When these types of companies implement work-life policies, why don’t they stick?
Look at the reward structure. You have an OK base salary, but then the bonus is allocated based on how you are stacking up against your peers at the end of the year. It is like a tournament. It is like a race. And you all know that the people next to you, against whom you will be measured, are just as smart as you. They work just as hard. And so you have the only lever that tries to take them out. These reward structures maintain this work.
When an organization says, “We value work-life balance, we don’t want our people to work on the weekends, we want blah blah blah” – it’s still a competitive structure where people need to do all the work There is an incentive to do as they are doing the same thing, and only the winners are rewarded.
Brainstorming through talent can work for a company. But you have found that many employees choose these grueling schedules, even when they come at great personal cost. One Colleague told you: “I work hard because I want to.”
People who are hired in banks have been through demonstration competitions throughout their lives. When I talk to students at the beginning of my undergraduate career and ask them, “What do you want to be?” Very few people want to go into banking.
So what happens? When these firms land on campus, people start competing because that is what they are conditioned to do throughout their lives. They chase what everyone else chases, regardless of what they really care about. Regardless of whether or not it results, these people want to win.
This is probably the last part that locks people into these intensive work schedules. The idea is that there is a cadre of individuals who are the best and the brightest, and if you do not maintain that momentum you will become part of some sort of second-class firm – an inevitable “rest”.
What’s so bad about that?
People in the best and brightest group have opportunities, they earn a lot, they work with other interesting people, they work on global deals. With the rest of the pushing teammates and over time, you will become like them. This is what people sincerely believe. They believe that if you do not work for an elite organization, you fall into a chasm of personal social status dynasty.