Director told me seniors in my team don’t like me because I speak out

Had an honest conversation with a director in my team as he was let go. He said seniors don’t like me because I speak out.
 

Effectively when someone gives me a task that I don’t think makes sense I will say it doesn’t make sense (too direct). He said it’s particularly annoying because I often turn out right. 
 

I find this very demotivating. I feel like people shouldn’t have such fragile egos and be so frail if an associate contradicts them. I am asking them to explain and justify their logic, I’m not taking away their power. 
 

It feels like such BS that they claim they are trying to make things efficient and improve junior experience and at the same time it’s frowned upon if they ask for things that would ruin an evening for nothing to speak up. 
 

I really struggle to kiss ass. It’s not who I am. I see it as dishonest and unmeritocratic. Am I deluded in this sense? 

 
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This is the single biggest reason I hated IB. A significant portion, maybe the majority, of your workload is doing shit that you know ahead of time won't be usable but you still have to do it because your bosses are would rather have you work an extra 40 hours a week than have the burden be on them to operate with any level of reasonable efficiency.

I don't think most people here realize that their little Senior Banker would probably be a complete dud in any other industry that takes any amount of efficiency or pragmatism. Like a ton of those guys are fucking TERRIBLE at getting shit done. Without having a huge team of ivy leaguers around them that are willing to run through walls, many of these MDs cannot innately accomplish a fucking thing. 

 

What's it like in PE? Any different? As for the OP's question, I would suggest looking at boutique that has leaner teams. At smaller shops, seniors are better aware (or least seem to care more about) the fact that juniors are overstaff and give them autonomy. Was a huge reason why I moved from a large EB to a smaller shop. Things improved greatly and now doing much much less useless work. 

 

how small of a smaller shop are we talking? is this like a 20 person boutique? just curious your reasoning you decided to move shops in IB. wondering the same thing these days. 

 

Marginally better. Still a ton of running down analyses for deals that we're only interested in conceptually (but would never actually do - we just want to know what the market is thinking about certain assets for our own edification). Main difference I would say is when we get to Term Sheet stage & beyond we really can start moving full steam ahead. In IB I feel like even then in the process we would still fuck around with a lot of "Well let's run this structure through our model but assume this scenario or that scenario. Now let's change the structure and assume the same scenario" In Growth PE it's more like "Ya we use the same boiler plate structure on every deal, this IS our model, this IS the structure. Hurry the fuck up and send us DD materials we asked for" But plenty of Credit/Growth shops go nuts with third parties so all in all I would say PE is only marginally better. 

Everyone's mileage will vary, that's just mine. Sample size = 1.

 

What's it like in PE? Any different? As for the OP's question, I would suggest looking at boutique that has leaner teams. At smaller shops, seniors are better aware (or least seem to care more about) the fact that juniors are overstaff and give them autonomy. Was a huge reason why I moved from a large EB to a smaller shop. Things improved greatly and now doing much much less useless work. 

No. Everywhere, anywhere, it's always about the team. Only people who really matter imo are the guys at the very top. They're all good at what they do because they have to be. The deal gets done in spite of everyone below.

So that does mean that at the mid or mid-to-senior level, there are either hardos or incompetent people hiding. When they play politics they can hide for a very long time - they'll never be the head, but they'll be around to make your life miserable

If you join a new fund then it might be different, but is also hugely risky in multiple ways.

 

Maybe ask questions rather than speak out saying "This doesn't make sense". Get reasoning and lead them to concluding it's not needed themselves. Being too confrontational will not take you far, you need to learn how to speak in a way that people perceive as friendly/collaborative. Think of it this way, if you keep pushing these folks and being too "direct" in an off-putting way, will any of those hire you down the line if you need them to?

 

Fragile egos and the desire to have people under you become sycophants is prevalent in many industries. You think it’s just a banking thing?

You don’t think people like that can also be found in Fortune 500 companies, large tech companies and even in academia

You think any senior, in any professional setting, wouldn’t be annoyed at a junior showing them up in a public way?

 

Ignore my title. And please spare me the MS. I’m biting on this question because I want to hear your reactions to help me grow. I am speaking from experience and trying to be frank, not trying to upset you. 

