Dealing with incompetent analyst

Update: Thanks all for the feedback. I have never been in a situation where an analyst pushes back on every simple ask (to make things easier for folks) and moreover in which her direct manager is weak / disorganized enough to not even provide written guidance or push for excellence. I think I am treading a thin line but honestly my priority is just putting in hours learning the things she covers (and deciphering all her hardcodes) without bruising her ego. It is extremely disappointing to be in this environment.

To be very honest, this was an eye opening experience outside of finance and somewhat disappointing but wasn't completely out of expectation. Will put up with this (and the rest of the jazz here) for a bit, we'll see where this goes.

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Hey guys,

Recently joined a new company and was curious your experiences (primarily folks that went A2A and joined a new firm) dealing with difficult analysts.

As quick background, I did a few years of banking at a large bank, then PE , recently joined a new company in a finance capacity.

Have been put on a team with an existing junior analyst. This individual was previously in finance, but have been running into some issues:

  • Work quality: The XLS backups he/she puts together are frankly a little surprising for someone of her level (and in direct contrast with how she conducts herself at meetings) - lots of uncited hardcodes and frankly 'built-to-break'. This isn't just a a tactical 'best practice' issue of color coding, but it seems all of the analysis was put together by someone who frankly doesn't care 

  • Attitude: Doesn't seem like he/she is  open to making life easier for other folks within the working team - the work is frankly extremely messy and almost impossible to audit without asking her for all of her sources. Unfortunately he/she been here a lot longer and is very image-concerned within the company. I wouldn't normally care, but the analyst a little territorial about 'owning the analysis' which unfortunately puts me in a bad position as I've spotted several fuckups in her work before. 

My position is that I'll basically need to do the following:

  • Learn his/her job inside out and be able to play her role without offending ego (don't care if takes credit, but I don't like my team having fuckups)

  • Maintain a positive positioning - I've been making sure to praise him/her in broader meetings  but am basically redoing her work on the side to ensure that we avoid situations from frankly messy and careless work output

Overall it's been an extremely  frustrating experience to go from a firm where the expectation was to have error-free work to cater to an analyst that really is not doing a great job / has an attitude issue (in addition to everything else going on with this team), but I'm new here and still need to leverage her to understand how things work here.

Not in my style to throw anyone under the bus (reflects poorly on everyone) but annoying to have this extra person. There are definitely gaps in the way I've explained the situation, but curious how folks would respond. Would appreciate input specifically from folks that started as analysts and are managing others in PE, IB, or another finance job.

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Comments (20)

Sep 28, 2021 - 4:25pm

I don't work in finance yet, but I will say that you should prioritize forming a good relationship with her as a friend and colleague. Then, use this proximity and professional friendship to nicely recommend suggestions to her on how to improve. This is unconventional, but this is definitely a sure fire way to become an influential person within an organization. It's easy to deal with high-performers and easy-going people, but what is more of a challenge is when you know how to deal with conflicting personalities and people that are not so easy to deal with. Trust me, I think you're probably not the only person who realized this, and people won't bring this up because they're scared of being that person on the team. So show others around you how you would deal with this and lead by example in a great way. Always remember, it's not about what you say, it's about how you say it, so be kind in offering feedback to her and be the bigger person, as it seems evident that you are already being the bigger person.

Always try to understand that people are the product of their experiences, and certain people come out a certain way as a result of their experiences and the good/bad adjustments or repercussions incurred that have resulted in them being that way. For instance, maybe a person someone considers to be a "nerd" is actually a great person, but they've been bullied all their lives and are extremely insecure. Try to understand people and put yourself in their shoes. Maybe she could be have an insecurity of something weighing her down all her life. You never know what people are going through. Put simply, always be the bigger person, and lead by example.

Sep 28, 2021 - 5:54pm

I definitely agree with the sentiment of your post. That said, I think it's important to here that the analyst is throwing OP under the bus and lying. This isn't a scenario where you should make an effort to befriend the analyst.

In the case that the analyst had poor work quality and was not motived, sure. But in this case, the lying and blaming crosses a line. I definitely agree that OP should be professional and calm about the situation. 

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Sep 28, 2021 - 4:57pm

I don't agree with the above advice. Spending months developing a friendship just to nicely prod the analyst to stop doing poor work and lying during meetings when blaming you?

And become friends over time, what?

I would first send her an email or talk to her after another poor work product and point out all the errors and ask them to be fixed. Be polite and don't copy anyone so as not to embarrass her.

If she responds maturely and fixes the errors, great off to a good start.

But likely she will push back or something. Then go to a higher up you trust and ask him for advice, either mentioning no names or subtly mentioning her. This way the higher up knows you're not trying to embarrass anyone, and just want advice, but now she is on his radar.

Making mistakes is fine.

Lying in meetings and blaming others is not.

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Sep 28, 2021 - 11:48pm

Yeah - similar to this, but slightly different.  Agree that you need to have a private conversation first and explain in no uncertain terms that her work product is not good enough.  Point out specifically why it isn't good enough and explain specifically what good enough looks like.  If she fucks up after that, call her out even and especially if it's not in a one-on-one setting (obviously still an internal setting though).  If she's highly image conscious, you've provided a great disincentive for fucking up and it's not as though you haven't already had the exact same conversation w/ her privately beforehand. 

