As the year begins, businesses will take time to review the goals set the previous year and analyze how they fared. They will have the opportunity to look back on the recent 12 months to celebrate their greatest achievements. And while taking an inventory of what went right is important for office morale, it’s also imperative to appreciate the full weight of what went wrong. As leaders, when we fall short of what we set out to accomplish, it can be demoralizing for our teams. But if you embrace the opportunity failure offers, it could be the catalyst you need to reevaluate success and push toward future goals.Learning from FailureLearning and growing from failure can be a success in itself. By analyzing where your company fell short in specific areas, you can begin to dive into the nitty gritty of the shortcoming. When analyzing a missed quota, unfulfilled plan, or just a plain mistake, ask these questions:
How far away were we from reaching the goal?
What are the factors that held us back?
Did we have all the information needed to create the right goal?
Was the goal reachable / was it the right goal?
Answering these questions will help start the journey into learning from past failures and reevaluating success within your company.
Embracing the Baseline
To create focused goals, it’s important to look at the past to determine where you want to go in the future. Understanding a baseline of performance is fundamental to strive for growth and production. Regardless whether you reached your goal or not, you now have 12 months of data to help your company build a baseline. Some companies create recurring annual goals that simply change in percentage (e.g. in year one, increase customer satisfaction to 90%. In year two, increase to 93%, etc.) Baselines are great for goals like these because you can see if your actions affected the goal, as well as how to measure specific data points within the goal. Embrace your baseline and look toward the future.
Being Held Back
Whenever you set out to accomplish something that others either can’t or aren’t willing to strive for, there will be obstacles that hinder your path to success. These factors that hold us back from achieving success can blindside us or they can be calculated variables we plan for. Once you see that a goal won’t be met, meet with your team to find out why the organization fell short. Examine all factors that are known (e.g. market demand, economic conditions, etc.) and look into the factors that blindsided your company this year. While there are several factors we can’t control, there are those we can begin to look out for in the future and plan to either avoid or overcome in the new year. Take a hard look at your goals and answer the difficult question: why did we fall short? Being honest with the “why” will help you achieve the “what” moving forward.
Obtaining the Right Information
When betting on yourself, it’s nice to have all the cards. When you know all the information, it’s not a gamble, it’s a calculated risk and reward scenario. When creating annual goals, follow a structured and calculated formula. One of these, and the most popular goal-setting formula is the S.M.A.R.T. goal.
Some aspects of this formula require specific information to fully flesh out a goal. Knowing where you have been, where you are, and where you want to go can help when creating these types of goals. Understanding your baseline will help answer some of these; however, gathering all the data, information, and organizational desires will also help exponentially. If your company failed to reach a desired outcome, determine whether you had all the cards when making the goal in the first place. If not, make it a priority for future goals.
Creating the Right Goal
Finally, the most important question to ask yourself is simple: was the goal achievable in the first place? Was it even the right goal for our company at the time? Not all goals are created equal, and though it is important to be aggressively optimistic and strive for greatness, it’s OK to accept the fact that a specific goal isn’t right for your organization at this time. The factors, obstacles, data points, and baseline all work together to determine how much energy and talent it will take to reach a certain level of success. If these elements make it unrealistic to fulfill a plan, then it wasn’t the right plan for your organization in the first place. Creating the perfect goal for your team means having something that will push your team, rallying them toward a finish line that they can strive to cross, while also putting plans in place to finish the race strong. If this isn’t possible, it may not be the right goal for your team.
While some believe success is black and white, and is measured in wins and losses, it’s important to understand that you can find ways to reevaluate by learning from your failures and putting plans in place to pursue excellence in the future. If you didn’t get where you wanted to go this year, remember, there’s always next year. And if you learn from what went wrong, you can strive for success in the future.
What do you do when an annual goal isn’t met? How do you ensure your team makes the necessary adjustments to strive for future success? Let us know in the comments section below!
