Most of you don’t remember Jack Welch, who ran GE years ago. He was known as “Neutron Jack,” because he would lay off employees but leave the buildings standing. Welch believed in the concept of “rank and yank,” that is, poor performers would lose their jobs on an annual basis. It was Welch’s very own bell curve. One issue with “rank and yank” aka “forced rankings” was that it could depend upon whom the employee was being compared to. If he was in a group of high-performing colleagues, he lost. If he was in a group of mediocre to lower performing cohorts, his job would be saved.
Yearly performance evaluations are a waste. Employees go merrily along, thinking everything is okay, and then the equivalent of a neutron bomb (see above) is dropped upon them at review time. Not a peep had been said during the evaluation period, no counselings, no feedback, nada, zip, zilch, and then poof! Suddenly, the employee receives a “below expectations” review and faces termination. Sandbagged? Did any supervisor or manager meet with the employee to discuss concerns sufficiently in advance of the evaluation, so that the employee could take corrective action? What do you think?
Here’s a warning call to all firms involved in laying off attorneys, staff, or both. Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs) are drooling at the opportunities these layoffs will give them. ALSPs now represent about $20 billion of the legal market, not exactly chump change. It may well be that they will take on even more work as lawyers leave their current gigs for a variety of reasons.
While reasons for quitting during the pandemic and even after do vary, toxic workplaces prompt employees to leave. They are fed up with incompetence, mismanagement, and a lack of leadership. Perhaps Peter Finch in this scene from the 1976 movie “Network” said it best.
One reason that Gen X and Gen Y peeps are less worried about security at work than the dinosaurs: health insurance availability. We stayed at jobs we hated because we needed to maintain health insurance and so we were handcuffed to the jobs. That’s no longer the case. I know too many peeps who stayed while wanting desperately to leave, but their families needed the health coverage, especially if there were illnesses. Like it or not, “Obamacare” has sprung many people from health insurance jail.
A recent Time magazine cover featured a pair of lips with a zipper on them. The premise of the story and you can probably guess what it was: often it’s better to zip it and say nothing. In a world of oversharing and overtalking — and social media seems to take the prize for oversharing — being discreet or circumspect seems to be a relic of a bygone era. How many of us have been in situations where oversharing was the rule and not the exception?
Too many times have I thought “Ew!” to a colleague’s sharing more than I could possibly want to know. TMI. Too many times, it’s been the men overtalking (no surprise there) while interrupting anyone else who had the audacity to wade into the conversation.
Here are some rules about when to zip it, taken from “STFU: The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut in an Endlessly Noisy World“:
- When you are asked a question (remember the advice that you always give a witness: don’t volunteer, just answer the question asked);
- When you are blithering, aka you are clueless as to what you are talking about;
- When you want someone else to get the credit (yes, that does actually happen);
- When you are bragging, not sharing (and there is a difference);
- When it’s all about you (so what else is new?);
- When you want someone else to grow (how about letting a junior associate argue the motion?);
- When you are boring people (the fork stuck in you says that you are done).
Do you think there should be an “Oversharers/Overtalkers Anonymous?” recovery group, where lawyers might learn how not to overshare/overtalk? To learn how to zip it? To learn how to listen? It’s not that hard to STFU, to stifle yourself.
And last, but not least, I had thought I would be able to write for a while without mentioning Tom Girardi. (Sorry, ATL editors.) However, Girardi has now been indicted in separate federal cases in both Los Angeles and Chicago. In the LA case, Girardi is accused, along with his CFO, of ripping off $15 million from clients. In Chicago, Girardi stands accused, along with his law partner and son-in-law David Lira, and the CFO of diverting settlement funds due to victims of an Indonesian airline crash. Girardi’s crash and burn continues.
Jill Switzer has been an active member of the State Bar of California for over 40 years. She remembers practicing law in a kinder, gentler time. She’s had a diverse legal career, including stints as a deputy district attorney, a solo practice, and several senior in-house gigs. She now mediates full-time, which gives her the opportunity to see dinosaurs, millennials, and those in-between interact — it’s not always civil. You can reach her by email at email@example.com.