Goldman Sachs in particular is infamous for its annual cull of the bottom 5% of performers. Other bulge bracket banks may not be so explicit about getting rid of people, but they all do something similar. Within the bank I work for, I only have to look at the lack of grey hair in the junior ranks to see that you’re expected to ascend the career ladder very quickly.
Before the credit crunch, banks could possibly afford to carry passengers. Now, the adage “Move Up or Move Out” applies.
Unfortunately, it seems fewer and fewer people are moving of their own accord. In the past, banks could simply pay a nugatory bonus and wait for people to go. Now, with far fewer job opportunities, people are more desperate than ever to cling to their jobs.
As a result, banks are having to be far more proactive about getting rid of them.
The easiest way to do this is the mass redundancy programme. But, believe it or not, not every bank has one. In the absence of widespread redundancies and collective consultation, the responsibility for very selectively removing dead wood falls to line managers.
This is what has been happening at my place of employment for much of the past year, and it has been a tortuous process to behold. A forced departure is a protracted and painful process, not just for the individual, but for the entire team. Fortunately, I’ve never been in this situation myself, but I’ve seen many former colleagues steered slowly towards the exit.
The steering frequently follows a similar process. Responsibilities are taken away from them and replaced with menial work. Knowing that their colleague is a lame duck, the remainder of the team will often start to ostracise them and to gossip behind their back. Throughout, the manager silently hopes they’ll see the writing on the wall and decide to leave: only when they’ve gone can normality return.
In the circumstances, it seems hard to believe that the targeted individuals hang around. With pride leaching from them daily, they become shadows of their former-selves, failing to make eye contact, sitting quietly, waiting for the redundancy payment. I appreciate that it’s easy to claim false bravado before the event, but if this happens to me, I’d hope that I’d take the initiative and find my own alternative.
The author is an operations professional in a leading bank in London, who has been there but not been made redundant.