Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Team Player or Team Doormat

I’ve recently been back in the market for a new job and one of the common questions I ask in the interview process is what happened to the last guy.  While there will always be spin on the part of an employer it sometimes be hard to discern if the reason he left was because he wasn’t a team player or because he refused to be the team doormat.  This becomes even more complicated in smaller companies where everyone wears multiple hats and does grunt work regardless of their status.  And it becomes even harder to self-identify if you are the said poor team player or doormat. 

So I’ve come up with a checklist to help a would be doormat out:
  1. If you’re asked to cover for an employee while they are out, even if it’s not purely legal in nature, you’re being asked to be a team player.  Frequently this will come from HR or other executive functions where sensitivity to the potential issues reduces the options and makes you the next best choice.
  2. If you’re asked to permanently handle routine non-legal matters that are heavily administrative or otherwise burdensome and your legal experience adds little or no value to the process, you may be a doormat.
  3. If you’re told budgets are tight so you’ll have to make your own copies and type up your own letters – suck it up and be a good team player.
  4. If you’re told budgets are tight so you can’t have a raise for the third time in three years yet co-workers are bragging about 5-6 figure bonuses or going on lavish "retreat" work trips, you might just be a doormat.
  5.  If the workload is increasing but in a haphazard manner, i.e. some additional contract work, some additional employment matters, a litigation matter once a year, etc.  You may be asked to step up and take on additional responsibility, which may translate into a few more hours per week.  This is what good team players do, until…
  6. If the workload has increased consistently over a decent period of time so that there is easily enough coherent work for another head (or two) to be added and you’re being asked to work double time, it may be time to find a better team to play for.

Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list – but hey, it’s my first post back.  As always, feel free to leave your own doormat examples in the comments.

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