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Jamie Collins

By: Jamie Collins

Many years ago (but not so many that it would lump me into the “old” category), I had the pleasure of working as a waitress at a restaurant. I know, it doesn’t sound that glorious, and in many regards, it wasn’t. Some days were certainly more of a pleasure than others. However, I must say it was truly a life-enriching experience. I was in my early twenties, bright eyed, and brimming with enthusiasm…at least when I was standing at your table, I was! It was a fruitful way to earn a quick buck via expeditious service and friendly interactions with members of the general public. Some customers were terrific people, and others, not so much. I learned to work well under pressure, how to appropriately diffuse a mishap or an angry customer…and fast, and the best way to train, interact with, and manage fellow employees.

For those of you who have had the fortune or mispleasure of working in the restaurant biz, you are probably familiar with the inherent “breaks” that some employees always seem to receive from their managers; the ones that come standard with the consequential chattering and bickering created in the periphery for everyone else who does not receive “the breaks.” Now, when I say “breaks,” I’m not talking about the kind you take for 15 minutes here and there, but those “breaks” which grant certain individuals within the group better opportunities, preferred projects, preferential work schedules, and lots of friendly, social interaction and face time with the bosses on a regular basis – those kind of “breaks.” These types of “breaks” also flow over into other professions, including the paralegal field, and countless others. Whether you’re slinging hot food and cold drinks in a restaurant or preparing pleadings at a law firm makes absolutely no difference. The emotional bank exists. It is alive and well, whether you grasp the concept…or not.

I must admit that I, like most others, assumed that bosses simply liked to play “favorites.” It seemed like a logical assumption to make. At least up until the day my general manager so eloquently explained the concept of “the emotional bank” to us during a staff meeting. At that point, I was a newbie and certainly not a “favorite.” Sure, at first I may have written it off as fluffery (perhaps b.s. is a better term), but over time, I began to understand that every person does, in fact, possess an emotional bank, and you and I are no exception. Don’t believe me? Let me explain the concept of the emotional bank, and then you can draw your own conclusion.

The guy who explained the emotional bank concept was a smart, successful, and business savvy guy, who was the general manager of a flourishing restaurant chain. He was the highest ranking superior we had in a local capacity. If he liked you, you were golden, and if he didn’t, well…then good luck making any money, getting a preferred work schedule, getting cut early if you wanted to be or being allowed to work late if you wanted to earn some extra cash, and as for the face time – you could forget it! At least that’s what I thought at the time. Little did I know I was completely unaware of a very important personal and business concept known as: “the emotional bank.”

He explained that the emotional bank was something each of us, as people (and bosses) had. Each person we interacted with either made a deposit in our emotional bank or a withdrawal, and this continued to occur the more we would interact with a particular person. In other words, any person you interact with on a regular basis has an account in your emotional bank and those accounts fluctuate based upon your interactions with each individual. He attempted to dispel the misplaced assumption that he played favorites with his employees, and promptly dismissed it as myth. The more he spoke, the more his concept actually made sense. I understood it. The light bulb went off in my adolescent brain, and it’s a concept that I carried with me when I entered the legal realm.

We’ll first narrow this discussion to the work place. Think about your own interactions with coworkers, bosses, and other people in the workplace. Some of them made a good impression on you from the onset. They consistently step up to go the extra mile, help you out, listen and share information, exchange knowledge and ideas, to save a project or diffuse a crisis, for you or with you. Others barely do what is expected of them, and are never (and I mean never) helpful, much less any of the other words set forth above. And of course, there are others (the dark clouds a/k/a keepers of the misery) that loom about the office (exactly like dark clouds) just to make the rest of us miserable. Those of you who have worked in management, trained employeed or worked at multiple firms/companies over a number years may have an easier time identifying with this concept, but it is a living, breathing reality, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

Take it one step further, and think of your friends, acquaintances, supervising attorneys, and family members. These people have each made deposits or withdrawals in your emotional bank, and many of them. The accounts aren’t necessarily equal, are they? If we’re being honest – they’re not. Perhaps Aunt Susie is always asking you to watch her kids or perform a favor, but never willing to help you out in return. Maybe one attorney in your office always expresses his gratitude and thanks you for your hard work and abundance of overtime hours spent in the land of legal, while another acts like it’s your thankless, personal obligation, compliments of The Unappreciative Boss Lottery.

And then there are those who fall into the “friend” category. Some of them are always there if you need something, be it an ear to listen, a chat to talk through an issue or resolve a problem, a shoulder to cry on, an accomplice for a fun outing or unwavering support. Others are always available on an exclusive basis, only if it happens to be Saturday night, at 10:00 p.m., and you feel inclined to slip into a little, black, cocktail dress to enter the land of martinis, but other than that, nodda.  Then there are others who come into our lives only for a season. We may only know them a brief period of time, but they impact us, and often in a big way. After a few regular interactions, they, too, open an account in your emotional bank.

Each person you interact with on a regular basis either makes a deposit or a withdrawal into your emotional bank. You, in turn, makes deposits of withdrawals into the emotional banks of those around you.

Now, there are certainly bosses out there who do play favorites. I do not claim that every boss in the world works off of an emotional bank theory. But, for the vast majority, once you learn to acknowledge, accept and embrace the concept of the “emotional bank,” those formerly thick and dense clouds of unfairness which lined the paralegal sky will part, you’ll become much more mindful of your accounts, at home and in the workplace, and may even become the master of reconciliation with both, numbers and people. You better believe your boss has an emotional bank, too! He or she unconsciously tallies every request, favor, slip up or heroic act of paralegalism, and saves them in that emotional bank, under your account. It has your name on it.

So today, when you interact with someone, ask yourself…where does my emotional bank stand with him or her? Is it time to invest in that account today? Am I in the red or do I have a sufficient balance? Do I need to make a deposit? Perhaps you do, and perhaps you don’t, but regardless, you’ve made a major stride today, simply by learning that the “emotional bank” does, in fact, exist…and it’s open for business – right here, right now.

Invest wisely.

TPS readers – Do you believe in the concept of the “emotional bank” or think that bosses simply play favorites? Hit that comment button and tell us all about it!

Happy High Heel Friday…and TGIF to all of the hard working male paralegals out there in the land of heels! We’ll see you next week.