Monday, January 15, 2007

I'm a little late with this, but I've been asked by some readers what I think about the ongoing feud between Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell. Personally, I'm happy about it. I think the more incidences of public name-calling we have in this country, the better. I'm consistently frustrated by the social norms that prohibit me from going public with a lot of my grievances. I wish it would be okay for me to name names on this blog, and tell you that Janet from Trusts and Estates (not her actual department) looks like she was the victim of some botched plastic surgery, or that Jeffrey G. from Bankruptcy (not the actual initial of his last name) doesn't wash his hands after he uses the bathroom. But it's considered impolite, at least right now, in 2007. But if Rosie and Donald continue to fight in public, and others follow, eventually the social norms may change, and that would be a wonderful thing. Too much of our yelling happens in private, where others are unable to appreciate it. Too many of my thoughts about my colleagues can't be said out loud, and so they lose the power they would otherwise have to modify behavior and influence people for the better. If I could feel comfortable announcing each day, in front of the entire firm, a list of the ten worst associates and why they're so terrible, I think we'd see some changes. We'd see people trying harder to do better. Public shaming is a powerful tool that society simply doesn't let us take fullest advantage of. Sure, we try, but it's hard to buck the norms and open yourself up to criticism. It's hard not to feel bad after you've sent out a memo to everyone naming the five associates whose children you think ought to be taken away because they're too much of a distraction to the work getting done. It's hard not to feel bad after you've posted a note on your office door listing the names of all of the lawyers who've taken advantage of the employee assistance program over the past twelve months to address their alcohol dependencies. But Rosie and Donald are making it easier, little by little. Every time he calls her a failure or she calls him a lowlife. Every time he calls her fat and she insults his hair. We're getting closer to a world where that kind of behavior is acceptable, and I can't wait. We have associates who remind me of Rosie, and of Donald, and one who reminds me of them both. It's not pretty.

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