You're asked an opinion and people get offended?

<p>What do you do? I have 2 co-workers/friends who are constantly complaining about their jobs. You name it, they complain – i.e. the quality of work they’re getting; the people they’re working with; the hours they’re working etc. Both are junior attorneys, right out of school and this is their first job. They are certainly capable of becoming good lawyers but they don’t seem to ‘want it’ enough to put in the time to learn; after going through years of professional school, it seems like they had a very romanticized notion of work. They expect all the senior attorneys to be encouraging, supportive and teaching at all times and take personal offense when that doesn’t happen. While people certainly strive for that, the reality is that moment to moment, people are busy and stressed by the biglaw life and won’t take time to mentor junior attorneys who sit around complaining and showing little initiative. People tend to mentor those who are interested, want to work hard etc.</p>

<p>I’m only a few years ahead of them professionally and happen to love the profession, despite the stress, hours. They keep coming to me for advice (they are in the friend zone – both have invited me to their weddings etc) and I try to give them the real picture without being overly harsh, in my opinion. The other night, we all grabbed dinner with another co-worker and they brought up the same issues. I thought it went fine only to be told by my co-worker (who I know is not exaggerating) that they later said that – I’m harsh, overly-competitive, too defensive of the firm/profession etc. And they were insulted by the fact that I questioned their commitment to the profession. I can see how some of this was taken that way; I’m a very cut-and-dry type of person and think that all the difficulties along the way have made me better at my job. Conversely, they seem to want someone to just agree with them and trash everyone else at work. What would you do – apologize, ignore it, advise them further or something else? What would you want someone to do if this was your kid on the job? My gut instinct is to stay out of it even if asked, since they obviously don’t want my true opinion, but it is annoying that I'm trying to help and they're talking about me.</p>

<p>Since you've asked our opinions...
people quite often ask for an opinion but are truly only seeking validation for their current belief. It is hard to know who really wants another view and who doesn't. In this case, it isn't hard for you to know now. These people want to know what you think, if you agree with them. They are workmates, and to some degree friends, so I recommend you do more listening than talking, and to give non-committal answers like "but what do you think?" and "you'll have to work that out..."</p>

<p>And it is possible that in your honest, cut-and-dried way you were not as diplomatic as you might have been? I have learned that "it isn't very flattering" sounds much better than "yes, it makes you look fat." Both may be correct and truthful, but one is so much nicer.</p>

<p>Generally speaking I don't recommend becoming too friendly with coworkers for this very reason. It is fine to be cordial but you should keep your social life separate from work.</p>

<p>I agree with younghoss ... it's the RARE person that asks for your opinion and genuinely WANTS it. The rest are usually (as younghoss says) looking for for validation of their current belief, OR are using flattery to get your support for something on THEIR agenda. I could tell you stories ... but why? This one's a no-brainer.</p>

<p>Did they specifically ask your advice, or were they just venting and you jumped in?</p>

What would you do – apologize, ignore it, advise them further or something else?


<p>Here is a really good sentence, which is very effective with colleagues, "You have great instincts. I'm sure you know what you need to do. They knew what they were doing when they hired you. You're bright, you'll figure it out. I don't know, what were you thinking you should do? Or, that's an interesting point. I'd never noticed that." Okay, it's a lot more than one sentence, but you only give one of these sentences at a time.</p>

<p>Be careful in this case. You are too close in age to consider yourself a true mentor, as they will be your peers in a year or two and you don't want to end up that "condescending jerk at the end of the hall." Politics are politics and it's always good to have your colleagues on your side.</p>

<p>Since you've been through this before with them I would just say the next time, that you have told them what you think and really don't have anything to ad. I also think what poetgrl said ^ is really good, it gives an answer without leaving a lot of room for more discussion yet seems kind.</p>

<p>I definitely don't enjoy giving people advice since I don't think I'm good at it, nor do I want to be the person they vent to since it gets really old. People vent and expect you to agree or jump in with your own venting, which I never do with anyone; I realize these are co-workers and I don't ever want to say anything about anyone else because it could get around -- and I haven't. I didn't advise until they said things like 'how would you handle this' or 'what should I do' or 'what's your opinion.' I understand I shouldn't have said anything at all, but now I just don't know how to cut this off without it now looking like I don't want to have anything to do with them because they have differing views than me. I've always been friendly but distant -- offered congrats on weddings etc. but didn't think it was appropriate to attend weddings, bachelorettes (which I don't think should involve co-workers) etc or talk about personal lives. The working atmosphere of the firm is definitely friendly, esp. amongst the younger people -- in part bc we kind of live in the office and in part bc the job requires a good deal of travel so when you're stuck in Montana for your 8th night in a row on some business trip, you want to be cool enough with your co-workers to be able to grab dinner with them. Thoughts? </p>

