Thursday, September 13, 2007

Saying Sorry

WARNING: This is an extraordinarily long and wordy entry.

As some of you may know, I've been having issues with one of my co-workers for several weeks now. My friend Perfecta had a baby boy back in April and came back to work full-time in August.

Full-time. FULL-TIME.

A little background....

Curly Fries, Perfecta, and I have been the best of friends at work for a few years now. At first, Curly Fries and I were the only girls in our department. We came from different firms and started at our current firm just two weeks apart in 2004. We worked closely on a big case together almost immediately upon our arrival and bonded quickly to say the least (Curly Fries was one of my bridesmaids last year). In late 2005, Perfecta joined our firm. Curly Fries and I crossed our fingers that "the new girl" would be cool. And she was! Phew. So began our little trio -- three peas in a pod.

Fast-forward to now. As you may know, we have been particularly busy lately, and the dynamics of our department changed dramatically while Perfecta was out on paid maternity leave for four months. Staff have been fired. Two of my good friends have left. Morale has been low for quite some time now. None of us are particularly happy these days, and many of us are toiling much harder than we should. It's the pits.

Now Perfecta is back from her four-month maternity leave. She gets in at 8ish and leaves at 4 or 5. This would be Non-Lawyer Land. But, alas, we live in Lawyer Land, a miserable place where all citizens are at the mercy and whim of ruthless tyrants. You have to stay as long as it takes to get the job done. That's what this job entails. And -- reality check -- the job is never done at 4 or 5.

When Perfecta first returned, we asked her to do a number of easy tasks, such as overseeing the e-filing of documents for our multi-district litigation. It's truly mindless work, but it's a piece of cake. All you do is click, click, click! What better assignment for someone trying to re-acclimate herself to the work world? But, no. Perfecta wouldn't have it. Perfecta had the gall to tell Pescado, someone five years her senior, she didn't want to do the e-filing because she didn't want to do "clerical work" and "wanted to do more substantive work, like draft motions." Perfecta then said she "felt depressed and tired" and left at 3:30 that day. Pescado, who is senior counsel, stayed through the evening to do a junior associate's job.

Strike 1.

Not one week later, I was assigned a motion for a protective order precluding plaintiffs from demanding the production of HTML when defendants had already produced all documents in searchable PDF format. The partner specifically directed me to ask for Perfecta's assistance with research. Around midday, I told Perfecta, who is two years my junior, that the partner wanted her to help me with my motion. In light of her previous statement to Pescado, I thought she'd jump at the chance. Nope. She told me she was "too busy." I respected that, so I didn't press further. Her office was dark at 4:30. I stayed until midnight drafting the damn motion alone.

Strike 2.

Just a few days ago, the same partner gave an assignment to Perfecta and Talksa. Perfecta told Talksa she was "too busy" to help. Really? Really?! You told Talksa you were too busy?! Talksa is one of the top three billing associates in our entire firm. Bullshit. Only two associates are busier than Talksa, and you're not one of them, Perfecta.

Strike 3.

As a result of his experience, Pescado was livid and actually declared, "She's dead to me." When I said that was harsh (not yet having had the pleasure of being Perfecta-ed myself at that point), Pescado modified his statement and said, "Ok. She's a fun friend, but she's a really shitty co-worker." Talksa was not pleased when she got Perfecta-ed either, although she was more sympathetic to Perfecta's new status as a working mom. Me? I guess I was in between Pescado and Talksa, but probably closer to Pescado on the Angry Spectrum.

I sort of kicked Perfecta out of the pea pod these past few weeks. I haven't dropped by her office to chat. I haven't had lunch with her. When I see her, I only say a quick hello and nothing else. And, when she asked if I wanted to see a video of her baby on Tuesday, I said, "I'll pass." Yes, that's what I said. Cold.

Yesterday, Perfecta came into my office with tears streaming down her face. Apparently, my refusal to watch her baby video really hurt her, and she had been broken up about it for over 24 hours. I felt bad and apologized for that. It was really uncalled-for and mean. Talksa aptly pointed out to me that, even though I'm not a baby fan, I would've at least feigned interest under normal circumstances. Talksa was right. I was bitter, and I acted on it.

Perfecta was sobbing. I handed her my box of Kleenex. Amidst her tears, Perfecta apologized for being unreliable and for shirking her work. She told me that she loved her "Mommy and Me" class and that it was such a downer to come back to work after that. She said she was doing the best she could and that tasks were taking her longer than usual. I told her that was exactly why we gave her the mindless e-filing -- easy billing. She admitted that she was wrong to pass that up and leave early that day. I then brought up the fact that she declined to help me with something that was precisely the type of work she purportedly wanted to do. She apologized profusely for that, too. I told her that it's a downer for me and pretty much everybody else to come to work every morning: "Perfecta, you're not the only one who dreads the office, and you haven't even had to come to the office for four months."

Finally, I told her what bothered me the most. It wasn't that she left early. It wasn't that I had to work late by myself. It was that she had lied to me.

I looked into her red watery eyes.
"You told me you were too busy. Were you?"
"I was. Well...maybe."
"Really, Perfecta? Your office was dark at 4:30."
[awkward pause]

Normally, this would be such a coup, at least to a lawyer. You'd cheer inside if this were a deposition. But I didn't feel that good about backing my friend into a corner. I didn't make her explain.

I knew.
She knew.
And she knew that I knew.

