Throw Another Bagel and You’re Toast, Partner


We had been working around the clock for weeks on a deal. Well, working isn’t actually the right description for what we were doing. I had been slaving away for weeks. The partner spent that time yelling at me and the paralegal assigned to the deal.

Sometimes the partner yelled because he found mistakes in our work, which I guess I can understand, but mostly he yelled because he saw the two of us as his personal punching bags. And it’s not like his yelling could be construed as constructive criticism. Honestly, the yelling was rarely relevant to our work.

Last week, the partner called the paralegal a moron when he handed him the wrong file even though the paralegal handed him the exact right file a second later.  But the partner still replied by insulting the guy’s mother.  Okay, bad day, I guess.

Then this week, the partner walked into the conference room we were using. I had been working fourteen-hour days for as long as I can remember. He fired off a question at me, and when I paused two seconds to think of the correct response, he called me a dumb-f**k.

Okay, I know these deals can be stressful, and this was for an important client for our mid-size firm, but it was all going pretty far over the line. What were these ad hominem attacks all about? Where were they coming from? He was known around the office for being a bit cranky, and I know he got divorced in the last six months, but his behavior was ten times worse than people rumored it to be.

Finally, yesterday morning, I walked into the conference room with the partner already there and laying into the paralegal about something the conflict group had made an error on. It was still before 8:00 a.m., and the paralegal looked like he was about to cry. Before I could even sit down (or run out screaming), the partner looked at me and said, “Thanks for joining us today. Cutting it kind of close this morning, aren’t you? We’ve got a conference call in two minutes. Think you can handle that, dummy?”

We walked down the hall to his office, and I thought about standing up for myself (sorry, the paralegal is on his own), but to be honest, I was terrified. For weeks, the only words out of his mouth had been insults, usually spoken at a high volume.  Our firm laid off very few people this winter—all from the real estate department—and the company line was they didn’t expect to cut deeper. But I knew that any opportunity to fire someone “for cause” could be one the partner would take if tempted. And I knew that any talkback could lead to him axing me without ever considering everything I did over the last months and all the dedication I had given to this deal. I’m not saying I deserve a pat on the back, but I deserve basic respect.

I kept my mouth shut and followed behind him a little to avoid any need for small talk—or what would have more like been terrible, awkward silence in close proximity. We got to his office and started the call. On the phone, the partner was crazy polite and even referred to me by name to the client. Midway through the call, the client had some concerns that the partner fielded with tact and even a little charm. I took notes. I actually wrote in the margins, “Wow, he’s being so nice.”

But in the last minutes of the call, the client asked a pretty precise question that the partner didn’t immediately have the answer to. Partner looked at me franticly to see if I had a particular document handy. I didn’t.

At that moment, I would have preferred he had just thrown me under the bus. I would have had no problem with that. But instead, he grabbed what was left of his cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese and chucked it at me. The bagel hit my jaw. I’m not going to lie, it physically stung a little. The ricochet was the worst part because it left a stain of cream cheese down my shirt. I looked up at the partner, wanting to rage out and punch him until he bled. But he had already moved on without even looking. He talked with the client for the next ten minutes.

When the call was over, the partner looked at my shirt, ignored it and gave me a list of things to follow up on. “You’ve got to anticipate better, dummy.”

I would love to report him, but I’ve resolved it with myself that I’m going to have to just grow a thicker skin. It’s not going to help me to bitch to HR about the partner with the biggest book of business in the firm who already has a manic reputation that no one seems to want to bring to his attention. I need this job. My kid needs me to need this job. And I can take the insults. But the next goddamn bagel that flies and hits me in the head will result in me getting escorted out of the building after whaling on his smug face.

Read more anonymous tales of Associate Abuse. Or consider contributing your own.

30 Comments

  1. Bill Dugan

    May 8, 2009 at 2:53 am

    Wow, no “dummy” has been here before me this morning.  I think this partner is an asshat because he can’t get along with anyone.  He got divorced in the last six months so it’s likely this douche has a classic case of blue balls.  Without a sensible female in his life, this loser will continue to torment or throw bagels at subordinates.  I will tell you one thing, if it were me, would take the bagel he threw and shove it down his throat, and say “eat this, you pathetic schmuck!”

  2. Anon.

    May 8, 2009 at 3:33 am

    Wow, what an ass hole.  He deserves a punch in the mouth and a write-up from HR.  Fuck him.

  3. Anon Female

    May 8, 2009 at 3:53 am

    Agreed.  The partner should save the bagel because it’s the only orifice his weenie will be entering anytime soon.

  4. BL1Y

    May 8, 2009 at 4:21 am

    “Do you have an everything?  I’m allergic to cinnamon.”

  5. DD

    May 8, 2009 at 6:39 am

    Didn’t you realize you had substantial leverage on the partner? You were the one working on the case and knew every in and out. He needed you for that case.

  6. Magic Circle Jerk

    May 8, 2009 at 7:08 am

    They may have us by the balls now (particularly if you’ve got kids).  But remember this guy, document the whole thing, and, when you jump ship when things pick up, demand a little something extra ($20k?) not to file a harrassment claim on your way out the door.

  7. Anonymous

    May 8, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Don’t file a complaint about the bagel toss, but let the word get out about what happened.  Yelling and screaming and insults are all unacceptable abuse, but when the abuse becomes physical, no matter how seemingly comical it is, it crosses every single line.  In a joking, “you’ll never believe what happened to me” manner, mention what happened as a “secret” to a friendly fellow associate who also happens to be a bit of a gossip.  Let the word get out, but don’t publicize it.  The HR ding on that ass hole will only hurt you because you’ll make an enemy for ratting him out, but if others are talking about it around the copiers and water cooler, you’ll have your revenge.

