If these types of companies have work-life policies in place, why don’t they seem to stick around?
Take a look at the reward structure. You have an OK base salary, but then the bonus is awarded based on how you hold up against your colleagues at the end of the year. It’s like a tournament. It’s like a race. And all you know is that the people next to you by whom you will be judged are just as smart as you are. You work just as hard. The only leverage you have is trying to revise them. These reward structures continue that work ethic.
When an organization says: “We value work-life balance, we don’t want our employees to work on weekends, we want blah blah blah”, there is still this competitive structure in which employees have an incentive to work all they can because others are doing the same, and only winners will be rewarded.
Fostering talent can work for a company. However, you have found that many employees choose these busy schedules even when they come with a high personal cost. One Employee told you: “I work hard because I want to.”
The people who get hired at banks have competed in excellence all their lives. When I speak to students at the beginning of their bachelor’s career and ask them: “What do you want to be?” Very few want to go into banking.
So what is happening? When these companies come on campus, people start competing because they have been conditioned to do so throughout their lives. They chase what everyone else is chasing, regardless of whether or not they are actually interested in the work. Regardless of whether there are consequences or not, these people want to win.
This is perhaps the last part that includes people in these intense work schedules. It’s the idea that there is a cadre of people who are the best, the brightest, and if you don’t keep up, you’ll end up in some sort of second-rate company – part of an indefinable “rest”.
What is so bad about it?
The people in the best and brightest group, they have opportunities, they earn a lot, they work with other interesting people, they work on global deals. The rest of you push paper with uninteresting colleagues and over time you become like them. People sincerely believe that. You believe that if you do not work for an elite organization, you will fall into an abyss of personal social origin.