Work place relationships that result in terminations of employment reveal much about human frailty and lack of self-awareness. While I would like to argue that all employees are victims and all employers are perpetrators, I see somewhat clearly that employees sometimes cast blame on others for all their problems at work, and assume no personal responsibility.
We all face the enormous temptation to deny responsibility and to lapse into a state of victimhood. Sometimes, there is a true perpetrator and a true victim, with the victim being a highly functional and self-regulating person who is caught in the dysfunction of an abusive management culture. More often, the employee has personality traits or behaviors that frustrate or bewilder a manager, and trigger the manager’s own irrational responses.
I turn down many potential cases as an employment lawyer. I screen my cases carefully, and I will vigorously cross examine my own prospective client at the outset. I want to be convinced this is a good case. More importantly, I want to know I and my client can convince a neutral fact finder that my client is credible, is cogent, and is entitled to compensation for wrongful termination, discrimination or harassment. There simply is no recognized “cause of action” for personality conflicts. Despite the bad press sometimes given to lawyers filing frivolous suits, contingency fee lawyers who stay in business do not file frivolous suits. They screen cases carefully, and in doing so, they perform an unappreciated social service.
If I select my clients well, I have no victims as clients. Victims are helpless. My clients are not helpless. They are emotionally balanced, decent people who want justice, and have the fortitude to stand up for themselves. They are open to feedback, and follow good legal advice. They make good decisions about settling their cases in view of the risks of litigation. They will go to trial if their case value is not approximated by settlement.
Here is a secret: employees who are positive, capable and contributing as employees will also be that way as clients. Likewise, the failings of a “poor employee” will eventually be revealed in the rigors of litigation. That is, people act out their patterns under stress, whether at work or in trial. That is another good reason for a contingency fee lawyer to pick not just his case, but his client, with careful evaluation.