Home / General / Work Them To Death For No Good Reason

Work Them To Death For No Good Reason


Some of you probably caught this last week, but the death of this intern is extremely disturbing:

Serious concerns have been raised tonight about the punishing hours endured by interns at City investment banks following the death of a young Bank of America Merrill Lynch employee.

Moritz Erhardt, 21, was nearing the end of a seven-week internship in London when he collapsed at home after working until 6am for three days in a row.

Around 300 interns working at various banks stay at the Claredale House student accommodation complex in Bethnal Green in east London for between seven and 10 weeks over the summer. One intern, who did not want to be named, told The Independent those in Mr Erhardt’s investing banking division group faced the longest hours.

He said: “We all work long hours, but the guys working regularly until 3am or 4am are those in investment banking. People working in markets will have to be in at 6am but not stay as late, so what time you can leave the office depends on your division.

“You’re only doing it for up to 10 weeks so there’s a general acceptance of it. I see many people wandering around, blurry-eyed and drinking caffeine to get through but people don’t complain because the potential rewards are so great. We’re competing for some very well-paid jobs.”

There are at least 3 major problems here. First is the exploitation of interns. The most serious example of this doctors and the pointless grotesquely long hours they are forced to serve during their internships, potentially putting people’s lives at risk. Can you imagine pilots having to fly 24 straight hours? Within the financial industry, there’s even less of a reason for this. What do financial workers have to do that’s so important? The answer is impress the employer enough to let them into the inner sanctum of full-time employment, which is the second problem. This is all about the brutality and masochism of our capitalists. You want to work for a company as awesome as Bank of America? Prove it. Do whatever we tell you to do. This is macho hazing and little more. The third problem is the general expectation of extreme hours and massive personal sacrifice that has come out of the tech industry and infected much of our work culture. Americans today will simply volunteer to work 60, 70, even 80 hours a week at a salaried job, simply because it is so ingrained in the culture that no one questions it.

Our national work culture of the twenty-first century is highly disturbing and needs serious reform. Bank of America effectively murdered this guy but they will go completely unpunished and do the same thing to next summer’s intern class.

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  • TribalistMeathead

    The third problem is the general expectation of extreme hours and massive personal sacrifice that has come out of the tech industry and infected much of our work culture. Americans today will simply volunteer to work 60, 70, even 80 hours a week at a salaried job, simply because it is so ingrained in the culture that no one questions it.

    Two years ago, I was naive enough to think this was limited to i-banking and the law. It’s not.

    • mpowell

      It’s not limited to those two but I don’t think the problem is in i-banking. It is very much a winner-take-all system so doing a better job than the other guy or the other firm is really quite valuable. So much so that your hourly income will far exceed what it could be elswhere. Remember, this is a field where several years of experience will earn you between $500K-$1M/year. If that’s the reward you want you have to take the punishment. And at that pay level I don’t have a problem with a take it or leave it approach. And it’s literally unheard of for someone to die at this age as a result. This is a very unusual case which I don’t see how you could blame BofA for. Early heart attacks at 45? Sure, but that happens to plenty of people from bad eating and poor exercise as well. Those are the choices people make.

      But for the rest of the business world it’s an approach that doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s unfortunate how widespread it’s become in the US.

      • TribalistMeathead

        It is very much a winner-take-all system so doing a better job than the other guy or the other firm is really quite valuable.

        You could say the same for the legal field.

        • timb

          Only in Big Law. Small law rewards entrepreneurial crap

      • Bill Murray

        If that’s the reward you want you have to take the punishment.

        Why do we as a society have to allow any sort of punishment?

        • mpowell

          If there was actually a regular occurrence of people dying, that would be one thing. The punishment in this sense is just working a lot. I don’t see what’s wrong with allowing people to work really hard (such that it’s hard to see how they’re actually happy, but, choice right?) for high levels of pay. If there is any issue there it is the economic structure that creates the enormous reward for work of dubious social/economic value. The choice to work 80+ hrs/week for $500K/year I don’t have a problem with.

  • Josh G.

    Can you imagine pilots having to fly 24 straight hours?