When I say call her out, I mean on an email chain w/ senior ppl after she's sent something that's along the lines of "Please change "x" in the model so that it can be sensitized rather than hardcoded.  As constructed, if "y" is changed, the change is not reflected in "x", which causes "z" to be misstated."  Essentially just calling specifically what she fucked up and how it flows through the deliverable.  The senior people are going to agree w/ you, have no issue w/ your comments, and she is likely not going to want to repeat the experience.  If she doesn't like you because of it, who gives a fuck?  She won't like you because you aren't letting her do her job poorly. 

I come from down in the valley, where mister when you're young, they bring you up to do like your daddy done

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Sep 29, 2021 - 8:52pm

"Lying in meetings and blaming others is not." Agreed 100%. That's a treacherous person, and I sniff 'em from a mile away. But it doesn't take months to form a friendship with someone. Especially as a colleague, you can form a friendship with someone over the course of 2-3 weeks. Could and should be a professional friendship. That's if you're exceptionally skilled at socializing, making people laugh, enjoy your presence. They will come back for more, they always do. Given the time commitment of someone in IB or PE, think about the time you have with colleagues in collaborating in work, meetings, breakfast, lunch, dinner, going out together, etc. You're in their face, most likely, all day for a large majority of the week. If you're smart, you become friends with everyone on the team, rather than lying, backstabbing, betraying, taking advantage of people, trying to undercut them, or pretty much doing anything else negative to your teammates. You should be cognizant of not making enemies, which seems what OP wants to do.

You can tell OP's personality through the way they approach things and wrote the post. I personally tailored my advice to his/her personality, but that's my own way of giving advice. Your way of advice doesn't align with the way they approach things in my opinion, so it is not optimal. And no offense, but your way of dealing with it makes you kinda seem like a person that is not likeable by the way you played out how you'd escalate it. Part of my post was about being influential in a positive way, and escalating is no way to do so. Read my post again because it looks like you didn't catch the most important part: " it's not about what you say, but rather about how you say it.

"I'd say your approach leans more towards political end than friendly end if they were on a spectrum. "Point out all the errors and ask for them to be fixed" ... then "go to a higher up and ask for advice" and you said something along the lines of "briefly say name to higher up" (can't see on mobile). That's how you make enemies my friend. While my way was the very friendly way, if someone did this to me, they'd get crushed and they would have no idea what's coming to them, but at the same time, I would never do what poor performer/colleague of OP does. I'd fix my mistakes and be open-minded. Point of this part: don't make enemies. When you do, your job/life gets much harder and more stressful. Aim to never work a day in your life

Want to clarify this for all the youngins on here looking to get into the real world. You should lead by example, not by coercion. Build bridges, don't burn them. Look at history, force has never worked

Sep 28, 2021 - 5:50pm

As someone who has moved from a front-office role in finance to a strategic finance role, this is fairly common. The standards are lower, and as a result, you will certainly run into lower-quality coworkers, especially in junior roles. 

That said, I think the reporting structure matters. For example, does this analyst directly report to you? If so, I would send an email to the analyst citing the changes you would like to see (attitude, work quality, etc.) and bcc the human resources rep that supports you. You should start documenting the case to fire her. 

If the analyst doesn't report directly to you (it sounds like that's the case here), I would send an email noting your concerns in a very polite manner. After that, set up a meeting to chat with her, and in a very polite / professional manner, talk through a few of your concerns. After that, if you don't see any improvement, I would suggest going to her boss / the head of the team asking for their recommendations on how to best support this junior analyst given the current challenges around work quality and attitude. The key here, in my view, is to 1) definitely mention the analyst by name, 2) cite the specific challenges, and most importantly, 3) ask for their advice and perspective on how to best address the situation. If you've already chatted with the analyst on this issue, you can mention that in this conversation and ask for additional suggestions. More likely than not, this is not the first time the head of the team has seen this. I've taken this approach before, and it worked very well. 

Sep 28, 2021 - 6:53pm

Might not be following what you're saying correctly, but you're an associate right?

If so, this one should be easy to solve. Just allocate less to them and take a bigger portion of it yourself until they've proven themselves to be able to handle everything. You don't have to be mean about it, but you're the associate. It's your job to determine who does what, not the analyst. As they prove themselves to be trustworthy, you can start to delegate more and more to them. If they do things like send without letting you review, just reply all with your comments and eventually they'll learn to stop.

If you're an analyst or a stub associate, and just happen to be more senior on paper, stop worrying about it. What the analyst does doesn't really reflect on you yet - you really have a 6 month buffer period.

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Sep 29, 2021 - 12:48pm

If the analyst is well liked within the organization and you're brand new, you need to tread a little carefully. A senior is not going to be impressed with you complaining about a tenured analyst, even if their backups are wrong. 

I'd send a nice email about one or two of the backups with a bullet pointed list of issues. Not a laundry list of 40 items, but for example "Cell J24, where does XX% come from? Need to cite this so we can reference this backup later on. Cell AA44, this is hardcoded as 40% and should flow through when I change the 40% earlier in the model" 

This tells the analyst what you see wrong and gives them very concrete things to fix, like a list of comments, instead of just having a general conversation about doing better that they might take as hostile. Have a chat with them after, be willing to work with them, and approach it from we should make this backup as clean as possible so it takes us less time going forward.

Sep 29, 2021 - 2:35pm

When I've run into the issue I've used a three step method. First, explain the issues and tell the analyst to correct it. Second, email the analyst and write down the issues mentioning your prior conversation. Finally, put time on the staffer or MD's calendar and explain the issue. You need to cover your ass, first and foremost. If it was just dumb mistakes it woods be one thing, but paired with the attitude this isn't winnable.

Sep 29, 2021 - 3:30pm

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