My Boss Wants Me to Clean the Conference Room
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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I graduated college last May and recently started working for a small advisory firm. Prior to that, I spent a few months in a bigger financial firm and didn’t enjoy the culture. The lead advisor at my firm is a Boomer and has a firm view that everyone should work for their opportunities. But to him this means staying late every single night, coming in on weekends and basically doing lousy jobs that no one else wants to do, like cleaning the conference room after late-night meetings.
Is there a way to get through to this generation that things have changed and it isn’t the same for us as it was for them?
The ongoing challenge in our industry – firms wants more diversity in many forms, yet many people don’t want to have to shift their behavior to accommodate the diversity. I hear complaints from many people at your stage of life about this issue. I hear complaints from the older generation from their vantage point too. There is an ongoing lack of willingness to see things from someone else’s seat.
You are in a tough position because you are young and you are fairly new to the firm. I can’t recommend you go in and have a heart-to-heart with someone who could easily be your father and likely even your grandfather and more importantly, is your boss. However, you could seek to understand what he is “measuring” with his requests. Sometimes the older generation had it hard, and scraped and worked hard often for little money, and it goes against the grain for them to see someone doing well immediately out of college. It is a bit of the attitude, “I had to work for it, so should you!”
But, to your point, it is a different time and very different culture. College students graduate with much more experience and savvy and are ready for bigger challenges much earlier. That is oversimplifying a complex topic but I believe it is at the root of some of the Boomer pushback.
Request time to meet, just to check-in. Let him know how important it is for you to succeed at the firm and then ask him what success would look like for you in the role in a year. Say it would be very helpful to you if you had both quantitative and qualitative goals and ask him to prioritize what is most important.
Do this without being accusatory, defensive or upset. Frame it in an inquisitive way and tie it to the overall desire to succeed in the firm. It’s a shift from, “Why do I have to do these things?” to, “What is most important to my overall success here and how are you measuring it?”
I understand how frustrating it is, but you are dealing with perceptions and probably an emotional response to something. When this happens, seeking to understand is often more effective than forthright challenging.
I’m sorry you had a bad experience with your first job in the larger firm, but this may end up being a poor culture fit for you too. Don’t quit, but know that sometimes it takes one or two ill-fit situations to find the culture that is right for you.
My situation is a bit unique from what I often read in your column. I work in the portfolio management area for a medium-sized firm and I’m realizing more and more every day that I just don’t enjoy this work.
It seems dirty to me to be focusing on how to make people more money when there are bigger concerns in the world. I’m worried about social justice and environmental issues, the wealth gap and the takeover of the world by larger companies. Yet here I sit investing in them and trying to promote them. I need the job. I am the sole supporter of a family of four and I take care of my elderly mother also.
I can’t sleep some nights believing I am not only not contributing to the solution, but I am part of the problem, too. Have you ever come across anything like this? I don’t know how to reconcile this.
Much of what you are raising here is the disconnect between your personal “driving forces” (also called motivators or values) and the ones most often found in our industry, especially in investment departments. You are talking about what I call an “altruistic” driving force, which is an interest in social causes, doing good for others and generally giving back in society. The investment industry tends to favor the “resourceful” driving force, which is all about ROI, returns on investment of time, money and talent. The two can co-exist, but often in decision-making they are diametrically opposed.
You don’t mention your particular skill set or what other experience you have, but could it be possible to stay in the industry but move to a different role? I encounter many people who have the strong altruistic leaning – it is really an empathy focus. There are financial advisors who have this, relationship managers or client support people with this driving force, and many others.
And consider the interest in ESG investing. Generation Z and many millennials are very passionate about investing with heart and soul. Is there a firm that could be a better fit for you that has a more socially-oriented focus? Could you possibly do informational interviewing with one to learn more about their culture and how they view investing?
You might be working alongside people who have no social interest at all. This can contribute to the feeling of selling out, or betraying your values, too. You might be seen as the fluffy soft-hearted person and this can lead to an experience of isolation.
I would not give up hope about staying in the business so you can continue to earn a decent income and support your family. But look around for situations and cultures that are more aligned with your driving forces.
Our industry needs people with all sorts of values and viewpoints – don’t give up because you are in a situation that is ill fit for you. There is likely a culture where you can utilize your experience and find a good home for your interests.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.