A solo practitioner in a lawyers group asked what is a fair wage to pay a law clerk who is still in school. The responses went all over the place. Some paid little more than minimum wage while others paid slightly more. One paid a lot more. Since there is no recommended minimum as exists with the major law firms, it is anybody’s guess.
Some based their answers on what they got paid when they were a 3L. Others based the pay on the number of applicants they received. Or they base it on what they thought was the going rate by asking around or searching online.
The short answer is you can pay whatever you can get away with.
But just because you can pay a small wage to a law student, does it mean that you should? I have heard the typical reasons for not paying a lot to law students. They come with little-to-no experience, are likely to make mistakes, and the employer (and the client) should not have to pay for that. Also, since most law student jobs are likely to be temporary, the law student might not notice the higher wage. The on-the-job experience they receive is more valuable than the money. And some firms just cannot afford to pay more than the bare minimum.
Some have said that the pay is comparable to similar positions in government. While government jobs generally pay less than the private sector, the training is usually better, the work is less stressful, and employers generally prefer people with government experience. Most small firms cannot offer similar intangible benefits like these.
I may sound crazy or financially wasteful, but I think it would be beneficial in the long run for small firms to pay higher than market rate for law students. Why?
For starters, you will generally attract better employees. I know this sounds obvious but most lawyers aren’t famous for their business acumen. Let’s face it, money talks. Especially when law students today have $300,000+ of student loan debt chasing them. The best firms tend to pay the best salaries. A higher salary means that you will get candidates who actually want to work for you instead of seeing you as a last resort résumé gap filler. They will be motivated to stay and go the extra mile since they know they are paid better than their classmates.
Also, you should see this as an investment. You see, these 3Ls will one day become your colleagues, potential referral sources, or co-counsel. The sad truth is that some of them may end up being paid less as new attorneys. And others may not find jobs at all. A few years ago, I wrote about why small firm junior associates are paid relatively little. I think the struggle for new attorneys will continue, especially if Siri is one day allowed to give legal advice. You may be the one bright spot in their lives and they will remember you when they need to refer potential clients.
Of course, there are some steps you should take to make sure you don’t end up paying more than necessary. Start new law student hires on a part-time basis and with tasks that are appropriate for their skill level. If the new hire is not performing well, it is best to let him go as soon as possible.
This post was not meant to be a definitive “how to” on hiring clerks or staff in general. I only hope that it will make employers think twice before deciding to pay law clerks the least amount as possible. Most of us probably remember what it was like to work as a law clerk during law school. We did our best, no matter how much we were paid. Employers who pay the bare minimum usually end up with employees who do the bare minimum. Attorneys only have their reputation. This not only applies to future clients but also to future employees. If you want to attract the best talent, you will have to be known for paying for the best.
In last 20 years the entire economy has changed significantly. E-commerce, mobility, social media, and the sharing economy have all created mega technology companies—and changed the way we all live. Imagine a world without Google, smart phones, social media or Amazon. It’s probably hard to do. Yet these advancements all happened within the last two decades.
If new innovations and mega deals are being born this quickly today, what will the next decade—the 2020s—have in store for us? Will there be another Google or Apple? What will the unicorns of the next decade look like and how will they change our lives?
When I think of trends, I always go back to the early days of my entrepreneurial career in the mid-90s. The internet was on the verge of taking off and startups, mostly from the Silicon Valley, jumped on the gold rush of opportunities to build the fiber optics infrastructure and develop an advanced internet system to meet the market requirements of the time. The work they did laid the foundation for everything that is about to come to play in the next decade.
The 2000s were the era of the search engine. Google dominated the market; Amazon gave birth to a new era of e-commerce; and Apple put a computer in everyone’s hand through the iPhone. In the 2010s, we were introduced to social media and the sharing economy. Facebook became a social phenomenon and Uber and Airbnb transformed how we travel.
