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Old 06-18-2008, 09:28 AM   #1
kateycp2k
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Work Situation - Need Some Help...
Hi KH Community,

This is such a great community; I am hoping some of you can offer perspective and help me with a work situation I am facing.

One of my job duties is assisting a retired U.S. Federal Court judge with some of his billing, paralegal-type work, and filing. While he has a permanent secretary (that he is not fond of at all - more on that later), I was assigned to him as a political move and to boost his ego. As a judge who was so used to having a "staff," my law firm's management felt that if they gave him two people working for him, he would have his "staff."

His behavior in front of me borders on, and can be outright, unprofessional. He has taken to badmouthing the other member of the "staff" right in front of me, from anything to her work product to her choices of lifestyle and what she eats. In addition, he pats me on the head for a job well done, like smoothing out my hair. It is this patting on the head that distubs me most. It is definitely not sexual, but very unprofessional and rather demeaning - I feel as though I am being treated like a child!

The first time the patting happened, I thought it was an isolated incident and kept quiet, but when it happened again I decided to speak to administration to see if it should be taken further. They told me that he's an old man who "doesn't know the rules" and that he just appreciates my hard work and I should be flattered he thinks so highly of me. I was told to just bring it up during your performance review and leave it there. As for the badmouthing of the other woman? Same thing - he's older, he doesn't know any better, just let it go in one ear and out the other and just to remember how much he appreciates your work.

I get the distinct impression that the firm's management does not want to deal with this because (a) a retired federal court judge of his stature brings prestige to the firm and (b) he's been through at least five secretaries in his tenure (less than four years) and they don't want to have to reassign him again.

I don't know if I should even bother bringing my displeasure with this (and working for him in general) during my review, since I know no action will be taken. However, I do like other things I do here - I was given an opportunity to temp in a position related to the master's degree I was pursuing, I enjoy my other marketing work, and the firm is understanding of schedule adjustments related to my classes. And this situation is making me feel rather miserable and taking whatever joy I had out of this job.

So, what should I do? Speak up? Keep my mouth shut and deal with it? Quietly start looking for a new job??

Thanks a bunch,
Kate

PS - sorry this was so long.
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Old 06-18-2008, 09:58 AM   #2
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Wow...I'm sorry that you have to go through that. It may well be that he is a kindly older man who is treating you in a way he feels is showing his admiration for your hard work, but regardless of his intentions, if it makes you uncomfortable...it isn't acceptable.

It is a shame that no one is willing to do anything about it, but that means if this bothers you that much, it has to be you to say something.

Were it me, I would simply speak with him directly and tell him that you appreciate him demonstrating his happiness with your work but that you honestly aren't comfortable with pats on the head or whatever else has happened. It just doesn't feel like praise. Just be honest - and sincere to avoid making it a blame thing, just make it a 'I respect you and wanted to let you know that it just makes me uncomfortable and I'm sure you don't want that' kind of thing. It's amazing how much you can accomplish with honest and respectful communication...it's a whole different ballgame than an accusatory tone that sets a person on the defensive.

I'd try that before bothering to mention it in a review. If that doesn't work and it is still a problem for me, I'd say it in the review but I'd give him the chance to hear me first.

Just my 2 cents! Good luck!
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Old 06-18-2008, 12:49 PM   #3
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So sorry you are having to deal with this. I, too, had a boss who would put down the other people in the office when they weren't there. Everyone knew if they took the day off that they would be talked about. It wasn't very uplifting. Needless to say, I don't work there anymore.

Obviously you are not the only person who is uncomfortable with this Judge's actions or he wouldn't have gone through so many assistants in a short amount of time. If those other assistants are still around maybe you can speak with them and see how they handled it. Otherwise, I would weigh my options. Can you handle these actions long enough to get your Master's degree? Would you consider asking for a transfer out of his office?

My philosophy on being happy at work is this: You spend the majority of your day (8 hours) away from home and if you aren't happy those 8 hours, is it worth it? With my previous job, it wasn't worth it. I worked there long enough to become vested and then I started looking for a new job. Being unhappy 8 hours a day, 5 days a week was not worth my time!
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Old 06-19-2008, 11:18 PM   #4
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Thanks!
Thanks to all who took the time to respond. I'm so happy that all of us here at KH bond over our love of knitting, but are ready to assist a fellow "knitter in kneed" (I could not resist; so sorry! )

After reading everyone's suggestions (here and on Ravelry; I made the same post there), I have decided to bring this up during my review, which should be coming in a few weeks. Human Resources is aware about the "badmouthing" and has spoken to him about it before. Clearly it has not worked.

I don't feel too comfortable confronting him on these issues because there are days I just cannot read him or his attitude. He will get himself into a tizzy if someone does not do something for him right away, but if I tell him I am taking a day off or leaving early and asking if it is okay, it's always "it's not a problem," "what I do is not important." And yet this is the same man who called my home on a day off, when he was told I had been out of the office (and incidentally, was out of the office the previous workday due to illness) - and then when my father offered to get in touch with me, suddenly it was no big deal! Thus, I have no idea what kind of reaction I would get - the wrath from high or nonchalance.

I am getting my house in order for a job search, but it is unrelated to this situation. In my post, I alluded to a temp position within the firm (librarian) related to my in-progress master's degree (library science). I was filling in for our librarian on maternity leave and I found out this week that she is coming back right after Fourth of July (three weeks early). The plan was that I would start looking for a job that could put some of the experience I gained in the library to good use - that plan has now been accelerated a bit.

I do have a bit of saving grace - after tomorrow, he is out of the office for the next three weeks on business and personal travel.

I'll be sure to let the forum know how all this has turned out.

Many, many thanks again.

Kate
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