Brian was a young attorney who appeared to have it all. He graduated from a top law school with top grades, landed a prestigious job during a slow market, and made a salary reaching well into the six figures. When Brian contacted me to discuss a job search, he seemed beaten down. I asked him to describe his work. This is what he told me:
- He worked closely with a senior attorney with erratic, unpredictable mood swings, which ranged from being complimentary and charming one moment to condescending and verbally abusive the next.
- Brian would get stomach pains almost daily when the senior attorney’s name would show up on his caller ID. He never knew if the person would be in a good mood or calling to berate him.
- He felt his entire self-worth hinged on whether the senior attorney was pleased with his work. Nice comments meant he was on top of the world; negative comments meant he was a failure.
- He recently woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat realizing the page numbers in a brief he filed that day were in the Arial font, while the brief itself was in Times New Roman. (He got reprimanded the next day for the Arial.)
- Although he had received positive performance reviews, he believed it was only a matter of time before his superiors would “find out” he wasn’t as smart as they thought and would believe they had made a mistake in hiring him.
- He was afraid to share any of this with his co-workers or family for fear that he would be viewed as weak or a failure. Brian added, “I know this may sound bad, and although I’m pretty miserable, I think I’m lucky to be working here.”