Tuesday, 26 June 2012

This week is the dreaded lay-over week. Business is bad, the bank is not making money and we are not doing any deals. Looking at the current macro-economic environment that hardly seems surprising. But ofcourse we will still run to all and sundry to pitch all sorts of possible alternatives - restructure your company, buy this company, sell this business, IPO that division. Some of the most outlandish suggestions have ranged from a merger of 2 tech giants or the IPO of a cash cow of a large utilities business or a reverse merger where very small companies should buy completely unrelated assets which they ofcourse cant afford!

But it is amusing - the bank is debating laying off people this week but at the same time is spending thousands of dollars installing "facilities monitors " which tells employees when the next toilet inspection is due and when the kitchen will be cleaned - yes, this is something which will dramatically improve the quality of my life. This is such a preposterous waste of money - I am tempted to send this example to Scott Adams to feature in the next Dilbert issue.

So, nowadays, the much repeated game around the associate class is " Who Will Be Fired" where it seems like getting fired is almost like a reward. Oft repeated sentences are " that guy does NOTHING the whole day - why does he deserve the redundancy package - this is so unfair !!" or " I have worked my ass off and they refuse to me fire me - I want the severance !!"  The reason why everybody covets this redundancy is two fold - 1) you get three months pay tax free and 2) you get a 3 month vacation under the guise of looking for future employment

Now, ofcourse this by no means is to disrespect all those folks who have families and liabilities - where losing their jobs is equivalent of a death knell. However, this above mentioned perverse stream of thought is exacerbated by the sense of absolute desperation and frustration of working here - where the idea of being paid to leave is such a pleasant idea that suddenly everyone wants to grab the " low hanging fruit".

I am told repeatedly by people who dont work in the bank - that I have been blessed to get the job I have, that I am in a luxury position, that there are millions of people who would die to do the same role - thats when I have to ask myself - Have I lost the sense to be thankful for all that I have? Have the daily frustrutions made me numb to all the good things in my life, Had I been unemployed - would I have envied those dark suits trudging to work everyday ? Is this really the worst that can happen to someone ?

Maybe not .... but if you simply look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs - these organisations meet your two basic needs - physiological and safety needs , everything on top of it - relationships, friendships, free time, sense of respect, recognition, space for creativity etc is all up for grabs ....So is there is a real basis to our unhappiness ... Maybe yes .....

Monday, 18 June 2012

If Gandhi worked for an investment bank, he would have discarded his theory on non-violence and peace a long time back. He would have have whipped off his effing loinscloth, wet it and whiplashed everyone from VP upwards.
I am convinced even the most pious saints and nuns would become scheming, manipulative creatures when surrounded by the daily frustrations and loathings of working in a bank. It is commonplace and routine to think of causing bodily harm to your colleagues and superiors - the more vicious the better. Even ancient Chinese torture tactics fall short.

For e.g. - in my recent project, for a presentation that is due on Tuesday and you find out a week in advance, one would think it is prudent to start working on the Monday (a week before the deadline), however, when your very fat and ugly VP only starts work on a Thursday night - you know its headed for disaster. Also, this is without the support of an analyst. Now, all those who work in banking and other related professions know HOW important an analyst is to the process - the analyst is the difference in you getting some sleep compared to getting none, the savior who you blame incase dung hits the fan, the beast of burden etc etc.

So when my friends all ask me why I need to work weekends most of the time - it cannot be just gross mismanagement.I think its a combination of incompetence and indifference. The truth is that your superiors just don't care. It does not matter to them if your weekends have been repeatedly ruined, if you haven't slept in days, if you are unwell - you are a payroll, a number without a face. Sometimes, they have moments of compassion - when you may be rewarded a night off on a Friday night only to be told that you must come on Saturday morning.

Understandably, we work in client - facing roles with stringent timelines and demanding clients, however, the number of fake deadlines, unnecessary urgency and life-or-death situations which are created by senior management are completely uncalled for. The sole reason for this is - We are a money-making,deal churning assembly line and every minute not spent working is fees not earned!

Now, I believe this behavior and appalling lack of empathy for human resources will continue till this industry flourishes. However, there has to be a tipping point - the banking industry is undergoing too much change, too much flak and too much criticism for them to continue to function with a blatant disregard of their employees. As regulation clamps down, as compensation scales dip and it is no longer lucrative to work in these professions - their ability to attract the best and the smartest will seriously come under question. Finally - then, perhaps they will start to realise the need to retain people and not continue to " burn people", no longer shall they have the scores of people lined up outside their door begging for jobs. One fine day - it could be that they open the proverbial doors of recruitment and find no one standing outside.