The main issue is that analysts have one foot out the door whereas everyone else is long-term. Besides analysts, everyone else knows it’s fiercely competitive, the winner gets most of the rewards, there’s few winners, and some CEOs are very demanding of their advisers before they pay them a fee.

Many analysts make suggestions with the goal of minimizing their own work. This comes from laziness, prideful analysts or simply because they didn’t hear it from a client or top banker. All of this makes it difficult to satisfy the client, or even to go a step further and develop your own thoughts and ideas. If analysts resist all your directions, they’re limiting your own growth, development, and your client relationships.

However, when analysts are focused on the client and making the best work, they’re a pleasure to work with and we love to hear their opinions. It takes time to figure out who they are. And some start this way but later become lazy/checked out…I get it, it’s a long and difficult job. That’s why there’s no hard feelings, as long as they’re not too annoying about it.

Juniors also don’t understand how intense the competition is between banks, so making short cuts can work against you. Many fail to appreciate that.

This is less obvious to someone coming out of college, but it also takes forever to explain things to analysts. We would like to because it helps them develop, but we often don’t have the time. If a senior banker has to choose whether to spend 30 minutes of his evening explaining something to a 23 year old or spending time with his daughter before she goes to bed because he’s very afraid he or she is at risk of being viewed as an absentee father or mother, he’s going to always spend time with his daughter. It sucks but we all have to understand that.

Welcome your feedback.

 

I’m OP and actually I see what you’re describing and I don’t think it is entirely applicable to my situation. I was hired laterally post MBA. As it happens I have worked in finance before, just not in a BB. I’m older than a few of my VPs and by years I have longer work experience. 
 

To me challenging means that you are debating an idea and arriving at the best answer. That being said I often see people rule just by their seniority in banking. And the areas I challenge in is not just to result in me having less work. I see valuation mistakes that my seniors don’t want to flag to MDs sometimes, as an example. 

 

I'm OP and actually I see what you're describing and I don't think it is entirely applicable to my situation. I was hired laterally post MBA. As it happens I have worked in finance before, just not in a BB. I'm older than a few of my VPs and by years I have longer work experience. 
 

To me challenging means that you are debating an idea and arriving at the best answer. That being said I often see people rule just by their seniority in banking. And the areas I challenge in is not just to result in me having less work. I see valuation mistakes that my seniors don't want to flag to MDs sometimes, as an example. 

Was in a very similar shoe. I did banking (3.5 years) in Europe prior to getting my MBA in the US. I then joined a BB in NY and saw my fair share of getting dumped with meaningless work by incompetent seniors who think thickness of a deck is what wins a mandate. Tbh I wasn't as outspoken or courageous as you are, but I definitely had times where I had to argue hard with my seniors to cut down on meaningless work so that my analyst and I could get at least 2-3 hours of sleep. Sadly there was nothing I could do to make permanent change, and as an international I felt like I was risking my job/visa everytime I had to argue with someone higher up. In the end I lateralled to a different bank with the help of my business school friends. The new group that I've found was much less BS and more actual work that our clients would take a look. Corporate cultures are very difficult to change and if you're having a hard time fitting in doing what you think is right, best two cents I could give you is to find another bank. Although they might be hard to find, groups with good culture and less BS are definitely out there. Best of luck.

 

I've been under-ranked for a while as a result of lateraling and feel your pain but let me break it down to you:

  • I've worked under people who were same age / younger than me and they were happy with my attitude. Had my fair share of mindless work but I did it was because that person had something to offer me
  • Stop thinking of a workplace as somewhere that you "just need to do your best" etc. Politics matter.

My #1 rule is to see whether the person I'm staffed under takes ownership and doesn't throw me under the bus:

  • If they do, I don't give them any lip. I raise everything in a nice and polite way, find ways to repeatedly say "you are right" when I'm trying to argue for something else.
  • Invariably, these people are both competent and super hands-on, meaning they will have a lot of views and are often right. So you HAVE to be able to disagree with them in a polite way.
  • Never correct them in front of someone more senior, if you disagree you can tell the senior person later, privately, by phrasing it as a question / thing to debate, so that you don't throw that person under the bus either (MDs really don't like that)

If they also have something to offer me - better deals, willingness to protect my capacity / bat for me, I start trying to shift all my staffing and capacity under them. They usually love it and will play along by helping me block staffings from others etc. So long as you're competent, people will want exclusivity to your resource. 

