Marbury at Midnight: Work Doesn’t Have to be “Torture”

Since my love of pop culture knows no bounds, I decided to illustrate several valuable employment lessons by using a somewhat obscure Jacksons music video. The song, “Torture”, was the leading single from the album & tour of the same name. The story behind this song and music video totally intrigued me not only because it’s a great song (a song that did pretty well on the charts, but has kind of been overshadowed), but also because it was filled with so many 1980’s elements of high drama, disagreements, and excess.

So, whether it’s our first job or our fifteenth job, here are some valuable lessons that we can all use in the employment world:

  • Don’t Get too Emotional About Your Employer or Position (Jermaine Jackson had to substitute for Jackie at the last minute. He wasn’t supposed to be in the video at all!): This is not to say you shouldn’t enjoy your workplace (you absolutely should), but that you shouldn’t get too upset when things change. Coworkers, supervisors, and managing partners tend to do things like leave, get promoted, or change careers entirely. As in life, you have to stay in the moment at work. If you enjoy your work, roll with the changes. If you can manage to stay flexible, the more opportunities will come your way.
  • Just Because it Doesn’t Get Critical Acclaim Doesn’t Mean it’s Not Good (It's never really mentioned that Tito Jackson plays a mean guitar in this song, but the lack of credit doesn't make his talent less amazing): When you’re a new associate or a new employee, you may not get a lot of credit. Your supervising attorney is probably putting her name on your work product, and it’s likely that you aren’t yet invited to important client meetings or partnering sessions with key players. While accolades are nice, don't let the lack thereof derail you from your goals. Did you just write a phenomenal appellate brief? Did you represent your client efficiently? Did you overcome your nerves and give the budget presentation? If the answer is yes, you're already successful. Don't get derailed by a perceived lack of credit. Believe me, your colleagues are paying attention, and your work speaks for itself.
  • Raise the Red Flag (This video lost its original choreographer, an entire Jackson brother, and bankrupted the production company, all in the name of excess): Always pay attention to the mood at your firm. Gauge your colleagues' morale through open communication. Are clients paying their invoices? Are partners jumping ship for rival firms? Is the hint of merger in the air? It doesn't matter if you're a brand new employee, you can always sense when things feel off. Is your team cohesive, or is everyone on their own? Keep your own tabs on the environment at work and go with your gut instinct. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. The earlier you can pick up on bad vibes, the easier it is to put an alternate plan in place.
  • Don't Let them Replace you with a Mannequin (The most famous Jackson at the time, Michael, was in the song, but wasn't even in the video. He was replaced by a...wax dummy): A very important thing for all of us to remember is to keep as much control over our intellectual property as possible. This is often complicated, especially in the realm of patents or trade dress, because what we create for the firm is typically owned by the firm. However, always be vigilant when signing any kind of anti-compete or infringement contract. Will it affect your future employment? Does it impact any existing patents or trademarks that you hold? Just remember that your IP is very valuable. Don't rush to sign it away in the belief that the company will always operate in your best interest.

One last point: let loose and have some fun. Work should never be "torture"!

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