Thoughts on Work from The Boss

At Haller Kwan LLP, we often turn to our boss, The Boss, for wisdom on employment law. Recently, our firm had an important meeting with Mr. Bruce Springsteen in New York City; a few others showed up, too, since they also had purchased tickets for “Springsteen on Broadway” at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

Bruce working at Walker Kerr Theatre

Inside the small theater, Bruce joked that his Broadway show was the first real “five-day-a-week” job he ever had, then reflected on why so much of his music is about working nine-to-five jobs. Was his career based on a lie?

No. Bruce’s work about work, as he explained in New York City, and as he wrote in his autobiography, “Born to Run,” is shaped by witnessing his mom and dad—and their distinct relationships with their employers.

For Bruce’s mom, her decades-long relationship with her job at a law firm was strong and positive. Bruce wrote in his book, “She goes to work, she does not miss a day, she is never sick, she is never down, she never complains. Work does not appear to be a burden for her but a source of energy and pleasure.” (How we wish everyone felt this way about their jobs!)

For Bruce’s dad, his relationship with work was unhealthy. He struggled to keep a job, holding many over his life, usually ending the day in a dark kitchen: “the nightly religious ritual of the ‘sacred six-pack,’” Bruce wrote.

Our takeaway from hearing Bruce discuss the relationships with his mom (wonderful) and dad (challenging) is that you cannot ignore his parents’ other relationships: the ones with their jobs. Our jobs shape us, they affect us in profound ways regardless of our intent. And bad work relationships bleed into our personal lives. We see the impact of these relationships every day with our clients; and we see our own jobs as helping clients either repair broken relationships or ensure their “job divorce” is as healthy as possible, which usually means obtaining the money necessary for clients to feel peace and have the resources necessary to work to find new work.

Bruce describes work in “Badlands,” “you gotta live it every day. Let the broken hearts stand as the price you gotta pay, we’ll keep pushin’ ‘til it’s understood, and these badlands start treating us good.” In “Out in the Street,” his character works five days a week “loading crates down on the dock,” always looking forward to Friday “when I’m out on the street.” In “Factory,” a man “walks out in the morning light” to the factory gates where men walk “with death in their eyes.”

In other words, ones expressed less poetically than Bruce’s, work is usually hard—hard enough without employers breaking the law, hard enough without discrimination or harassment, or fears of retaliation.

In “Blood Brothers,” Bruce sings, “We lose ourselves in work to do and bills to pay. And it’s a ride, ride, ride, and there ain’t much cover. With no one runnin’ by your side.”

Running by your side. That’s our job.