Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Don't Catch the "Office Cold"

They exist in every office, sometimes at a higher level, sometimes lower. They ooze negative energy and unprofessionalism. They make flippant remarks about their jobs, let their professional appearance slide, and give off the impression that They would rather be getting a root canal than be at work. They could be anyone, from attorneys to other paralegals, secretaries, or receptionists. Perhaps this is just a "job" for them, a way to pay bills until they find a calling, or just a way to pay bills because they intend to cruise through life with no plan. They, of course, are the Apathetics, who just don't care about their work.

In any case, their negative energy is more contagious than that office cold, and it can infect you. They can cause you to lose interest in your work, to lose the passion that has driven you to excel as a paralegal in the first place. You may find yourself sighing and saying, "If they don't give 100%, why should I?" And slowly but surely, your work will suffer, your clients will suffer, and eventually, your career will suffer. As with a cirulating office cold, arm yourself with Airborne and echinacea tablets now, before you're miserable:

  1. Have a short-term goal. Maybe you want to handle more aspects of the files, or maybe you want to take more CLE. Maybe you would like to learn more about your area of law. Whatever it is, have a short-term goal in mind, and actively plan how you will reach that goal. Perhaps you can offer to draft pleadings, or find seminars of interest on the Web. Focusing on that short-term goal will help keep you motivated in your daily work.

  2. Have a long-term goal. Moving into a larger firm, becoming a paralegal manager, or holding a prominent position in the local paralegal association are all long-term goals that could keep the negativity at bay. Or perhaps you have a dream that has nothing to do with being a paralegal, such as writing a novel, starting your own business, or retiring early. Your work at this current position can propel you into your long-term goal.

  3. Keep something inspirational in view. This may sound trite, but keeping a quote or picture someplace prominent on your desk can help with motivation. For example, right before I started my current job, I opened a fortune cookie with the fortune, "You will always be successful in your professional career." That fortune is taped to my computer monitor -- I consider it fate that drove me to that cookie.

  4. Find happiness outside work. Your career is important, but so are you. Find something you love to do outside of work, just for you. Whether it's a yoga class, time spent doing crafts, or reading novels, take some time to de-stress.
  5. See if you can do anything to alleviate the negativity. Maybe the Apathetic just needs a little pat on the back, or perhaps she needs some clarification regarding her assignments. If a fellow paralegal or support staffer is the Apathetic, a compliment ("You did a great job on that memo") or an offer of help ("Is there anything I can do to help?") may help.

  6. Minimize contact. Maybe there is nothing you can do about the negativity. In that case, avoid the Apathetic as you would avoid a sneezing, coughing person. Treat him with respect, but quickly retreat to your own workspace (or shoo them away with, "I'm really busy right now; can we talk later?") and review your goals.

  7. Keep it all in perspective. Much like that office cold, the Apathetic probably will not be at your office forever. They will quit or be fired. Remember that every time you feel that negative energy.

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