Sunday, April 3, 2011

Escaping Work I

sometimes I feel like solid snake, sneaking around the office, hiding in the shadows, evading the evil-incarnate that is plainly, more and more work, at every turn. When i'm not busy or just mildly busy, this gig can get pretty chill and very much worth it, that is until you get hammered, pounded or flubberfucked yet again (i made up that last one, but it just sounds kinda right). however, if you can successfully make urself appear busier than u really are, you'll always be either a) not busy at all for longer than a normal chump would be or b) at most, mildly busy.  if i really were snake (and goddamn how cool would that be), i imagine this whole process of evasion as kind of me blending in my camo or better yet just hiding in a cardboard box as partners, emails and phone calls just parade by none the wiser.  (if you don't know who snake is...um...google.) So here are some of the things to get my solid snake on (some of these items are / will be explained in more detail in separate posts i think and will supplement more later):
  • billables - as i said before, when you are being efficient, you will capture all the hours you put in at the office, and you will have time in everyday, whether or not narratives are written. you won't underestimate your billables and will have a lot of time to show for yourself. during mildly busy or busy times, this will show that you're busy - assuming partners or staffers see your time (a lot will eyeball ur time when they need to staff urgently). if you're not busy (and don't really have timers running), i delay entering time. this then casts doubt as to your capacity - you could just be so fucking busy you don't have time to put in time, which most people do. i also pad it with lots of non-billable but productive things, like business development stuff, training, or other things that could look like they are legitimately busy things that demand your time. i also overestimate on these things, and am pretty generous when i'm billing to c/m's that we'll never get paid on, c/m's that we have a fee cap for, 'multi-tasking', generally. i dont feel unscrupulous mostly because a lot of time gets written off by partners and ive seen how the whole billing process works largely for my deals - in cap mkts, we negotiate a fee up front, and billables are just to support that estimate, which usually doesn't change (except i remember once i was on correspondence where the partner asked for our billables and they were under our estimate, and then we went back to the client and changed our estimate...to a higher figure...yowza).

  • staffing - this is tricky. depending on how staffing works at your shop, there may be different nuances to do this. one way it's done is through an intranet system whereby you submit your expected hours for the current and upcoming weeks. best thing to do here is fill it with active and barely active-matters, so it just looks like you have a lot on your plate that could boil over at any time. the staffing person probably is far removed from all this and may not be a lawyer so probably doesn't know what certain things entail.  in smaller offices, there may just be a mass e-mail that goes out from one partner asking for what you're working on and a forecast of future work. to delay the impending work as much as possible, delay your responses to these solicitations as much as possible, and describe what you are doing for each thing as grandiosely as you can, and put in potential big-ticket activities that may or may not come true (e.g., 'the deal may launch as early as next week' - even if it's unrealistically aggressive, or 'they want to sign this week' - which could be true but there is no way it would happen). don't write too much though, it will look like fluff and ull get flubberfucked. sometimes u get asked for approximate hours or 'percentages' or some other metric. always make sure urs add up to (a) a ridiculous number of hours (like 30 hours in a day when u r really busy, or like 15 hours when u r not busy), or (b) over 100 percent.  these people are not stupid though, so don't be ludicrous in what you write; but they are busy, so you can use that to your advantage.

  • email - timing is everything. email isn't like a phone call or a letter, you can completely control when the message is delivered, and this is important. let's say you are soliciting comments on something, do you want to send it out on 9AM on Friday, so that you can possibly get something back by 5PM...flubberfucking ur weekend in fact or just by mindfucking u the whole time while you think about it until monday, or do you want to send it out at 9PM - or even better, 4AM - so it looks like you were actually working hard and not just being a dick?  You don't even need to be in the office or on your bb at 9PM or 4AM, just have outlook send it later (check out the message options for 'delay delivery').  the point is you can tailor it to how and when you want other people to respond and start working on the tasks you are asking for, explicitly or implicitly.  When i was looking for jobs, i used to have my cover emails and resumes sent at 8:55AM on a weekday local time, so that it would be at the top of someone's email inbox when they got in to work or whatever. (have a canned excuse ready if something sends out after something else happens that obviates are makes ridiculous ur email....it's happened to me doh.)