Fast-forward to the 2020s. The next cycle of innovation will perhaps be the most consequential of all time. Why? The pace of innovation is at an all-time high and the technologies being released have broader impacts than at any time in history. We are also at cross-roads for regulations as lawmakers with technology for good vs. technologies that can cause harm.
This is why I’m going to spend the rest of the year writing about the trends and next wave of innovations that will come into existence in the 2020s. To simplify the 2020 trends, I like to think about it in five segments:
1. Deep Technology Integration. Technology plays a role in almost every industry today, but the level at which it has an impact varies. In the 2020s, technology will become further ingrained in almost every industry. One of the areas where we’ll see this most is in healthcare. Over the next decade, software will increase healthcare quality and efficiency and provide new devices for early detection, care management and biotechnology. Other industries, including finance, education, agriculture and construction will also see major impacts from deep technology integration.
2. Emergence of New Technologies. This may seem like an obvious one, but the new technologies that will be released are those we have dreamt about for years. AI and robotics will impact almost all industries. Autonomous vehicles and smart cities will become our new reality. BioTech will continue to provide us with magic. These technologies are no longer on PowerPoint charts—they are already showing up in many markets. Hundreds of startups are aggressively chasing the innumerable opportunities to create lasting and lucrative technologies. Much like the internet, we’ll see an evolution of technologies once only imagined.
3. New Communications Infrastructure – the 5G. 5G is the enabler for the new technologies mentioned above. It is fast and processes information on a real-time basis. 5G will entirely reshape our existing communications infrastructure and enable things such as computer-to-computer communications and real-time communication between machines.
4. Globalization of Startups and Entrepreneurship. I believe there are some incredible, emerging places for startups beyond Silicon Valley—including Toronto, Atlanta and Austin. The movement will become truly global in the 2020s. UAE, for example, just announced their plans to become an AI center of innovation. In the U.S., Steve Case is touring small cites in the Midwest to support entrepreneurs and their new ideas. Once entrepreneurs had to go where the talent and money was. Now, the money will start to seek the talent regardless of where it is.
5. Funding and the Role of the VC. In the last five years, VC funding has grown to about $100B (in 2018). Where will the money go in the next decade? And where will it come from? Will new sources of funding emerge in the next ten years? How many new super VCs with $100B+ funding, like SoftBank, will emerge? Will struggling early stage startups ever find the resources they need?
The 1920’s was an era of radical social and political change; the 2020’s will be an era of major technological change. If the predictions come even partially to fruition, the next ten years will earn a place in history as significant as their roaring counterpart 100 years ago. Stay tuned and prepare yourself for what comes next.
Nancy Grimes, top legal recruitment specialist, knows most law firms and companies are striving to be more and more inclusive. However, there may still be some aspects of your hiring process that need tweaking in order to better serve, and attract, all qualified applicants. Additionally, addressing the below issues will secure employers against claims of discrimination.
ADA Requires Accommodation For Job Applicants, Too
How inclusive is your workplace? Do you use online applications? If visually impaired applicants cannot access your online application, chances are that your workplace fails to include these individuals. You could be missing out on qualified applicants and making your business a target for claims.
Many employers have turned to online platforms to handle job applications. This has allowed easier filtering of applicants and their qualifications for these open positions and streamlined this administrative task. However, an online application process could be filtering out otherwise qualified applicants.
Employers who use online applications can be targets for litigation involving visually impaired applicants who are unable to apply for a job simply because they cannot read the content of an online application. Potential cases involving job applicants who have been denied the ability to seek employment because of a physical impairment can result in significant amounts being assessed in damages.
