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Lessons Learned from Goldman Sachs and the 100-Hour Work Week

March 23, 2021 Joe Mechlinski

Overworked Employee with his hands on his head, surrounded by mountains of paperwork on his desk.

Spreading like wildfire this week was a leaked "Working Conditions Survey" of one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious banks – Goldman Sachs.

The working conditions report highlights 13 first-year analysts and their experiences of working over 100 hours each week. 

And while the rage and fury online about this report is justified, there’s another side.

Before I get to that – it’s important to note that for the past 20+ years, we have advocated for workplace equity and true meritocracy. We know that the single greatest lever of human potential is a more engaged workforce and working people 100 hours per week isn’t engagement…that’s called burnout.

So what’s the other perspective? What responsibility is it of the employees who feel this way? If you’re going to work at Goldman Sachs… specifically in banking, you have to know the history and expectations. Working long hours is part of the job. Do I agree with it? No…but I would also not choose to work at Goldman for this very reason. A quick glance at their 9.6K reviews on Glassdoor would give anyone insight into what this type of gig is about –

Every organization has a moral imperative to care for the well being of their employees and the market is shifting to feel differently about work life balance/integration/rhythm. While there are still some companies stuck in the old paradigm of what work should be like, there are plenty of organizations getting it right (not to mention with the pandemic restrictions lifting, jobs are opening up). If anyone is experiencing abusive, inhumane, harmful conditions at work, what responsibility is it of the person to vote with their feet and leave? It’s called agency.

While the survey results were not good and should absolutely cause Goldman Sachs to re-evaluate their employee experience practices (the report did include some recommendations titled “rectifying the situation”) the leak is missing important details like - What does the rest of the survey say? Is it all bad? How does this compare to other surveys. What if it were 1300 (versus 13) people that complained about long hours a year ago and this is a marked improvement?

Adam Grant’s last look, “Think Again” does a great job of calling out how easily we as a culture either try to convince someone we are right… or how much we have stopped listening for nuance.

Does your company conduct surveys and ask how you are feeling? Because the reality is that not all do… and when they do, they are awestruck by what they learn. In fact, in our recent survey of more than 30,000 employees (across 45 companies), we learned that connection was the #1 concern and that the #1 reason people leave is based on their interpersonal relationship with their direct supervisor.

And assuming your company does a survey and gets the feedback, shouldn’t they get a chance to learn and make adjustments before someone leaks to the press the worst part of the survey?

With all that said, where I totally think the CEO, David Solomon, is needing an update: his stance on remote work.

Solomon has been a critic of the work-from-home model and called it an “aberration” recently.

“This is not ideal for us and it’s not a new normal... It’s an aberration that we are going to correct as quickly as possible.”

That shit has got to go.

You can’t expect your employer to meet all your needs, and when they don’t meet the ones most important to you - vote with her feet and find an opportunity that will.

That’s right, 

Ensure Your Employees are Working Well

How can leaders stay one step ahead? By listening to the people who live your mission every day: your employees. It all starts here, with our Free Employee Survey. Quickly capture employee insights to help you understand your employees’ work experiences so you can better show up for their current needs.

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TOPICS: Change, Workplace Innovation