  • phone - screen ur calls. get ur secretary to pick up all ur calls and tell them ur busy and will call them back. then email them back at 6pm. if u r not comfortable doing that or that's not kosher at ur shop, turn off ur ringer (i do that sometimes) and u won't have to consciously ignore calls, ull just do it automatically haha (on avaya phones, just hit volume down button til it goes off).  OR, if u don't like that either, here's one other thing i've done: put ur headphone or whatever on, dial ur office line from your cell phone, dump them on mute, and ur line will be engaged. bam. (alternatively, you could dial into a dead conference call line. double bam.)

  • do things quickly, but don't tell anyone - conventional wisdom is that the faster you get things done, the faster you get more stuff handed to you. if you are in a subordinate position, this can be a complete killjoy. i remember being very eager when i first started working to get stuff out the door asap, only to be flubberfucked by the speed at which some people would just dish more monkey shit off to you. two things i did to stop the vicious cycle were: (1) use the email tricks above to ship off things at the latest possible time, and (2) do a completely lackluster job. the first will buy you time til the next wave, and the second will stop the waves altogether. at some point you can also try just being frank with your superior, and hand in your work and at the same time say that you are going to be doing x, y and z until a, b and c so don't have any more time to help out for a while. superiors are generally ignorant to your personal situation because they'll be so entrenched in the one deal because they have so much responsibility that they don't even give it a second thought as to what you are doing. i know a colleague who, after he closed a deal was immediately approached with one of those 'so you are free now that you closed a deal huh? i'd like you to help me with this other deal starting right away...' and just flat out said to the bitch, "bitch, shut the fuck up." haha jk, he really said, "yes, but if you say one more word about staffing me i will literally diarrhea in ur mouth." okay, really, he said something like, "actually, yes, but i have been so exhausted by this deal that i must take a break for a short while; i'm taking two days off, and can help you starting monday." (it was wednesday.) He also rebuffed a partner trying to fuck up his vacation after not taking holiday in 12 months.  very good role model that one.  most of the time, lawyers tend to be passive aggressive about shit, so when you are flat out blunt in saying this stuff, there's shit they can do. relatively speaking, i think this dude has some respectable cajones compared to the industry standard monkey. (on concerns re doing lackluster jobs, u can see my post - which will come later - about not being so focused on being fucking perfect, we're not nazis, or even german (or i'm not) for fucks sake, and we're not going ot canned that easily.)

  • bb - if you've harmonized your bb and PC email per one of my other posts, you can work remotely from your bb, whether you're at home, shopping or whatever and make it seem like you are slaving away in the office, whether in the middle of the day or night. this is just nice icing on the cake. on the flipside, when you notice that your seniors are writing email from their bb's because they haven't really harmonized, then you should take that as a cue for you to skidaddle too.

  • posture - even if you are goofing off at your desk, when there are potential staffers or partners lurking, i will always be intently looking at my screen. once, on a cat 1 day when i was in the office in the middle of the day watching a movie online, and partners were walking around, i had a typing test window open, typing furiously away whenever they walked by. i increased my typing accuracy to 99% at 100 wpm and made it look like i was fucking swamped at the same time, AND got to watch some movie about some kid that kicked ass or something...it was called kickass. The partners or staffers may not necessarily be looking for anyone or you in particular, but people have a tendency to notice these things, and whether consciously or subcounsciously, they'll have a mental impression of you laboring away. Also important: set up your computer screens so people cannot see easily what you are looking at (either from a front view or at night from the reflection off ur window). that's a no-brainer. when people do come in to talk to you and undoubtedly ask, "hey do you have a minute?" say, "hold on ooonne minute, really need to get this thing out..." finish your typing test, then sigh, then say, "what."

  • time your arrivals/departures - if you're not busy and you're coming in to the office to do some things, chances are you won't want to be in early, or leave late. time your late arrival so that it's not obvious you are coming in late - maybe just returning from getting a coffee (nice to have your lights already on and not be carrying a bag or anything), and your departure so that you leave before everyone else, maybe when people are going out for an afternoon coffee. i knew a guy once who used to come in at lunch time everyday, and when there were group lunch  meetings he'd just throw his bag in the lobby closet and go right to the meeting. remember, the less people can get a hold of you, the less opportunity they have to give you something to do. thas why when not busy i try just not to be in the office at all - or in my office (i've hidden in record rooms, libraries, bathrooms, whatever for temporary respites sometimes.)

