Sunday, March 15, 2009

I-banker etiquette

IN 1996, fresh out of business school, I found myself working an average of over 100 hours per week as a Bear Stearns investment banker. I think I worked the first three months straight, including weekends, without a day off. ...

So it was with real satisfaction that I sat in my group head’s office to receive my first-year performance review, and was told the amount of my incentive compensation. After receiving the requisite balance of praise and constructive criticism and then learning what at the time seemed like an impossibly high payment for my first year’s work, I was asked if I had any particular observation I wished to express.

“Well,” I said, still in shock over my bonus figure, “I would just like to thank you and the firm for giving me the opportunity to work hard and to learn my job.”

My group head, who was very much a glass-is-half-empty sort of person, just looked at me and then chuckled. It was not a “ho-ho-ho” or even a “ha-ha-ha” kind of laugh. Rather, he gave a “he-he-he” chuckle, like Louie from the television show “Taxi.”

“That’s nice, Doug,” he said matter-of-factly. “But if I ever hear you say something like that again, we will ...” I can’t complete his quotation here, but let’s just say that what he threatened to do to me is better left to the imagination.

Ever mindful of that early lesson, I never said thank you again.
--S. Douglas Pugliese, former Bear Stearns managing director, on taboo words for an investment banker

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