<p>Poetgrl - I really like that and will use it. As for not being a true mentor, I tend to agree but in reality, my mentors are also people only a few yrs ahead of me. Difference is, I don't want to be a mentor to these two, nor do I want them talking about me! I talk to people when I want an opinion and often they disagree with me, and I have to decide whether to follow the advice or not; I don't go around talking about how they're harsh, competitive etc.</p>

<p>AJ I promise you do not have to address this particular situation directly, at all..... Just use those sentences and deflect it back to them and move on. Smile and be polite and don't avoid them. In a few days there will be other office gossip and you will be left in the dust. Also, if they are the type to find opinions "harsh" there will soon be another person in your place for them to be annoyed with. </p>

<p>Good luck. It'll all clear up in a few days.</p>

<p>Oh, and if your other colleague mentions it again, just smile and shake your head and laugh it off. If it's not bugging you, it won't come up again.</p>

<p>All I can add is if you don't like to listen to venting, don't get married! Seriously, it might help if you can see it for what it is: venting, as in letting off steam. A lot of what is said in the heat of the moment, while letting off steam, is sort of an exaggeration--hot air, and is really an end in itself. Sort of like a good cry (something tells me you probably don't relate to that either). It's probably not a good idea to alienate anyone at your company, so think of your role with these two as a passive one, purely a listener if need be. If they ask you what they should do, how would you handle this, etc, just make hmm-ing noises and say in a contemplative tone, "I don't know... what were you thinking?" This will get them off and running, and you'll be off the hook. The only downside is that they'll consider you their new best friend!</p>

<p>Just one more piece of advice: never, never, never let yourself be pulled into a conversation that involves trash talking about anyone else at work, particularly about superiors. I know -- clearly - that you have avoided it thus far and are not interested in that -- but the point is that your co-workers are griping & complaining, and now it is coming back to you that they think you are "too defensive of the firm" -- so basically there is pressure being put on you to show that you, too, can be a critic. </p>

<p>But that's the sort of stuff that comes back to bite you in the end. You already KNOW that these individuals complain and talk about people behind their backs -- if you in any way signal that you agree with them, here is how things will develop:</p>

<p>Coworker A talking to you: Partner X is a real jerk. He did terrible stuff to me.
Your possible, non-defensive response: I hear you. You must have been very upset.</p>

<p>Next day,
Coworker A talking to Coworker B: I told AJ that Partner X is a jerk, and AJ agreed! (or, worse: "AJ says that Partner X is a real jerk!" or "AJ says that what Partner X did is terrible!")</p>

<p>You are MUCH better off having the junior co-workers perceive you as a condescending brown-noser who is overly dedicated to the firm... then have them embrace you as an ally and turn right around and stab you in the back. You already know they are a source of negative energy in the work place and have no qualms about criticizing others. The last thing you want, long term, is to be playing their game-- or to be perceived by others as part of their clique. </p>

<p>So keep things positive -- and seek out others at your work who have a positive approach to the job.</p>

<p>I have had similar happen and it is very frustrating to know that someone asked your opinion then get upset because you gave it. It will blow over but all of my co-workers now know that I go by the motto of (dont ask a question if you dont want to hear the answer). They have learnt that I can be very understanding, caring and helpful but I am honest and to the point. Good Luck</p>

<p>I think the advice is pretty similar – be a decent listener and lob any questions back to them. Hopefully that will make them stop or turn to others who will be more supportive in providing validation. I understand the post about just wanting to vent (or cry), but I do think that these are things that are done privately, not at work.</p>

<p>Calmom -- believe me, I have my critiques of the job/things superiors have done, as we all do at times about jobs. I know that these two think that I must have such criticisms, but they tend to say (to others) and hint to me that I “love the job” too much, defend the firm too much, or I’m in it for partnership (in law school speak – I’m a gunner). I think it’s partly their way of saying that I should be trash talking others and complaining about the job, but that’s just not something I do, ever. In my view, the negative things that have happened in my career are personal. I don’t see any benefit in sharing with any junior colleague (even to say – look this happened to me too) because they will only go around advertising. </p>

<p>I am concerned about being perceived as being in their clique. I feel like everything is interpreted -- we had a dep’t breakfast and I didn’t sit with them because we had a few senior colleagues in town from another office who I work with but rarely see in person. But in their minds, I’m sure my seating choice had something to do with our differing views. Though I realize that it will blow over, the behavior is far more grade-schoolish than I would expect from young professionals at work.</p>

But in their minds, I’m sure my seating choice had something to do with our differing views.