I then simply told Perfecta I'd rather she just tell me she missed her baby and wanted to go home. I told her Curly Fries leaves early a lot, too, and for unusual reasons, often dog-related. (Curly Fries loves her dog more than most people love their children.) Do I judge that? Not really, except for to laugh sometimes.

"Just tell me the truth, Perfecta. As my friend, you should just tell me the truth."

We both agreed that neither of us had been a very good friend to the other for the past few weeks, and we agreed to try harder to put ourselves in the other's shoes. She said she would make greater efforts to take work home, and I said I'd try to be more understanding and baby-friendly (although it should be noted I still haven't watched the now infamous baby video; maybe I should ask to view it tomorrow).

Perfecta blotted her tear-stained face, and we hugged. We had a nice lunch together today, just like old times, and talked about everything and nothing. I think we're back on track to sharing a pod again. Think good thoughts for us.


  1. I'm glad you guys were able to burst the growing bubble of frustration. I'm sure it feels great to get it all out on the table.

  2. Ugh. I hate when friendships take awkward turns, but it sounds like you guys did a good job talking it out and repairing it. Yeah, you probably should ask to see the baby video. I bet that would make her day, and maybe even get her to feel better about work, thus becoming more productive. GL!

  3. All I could think was Larry David when you responded to her asking you to come check out the baby video. Lol. That, and Vince Vaughn's Old School Quote "Always looking at me. Judging me. Look at the baby, Look at the baby"

    Glad you two worked it out!

  4. "I'll pass" cracked me up!

    The whole thing is very sad though. Sometimes time off is worse than being there suffering everyday, because the memory of how fabulous the alternative is is fresh.

  5. your office life would make for a good tv drama, i would tune in everynight!!!

    i am glad everything has been brought out in the open and now you two have an understanding and can move on.

    just curious do any of your co-worker ie curly fries or perfecta read you blog =)

  6. Good friends are the ones you can be angry with one day and the next day have lunch with - laughing about the silliest of things. Good friendships that are put the to test and pass are the ones that last. I'm glad you were able to work it out.

  7. Right on. Sometimes you've just got to let them know what's bothering you and be honest with each other. I'm glad you're both able to do that and do better.

    I'm not a baby hater, but WTF kind of video tape do you make of a new baby? Do you just watch them gurgle and coo? Does her baby do tricks or recite the Gettysburg Address already? Pics are enough to share. Video is too much.

  8. it must be said that I LOVE your nicknames for your co-workers. Pescado, Curly Fries...hahaha!!!!!! adorable! The "I'll pass" was so harsh but I'll admit, it cracked me up too. It must also be said that I think you're awesome for being a lawyer...I think girl lawyers are freakin' HOT...girl power! heehee :)

  9. Man this one had it ALL! I was angry. I laughed. I cried, (Ok I didn't cry but I did get kinda choked up in the part where Perfecta came in sobbing in your office).

    I hope the office dynamic gets better for you. Keep up the good work and your very honest friendships.

    You should feel good about that conversation Monkey.

  10. It's great that this whole situation came to a head. Finally a little peace at least knowing she can acknowledge her mistakes/shortcomings.

  11. Wow dude that's some drama, but at least the two of you hashed it out. Yes the "I'll pass" was cold of you, but when I read it, I kind of got a little bit of satisfaction out of it too (ok maybe I'm a bit evil) but oh well, it shows me you have some real cojones!! I'm glad that you pointed out that she needed to be honest with you--she didn't need to lie, I hate when people lie.

  12. i'm glad that you worked things out with your friend and especially happy that you were able to discuss how you really felt about her behavior.

    however, i don't think you were wrong, mean or cold for not wanting to see he baby video. it was the wrong place and time for her to expect you to drop your work for that. it's one thing for her to priotitze her feelings for her child over work, but another to expect others to do the same.

    taking a full circle, i'm glad that you two were able to get past that rough patch. sometimes friends needs friends to help them see the bigger picture.

  13. i've been sitting on the edge of my seat for days now. my butt hurts. please pass your extra butt paste.

    in all seriousness, i'm glad it all turned out OK in the end. still thinking good thoughts. at least my butt can rest now. ;)

  14. Oh, this makes me very happy. I'm sure you felt relieved, too.

    Fingers crossed that things go better at work.

    And watch the video, baby-hater!

  15. I'm glad that things are working out between you and your friend. Still thinking good thoughts for you.

  16. I'm glad that you guys were able to talk things out honestly. Because negative energy between people just sucks.

  17. wow. this post really DID have it all!

    with a happy ending, too. yay!

  18. So glad you were able to work it out, feels like a relief huh? Go watch the baby video, I know you love babies way deep down~ ha! :)

  19. Oh, I'm so glad things are better and that you guys talked it out. Hopefully, things will get back on track now.

  20. Huge shocker, I'm late in the game...

    I'm glad the 2 of you were able to talk it out and hopefully things will be like they used to be (well, at least closer to what they used to be).

    And yes, I laughed at the "I'll pass"

  21. You know, I used to feel like you. I worked 70 hour weeks and resented those that left early. But things change. Priorities change.

    If you have a baby, or a serious illness or god forbid you die tomorrow, someone will just do your job. We are that easily replaced.

    Yes it's not fair that people leave early. But sometime in the future you may have to deal with being on the other side of the table. And believe me that's no fun either.

  22. ugh. i'm really glad you were at least able to talk it out and hopefully this will lead to her remedying the situation. hang in there.


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