You Can Easily Replace ‘Investment Banking’ with ‘Public Accounting’ In These Reactions to the Goldman Sachs Workplace Abuse Claims

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or neck deep in tax returns, you probably heard about the recent allegations from 13 first-year analysts who work at Goldman Sachs that their employer is actually a sweatshop disguised as an investment bank. In a Working Conditions Survey created and only answered by those 13 GS analysts, on average they work more than 95 hours a week and only get about five hours a sleep a night. In addition, 77% believe they’re a victim of workplace abuse. (How is this not 100%?) And some don’t even bathe.

Quotes from the analysts that were included with the survey report are pretty disturbing. Here are a few:

  • “My body physically hurts all the time and mentally I’m in a really dark place.”
  • “Being unemployed is less frightening to me than what my body might succumb to if I keep up this lifestyle.”
  • “I didn’t come into this job expecting a 9am-5pm’s, but I also didn’t expect consistent 9am-5am’s either.”

During the 11-plus-year history of this website, we may have joked a time or two about public accounting firms being sweatshop-like. Sure, it’s not unheard of for some of you to be pulling 80-hour workweeks this time a year (unless you work at EY in Hong Kong, then you’re probably working close to 100 hours a week too), but all that overtime you’re getting is great, right? Oh yeah, no OT. But hey, all that toll on your physical and mental health experience will look sooooo good on your résumé, right? Right.

Earlier today the New York Times posted 10 anonymous reactions to the Goldman Sachs analysts’ survey from readers around the world. The 10 people, according to the NYT, are current, former, or aspiring investment bankers. So I decided to do a fun little exercise. Every time a person said “investment banking” or “banking” in his or her comment, I inserted “public accounting” to see if their reaction would still make sense to those of you toiling (or who have toiled) in PA.

It did.

  • “I had heard all about the long hours, but once I was in it, I found that I had underestimated. I threw in the towel and left [public accounting], because no amount of money was worth the terrible lifestyle.” — Anonymous in New York
  • “There is no money that rewards the mental and physical harm that [public accounting] does to you. Of course, it’s a hell of an experience, Excel and PowerPoint-wise.” — Anonymous in São Paulo
  • “I spent many long nights in the office at the behest of associates and V.P.s, most of the time for no reason but ‘they might need me.’ Then I joined the military, where I had better work-life balance and more respectful leadership than I did in [public accounting].” — Anonymous in New York
  • “I am an incoming [public accounting] intern. I knew about the work conditions before applying to the job. Anyone engaging in a career at a top [public accounting firm] knows about it, or else they applied for the wrong reasons.” — Anonymous in Europe

Don’t work too-too late tonight, you guys.

Current and former investment bankers react to claims of workplace abuse by junior analysts at Goldman Sachs. [New York Times]

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2 Comments

  1. As a former big 4 auditor who is married to a former investment banker, I promise you public accounting hours are a nice vacation compared to investment banking and we should politely excuse ourselves from this conversation 🙂 For the most part, during my 4.5 years in audit, outside of busy season I could reasonably expect my weekends to be free and to not have to work late every single night and my teammates actually respected PTO. Sure my busy seasons and quarters were exhausting and miserable and the planning/interim deadlines were stressful, but for the most part I could still have somewhat of a life outside of work. I can’t speak for the tax and consulting folks, but the ones I knew at least during my time there I would say felt the same.

    Meanwhile my husband could literally never make solid weekend plans and many nights where he would think he could wrap up around 8/9pm and he would get a ‘plz fix immediately’ email from an MD and be back online until 2 or 3 in the morning only to not have the MD look at it again for 3 more days. A lot of times those late nights were mandated just to be on standby in case they received something from a client and then nothing would come of it. There was no excuse not to be checking your email or answering your phone 24/7. One time we went to a close friend’s wedding for a weekend and he came back to a scathing email from an MD telling him it was absolutely unacceptable that he hadn’t been available even though he had told his entire team he would be traveling that weekend. There’s no mercy in staffing – no one cares if you already have 50 deals you’re working on and if you can’t keep up, it’s not that you’re overworked, it’s that you’re not working hard enough.

    All that to say is yes, public accounting is miserable (hence why I am no longer in it) but if the investment bankers saw this article they would be laughing at us. They need a full on culture change and probably serious labor regulations. At least public accounting pretends to care about work/life balance.

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