TLDR; you put up with bitch work from one good person so that you don't get bitch work from a host of others

 

Kind of annoying written from a we vs them perspective. You were an analyst once, no? I think it's the work where it is abundantly clear that it is not a value add and will never see the light of day that is most frustrating. Otherwise interesting perspective. In a lot of the cases I'm referring to, client would agree that the work is useless. Plenty of examples on this site of clients joking about the BS work bankers send them 

 

I agree with you on BS work being given to analysts, but some analysts think just because a complex page or even a book wasn’t used means it’s worthless.  That’s not true. Sometimes MDs need that work and all the edits to help them develop their thoughts so they’re ready to talk to the client. Or to the next client.

There is a grey zone where it’s hard to tell if work is BS or meaningful. It comes down to MDs and analysts and everyone in between trusting one another. This is hard because there’s plenty of bad bankers out there and folks get let down.

Thanks for sharing your view. It’s really helpful and gives me something to think about.

 

We're not talking about shortcuts here, we're talking about juniors pushing back on tasks that are non-sensical or illogical and won't actually benefit the client relationship. In fact, this type analysis ending up in front of a client may damage the relationship!

You set up this scenario of choosing to spend time with your daughter or choosing to explain tasks to the junior team, but this should never be a choice that has to be made. You can get so much better work product and efficiency when the junior team knows WHY they are doing a task and understands the needs of the client just like you. This should be like a top 3 priority for senior bankers imo.

 

Share some examples if you want honest feedback. But in general you have to pick your spots - there are places where it makes sense to speak up and there are ways to speak up without upsetting the egos of those above us. Possessing that tact and managing how you are perceived is an important part of our job.

With all of that said I would take the opinion of someone who is leaving with a grain of salt. Even less so if they’re the person getting let go…

 

With all of that said I would take the opinion of someone who is leaving with a grain of salt. Even less so if they're the person getting let go…

In my experience, when someone is leaving that's when they are the most honest. Obviously sometimes you get someone who is bitter, but I do not feel this is the case here.

 
 
 
 

Much like everything in people-oriented jobs, there is an art to speaking up. If you’re giving a combative vibe that makes people around you convinced that you think you’re smarter than them, it’s game over. Not just in banking, but in every job, you have to protect the egos of the people above you. Instead of saying, “that doesn’t make any sense,” ask geniune, pointed questions that unravel the logic of a request.

 

I think there’s a line between having good dialogue with seniors to make the work efficient and effective, and being perceived as someone who’s difficult to work with because they’re constantly pushing back on the work you give them. I think you have to start from the perspective that the MD/D has a reason for having you do this work, then once you establish credibility, help weigh in on the best final product. If analysis doesn’t make sense in a certain context, that’s one thing, but if you’re perceived as being difficult to work with, that’s another. If an analyst pushed back on work you assigned them because they thought they knew more than you, you’d hate working with them; it’s the same at the associate level as well. 

 

That sorta thing is pretty much drilled into the banking culture. Banking for a long time has very much so been a “get shit on for years so that one day you can do the shitting” type of industry. However, it has been getting a lot better because I think most people have realized getting tortured at work is not fun. Although maybe getting screamed at is probably a lot less common now, all these senior people have sacrificed so many weekends and a TON of family time (if they even have one) so they many times kinda see it as a right of passage to have plans blown up by dumb work that might not even matter that much. Unless you get on a great team with MD’s who actually don’t want to do that, you are just swimming against the current by negotiating the work.

 

So we had a brutal female MD who would have been long ago fired if she were a man. I was a 3rd year analyst, and all of our associates and some of the analysts went to our group head about her after a secret juniors meeting. I refused to participate. As a result I became the only junior person allowed to work with her. She was actually smart but bitter about life, not great when you are managing clients. 
 