In the past few months, several cases involving online job applicants have been filed throughout the country against employers because the online job applications were allegedly inaccessible to individuals with visual impairments. A major gaming retailer, restaurant, grocery chain, and disposable cup manufacturer are among those sued, with three cases filed in August 2018. The plaintiffs in these three cases claimed that they attempted to gain access to the employer’s website to complete an application but were prevented from doing so because the website was incompatible with their screen reader software. The plaintiffs alleged that they sought a reasonable accommodation from the prospective employer by sending three (3) letters requesting assistance in completing the application, such as re-designing the website to allow screen reader access. The complaints allege that the plaintiffs’ efforts to seek an accommodation were rebuffed, whether by the employer’s complete failure to respond or other refusal to engage in the interactive process under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The current hotbed for the litigation appears to be California, but employers operating in other states should not consider themselves safe.
The EEOC’s Guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act provides that “[a]n employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified applicant with a disability that will enable the individual to have an equal opportunity to participate in the application process and to be considered for a job (unless it can show undue hardship).” Job applicants also look to similar rights provided under state anti-discrimination laws when seeking relief for allegedly inaccessible online applications. While online interfacing may render difficult the ability to assess an applicant’s initial qualifications, employers must think again about how they incorporate accessibility into their business models, including their hiring and application processes.
This week, businesses of all sizes – from behemoths like Google and Amazon to tiny mom & pops will have their eyes on tax reform, particularly the provisions on tax rates levied corporations and pass-through income from LLCs. Most solo and small firms are small businesses, frequently organized as some type of limited liability companies (LLC). Because the House version of the tax bill excludes professional service providers from the tax breaks proposed for pass-through income, there’s a lot at risk here for solo and small law firms. Yet the ABA is nowhere to be found. Let me back up a bit and explain.
First, some background on the tax proposal. As a general matter, an LLC structure is ideal for small businesses because of the protection it provides to owners’ personal assets. Because an LLC is a distinct entity, any judgments or business liability is levied on the LLC and not the owner’s personal assets. Unfortunately, for lawyers, an LLC won’t protect against personal liability for malpractice. That said, even solo attorneys engage in ordinary business transactions — leasing space, paying vendors for services or meeting clients at their office (who could have an accident during the visit) — for which an LLC may limit personal exposure.
There are other benefits to LLCs for solo and small firms. Because of prohibitions on outside ownership, there aren’t as many benefits to incorporation as for a traditional small business. Plus, forming and administering a corporation can be cumbersome and costly, and an owner must pay both corporate tax on corporate revenues along with tax on salary and profits earned by the owner. By contrast, with an LLC form, the LLC revenue is “passed through” to members who pay tax on the income as part of their personal return (owners can choose taxation as an s-corporation, but the designations do not change the “pass through” nature of the income or trigger double taxation).
Moving on to tax reform, much of the discussion has centered around the need to cut taxation on corporations – and both bills propose to slash the existing 35% tax rate down to 20%. But as I’ve just discussed, most solos and small firms – and in fact, most small businesses in general – aren’t organized as corporations. As such, the corporate tax cut doesn’t help solo and small law firms very much.
Thus, both the House and Senate tax bills are a welcome effort to extend the tax benefits afforded to corporations to entities organized as LLCs. In the Table below, I’ve summarized the provisions of the legislation with regard to pass through taxation and how they would impact small business owners with pass-through income of $75,000, $165,000 and $200,000:
[Note – The Business Insider was my source for applicable tax rates, and this CNN article is my source for how the House and Senate plan would work. Also – note, I am not a tax attorney]
As I mentioned at the outset, the House bill completely excludes service professionals, including lawyers from coverage. But does that make a difference as a practical matter? Well, yes and no. The House plan would drop the top income tax rate from 39% to 25% for pass-through income, and would also phase in a lower rate of 9% for businesses that earn less than $75,000 in pass-through income. As the table shows, the House reduction would not impact those lawyers with pass-through income in the $75k-$200k range. That’s because under the new tax plan, the applicable tax rate would be 25% or less anyway, irrespective of whether the income comes from a generic small business or a professional services firm.