  • avoid, evade, dodge - avoid eye contact with staffers, in the hallways, from ur desk, in the bathroom or otherwise. if you see them walking one way and you are walking the same way, make like you forgot something and turn around. it's not that they'll be looking for you, but maybe they'll see you and think of something. see a partner coincidentally on the street, on a weekend, or something else? put ur phone to ur ear and start talking. start coughing uncontrollably.  pretend to be someone else. find a dumpster and jump inside it (chances r he won't follow). contort ur face so its unrecognizable. awkward social interaction - i.e., between two people who may not normally be friendly - breeds forced interaction - i.e., small talk - and when the only thing you have in common is work, guess where the person's mind will wander. one time, we were on a firm retreat - completely relaxed, no work-related things; i was in the airline lounge getting a drink and a partner was standing there getting a drink. i, retardedly, said hi to him, and he greeted me back. fine. awkward pause. then, he goes, 'oh hey by the way, i've got this new deal coming up, maybe you want to work on it?...' what. the. flubberfuck.

  • push back - this is probably the most important and culmination of the above set up factors. when people come a-knockin' on your door, if you are legitimately doing something at least, you can play off the deals you are working on to keep them at bay. paralegals do it to me all the time, i hate it. associates tend to be too easy-going and give non-committal responses to staffing requests, like 'i have x and y to do....' and the staffer will just say, 'okay when x and y are done you work for me'. etc. but if you were to say something like 'No. i'm too busy to give meaningful attention to your product and my other projects will suffer' then it becomes more work for the staffer to continue to pursue you then to find someone else, unless they specifically need you. (see above anecdote about my buddy with balls.) this works well too in conjunction with stuff like, doing a lackluster job. and u can really pit ur work against each other - works well when ur staffed on like 6 deals, because no one else knows what the fuck ur doing or working on, and chances are peopel will be too self absorbed or busy to think too much about ur stuff anyway. sometimes, because of this, you can also get seniors to push back on more senior people for you too - they just don't realize you don't want to do something. asking never hurt, so try it. this is harder to justify if you really have nothing to do, unfortunately. if u REALLY don't want to get on a deal or work with someone there are some extreme things u cd do, of course. i saw one guy get out of ALL of his work when he was hospitalized...i think for working too hard. sneaky! seriously, though, that's just too much. u want to be the exact opposite of that. i hope
Anyway, this is just a few of the things you can do to keep the dogs at bay for a while; there are a ton more that will get to in later posts, later. The longer u can escape work the better though is the take away. Think of doing all these things as ur real 'job', putting in hours at perfecting ur evasion techniques will pay off literally in increasing ur banana chunk / hour rate, by lowering ur actual "job"'s hours. 


5 comments:

  1. now in academiaApril 03, 2011

    Flubberfuck! I love it. I really hope you wrote this long entry while at work as an alternative to the typing test option.

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  2. haha thx - i actually did write a lot of this at work. even threw in some 'rubbing my chin / furrowing my brow / squinting my eyes / deep in thought' type looks when people were walking by. but i was trying to focus more on catching up on the latest movie trailers ^^

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  3. I needed that. I find myself jonesing for some CML slacking tips pretty much every day. I have gotten my fix. You rock...

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  4. But doesn't doing a lackluster job threaten your performance reviews and job even if it gets you less work?

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  5. this is an important point, and rest assured i have an upcoming post devoted to this as well. basically there are a few guiding principles - nobody's perfect, it's more about attitude sometimes than competency (think about when your first interviews - it was always about fit), whether you really don't want to work with a particular person or whether you just don't want to work, how subjective your bonus may be, lawyers are generally entirely wayyy to risk-averse and don't need to do a 100% or 110% job to keep ur job (i guess 75-80%), and there's more. AND, if you balance doing a shitty job with those hopefully few people you cannot work with with doing a better job with people that you like (and even better, 'befriending' those that you do like to work with) you really shouldn't have anything to worry about. like i said tho more on this later

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