She would ask for all kinds of crazy stuff that made no sense or was actually impossible to produce because the data didn’t exist. My response was always to say, let me understand if this is what you are trying to portray in this analysis? I would then suggest an easier path that would take 90% less time. It worked perfectly, and we had no issues after I figured that out. The mutiny did eventually lead to her firing. 

 

Welcome to banking, where half of what MDs ask for is completely worthless and never sees the light of day. I've been pushing back of worthless work my entire career and one thing I found to be helpful in getting senior bankers to realize what they are asking for is stupid is to "respectfully" ask what is the value add to doing whatever they are asking and why it's actually useful and needed. This typically prompts them to explain their rationale which half the time causes them to realize they were asking for something out of habit instead of actually needed it, and other times you realize that what they want actually does have some value because you now understand their thinking. Good senior bankers will have no problem explaining their thought process because they realize it's important for junior banker development while shitty senior bankers will dismiss you and tell you to just do what they tell you.

 

Apologize for the naive question as I am going to be working IB for the first time next summer at a BB, but how do you "respectfully" ask what the value add is to seniors?

I guess what I mean is do you straight up say (in a nice mannered way of course) what is the value add? or do you ask in an indirect way?

Cheers

 

As a first year or an intern you don't ask those questions because you don't have enough experience yet to know what is and is not useful. Each situation will be different, but an example would be if a senior banker asks for an additional slide in a deck but you know you already covered what they are asking for in other areas of the deck and you think it's duplicative, then you might say "we covered [ask 1] and [ask 2] on slide X and X, what are looking to convey with this new slide beyond what we've already covered on those slides".

 

You have to choose your spots when to speak. That's likely the issue. In fact, it's one of the most important skills to have in the business world coming up as a junior.

Unfortunately, most people's egos can't handle constant thoughts coming from a junior on the assignments given to them. Here's what you do: Keep your mouth shut 90% of the the time. When the seniors are trying to do something truly dumb and destructive to the firm or don't have the full information needed to make the decision, then raise your hand.  Save these rare rare bullets and you will get respect for solving some real problems at the company.

The other alternative of never raising your hand is also not a great long term career move. People will just look at you like a power tool for powerpoints and models. Sometimes, you have to butt heads with your bosses but you just have to be very very careful where you pick those spots. If you do it right, it will be a benefit to your career.

 

I would push back on your idea that you “always turn out right”.

Would say you don’t fully grasp sometimes why something is being shown / added to the deck because they are working directly with the client and have more information than you.

You sound pretty miz to work with tbh and like you have entitlement issues. You’re an associate whose job is equal parts being responsible for producing work.

 

I have found that seniors are often pretty understanding, but the problems often occur when you have a weak associate / VP who is afraid to push things up the chain. There are many times where an MD asks the team to run some type of analysis that isn't very important but will take the team 2 days or they ask you to create slides with information that you realize will be useless after spending 30 mins looking at the data. Many times when you push this to the associate / VP, they will agree with me but say something in line with "Yes I know, but let's do what the MD asked for. He will realize that the data is shit and we will then remove it". 

However, when you have an associate / VP that actually speaks up to the MD, the MD will often be pretty understanding and tell us that "if this will take the team a lot of time, then don't do it because it's really not that important". Given the hierarchy in IB, it's quite difficult for an analyst to stand up against an MD so you need buy-in from the assoc / VP. 

I think that this is a huge problem in IB. People are so afraid of questioning the directions of a VP / MD that they would rather produce stuff they know will not make sense. As a result, you get endless of turns with comments which adds a lot of hours to your week. 

 

I was very much the same and still am, so I can’t offer much in the way of advice.

It has earned me the reputation of being a fiery confrontational character, despite being a very kind person who people often used to take advantage of.

I guess you need to try to frame it as assertion rather than aggression, but keep your self worth champ. A lot of these bitch boys have none.

 

I 100% feel you on this. One of the things that always bothered me about IB culture was how junior professionals are often expected to accept direction from seniors without any questioning or pushback. Finance is a very old school industry so I understand why things are how they are, but as somebody who ultimately left for consulting, it became very apparent how senior IB professionals don't really value a junior banker who speaks out too frequently. I made a short video highlighting my experience between both IB and consulting and how the cultures differ - feel free to give it a watch if you are so inclined. 

 

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