Still, there are two instances where the tax bill could help lawyers, if they qualified for relief. Under the new legislation, taxpayers with passthrough income of $200,000 or more would be spared a 35% tax rate under the proposed legislation (up from 32%) since the House bill caps the tax rate at 25%. More significantly, the House Bill would phase in a 9% rate for businesses with a passthrough income of $75,000 or less. This would be an enormous benefit to solo and small firms, who according to some sources, earn an average of $50,000/year.
The Senate bill takes a different approach. As shown on the table, the Senate bill does not change the tax brackets for pass-through income but instead, allows the taxpayer to deduct 23% of their pass-through income. The 23% deduction would be apply only to service professionals with taxable incomes under $500,000 if married, and $250,000 if single. (Above those levels, deductions are still allowed, but they are phased out for income above the eligibility caps – it’s not entirely clear). I did some quick calculations and found that the Senate Bill would afford significant tax relief to both married and unmarried taxpayers within the $75,000-$200,000 band either by reducing the amount of taxable income and in some instances, dropping the taxpayer down to a lower tax bracket. The benefits under the Senate bill shown on the table would extend to service professionals because the pass-through incomes fall below the $500,000/$250,000 cutoff.
Now that I’ve gone through the gory details, you may be wondering why I’m upset with the ABA. After all, the Senate Bill will help many solo and small firm lawyers, while the House Bill will have little impact, at least on lawyers with earnings of $200,000 or less. So briefly, here’s a list of my grievances:
The Senate Bill was released several days after the House Bill. And the reason that the Senate Bill expands tax relief for pass-through professional service entities is due to the lobbying efforts of OTHER professional organizations – not the ABA. For example, after the House bill was passed, the American Institute for Architects sharply criticized the House bill’s exclusion professional service firms as unfair, and quickly mobilized efforts to eliminate the disparate treatment – which ultimately succeeded. By contrast, the ABA said NOTHING about the House Bill – which is particularly shameful because it would have substantially helped the many struggling solos who earning less than $75,000/year. Indeed, the ABA’s silence on this matter is doubly shameful when you consider that many low-earning solos are handling court-appointed indigent criminal defense or low-bono matters.
Even though the Senate Bill helps professional service firms, lawyers are not yet out of the woods. The House and Senate bills need to be reconciled. It’s entirely possible that one potential compromise might be to retain the Senate’s proposed tax treatment for pass-through entities but to adopt the House’s exclusion on denying this relief to service providers. Heck, it’s entirely possible that a compromise might deny tax relief ONLY to lawyers and not other service providers given that the ABA hasn’t advocated for law firms.
So why has the ABA been silent on legislation that would significantly impact a large percentage of practicing lawyers that the ABA purports to represent? It’s not that hard to figure out: the tax relief would largely benefit solo and small law firms, not biglaw. Although technically, some large firms, like solo and smalls operate as pass through entities, many might not benefit from the relief on pass-through income anyway which was intended to provide a benefit to small businesses which are not organized as corporations.
This tax bill makes clear that despite the ABA’s claim to represent the interests of all lawyers, it only cares about lawyers at biglaw. I’ll admit that there are some situations where the interests of its members directly conflict and preclude the ABA from taking a side. But this case is different – the proposed tax relief doesn’t hurt large firms; rather, they simply don’t benefit from it as solo and small firms would. In short, there’s no explanation as to why the ABA couldn’t have stepped up in the tax debate to protect lawyers from disparate treatment, just as other professional associations have done. Instead, the ABA hasn’t advocated lawyers at all because solo and small lawyers don’t matter.
The ABA’s indifference to solos and smalls isn’t just with regard to tax reform. As I wrote in my ATL Column last week, the ABA’s Initiative on why women leave the law mid-career is more accurately titled “why women leave Big Law midcareer,” focusing on the needs of a narrow one percent of female attorneys and treating solo and small firm women owners as second-class citizens. (As an aside, as my column also observes, what’s even more ironic is that Greenberg Traurig, the firm where ABA President Hilarie Bass, the leader of the women’s initiative spent her career – was sued for gender discrimination back in 2012 and was defended by Bass!).
