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In the News: 'Work Hard, Play hard'. Then Fall Hard

Published on 14 Sep 2017
Work Hard Play Hard Fall Hard

Shaun McCarthy was featured in an opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun commenting on the culture inside the Finance Industry:

'Work Hard, Play Hard'. Then Fall Hard

WHAT is it about the finance industry that creates this unacceptable culture?

It’s a familiar setting to many a blockbuster movie; the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ character strolls in on the first day ready to crunch the numbers with high hopes and solid morals. Fast forward a couple of months, all these good intentions are quickly overshadowed by a culture that embodies ‘work hard, play hard’.

In the finance industry, where making money is the aim of the game, an element of competition is deemed necessary. And the behaviour that gets rewarded or is celebrated is the behaviour that is mimicked. In an industry that often sets unrealistic targets, and pushes employees to reach them at all costs, eliminating the competition can become the norm. Internal competition, by definition, positions your teammates as a potential threat. Even if it means subjecting colleagues to personal attacks about their appearance, or sabotaging a ‘friend’, one-upping members of your team is deemed acceptable in the name of getting results.

And this often starts before you’ve even formally got your foot in the door.

To take some real life examples from my experience as a leadership consultant, it’s asking a woman if she’s likely to get pregnant anytime soon in a job interview. It’s then asking her how she would handle being harassed by her male colleagues as they shout and swear at her for making an innocent mistake. So, what do you do when it’s the head of the company asking the questions?

Everyone wants a ‘strong’ leader. But what makes a leader ‘strong’? And when does ‘strong’ actually become ‘aggressive’? Culture comes from the top and the buck stops with the CEO.

A strong leader is someone who enjoys the trust of those being led and who can make tough decisions. A strong leader knows how to motivate appropriately but is willing to take one for the team when necessary.

Aggressive leaders, on the other hand, need to maintain unquestioned authority, tend to stay on the offensive and act forcefully. The outcome of this type of leadership is that the organisation’s culture becomes less accepting of differences and more divisive with people behaving more aggressively towards others and being more concerned with their our own individual success. The achievement of the task takes priority over the needs of the team, the organisation and even the customer.

It’s playground antics 101. The bully who bullies is often being bullied. The board who is being pressured by the shareholders, shifts responsibility to the executive leadership who in turn demand unreasonable requests of their teams.

The answer isn’t straightforward. Human Synergistics research shows that only 18 per cent of Australian organisations score above the global average when it comes to respect for others, which is defined as respecting the rights of individuals and treating people well regardless of ethnicity, sex, age, sexuality, religion

Organisations need to look at what they incentivise and reward, and shift the focus from the individual to a collective team effort. They must emphasise achieving the customers’ goals, not just their own.


Read the original article here