  8. Anonymous

    May 8, 2009 at 8:12 am

    FINALLY.
    A funny joke from BL1Y. Nice to know that guy found a sense of humor.

  9. Anon Female

    May 8, 2009 at 8:51 am

    I know….cheers!  finally something funny from BL1Y!

  10. Anonymous

    May 8, 2009 at 9:04 am

    He probably got laid last nite.

  11. Anonymous

    May 8, 2009 at 9:05 am

    BL1Y, did you get some? Don’t hold out on us, brother.

  12. BL1Y

    May 8, 2009 at 9:08 am

    If I got laid last night don’t you think I’d be using the story for material on my own blog and not wasting it here?

  13. Brett

    May 8, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Have you checked your vagina lately?  If you actually had the ability to do so (or the spine), you should have knocked this fool out.  I don’t care how much money you’re making; having breakfast tossed at your head just isn’t worth it.  Grow a pair.

  14. BL1Y

    May 8, 2009 at 9:28 am

    All the guys talking about how they’d retaliate are full of it.  No chance any of them would really do anything, and they’d be stupid if they did.  Who would turn down being pelted by bagels for $160k a year?  Sounds like a sweet gig.

  15. daman

    May 8, 2009 at 9:51 am

    that time i laid a huge dump in my partner’s office as a joke. He thought it was hilarious. and we used to get bagels all the time. he would never throw them at me. too bad i didnt get an offer though.

  16. Alma Federer

    May 8, 2009 at 11:55 am

    It is DISRESPECTFUL for anyone to throw food at anyone else, especially someone who is admitted to the bar and in good standing.  I would complain to HR, and not care if I was making $160K (which I am not).  Men must be more respectful to women associates no matter how much money they make.  I would have HR sanction this guy (and I also don’t think that BL1Y ever gets laid with his attitude).

  17. BL1Y

    May 8, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Hold on Alma, throwing food at your subordinates is…disrespectful?  Oh my goodness, I’m glad you pointed that out in all caps or else I wouldn’t have noticed.  You know what else is disrespectful?  Waiting until 4:00pm on a Friday to give an assignment that’s been sitting around all week.

  18. Brett

    May 8, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    BL1Y: Actually, I seriously would have belted this little shit.  I would love to know who these partners are.  Back in my day (Lord, I sound old), partners were kind of dicks to us; but they still took care of their minions.  They never resorted to verbal or physical abuse.  I wonder if it’s only the younger shits who act like they have a chip on their shoulder.

  19. Daily reader

    May 8, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Are you making this stuff up?  Any Dick can have a bad day but this is too much.  Document, document and when you have had your fill tell you boss where to go and give documents to HR.  With all the frill courses in law sch, why isn’t one on personal stress containment?

  20. Anonymous

    May 8, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    @ Daily reader,
    English. It helps.

  21. DantheMan

    May 9, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    dude you do really need some thick skin to deal with that awipe partner. can’t believe he chucked a bagel at you. it would have been hard to resist throwing it right back at him.

  22. canadouche

    May 9, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    what is pathetic is that (a) the abused associate took the bagel toss and said nothing; and (b) that it perpetuates the belief among most of the morons that post here that accepting that sort of conduct is even kind of a little bit ok.

  23. Ace in the Hole

    May 9, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    If this story is true, the associate is a gutless worm for taking it.  Dude, you were physically assaulted – exactly what would he have to do to you to make you stand up for yourself?  This is not a place you want to work – you should have gotten up and taken the opportunity to drill him dead in the nose, right there with the client on the phone, grinning as he tried to keep his composure, or, if you didn’t quite have the stones for this, at least picked up the bagel and smeared it all over his face and shirt, hard.  I would not want someone so utterly lacking in courage and beaten down representing me.

  24. BL1Y

    May 11, 2009 at 3:25 am

    I’d rather be pelted with a dozen bagels than be asked to work all weekend.

  25. blogenfreude

    May 18, 2009 at 9:20 am

    What a shitbag.  Try pouring cherry kool aid under his BMW so he thinks he’s losing transmission fluid.

  26. TTT Associate

    June 5, 2009 at 10:15 am

    This pansy bitch associate/minion should be fired for lack of backbone.  Thats “cause” in my book.

  27. Content Associate

    June 9, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    This guy should not stand for this kind of abuse.  Criticism and some yelling are one thing, but constant insults and physical abuse, come on!  I would have thrown the bagel back in his face and walked out in the middle of the call. 
    This partner sounds like a fraternity brother that doesn’t know when to stop hazing pledges and he needs a good belting.

  28. finally freed but unemployed

    July 3, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I went through this same shit.  Yes, this shit show exists.  I finally had the courage and went to the management.  The partner was picked over me (surprise, surprise).  I am now looking for a job in this shitty economy.

  29. Sarcasmus

    August 13, 2009 at 9:24 am

    This associate is an idiot (insults continue).  Your kid needs you to be a fully evolved human being, not a wimpering, useless pin cushion for some a-hole partner.  Have some self-respet and dignity and go find another job working with decent human beings.  What’s wrong with you?  Life is too short.  Damn.

  30. Hannah

    November 3, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Alma: “It is DISRESPECTFUL for anyone to throw food at anyone else, especially someone who is admitted to the bar and in good standing.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHA
    A lawyer was disrespectful?! LOL!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>