Solos and smalls – the ABA isn’t working for us. It never has but now the writing is on the wall. It’s time to leave it all behind. In the meantime, I’ll try to put together a letter on behalf of solo and small firm lawyers, urging equal treatment for LLCs owned by lawyers.
Even before it was vogue, 18 years ago GLI plugged and played its first remote employee – The Office Manager, no less. Nancy Grimes, the President and Managing Partner of GLI is all about flexibility and finding new ways to do things which provide workable solutions to all sorts of situations. She had her hands full when her then invaluable Office Manager announced that her husband was dragging her to a small town, I mean small, over 350 miles away to Indiana where jobs were scarce and fulfilling jobs were even more scare – there just weren’t any challenging positions and where the pay really paid you to get out of the house. So, necessity once again became the Mother of Invention and for 8 years, while we loved the continuance of the relationship and she, the opportunity to have a baby and still enjoy the sweet balance between motherhood and work.
Since then, we’ve been a leader in “why not work from which ever location most suits you”. But we have found that it isn’t right for everyone. It takes high discipline but if you have it, it allows you to reap the fruits of your benefits. It was from that “why not work from which ever location most suits you” mentality that allowed us to find Jessie Pugh Weiss – and then SHE Happened! We really happened upon a real treasure when we discovered her! Jessie is the perfect blend of wit, brains, dedication, creativity and discipline. Perhaps because Jessie is a remote employee, she has developed an attention to detail, she has been able to grow, develop and has truly become a very important “go to” with-in our company. Nancy Grimes says that a huge contrib
utor to Jessie’s success was that all of the pros and cons of working from home were hashed out, right up front. We both were aware of the challenges and we also knew while working from home isn’t the perfect set up for everyone, it was for Jessie.
Three years ago it was GLI who worked to convince this would be Star Researcher and Staff Support person that “yes” it was possible for her to work from home; that she could be there when her children got off the school bus and she could also continue to be involved in the small town community as well as be directly involved and act as a support at her children’s school, their education as well as attend their sporting events. We didn’t think it was necessary to divorce the two – but rather that she could have a work life balance. Jessie exemplifies the best of the way remote employment is supposed to work. She has the flexibility of being almost anywhere and everywhere she is needed. She’s eliminated the time and cost of a daily commute, the internet is fast, cheap and reliable (most of the time) and I am sure she doesn’t really mind the perks of working in her pajamas and having a say as to her work hours. We actually believe that Jessie’s home-base employment contributes to her productivity and there are many occasions when Jessie leaves early but often times puts those hours back in after the traditional work day normally has already ended.
So what is the down side? If you ask Jessie, it’s harder to separate your private life from your business life. It’s about having to juggle the house phone ringing, or kids in the background if there is one out sick or on holiday and then there is the “not really being able to leave work” feeling or being able to leave the stresses of the office truly behind – unless you simply power the computer down and walk out and shut the door.
When it comes right down to it, working remotely and from home is largely a personal choice. It certainly requires being able to carve out a work space at home, which doesn’t have to look professional for the clients but which we have learned, certainly gives the brick and mortar office a huge boost to productivity. I know for OUR company, it has been a really GOOD thing and, I think in large measure, it is mostly a good thing for Jessie. We absolutely love it when we get to actually SEE her in the flesh! I think she enjoys the brief in-person stimulation and re-connection, and showing off of new shoes, but she is an anxious sort and works best from her GLI in-home office. We celebrate Jessie Weiss today and her example of being that top drawer, always dependable, dedicated and extremely goal-oriented person she is.
As the legal landscape becomes more competitive, lawyers are increasingly seeking new ways to increase efficiency and make the most of their time. After all, time is money, especially when you bill by the hour. Fortunately, 21st century technologies provide attorneys with a host of options designed to streamline law firm processes, saving both time and money.
