From deep in the mailbag:
Hey Big Daddy,
I am a Legislative director for a freshman assemblymember. I recently had a blow-out fight with one of my (formerly) closest friends, after she committed what I deem to be an unforgivable violation of my trust. To make matters worse, this friend is a lobbyist, and reliable contributor to my boss’s campaign. And my boss is carrying a couple of bills on behalf of this lobbyist’s clients. Those bills are my responsibility.
Normally, vowing never to speak to this person again wouldn’t be a problem, except that our jobs demand we speak. How do I separate my visceral dislike of this person without it affecting my boss, or my job? And is there any chance our little spat could affect my job security? Are campaign donors more valuable than legislative staff?
–Concerned in the Capitol
It’s a long-held rule never to bring your personal life into your professional life.
Get into a fight with your husband because he spends more time thinking about fantasy football than he does fantasizing about you? Leave it at the door. Want to ram your stiletto heel through the front windshield of the car that cut you off as you merged onto I-80 this morning? Let it go. Is your head spinning because your non-fat, double-no-foam latte was made with whole milk? Better make it decaf next time.
Separating your personal life from your work life is easier said than done, and no one ever succeeds entirely. Yours is a situation where you’ve been slighted by someone you work with directly, making it that much more difficult for you to check your feelings at the door.
Allow Big Daddy to put your work life into perspective and shine a light on the path of empowerment, which through hard work and a great deal of patience will lead you to that glorious destination: Revenge.
The cold, hard reality is that if you allow your personal feelings to interfere with your boss’s ability to raise money from this particular lobbyist and his clients, you will be little more than a minnow that gets swallowed alive in a sea of sharks. You want to be a remora fish – a.k.a. sucker fish. It sounds worse than it is.
The relationship between the remora and the shark is one of commensalisms. In other words, you benefit while the lobbyist is neither harmed nor helped.
Remoras live on and around sharks, often attaching themselves with sucker-like dorsal fins. Remoras use sharks for transportation, protection and sustenance. Much like the after-work fundraisers held at the Senator Hotel or Gallagher’s, remoras feast on food left by the host shark.
Doesn’t sound appealing? Not to worry. You are using the shark to your advantage and to carry you along. You work for a freshman assemblyman now, but where you want to travel is to the office of a member who is chair or vice-chair of a powerful committee like Appropriations. It’s funny how bills live or die by the whim of one committee.
Smiling and getting along doesn’t mean you’ve sold-out or admitted defeat to your former friend. Take advantage of your position as a legislative director, make your boss look good, make his donors look good and keep building upon your rolodex of contacts. Avoid being a minnow that gets swallowed alive in favor of being a remora as you travel along the path to power.
It takes time and patience, but more often than not, that’s how revenge works.