

    If the guy just talks about laying people off but never does, he obviously is just a bullshit artist. You seem to know that the guy just likes to put people on edge, so why do you take it so serious?  You are making yourself sick over this guy, even though actions speak louder than words. If nothing has happened so far, stop worrying so much and just do your job.

  • KateLaw

    Im sorry to hear about your situation, BL1Y.  You make a good point -some sick people do like that twisted sense of power.  It’s a shame for the others who have to endure it.

    And Guano, you wouldn’t want me… I am quite the water buffalo.

  • HR Dude

    I’d take the ax. It’s not worth a year of misery. You get a few months salary and you DO bounce back. But fearing layoffs for a year can be brutal. When I advise clients about layoffs, it’s always this: do it once and do it quickly. If you keep the talk of layoffs going, you will KILL morale. This guy is a perfect example of that.

  • BL1Y

    I’d like to know what HR Dude’s idea of “bounce back” is.  Does it involve breaking your lease, moving in with your parents and taking another bar exam?

  • HR Dude

    Bounce back means that you will eventually get on with your life and your career. It may not be for as much money as you want, and it may not be doing what you want. But you will survive. When you will bounce back is an open question. The average time it takes to find a new job is about six months. But here’s the thing, BL1Y. If you’re just looking at BigLaw, it’s going to be a lot longer. And to be honest, BigLaw may not be what it was when you left it. Widen your search, keep your chin up, and (most important) do something with your time that allows you to tell a good story in your next interview.

  • Er, no.

    My condolences BL1Y.

  • BL1Y

    I don’t think you quite understand what “bounce” implies.

  • Craig

    So, within the past six months or so, BL1Y has lost his girlfriend, lost his job, lost his apartment, shut his blog down, and his “building customized chess sets” business has seemingly not worked out.  And that is just the stuff he has posted on the internet.  Am I missing anything?  BL1Y (or at least his internet personality) has really been down on his luck lately.  I hope you can “bounce back” soon.

  • HR Dude

    People with a good attitude do bounce back. People who are annoying, have a chip on their shoulder, and generally lash out every chance they get won’t bounce back, come back, or succeed in anyway.

  • EngineerdLawyer

    “Hate to say it, but it’s now to the point where I wish someone would just put me out of my misery and lay me off already.  “
    Sorry. That would be too easy. I enjoy watching a person squirm in pain when I stab my knife in his heart and start twisting it.

  • BL1Y

    Craig: Haven’t lost the apartment yet, it’s just very likely to happen.  And, the “customized chess set business” is still on track.  It just takes a lot of time to get going, but obviously my recent pay cut will set things back.

  • Doug

    Sure is worth the misery if you have nothing else behind it.

  • Guano Dubango

    I feel bad for BL1Y.  He is very witty, and should be able to land himself a woman with earning capacity.  He must, however, be willing to accept a woman who is not pretty like a model.  Women, can you help here?

  • Guano Dubango

    KateLaw, it is true that I am looking for someone very attractive, but that also means with earning capacity and capable of bearing my children (3+).  I will hold my offer open because you seem to have compassion, of the type that BL1Y can appreciate, and now me also because I have not been receiving bona fide offers from qualifying women.

  • Anonymous

    So how is it that Guano has a job and BL1Y doesn’t?

  • KateLaw

    Im a bit taken aback.. You’re holding the offer open despite me telling you that I am a water buffalo -well, there is hope for you yet, Guano Dubango!  I wish you the best in your search for Love (notice how I didn’t say “3+child-bearing, income-earning, man-pleasing, hill-country-moving, compassionate woman” -change your question, change your luck).



  • Robert Smith

    Guano: do you have any idea what child support is for three kids? (In NY is about 4,000/mo per kid and its not deductible). That is in addition to spousal support which is usually 25% to 33% on the low side for a mom with young kids-40-45% is not unheard of.

  • BL1Y

    @9:57: Easy.  Guano is a fictitious character.

  • Anonymous

    of course guano is fiction. but who employees that fool?

  • Bravo

    Been in law a number of years.  So sorry, BL1Y, to hear of your situation.  My 40-yr-old son was in shock for about two weeks when his upscale law job was eliminated. You will survive!  The person in this article needs to get on with his job.  It is a jungle out there and be ready to face the nasty lions.

  • SDL20

    customized chess set business? what a douche. can we have a “who is the biggest loser” poll with bl1y and alma as the choices?

  • BL1Y

    SDL20: Learn what quotation marks are used for please.  Of course I’m not actually building customized chess sets.  But, I wouldn’t be anonymous if I posted what I was actually working on.  What a douche.

  • EngineerdLawyer

    What are water buffaloes? And why are we talking about them?

  • Prog

    My recommendation would be to take a zen attitude towards it.  He might genuinely be thinking about laying people off.  He might just be indulging in some sick sense of humor.  It would be nice if you could tell him to stop, but realistically it is unlikely anyone would tell the managing partner anything that might piss him off.  So really, what is there that you can do?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Just accept it.  If, in fact, there is a possibility you might get laid off, there’s likely nothing you can do about it.  Accept that as the reality and stop worrying about it.  What does worrying do?  Nothing.  Either he is serious or full of it, either way you cannot do anything about it.

  • Terry D.

    I love this web site. It reminds me of the time I worked at big firm. I hated that job with every fiber of my being. My advise to you: quit this job and start your own firm. Find a niche or two, market aggresively, and treat your clients with respect, and you’ll be fine. That’s what I did, and it is the best decision that I have ever made. Tell your boss to eff himself. Sincerely, Terry D.

  • Wise Young Lawyer

    Don’t fear the reaper. Never worry about anything until it happens. Leave the Pepto on your desk, but stop worrying. This douchebag obviously gets off on causing nervousness, so your bets bet for being the last to get laid off is to give him what he wants, hence leave the Pepto where he can see it.

    For your own psychological health, take control. A six year lawyer, has a lot less to worry about than a stub year associate. If you want, up your saving from 10% of your paycheck to 50%. The only downside to that is early retirement. Give em what they want on the outside, and rest secure in the knowledge that you are in control. Since they will be buying your BS instead of you buying theirs, you will even be in control of them.