Tag Archives: workplace conflict

Fear Paralysis

I have always taken great pride in being busy, working hard, and completing a high quality work product. This is a lifelong quality that I am immensely grateful to my parents for instilling in me.  I am deeply offended when people suggest that I do not take my work seriously or do not try to do my best. By no means am I perfect! But I strongly believe I deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Although I never relish being told that I have made a mistake, I do thrive on constructive criticism. I am proud to say that I would rather learn and get better than have people walk on eggshells for fear of offending me. I feel that in general I bounce back pretty quickly from unpleasant sessions of criticism. But I am rapidly coming up on my two-year anniversary at my current job, and something that happened yesterday has me convinced that I will need to move on soon.

I won’t (indeed, ethically can’t) go into details. The gist of the situation is, I was asked to do something that included providing a document to another party. I did not recognize the document and was understandably hesitant to send it out of the office without being absolutely sure of what it was and why we were providing it. I went on an expedition to figure this out, ultimately asking my boss the question. She flew off the handle at me, angry that I had even considered the possibility that she had made a mistake. (Literally, she said “You are here to check if I made a mistake?!?” I replied, “Sure, I think everya mistake.” “REALLY?!? REALLY.”). She asked me if I could accomplish this “simple task” or if I needed to just give it back to her to do herself. I told her I was simply asking a question. She said, venomously, “Yes.”

So I went back to my office and proceeded to complete the task, and she sent me an equally venomous email about how she was insulted by my behavior and does not need me to “second guess” her. Not to mention, she CC’ed the other associate on this email although he was not in any way involved with the situation. She later went into his office, closed the door, and spoke with him for about an hour. She later opened the door and spoke about case-related matters. I know from experience that it is entirely likely she was discussing the situation that involves me, while purposely excluding me.

I really wanted to reply to the email. I even prepared a draft reply. (Having shut my office door and proceeded to quietly cry for about an hour). But, I do not believe it is prudent to fire off an email to your boss when you are upset. So I decided to wait for a day to pass to see if I would cool off. In the meantime, I went about my work for the rest of the day and received a few more emails from my boss that were much more professional and minimally polite.

I have not cooled off.  I feel she was way out of line. The gist of my email (which I still have not sent) includes (a) an apology for any insult, and a statement that n; (b) an explanation of the specific reasons why I had questions, which I failed to articulate in the row yesterday; (c) a statement that I believe my value as an attorney, in part, lies in making sure errors are not made and that I am sorry to see my employer does not appreciate that; and (d) a statement that I am likewise insulted by the implication that my actions in of service justify the negative implication that I was  “second guessing” or “incapable of a simple task.” I feel it is phrased as neutrally as possible (but not entirely neutrally). I feel I have the right to contribute to this conversation. But I am terrified of clicking “send.”

For completely unrelated reasons that will be the subject of another post, I really do not feel that I’m in the position to start looking for a new job right now, either. Neither do I want to “job hop” or leave my first attorney position in a negative light. My unsent response email closes with the phrase, “As always, my goals are to be helpful, to serve the client, and to grow professionally.” I fear doing anything that will jeopardize that. Plus, now I feel like the moment has passed and I will be perceived as stubborn and petty if I hold onto it.

I would rather have this discussion in person. There is inherent danger in putting job dissatisfaction in writing, especially to be sent directly to the person who pays you. And conversations are supposedly easier to manage and ultimately move past. The problem is, every time I try to approach my boss in person she reacts very poorly, and inevitably sends me an email that is just as hurtful afterward. I have lost all faith that she intends to establish any meaningful dialogue with me regarding our conflicts. It is this point that is pushing me over the edge. I feel I have been very realistic and patient with the fact that every employer will do things you do not like. But I am not sure how to continue to manage this situation with no hope of improvement.

So, I’m currently left in a state of turmoil. No matter how much I try to take my mind off of it I am struggling to find peace. I have no doubt that the anxiety of this situation impacts my work and the rest of my life, too. Just, ugh.


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