Thursday, 31 January 2013

Its my first week at my new job and I find myself a bit lost and uneasy. Let me explain - today there was some evident activity - when our Group CFO (read as very busy man) steps out of his office and asks us to gather around and then goes on to thank this person - Liz, who has her last day today. He goes on to profusely thank her, tells her how much they will miss her, her hard work has been appreciated - then hands her a farewell gift from the team, everyone claps - Liz makes her farewell speech - more claps, more gifts.

In the meantime - I ask my colleague - who Liz happens to be. In my head, ofcourse she must be a fellow MD who is moving to another bank, basically someone very important to deserve such a lavish send-off. After I gave this explanation - my colleague gave me the look you give to a hunted and abused animal and smiled pitifully and said - "Liz is our team assistant, she is leaving to write a novel (travel fiction) and everyone gets a similar farewell."

Reallly?!!I was barely acknowledged by my team when I quit the investment bank that I previously worked for. And hey! not to boast I am not even the nasty, alpha type banker but genuinely made friends in the bank, so my send-off was on the congenial side. There were people who actually made an effort to meet me or call me before I left but that is surely not common and completely unexpected.

The perverse and brutal treatment of people in I-banks is so pervasive that any act of mild kindness is tremendously appreciated. So when you throw people like us in an environment where people are actually kind to each other, where even though people are busy - there is no false sense of urgency and constant stress, you suddenly feel as wary and cautious as a trapped animal suddenly let loose.

The unnecessary aggression, the constant dis-satisfaction, the profound sense of negativity, the bitching and the complaining made for a terrible work environment. The best part is that there was this sense of self-created importance around investment bankers (when 90% of their time is spent aligning boxes, formatting pages, juggling numbers) in order to give their actually truly battered self-esteem some meaning.
Another very common and visible trait is the constant need to spend money - the need to escape and reward yourself where you buy things incessantly that you dont need and plan exotic holidays - hoping to get some semblance of normalcy.

The feature that strikes me the most in my new organisation is that even though people work hard doing things which are far more intellectually challenging for actually less money - they all seem surprisingly content!!
No morbid jokes around plotting grevious harm to colleagues, no perverse humor, no need to expend pent-up frustration, no fancy vacations in Sharm-el-Sheikh or Bora Bora boasted about, no interest in showing off the fancy West End restaurants that your MD dined in over the weekend that's normal, regular life ......