A short story of how my “Millenial” label seems negate the validity of my preference of work environment…
On Wednesday, my manager pulls me into a meeting to discuss some of the documents I have been working on. In the middle of the discussion, she brings up additional work she wants me to do, much expected in a meeting like this where it was a combination of getting set up in our work for the rest of the week, catching up on what had happened on existing projects, and figuring out what we haven’t considered doing yet that we might tackle it next week.
So, of course, doing my duty as an analyst, I worked diligently. Not purely diligently, of course – I made liberal use of my Seamless account and took some time to revel in the quiet I finally received in the office without the awkward “hello”s while walking around the office and trying to keep my headphones in to make sure people don’t keep popping by (if this doesn’t smack of “introvert,” I don’t know what does). Pulling myself to my work, I got started. First, putting together a watch-list of competitors to monitor their earnings, then taking screenshots of competitors’ digital wallets to be able to explain how they work, and finally, to finish up a bit of excel work from earlier in the day. All of which is normal, though not usually done on the same day because of how long it takes. And here is the crux of the story, I was in the office until 10:45. Now, the investment bankers and traveling consultants might laugh, but this is not nearly the norm for me. My manager is usually out by 5:30 and I’m out very, very shortly after that. Before I left, I sent off a few emails to my manager with the work I had done so we could review it the next day.
The next morning, I am in around 10, taking time in the morning to talk to my brother about his interview the day before and actually making myself some breakfast. I stay as late as I can, but I have to leave for a running club I am a part of (TMIRCE).
My manager chimes in “Can you be in around 9 am tomorrow?”
“Of course,” I say, but another question comes to my mind and I speak before thinking “Did you want me to come in by 9 am every day?”
My manager looks me straight in the eye, no bullshitting around, “Yes.”
She continues, “Because, you know, Barry [the Head of Global Digital Payments who barely leaves his office] is in around then and we should be here for him.”
“I really prefer to work late and come in a bit late,” I say, instantly regretting the question I asked, but hoping for some wiggle room.
“You should be in by 9 am, it’s a good practice for life, as well” She continues, ignoring my comment, “Oh, you Millenial, you.”
Alright, so now that we have the situation, let’s unpack what happened.
- I am now required to arrive into the office by 9 am every day.
- My manager believes “coming in late and staying late” is a “millenial” trait.
- The reason we “must” come in by 9 is effectively for facetime.
I’ll admit that the fact I now have to come in by 9 am was basically me asking a question I knew the answer to and could have easily avoided by not asking if I had to always be in at that time. Fair enough. It’s really items 2 and 3 that I take issue with and here’s why.
Citi, my current employer, is an aging bank. They have a huge credit cards business and are doing many things (announced and not yet announced) to smear aging cream all over its not yet haggard face, but true change comes from the inside. But my manager only joined Citi about two months ago, so why does she bring with her the aged philosophies that value facetime and the 9 am – 6 pm work day? Because the disease is not just within Citi, it’s industry wide. Here are the facts: “startups” (if you can call them that 5 years and billions of dollars in funding later), offer benefits from “unlimited vacation days” (not exactly true due to to free lunches, to game rooms, to open dress codes. That list of benefits wasn’t meant to show how starkly opposite from the Financial Services industry the startups are – those were off the top of my head. The true value, in my view, is to encourage the blend of work and life. You stop “dressing for work” and it feels like it’s always dressing for the weekend. You take a more relaxed approach to work, bringing with it the idea that you might work while you are relaxed, for example, on the weekend. In effect, you might actually feel like the weekend may be a time for work if you want it to be.
Beyond that, you may feel that the morning is not a time for work and yet, you might work all night. That could be difficult for someone who has meetings in the mornings, but think about it: by taking the meetings from home, working when you feel like it, setting time for deliverables, and being diligent in communications with your team, you are always “on.”
And I don’t mean online, I mean ready to go. That’s why the blend of work and life is important. It’s taking productivity to the next level by being able to take work in stride in the middle of the day on a Sunday because you know you’ll get your time to relax Monday morning. The fact is, what my manager said to me was not her being some sort of demanding person, it is the rule of the industry in which I work. This needs to change. Pushing back, getting time in the mornings and allowing myself to work later at night. Making time for work on weekends, as needed, but keeping some semblance of personal life, as well – that is the meaning of the modern day work environment, not the 9-6 workday invented for hourly workers to get their 8 hour shifts in (including lunch). It is this industry-wide notion of “if it works, don’t change it” that frustrates me. The fact that I am a millenial does not change what makes sense. Facetime, for example, does not make sense in an era where I could be in Japan, but on a video conference with my office in New York. It doesn’t quite matter where I am, it matters that I get work done and the best way to do that is by allowing us “millenials” to work when we want. That’s how the work of today needs to happen and the incredibly old-fashioned FS industry is not doing much to change that.