Earlier last week, I put in my letter of resignation at my corporate investment banking job that I have been at for 2 years. It felt amazing telling my managers that I was going to be leaving. I have been wanting to quit since the day I started but stuck it out because it was the ‘right thing to do’.
I have been working at large corporate investment banks for my entire career and learned many things that no one told me while I was in school. I want to share these details with people who don’t work for large corporations or are still in school.
The following details are definitely less applicable for small start-ups, but definitely true for huge corporations.
The Dream Is A Lie – People Aren’t “Resources”
I was always told the same story from elementary school all the way through college. Get good grades, get into a good college, and then get a good job – simple enough.
So I went to college and got a high paying job in Manhattan – that’s the dream, right? The problem is that no one ever told me what to do once I completed this goal of getting a ‘good job’. The first 6-12 months of working was a novel experience and rather enjoyable, but the reality of sitting in an office during the best part of the day quickly takes its toll on your happiness.
However, once you begin working more than 1 or 2 years, you begin to realize how absolutely ridiculous your job is. Not only are employees at large corporations viewed as ‘replaceable’, employees are referred to as a ‘resource’. When I found this to be the norm, I was disgusted. There is nothing more inhumane than referring to someone as a “resource” – gross.
Most jobs don’t provide any real meaning to workers besides getting a paycheck every 2 weeks. Besides the money, there is little reason why people stay at their jobs.
If money wasn’t a concern, what would you be doing? I know I would not be sitting at a desk pushing e-mails and working for corporations I do not believe in.
How does it make sense that we spend roughly 16-20 years getting educated only to work for someone else? Maybe this is a problem only applicable for the notoriously impatient ‘millenial’ generation.
“Happy Friday” – Silent Unhappiness
Once you begin working long enough, you will see how unhappy middle-aged (or older) people are. There are many common sayings that people will begin to use towards the end of the week at large corporations:
- “Almost there!” or “Almost 5!”
- “Happy Friday!”
- “We made it to the end of the week!”
- “Thank God It’s Friday!”
These are all very common sayings, but clearly show one thing: people are excited to not work on the weekend.
Employee’s pain and suffering are hidden under a facade of happiness that has been perfected over the long years of working at a place that drains your happiest memories, like a dementor.
If you are ever curious how someone really feels about working at their job, just have a one-on-one lunch with them one day. Whenever I have had lunch with coworkers, I hear a lot more complaints and issues than I ever would in the office.
The office is shady af.
Seniority & Experience > Performance & Knowledge
Another problem with corporations is the complete and utter disregard for performance and knowledge as compared to experience and seniority.
It seems incredibly common for managers to speak confidently about topics they are clueless about. More often than not, managers will be at too high of a level to understand the complex nuances of a granular issue. Whether the manager is right or wrong, they are always right.
Hopefully, most of us have managers that are right more often than they are wrong. Especially since disagreeing with your boss is most likely going to end up with you yielding your position no matter how correct you are.
The worst part about really large corporations is that they force all new employees to enter a rotational program. Rotational programs (rotating every 6-12 months) have a small benefit in allowing employees to experience other groups in the company but have a huge cost. The huge cost is that new workers get penalized since they do not have more than a single year in a particular group.
Even after 4 years of working in a bank, it is very possible for a new worker to have moved around 4 different groups (or more). Having only 1 year of experience in multiple areas actually hurts your ability to become promoted since the actual years spent in a particular field is crucial for getting a promotion.
Typically, the person who has worked at the firm the longest gets the promotion, regardless of how much that person performs in comparison to their peers.
Corporate Hot Potato
Everyone has experienced the pain of working on group projects in school. There is always one slacker who takes advantage of their group members and decides to do the bare minimum in order to get the same grade as the others on the project.
I find that Pareto’s 80-20 law is completely applicable for these types of situations. This law explains that 80% of the work is completed by only 20% of the people on the project. I always tend to find myself on the side of the 20% doing most of the work.
For some reason, I thought that this behavior was going to disappear in the working world.The problem at work is that most people behave the same way they did in school.
As people become more experienced and move up the corporate ladder, they lose the more fine-tuned skills that helped them get promoted in the first place. However, they do gain more soft skills, such as the ability to send e-mails and set up meetings.
This enhanced ability to send e-mails and set up meetings rarely ever helps boost productivity. Instead, it creates an elaborate game of “Hot Potato” where players pass work on to the next employee by writing a well-worded e-mail.
If you happen to be on the bottom rung of the ladder, then you will most likely end up with the ‘Hot Potato’ and have to do 80% of the work. Even if you succeed in completing the work, your management and people who passed you the potato will take credit by saying something along the lines of; “I knew they could handle it, that’s why I delegated the work to them”.
Mutation Of Job And Role – Without Increased Compensation
This last point is probably the worst part about working at a large corporation for a long time. After working at a company for a few years, it is very easy to be given additional work outside of your original job description. Even worse, it is possible to be given a promotion in title (with more responsibilities) without an increase in compensation.
At my most recent job, I started the job with 2 bosses and very clearly defined responsibilities. Over 2 years, I ended up with 6 different bosses (at the same time) who all assigned me different work.
I refuse to work for a company that does not compensate their employees properly.
I am not saying that I won’t ever work at a large corporation again, but I will think much more carefully when selecting my next job.
And I hope you do too!