Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fighting For Your Job

I get a lot of questions over email and the girlie chat about how things are going with my job, and I thought I would end our last weekday before the beginning of the BBT4 by writing a little bit about that. After my immediate world had escaped relatively unscathed so far here from the putrid labor market, the nice lady who works across the hall from me got laid off yesterday morning. I already knew my company has been sloughing off thousands (literally) of underutilized staff over the past few months, but seeing it hit this close to home is more than a little unnerving. In many ways, I pat myself on the back to have even kept this job as long as I have.

Although the economy has gotten about a hundred times worse since I started here late last summer, overall I would say that my job security has remained about the same. Without a doubt, my employer was way, way overstaffed by last summer, and still doubtless is right now today. I work on a team with roughly 20 other lawyers all doing essentially the same thing as me, with the 20 of us basically splitting up the pie of all the contract negotiation work in our area for the entire company. Thing is, a year ago there were only 18 of us doing, say, 3000 deals over the year, and this year there are now 20 of us to divvy up that pie amongst. The problem is that the total pie, which last year was, say, 3000 deals, this year will probably only be 2000 deals. So in 2008 my group managed to run some 3000 deals among just 18 people, and this year we are 20 people, but only doing 2000 deals. So it's a hideous situation with senior management breaking their backs to cut costs, and knowing that my group did far more work with far fewer resources in the recent past.

That said, I have done everything I possibly could to try to keep this job. I am working longer hours than I want, and I have worked later into the evenings in the past six months more often than any time since I was in the big law firm when I was first out of law school. I don't turn down any deals or other assignments no matter how much I have on my plate at the time. I try to volunteer to get involved inthe workings and administration of my group as much as I can. In six months here, I feel like I have made about as good of inroads as I could have as far as making myself seem "indispensable", at least to the extent that anybody is truly indispensable in a 20-person team where everyone basically is qualified to do everyone else's deals.

What is absolutely amazing to me is that the other people I work with are not all taking the same approach as me. In fact, it seems to be the most recent hires (before me of course) who are taking their job responsibilities very lightly, at least in my view, in a very heavy time. The guy next to me comes in around 10 and leaves at right around 5 on the nose every single day. In front of everybody. What's more, two or three of the more recently-hired lawyers here regualrly turn down work when it is assigned to them. These guys actually tell our assigning people "no" when a new deal is sent their way! I can't believe it. And these are people who desperately need this job, believe me. Guys with family, young kids, pregnant wives, etc. I don't do any of that. I take everything they give me, because when the time comes for the people in charge to make some tough decisions, I want them to think of me as that guy who comes through for them every single time they need help from someone to close out a new deal. I don't want them thinking of me as that guy with a relatively short leash as far as how much work I can manage at one time, or as the guy who works from home three days a week, or the guy who traipses in here late and leaves while it's still light out every day of the week.

There really isn't much more I can do than this to help keep my job as secure as I can make it at this point, and as I said above I actually think I've made some decent headway in that respect over the short time I've been with my new employer so far. As I've said many times, getting out of my former company before the place collapsed was a huge move for me, but starting here as the newest member of a 20-lawyer team where we're all basically fungible assets, in the midst of the worst economy since the Great Depression, was not a good situation and there's no way to turn that into a positive. But the stress level of having worked in a failing investment bank through all of 2008, and now this in the following year, feeling very much at risk all the way through, is immense, which is something I have only come to terms with over the past few months as the economic picture seems to march inexorably lower. It's amazing how much havoc constant stress can wreak on a body if allowed to work its magic on you for months and months and months on end.

I'll end this rambling discussion today by recanting a story that Hammer Wife tells me she and her mommy friends talk about all the time. All the moms at school agree, they're used to bugging their husbands all day long to come home, to get back as early as they can to help with the kids, etc. They've spent the better part of the last several years calling their husbands at the office and trying all kinds of tricks and peer pressure to get their husbands to come home early. Now, all the moms say that they still call their husbands all the time at work. But whereas they used to call to tell them to come home, now they call to tell them to stay, stay as late as you want, as late as you need to make sure you keep your boss(es) happy. I just think that's a very interesting bit of anecdotal evidence that shows just how much the jobs crisis is weighing on the minds of Americans, and not just those who are toiling away hard at work in their offices or other places of business, but the millions and millions of others who are affected by those workers as well.

OK everyone, have a great weekend, have sweet dreams knowing that the same government that just oversaw $120 billion in losses out of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG over the past three months is now in position to be a 36% majority owner of Citigroup as well. Delicious. And don't forget the BBT4, starting off with this Sunday night's Big Game at 9pm ET on full tilt (password is "donkey"). Not sure if I will be in that or not. But yeah, I'll be there :).

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Blogger golden said...

My job migrated to China last year and I've gotten exactly zero offers in the past 11 months. I guess no one wants a 49 year old operations manager who was in the upper pay scale.

Things are not looking good from my perspective. Hoy, you are doing all the right things. Lets hope it's enough as I did many of the same things to stave off a lay off. Sometimes there is nothing you can do. Good luck

4:39 AM  
Blogger OES said...

Keep it up Hoy. You da man. =)

8:03 AM  
Blogger Iak said...

I am obviously pulling for you and it sounds like you're taking the right tack on this one.

I completely agree about the toll stress can take on the body and spirit even, so know at least that your friends are thinking good thoughts for you.

7:38 AM  
Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

I agree. Another reason why I don't necessarily feel sorry for some of the ones that lose their jobs. Of course, not all are the same case but it's the survival of the fittest (and the lucky). There are still plenty of people taking their jobs for granted and not putting forth the effort that I think should be there even in good times. Eff those lazy bastards.

2:39 AM  

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