When the new MD is an idiot who loves bureaucracy

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Bureaucracy banking

Some managing directors in investment banks love to be in charge. They love to have a team of people reporting into them, but they can't be bothered to deal with all the human issues it entails. So they delegate to someone else who effectively becomes your manager. It happens a lot in banking and it puts you in a bad situation.

It happened to me. A new managing director was brought in to run my team (sales, a U.S. bank). It wasn't long before he decided to change the reporting lines. We were a small team, but some reason this MD figured it would make sense to add in extra layers of management. Myself and several colleagues were asked to report to a director. Here, our problems began.

The director in question was a colleague of ours who'd sucked up to the MD. He had no experience of management and his bright idea for managing us involved taking over our biggest accounts (because he could do a better job) and asking us to offload a lot of other clients that the bank thought were a waste of time. We were left with next to nothing.

The director managed us, but the MD still wanted to know what we were up to. To this end, the MD kept a sharp eye on our call logs and the number of meetings we were having. When we weren't logging enough, the MD pressurized the director and the director pressured us in turn. There was a culture of fear and of confusion.

The director's method of managing us was to weaken us as much as possible. None of us were allowed to talk directly to the MD. When we did, the director would sneakily look at us out of the corner of his eyes to see what we were doing and try to listen in. If he missed anything, he'd have a little chat on a side table to see what was going on. His strategy worked: slowly, we each became marginalized; our voices were no longer heard.

Throughout, I blamed the MD. He liked ‘structure,’ and he couldn't be bothered to manage. The MD made decisions on our bonuses by getting feedback from the director: we no longer had our reviews with the MD himself. The MD only heard the negatives like client complaints. Meanwhile, any positive feedback was absorbed by the director and somehow never reached the MD (we only found this out by informal work chats in the pub with the MD).

There were around 15 of us on the team. We had two incapable managers and were one of the unhappiest teams in the bank. Eventually, most of us resigned and those that were left were made redundant. It was an untenable situation and one I remained in for far too long. Now that I've left, I'm hearing very negative things from those who really matter: the clients.

Owen Harris is the pseudonym of a salesman at a U.S. investment bank

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