GUEST COMMENT: A simple trick that will suggest you are busy and reduce the risk of job loss

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“What are you DOING? Listen, read research on your way to work in the mornings or heading home in the evenings.  Or on the weekend!  I don’t want you wasting your time.  Right now you should be doing something to help the team get a mandate so we can get paid. Otherwise I can’t fight for you to get a bonus.  Prepare a new slide for a market update rather than recycling the same one, go speak to the traders, call a client, think of new business…you should always be doing something to help the team.  If you continue like this I can’t protect you.”

– Managing Director

I cannot tell you the number of times I was showered with some variation of the above statement.  It didn’t matter how hard I worked that week, how late I stayed at the office the night before.  The guy made you feel like you never did enough.  I was convinced there were deep-seated reasons for him to so often act like a supreme, world-class idiot.

The remarkable thing was that, and without trying to sound arrogant – I mean it, I was much more capable than him in terms of skillset (i.e. communicating effectively with various people within and without of the organization, putting together presentations, creating Excel models, analyzing info & data, etc.) and, whereas he was generally despised by many, I had plenty of friends across the bank and a good relationship with several of the senior bankers he sucked up to without success.

In reality, I was an asset to him and rather than play it to his advantage by being human he lost out.

Over time I came to pick up on clues which indicated he was in a bad mood and therefore likely to come down on me if he felt it appropriate.

The solution was simple:

1) Look busy


2) Don’t stay around the desk too long.

Both could be solved with one tactic: The RALBY (Run And Look Busy).

How it works

You will need:

- Notepad

- Printouts with charts, graphs, diagrams, etc. on them

- A cell phone or blackberry (preferable)

Take the notepad and place the printouts on top;  make sure the charts are facing up so people can see them.

Start running (not too fast) and wear a face that screams ‘determination’, ‘important’, ‘running late’

Optional: chat or pretend to chat on your mobile device as you run – if the latter, make sure the phone is on silent.

Example phrases you can use while you RALBY, especially when go past one or more people:

“No, we need it ASAP.  Just tell him to get it done right away.”

“That’s what the client asked for so let’s do what he says.”

“Whatever it takes just get it done and let’s get the mandate.”

Caution in exercising RALBY

You must use RALBY in moderation and in a manner which does not raise suspicion.  My close colleagues and I limited it to twice in any one day – unless of course it was matter of life and death.

Also, we wouldn’t run in the same direction all the time.  We’d switch it up and head towards different doors available on the floor.  Sometimes, for pure effect, we’d come to a sudden halt halfway, turn around, head back to the desk, pick up a paper – strategically placed on the desk ahead of time – and head out again.

I’d occasionally meet new people who’d say to me after I was introduced to them:

“You always look very busy.  I see you running to meetings all the time.”

To which I would reply:

“Big time.  My team is super short-staffed and we deal with lots of difficult clients in emerging markets.”


About the author: The ibanker is a former bulge bracket investment banker who founded a family office-backed investment firm which provides specialised services to sovereign wealth funds and family offices across the globe.The ibanker has co-founded several Internet startups and undergoes regular actor training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts for fun. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, here.