So? They're your juniors, and if your description of their behavior is at all accurate, not long for your firm. Trust me, you are not the only one they've "vented" to and one day they're going to vent to the wrong person! Or their attitude will show in their work. There are too many out of work lawyers today for a law firm to hang onto dead weight. </p>

<p>You did the right thing by interacting with others. And you don't want to sit with them, even if there weren't senior colleagues in town, because you don't want to be seen by others as being part of the "dissatisfied" clique.</p>

<p>Distance yourself from this negative energy. You don't need it and it can only end up doing you harm.</p>

<p>You should link them to and let them see what real jerks are. Frankly, as a long-time hiring person in law firms, I'm a little stunned that anyone just out of law school who actually HAS A JOB would be complaining. </p>

<p>I agree that you should distance yourself. If all goes well and your career culminates in partnership, the other members of "the firm" will be your true peers, partners, lunch dates every month. It's other people who are equally committed to the practice and collegiality with whom you should interact.</p>

<p>On a purely personal level, I make it my business to have as little to do with first year associates as is humanly possible because most of them are brats. i can't tell you how many times over the years I've heard "don't you know that I'm a lawyer?" and have answered "you and everyone else, buddy." It has also been my experience that most of the brats do grow up, learn how much they don't know and get right with themselves. Or they leave. </p>

<p>Again, stay away from these people till they've taken one path or the other. In this legal climate, it's remarkably tone deaf for anyone to be complaining while collecting a paycheck.</p>

<p>I think people often kid themselves that they are trying to be helpful when really they are saying something for themselves, not the listener. I think figuring out what you wanted to accomplish here is the first step. But you have to be honest.</p>

<p>If your goal was to truly give useful advice, then being diplomatic is important. Too many people who pride themselves on being direct/cut and dry/honest when really it's just an excuse to say whatever comes into their mind and not give a damn about the consequences. Big whoop- anyone can do that. </p>

<p>If your goal is to be helpful, then you want to be honest but ALSO influential. That is, you want to keep the listeners defenses low, your perspective be heard, understood and taken into account. In which case, being just a <em>bit</em> socially savvy and diplomatic in what you say can go much much farther and have much more impact, and spare your relationships at the same time. It takes a bit of emotional intelligence and effort, but it is much more rational if your goal is to give helpful advice. You can be dead honest AND have people see your point of view and make changes. More importantly, you can be dead honest with your friends, and still have them as friends aftewards!</p>

<p>If your goal is not to be helpful, but instead to get something off your chest, feel better yourself, get them to finally shut up, or put them in their place, be honest with yourself about it. Stop pretending its to give advice when really its for YOU not THEM. </p>

<p>What was your goal? If it's not to be helpful, then you did what you felt like doing and it probably doesn't matter what you do now. It felt good to say what you did so your goal was accomplished. </p>

<p>If you aren't sure about how to sound diplomatic and non-offensive with your peers, or this isn't your strong point: ask yourself what you would say if you were sharing your thoughts with someone who has power over you (or will so in the future). Don't burn bridges with anyone. </p>

<p>BTW, I absolutely do not agree that one should avoid friends at work. Oh what a sorry sad life one would have if they worked professional hours and had no real friends at work! Real friends are what help you get ahead, keep you sane, add joy and meaning to work. Life is far too short, and work hours for many far too long, to limit true connections to others outside of work hours only.</p>

<p>Umpteen years ago I was an associate in a large law firm. I tried to stay clear of complainers because they can upset your own sense of satisfaction with your job, and most for most of it, you can do nothing about it. In general, I try to avoid gossip of all kinds, and if I feel that it is necessary to tell some story to make a point, I disguise the people in it and never name names. I assume that anything I say will be on the front page of the NY Times (or in this day and age on AOL), and I don't think anyone would want that. </p>

<p>I think most people don't really want advice even though they seem to be asking for it. I also have found that there is a corollary to that: many people may advise you to do things that they themselves would never do, and their advice is in no way tailored to your particular circumstances. You really have to know the speaker to know whether the advice is worth anything at all.</p>

<p>Lastly, I had many close friends at my former firm, and we socialized alot outside of work. I went to many weddings, spent weekends at the beach and skiing, and welcomed children into the world together with those friends. After so many years, no one has really kept up, but I think they were good folks. I think one unspoken rule was that we almost never talked about our work outside of work. I know that it sounds impossible, but really it was true. We developed our mutual interests outside of law, and that was what made the relationships worthwhile. As to people who really are only work acquaintances, I would keep things just professional, and keep personal stuff out of it.</p>

<p>To ZM and all of those presently/formerly of large law firms -- I don't know how it is at your firm but at mine, sometimes it feels like complaining is a sport. Junior associates tend to go around saying way too much, expecting everyone to comfort them/agree with them and expecting people to add their own complaints; these days complaints start with "i'm happy to have a job but...". When you don't do that, you're seen as someone who is 'in it for partner.' As we all know, partnership is a real long shot for everyone and being professional has nothing to do with future prospects for partnership.</p>

<p>To be quite honest, I have no interest in convincing others or proving to them that my view is right or that their attitude will hurt them down the road; it's their career to manage and I just don't want any involvement, politics etc.</p>