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Is Being Called a 'Shark' Really All That Bad?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Have you ever been called a "shark"? If you were a gunner in law school, then you are probably nodding -- in a somewhat aggressive and menacing manner. Well, guess what? In honor of "Shark Week" on the Discovery Channel, we are not going to reduce you to a jerk. Today, we celebrate you ... from a safe distance.

We opined in another blog, that maybe being called a shark could be viewed as a compliment -- but that was for litigators. The business world of an in-house counsel requires a very different set of teeth, but still, here's why being called a "shark" isn't all that bad:

  1. Reputation. America has a peculiar love-hate relationship with "sharks" in the biz world. People love to ostensibly hate you, but inside, they likely equate your shark-like attitude to being assiduous, focused and driven.
  2. Assertiveness. It's a Darwinian world out there and you can't be a passive "yes" man woman shark. As in-house counsel, you have to constantly be the buzz-kill and say "no". Pushing back against bosses often requires an assertive confidence that can come off as abrasive. But you must stand (swim) your ground (water). If you cave and devolve from shark pup to docile furry pup, you could wind up exposing the company to lawsuits and other legal liabilities.
  3. Survival instinct. Sharks are powerful swimmers and experts at surviving over the long-term. As we've seen from the slow demise of companies like Zynga, a keen survival instinct is crucial to longevity in the corporate world, too. You know how to fight for your company's survival tooth and nail (even though sharks don't have nails, but whatever) by planning strategically and thinking ahead.
  4. Remora investment. Remoras benefit from sharks by using host sharks as transport and protection. When you're a shark in the workplace, you give your underlings a sense of protection and a unique sense of comfort. When you help little remoras find their way (by letting them tag along for the ride), you may soon find yourself in the midst of protégés who can assist you -- and the company -- in turn.
  5. Self-preservation. With natural habitats and resources dwindling, moving up the food chain often entails surviving a war of attrition. In this economy, you need to hang on until your competition is slowly worn down. But a word of caution: Shark embryos have teeth and eat their younger siblings in-utero, leaving just two pups to be born ... So, y'know, don't take your shark-like self-preservation too far and eat your work-siblings. Saying a company eats their young -- not a compliment.

Remember, there may be plenty of fish in the sea, but we're all in this feces-filled water together. Being more of a whale shark than a great white may be better in the long run.

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