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A blog with tips and insights into the practice of law

Should I stay or should I go?

How one deals with the rigors of work is one of life’s great challenges. When the unstoppable force of expectation meets the immovable object of reality, some quandaries can emerge. Having a job can be tough, that’s why it’s called work and of course it’s not going to be great all the time. But how about when it’s bad most of the time? How bad is too bad when it comes to changing jobs? While traversing my working life, chatting to people and reflecting on my own experience, four criteria have emerged as useful guides as to whether or not a job’s worth sticking with. They’re not all of equal value. Certain combinations can invalidate one or compensate for others, and of course individual results may vary. But when considering one’s position I’ve always found them to be a useful guide. So the four criteria are – boss, peers, pay, benefits.

Boss. The right boss, like many other partnerships, can make all the difference. A great boss can overcome deficiencies in all other criteria. Likewise, a bad boss can invalidate them all. If you’ve got the wrong boss, it doesn’t matter that you’ve got some great peers, great pay and you’ve got a great gym and snacks. A bad boss ruins everything.

Peers. Peers are an added bonus. A good work peer network can assist in most areas of one’s work, though there’s some evidence to suggest that its relevance is declining. Fragmented degree structures, disjointed graduate groups, expansive public transport systems and globalised recruitment all combine to diminish a sense of camaraderie that might have existed within the profession at some stage. That said, it’s still good to have some people to have lunch with and organize a few get togethers here and then. Good peers can make up for pockets of bad work or a lack of benefits, but they can’t undo a bad boss or provide relief from an unworkable pay situation.

Pay. It’s nice to be paid. It’s useful to be able to buy things. Many people would have experienced the joys of unpaid clerkships and volunteer work which brings the notion of money into stark relief. Money indeed makes the world go around and damages really do exist. How far money goes to compensate for harm is a tricky thing, and forms the basis for many lawyers professional contemplations. Suffice to say that pay makes some things better, but not everything. And sometimes, if you have the right boss, good peers and the office organizes nice events, perhaps you can make that pay work.

Benefits. Benefits are the toppings, the sauce, the garnish, the finishing touches that make a not-so-good job bearable or a good job better. They show that you’re valued and that people have made the extra effort. They can push one of the other considerations in a certain direction, but can’t really make up for a complete deficiency or a really bad boss.

Interestingly, ‘work’ is not one of these considerations. I think in the areas which most professionals work in, that decision was made quite some time ago and the horse has somewhat bolted. Though that said, there is a difference between criminal law and conveyancing, which is a factor in one’s work experience. So in summary, one’s place in the rich tapestry of the human condition can be subject to all sorts of things. But when it comes to work, having some sort of a framework on which to place an objective appreciation of your position can be a useful way to come up with your next move or to formulate a strategy to keep going.