A Culture Exposed: Goldman Sachs’ Employer Branding Debacle
Greg Smith, ex-executive of Global Investment Bank, Goldman Sachs, this week launched a huge parting shot at his former employer, describing the culture as “toxic and destructive”. Not the first time, by the way, I have heard an ex-employee describe his/her previous employer in that way. What is possibly most damaging is the specific language that he claims is used to describe customers, alleging in some instances they are referred to as “muppets”.
Using internal language about clients and employees may seem like a harmless joke, but can quickly get out of hand. Suddenly, an off the cuff comment or discriminatory remark to the wrong person can expose your business to high risk. The language used by the executive can be more powerful than you think, rippling its way to unforseen ramifications.
Applauded by some and attacked by others, Mr Smith has quickly and effectively got his message out there. When the behaviour within the firm contravenes basic principles of integrity, honesty and fairness, people don’t only vote with their feet but their mouths, often causing major brand damage. A phenomenon that is being magnified exponentially by our increasing use and reliance on social media channels.
Companies spend many millions of dollars on cultural initiatives and employer branding. On their corporate website the company says, “Goldman Sachs is a meritocracy built on the belief that collaboration, teamwork and integrity create the right environment for our people to deliver the best possible results for our clients.” Mr. Smith says, “The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.” From an employee standpoint, this is where the real damage is caused – when organisations don’t follow through with delivering on the culture they’ve promised and reinforcement from the leadership team is lacking or non-existent.
If culture was a tangible product that was produced by the firm, I have no doubt that more effort would be put into quality control. But what happens if your people are your product?
How well do you know your organisational culture? The Mindset Check is a culture and employee engagement survey and report that will help you determine engagement levels, cultural and communication issues, and pinpoint areas for improvement.
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