This young man, earning in excess of £150k, is working on average 18 hours per day every day of the week, not just for a couple of weeks, but for the past 6 months – endlessly, including all through Christmas and now through Easter holidays. The lack of sleep, proper food or exercise is not just adding darker circles under his eyes, but it is eating away at his confidence, affecting his home life and actually putting his employer once again at risk. In fact this man is worse off than any labourer in the third world down a mineshaft – apart from his salary - but for what?
What sort of society are we, if we are asking our staff – regardless of what they are paid, - to work 18 – 20 hours per day, day after day and expect accuracy, high application of intelligence – and of course: risk free? The paranoia starts with management’s need to check, re-check and counter-sign all work undertaken by all staff involved in deals and transactions in the bank. However, the pace of the work demands that the turnaround on this checking is covered within the ordinary time of a deal – even though it actually requires triple the activity. As many teams reduced, due to the recession, staff are doing at least 2 jobs. The addition of triple check paranoia causes an appalling bottle-neck, organisations are effectively bullying staff to work these hours. With threats of losing jobs, of course staff will do whatever they think they need to do to keep in work, even if it could kill them.
Corporate Bullying – a new phenomenon?
Is this form of regulation, resulting in the checks etc., actually demoralising staff to the point where they simply lose sight of how to use their judgement and assess risk for themselves? The recent allegations of bullying at No.10, reflects an abhorrence of any form of individual bullying. Surely though, we now have a much deeper problem with what is effectively Corporate Bullying.
Driven by the threat of losing major clients, or being sued for malpractice or any sniff of money laundering – take your pick – results in everyone in the organisation colluding to insist on these ludicrous hours of work to become standard – and expected. Lawyers, bankers, deal makers all work through the night, day after day nervously covering their backs hoping they cannot be blamed for any mistakes. What drives this is both the desire to get the deal struck, but also to cover all the due diligence, and research before the signatures – and there just is not the time. Globalisation has exacerbated this and has given us permission to insist staff are like the Associate in John Grisham’s book (the Associate) working in darkened basements, with a sleeping bag under the desk and colleagues dropping like flies around him, feint from lack of sleep and food.
Can we have a moratorium to reduce the pace?
How can we stop this slippery slope of corporate madness so that our talented people are not burnt out by the age of 40? Organisations could:
- Re-visit the drivers for the speed of transaction
- Re-educate clients about the need for speedy turnaround times – are they really so disinterested or callous that they don’t mind staff working 20/7 on their deals?
- Agree a moratorium between major professions to stop this lunacy.
Will your firm be brave enough to be the first to sign up?
- Are you feeling pressured, to work these hours in your team?
- Are you having mistakes made by staff doing ‘all-nighters’?
- do you have staff off with sudden bouts of sickness,?
- have you had any suicides in your organisation because of the way your staff are managed and driven?
Why do the young bloods’ believe that this pace can be kept up till they are 40 – 45 by when they hope to have made enough ‘dosh’ to retire into something easier? I know a number of people in their late 30s who have now decided to stop the race, find a mate, get married and have children. However, by then they find they have become such work junkies they are impossible to live with and can be doomed to a lonely time in their hamster wheel.
Our world has gone topsy-turvy, the hamsters are definitely in the wheels, spinning away, faster and faster in case someone decides to make them redundant. Relentlessly they are in the office, on the end of the Blackberry or ‘FirmFone’ (Grisham’s invention).
Will it take corporate deaths to get any sense?
What will it take for major institutions, Governments around the world and our business federations, to realise it is not individual bullying we should be concerned about – but this wholesale Corporate Bullying that is apparently being condoned in every commercial office and profession by our so called Leaders. What sort of example are they really offering or are they too hardened to even notice?
Will it be a banker’s suicide, or the mental breakdown of a lawyer, or the alcoholic deal maker, or the drug-riddled financier who will finally jog the conscience of the so called Bosses to take some practical action?