One of the most cost-effective ways to achieve these goals is to selectively use the latest technology in your law firm to reduce paper, redundancies, and inefficiencies. That’s why the latest American Bar Association Legal Technology Survey Report shows an increase in the use of technology by law firms of all sizes. Astute lawyers are realizing that investing in the right tools and software can make all the difference and allow their firms to stand out from the competition.
For example, did you know that lawyers are using law practice management software in their practices more than ever? Small firm lawyers lead the way with nearly 40% reporting that their firms used law practice management software, with solo lawyers close behind at 30%.
Lawyers are also increasingly using legal software to increase collaboration, both internally and with clients. For starters, more attorneys than ever are using law firm software for document management and collaboration. 53% report using software to collaborate with clients, while 46% use document management software in their law firms.
One reason lawyers are incorporating new tools into the law firms is because today’s legal consumers have different expectations than they did even five years ago. Your clients are used to conducting business and obtaining the information that they need online, whether it’s with their bank, their doctor, or you, their lawyer.
That’s why collaborating with legal clients using software is also on the rise. Nearly a quarter of all lawyers use online portals with clients. Using the portals, the attorneys are able to share documents with their clients (31%), communicate in a secure environment (24%), and share case status updates (17%) and upcoming court dates (14%).
Another way lawyers are providing better client service is by sharing invoices and accepting online payments via credit card or ACH payments. In fact, according to the survey results, 18% of lawyers now provide online billing options to their clients, saving them time and money. There’s no need to pay for envelopes and stamps or waste time writing out a check; instead their clients can instantly pay their bills with a click of a button.
Cloud computing use by lawyers is increasing as well, with 40% of small firms using it, followed by 37% of solo attorneys. The top tasks accomplished by lawyers using cloud computing software included time and billing, centralized case management, document management, and contact management.
Is your law firm as efficient as it can be? What steps is your law firm taking to streamline firm processes and provide better client service? Is your firm using 21st century cost-effective software to collaborate and communicate with clients? Does your law firm offer online payment options to your clients? If not, maybe it’s time to start!
This pioneering carry-on “performs on all fronts,” says Grant Martin at Travel + Leisure. Using a smartphone, you can lock it remotely or pinpoint its GPS coordinates. Its handle doubles as a digital scale, helping you avoid overage fees, and its battery can charge an iPhone six times.Buy it at Amazon.
This scratchproof polycarbonate carry-on weighs just 8.4 pounds, and though it’s not revolutionary, it’s “the most slickly designed smart suitcase yet,” says Sean O’Kane at The Verge. The Raden can weigh itself, charge your devices, and alert you when you’ve left it behind. Buy it at Raden.
The world’s first autonomous suitcase, the Cowarobot “follows you around like an adoring puppy,” says Aloysius Low at CNET. Wear the electronically linked bracelet and the bag will tag along, using sonar and other sensors to dodge obstacles. Begins shipping in November. Buy it at Cowarobot.
Jump on this motorized carry-on and you can ride it like a small go-kart, at speeds up to 8 mph. That’s faster than a pedestrian, though you have to be “willing to look like a child riding a horsie outside a grocery store,” says Leslie Wu at Forbes. Begins shipping in January. Buy it at Modobag.
I’ve had many bosses in my life, but only two of them have been true mentors who later turned into lifelong friends. The others — all five of them — were toxic.
Recognizing a toxic boss isn’t easy. She might actually seem nice at first, but beware: This is just the honeymoon phase. All my toxic bosses were on their best behavior at the beginning. It could take a week, a few months, or even years before their true nature came alive. But it always did, every time. Still, as with most abusive relationships — romantic or professional — it’s hard to know objectively if you’re in one. Here are what I’ve found to be the top traits to look for in a toxic boss, and some suggestions for surviving the ordeal.
