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Is it possible to have a personality and work at Goldman Sachs?

Following closely behind Matt Taibbi’s analogy between Goldman Sachs and a giant bloodsucking squid, New York Magazine has another article on The Firm, asking whether it’s really a bad place, or simply too good at what it does.

Alongside comments about Goldman’s involvement with AIG and the atmosphere when Goldman’s stock price nosedived in October 2008 (they were “freaking out”), NY Mag offers an interesting perspective on what it describes as Goldman’s “groupthink,” which is says is the product of a “giant hive mind.”

It’s not just about attracting the best and brightest but transforming them into a giant, perfectly synchronized trading machine. Staffers tend to socialize together, reside in the same apartment buildings in Manhattan, have summer homes around the same ponds in the Hamptons, send their kids to the same private schools. Fitting in is of the utmost importance. Subtle social tics-a bow tie, a mustache, a colorful personality-can eliminate you from the club.

Goldman PR Lucas Van Praag is also quoted in the article, skillfully neither explicitly confirming nor denying that working at Goldman Sachs is akin to being an extra on the Stepford Wives.

“The cult of the individual, which I think has been a disadvantage to so many of the firm’s competitors, really doesn’t exist here,” he says. “The more you have acceptance, the easier it is to be effective.”

Comments (20)

  1. What is the point of this article?
    I have a feeling that Sarah has some sort of connection with GS! Maybe she’s obsessed

  2. Is Goldman Sachs the new Goldman Sachs?

  3. This notion of demonising an individual or an institution that is ruthlessly efficient and skilled at what they do is backward. We saw this in the latter episodes of the apprentice. The lady who should have won was denied the opportunity because she was ‘too good to have a personality’. Similarly we say the British are ‘pragmatic’ whilst the Germans are impractically obsessed with being efficient, almost to the point that they seem robotic (never mind rigid). Its all nonsense.

    Proof: Compare German infrastucture with British infrastucture
    Proof: Compare GS profits with profits of so-called ‘rival’ BBIB’s

    And lets be honest, the lady who came second would have been a better apprentice (Lord Sugar missed out, big time). But does all this really allude to a lack of personality?
    Just embrace the fact that GS understand better than any other institution that their most valuable asset is the synchronised collection of bright minds that will execute objectives to perfection. And that certainly does not imply that inanimity is abound in GS.

  4. I agree with “The Butcher”. What the hell is the point of this article. Maybe there should be one on BBQs or something equally random. This is totally pointless. For god sake!

    Fred the Shred Reply
  5. @ Fred – this isn’t totally random, it’s about a bank and this is a website related to financial services. We run things on hiring/pay trends and cultural/workplace issues of relevance to people in working in financial services. This falls into the latter category. Unfortunately, barbecues wouldn’t fit in anywhere.

    Sarah, Editor, eFinancialCareers Reply
  6. @Sarah

    It would be a fair point you make if GS ever considered placing an ad on eFinancials. Have they ever? If not, your point about relevance to this website is weak. If they have then fair enough.

  7. Yes, Sarah…this is pathetic! Do we pay you to sit around and report on Goldm…wait…we don’t pay you, do we?

    Ahem…don’t listen to them, Sarah. As a banker myself, I can honestly say IB Analysts, Traders, etc are the most maladjusted, neurotic, venal and generally most pathetic people I have ever met (well, I suppose if I was a prison warden I might have different standards) and they seem to be becoming pathetic younger and younger.

    Congrats, Niv, The Butcher, you’ve managed to become a banking prat really early on in your career.

    Duke of Lancaster VI Reply
  8. Sorry, not Niv. Sorry about that.

    Duke of Lancaster VI Reply
  9. @ Mr Wells – I’m not sure whether Goldman advertises: editorial on this site is independent of sales. We don’t only write about clients. If Goldman were a client I don’t imagine they would encourage us to write articles of this nature anyway.

    @ Duke – Thank you.

    Sarah, Editor, eFinancialCareers Reply
  10. Your Royal Highness, The Duke of Lancaster, your apology is accepted.

  11. a dreadful, soul sapping place where, invariably, employees earn the bucks and then gradually drift into a life of frustration, divorce, isolation and loneliness. Their brothers and sisters rarely attend the funeral. Crows sit on their bare, unkempt, but expensive, headstones. No one really cares or remembers. The ivy grows thick.

    Goldmanwatcher30 years Reply
  12. Quick answer is no. Anyone with a personality that somehow manges to sneak in past the personality police quickly moves elsewhere once they realise how restrictive it is….

    Loved this line:
    “Goldman PR Lucas Van Praag is also quoted in the article, skillfully neither explicitly confirming nor denying that working at Goldman Sachs is akin to being an extra on the Stepford Wives.” LOL!!!

    Thanks for the article! Oh and very well said your Dukeship!

  13. Sarah is like Gordon Brown…..no matter what she does or says, there’s always a biunch of people out to criticise her. Well Sarah we love you. Long live Sarah and her writing, Sarah you have our complete vote of confidence….hang in there

    Sarah’s No 3 Fan Reply
  14. Gordon Brown is criticised because he is inept and Sarah Butcher is criticised because she is filling this site with tabloid fodder best suited to the Daily Express. Take a look at the US site, where the caliber is much higher.

  15. @ article: yup. GS is distinctive for its absolute insistence on intra-org homogenisation. that is its key differentiation from all the other IBs.

    @ commenters: my GOD this site attracts ranting twits and trolls.

  16. I used to work in GS, I enjoyed my time there and made some good friends. I felt a little restricted by ‘the firm’ so I set about taking my talent elsewhere. GS attracts a certain type of individual, this personality type does well – sometimes ‘different’ people slip through the cracks and have a miserable experience. I was somewhere in the middle. Leave GS be I think. To quote that TV advert. ‘It does exactly what it says on the tin’.

  17. @ a – We offer a combination of light hearted and informative/analytical articles on the UK site. If you prefer the content on the US site, you will be pleased to hear that we may one day be in a position to allow you to specify which international site’s editorial content you see when you visit eFinancialCareers,

    Sarah, Editor, eFinancialCareers Reply
  18. Sarah , dont take it personally. many of us think you’re doing a terrific job in offering advice, articles and some humour too. Not all of the content will be of value to everyone, but that’s life. Keep on going

    Sarahsfans.com Reply
  19. working there gave me problems

  20. I love the lighthearted, pointless articles (and the heated debates and name-calling that follows). Keeps me amused at lunchtime. If I wanted to read about all things serious, I’d go pick up one of them big newspaper things.

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