Also make sure your references are willing to talk about your experience, highlighting your contributions over the years. Of course, your real challenge is putting yourself in a position to be able to make the case for your employability. You can highlight your experience in a cover letter and certainly also do so in an interview. But also rely on your network. Let people know you’re looking for senior positions at organizations who value experience and are willing to consider someone without a college degree. Good luck!
Typically, I take something off my to-do list if I’ve done my part and any further steps are left in the hands of other people. This works well until someone drops the ball and those further steps aren’t done. A few times I’ve been left to put out a fire because of an incomplete task that was no longer on my radar.
Do you have any suggestions for how I should keep track of all these things — or if I even should? Part of me thinks I should keep a running list to try to avoid disasters, but part of me thinks it’s not my problem and I can’t fathom how to keep track of all these items.
— Lauren, Maine
I don’t know if you should keep track of other people’s responsibilities, but if you’re putting out fires, you probably have to, just to make your life easier. It’s not your problem when other people drop the ball but it also kind of is. There are all kinds of systems and software that can help you with project and task management. I personally use Todoist and Trello so my team and I can keep track of multiple timelines, tasks, who has ownership of those tasks and so on. For the most part, it works very well to be able to see what’s going on with each project.
Once you set up a system, make sure to familiarize everyone with responsibilities on a given timeline with the system so they have no excuse for not following through. I would also think about accountability. What are the consequences when someone doesn’t fulfill their responsibilities? How can you make it such that your colleagues have to clean up their own messes?
A Law Firm Breaking the Law?
I work at a small law firm managed by a very large personality with a bad micromanagement habit. She recently imposed a “no gossip” rule on the non-equity attorneys — seemingly to discourage people from talking about her behind her back. To enforce this rule, she has asked the attorneys not to go to lunch or happy hour with staff members and to avoid speaking to them about anything other than work. And, when the attorneys hear “gossip” at work, they are supposed to stop it. Important to know: The staff people don’t work for these attorneys. They only work for the partners.
She has also decided that she wants to be a social justice activist. To do this, she required all the BIPOC attorneys — and only these attorneys, none of whom are equity partners — to plan and execute diversity initiatives. All of this is pro bono. The firm’s attorneys are all paid on contingency, so this new pro bono requirement means they have to do uncompensated work. These management decisions are fueling a toxic workplace, as you can imagine, and are encouraging some people to consider working somewhere else. Is there a way to address them in a way that makes the workplace happy again?
This is all ridiculous, as I am sure you know. She cannot impose her will on how people spend their free time at work and what they talk about. Banning “gossip” is simply too broad and unenforceable, especially when the National Labor Relations Act protects employee discussion of managers and working conditions. She also cannot dictate whom people share lunch with or socialize with after work. She is trying to control things that cannot be controlled. I am surprised that employees at a law firm are not pushing back on behaviors that are against the law.
Your manager’s demands that BIPOC attorneys create and execute diversity initiatives is even more egregious and, frankly, racist. It is not the responsibility of those attorneys to solve the conditions of their own oppression. If she wants to engage in social justice activism, she should read a book or three, and hire professionals who do this work. People of color are not magically endowed with the ability to do diversity, equity and inclusion work because of their race or ethnicity. That’s not how any of this works. Of course people are considering working elsewhere. If you do have HR, you have to report this behavior. At the very least, consult with an employment attorney. This behavior goes well beyond micromanagement.
Roxane Gay is the author, most recently, of “Hunger” and a contributing opinion writer. Write to her at [email protected],