Everyone is talking about Greg Smith’s buh-bye to his former employer, Goldman Sachs, which was published in the New York Times on Wednesday. Here’s a little flava, for those of you who have been in the wilderness this week without internet or cable teevee:
It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.
I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.
Of course, some people are calling him naive, self-serving, and grandiose–the usual attack-the-messenger allegations of character flaws that are unfurled when people don’t like his message. Maybe he is naive, self-serving, and grandiose–who cares, if he’s telling the truth?
Have any of you ever engaged in a public resignation of this kind? Have you ever written a F.U. letter to a former employer, or given a speech on your way out the door? I did it once–as it happens, almost exactly 11 years ago, when I resigned my first tenure-track job. At the last faculty meeting I attended, I told them that it was evident they had no meaningful commitment to tenuring anyone in a line that had been open from 1984 to 2001. I documented exactly how poorly I had been treated by the current department chair, and then I put a copy of my speech in everybody’s mailbox so they couldn’t misrepresent what I had said on my way out the door.
Of course in the minds of those who were invested in disciplining and diminishing me, this just confirmed that I was a crazy b!tch–just like the four other crazy b!tches who had resigned from the line before me or who had been denied tenure. But the problem with that department is that it operated like an alcoholic family, with no one ever acknowledging publicly or talking out loud about the abuse that was plainly evident. I was always being counseled by my allies not to offend, not to piss anyone off by questioning their unprofessional and uncollegial behavior–I was told, “you’ll get tenure. You’ll be O.K.” But that wasn’t good enough for me. Why would I want to be tenured through an abusive process in an abusive department? And I was safe: I had signed my contract with Baa Ram U., so I thought I might as well go out with a bang.
I remain a little amazed at my brazenness at age 32. Would I do it again? I don’t know. Middle age has made me more cynical and more cautious, I suppose: I’m not sure that F.U. speeches make any positive difference, and why should I spend my breath on a work environment that isn’t my problem any longer? But I’m glad I said what I said. I’m glad that I wasn’t the only pissed off person when I left that room. That was my only realistic goal, and it was good enough for me.
Have you ever done something like this? Have you ever been a witness to it? What was the result?