1. A Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality
The toxic boss frequently has two sides to his personality. He may kiss up to upper management while simultaneously treating his staff badly. He may shower his staff with respect in public, but be hostile toward them in private. She might flip from good to evil just with the staff and not others. These unpredictable behavioral shifts can vary from several times a day to longer expanses of days or weeks of friendly behavior followed by weeks of negative behavior.
2. Passive-aggressive behavior is the mood du jour
A toxic boss might dole out backhanded compliments: “That was great work you did, considering you’re not too great with numbers,” or “I’m glad you got the report in on time. Too bad you didn’t include a summary page.” Passive-aggressive behavior also reveals itself when your boss doesn’t back you up in company meetings or acknowledge your achievements when someone outside the company praises you. He may even go so far as to take credit for your achievements himself. Many times this trait shows up when you sense something is wrong and ask your boss if everything is okay, only to have him answer with a terse, “Of course.” It’s a mind game.
3. The blame game There’s a bus. I’m throwing you under it. Toxic bosses will rarely take responsibility for their mistakes and frequently will find a subordinate to blame for them. What bosses don’t realize is this: There are only so many buses and there are only so many times they can use this tactic before the employee retaliates or upper management clues in on what’s happening. It might work a few times, but then, the jig is up.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (or NPD) is an actual mental illness. Those afflicted exhibit an inability to accept responsibility for mistakes, a constant craving for attention, a feeling of superiority over all others, a belief that their presence should always be praised by others, and that everything in the world — or at least his world — revolves around them. NPD can manifest itself in something as simple as a sociable exchange: “Hey Bob, how was your weekend?” your boss might ask. “It was great. We went s…” and before you have a chance to finish, you’re interrupted. “Hey awesome. You know, Kathy and I went wine tasting…” blah blah blah. He didn’t actually want to know how your weekend was, he just wanted to tell you how his weekend was.
So, if your boss ticks some of the above boxes and is indeed an abusive, toxic manager, what can you do? If you can move to another department or to another company, that’s the best option. But not all of us have the luxury of being able to quit our jobs. If you’re stuck, there are a few ways to protect yourself, your career, and your sanity:
1. Keep a work diary You should always document your interactions with — and directives from — your boss, even when you don’t think it’s necessary. If conditions are bad enough to warrant a lawsuit, you will need documentation. So while it may bum you out to start building a case against your boss early on, it could prove worthwhile in the end. You can do this at the end of your day: Designate 10 or 15 minutes to jotting down your interactions with your boss. This could also come in handy if you’re forced to quit because of a hostile working environment and have to file for unemployment insurance. Generally, unemployment isn’t awarded to employees who quit of their own accord, but if you have documentation that proves your case, you may be eligible.
2. Roll with the punches
Understand that your boss will never change. If you can prevent her from getting under your skin, you’ve won the battle. This can buy you some time to look for other work. Be agreeable, ask for directives in writing, and most importantly, resist the urge to give your boss some of her own medicine.
3. Always be on the lookout for work Update your resume. Network. And if during an interview, you’re asked why you’re leaving your current role, for example, never criticize your boss. If you find yourself complaining to others (as you inevitably will), do your best to downplay any negativity toward your boss or the company.
4. Talk to HR But be careful. You don’t want to come across as a disgruntled employee. Remember that HR works for the company and is out to protect it from any harm — physical, legal, or otherwise. Threats never work, whether they’re made toward your boss or come in the form of “I’ll leave this place and then you’ll miss me!” Present your case, provide documentation, and most importantly, approach HR with kid gloves. State that you’ve tried your best to deal with a difficult situation and ask HR for its help. That way, you won’t be tagged as a potentially dangerous employee.
Toxic bosses will always be around, and dealing with them isn’t easy. Keeping these tips in mind will hopefully make your day-to-day interactions a little better, and help you identify negative traits in future bosses so you can navigate your way to a successful career with mentors who truly support you.