    I bet the airlines would do that if they could get away with it.
    And violations of rest requirements are a way of life in the trucking industry. There are a lot of sleep-deprived truckers on the nation’s roads, and this results in a great many preventable crashes.

    • We can work a 16 hour shift, but only 8 of that can be block hours (operating the aircraft). With an extra pilot they can go over that because one pilot can go sleep in the back.

      With 4 pilots on board they can go 16 hours in the air. Some of our 777s operate non-stop to Asia like that.

      Keep in mind that in the freight business we’re operating mostly on the back side of the clock.

      I’m usually getting to bed around 7:00 AM and trying to sleep in the daytime while everyone else in the hotel is up and making noise.

  • Josh G.

    We also do this same thing to aspiring doctors. The ‘internship’ is an absurd hazing which often includes 80-hour (or more!) weeks. This can’t possibly be conducive to a high quality of patient care. Would you want to be treated by a student doctor who’s been up for 24 hours straight? It’s utterly crazy and its only purpose is to create an unnecessary barrier for entry into the medical profession.

    • Doctors who came up under the system will insist that its useful but the ones I’ve heard argue that always seem more like they are suffering from stockholm syndrome than anything else. People have made the argument to me that its important for “continuity of care” for a given patient but thats patently absurd and quite highly related to the fact that, at least in the US, there has never been a good emphasis on a more communal care approach–there’s a person to person hand off between the nursing staff and nursing staff and the doctor and the doctor but there doesn’t seem to be any sensible group discussion of all the cases being transferred between all the relevant people–nursing turnover and doctor turnover isn’t co-ordinated, patient care isn’t co-ordinated by floor, etc..etc..etc…

      • mpowell

        Continuity of care is a serious issue and creates overhead. The question is whether you would rather pay the overhead in the form of more frequent handoffs or the lower quality of care that results from 24 hour shifts. Because it’s not just intern hazing. That’s a very standard shift for an MD in a hospital setting.

        I think that the problem is something other than Stockholm Syndrome. Doctor’s learn how to operate through 24 hour shifts because that’s what they’re trained to do. 20 years later, they can’t appreciate how much their quality of care is suffering because that’s the mode they’ve always worked in. The better thing to do is look internationally where the practice is far more reasonable. And hey, it turns out doctors need less years of training to be prepared when their entire training period is not one long exercise in learning how to operate under continuous conditions of sleep deprivation.

        • JustMe

          But the thing is that eventually doctors are going to be compelled to provide care to one of their patients under sleep-deprived conditions, so they should be trained to know how to handle the situation when it arrives.

          Honestly, I want my doctor to say about any circumstance that might befall me, “don’t worry. I’ve done this a million times. I can do it in my sleep.”

          • Sleep-deprivation doesn’t add to learning, it subtracts from it. Look up the case of Sidney Zion for more details.

          • Why would doctors “eventually” need to give care without sleep? Surely having laws and rules like those we have iposed on pilots would make more sense? While a mechanical process might be better done by rote almost no level of care that requires thought and careful consideration could be done “in your sleep.” Au contraire, all the research on this shows that we would get better care if lots of elements were routineized (the checklist), if moments during which decisions had to be made (which plug?) could be limited and routinized and if people got enough sleep.

            • JustMe

              Why would doctors “eventually” need to give care without sleep?

              Because sometimes a patient has a crisis in the middle of the night, and his doctor has to deal with it. Because a surgeon can’t just stop in the middle of an ongoing operation and say, “You know, I’m just wiped out. Let’s stop for the night and get back to this in the morning.”

              Now, granted, many of these problems could be resolved just by having more doctors around. The whole model where a doctor has to maintain a call schedule with a hospital in addition to all of the work he does with his own practice is pretty ridiculous.

              • I–you very seldom give critical care to your patient in the middle of the night. If you wake up your doctor in the middle of the night he tells you to go to the ER. Once you are in the hospital you are seen by the attending physicians and your own doctor shows up when he is fully awake or pops in and leaves again.

                2–I actually know one of those surgeons, the kind of has to do 9 and 12 hour facial reconstruction surgeries. You can bet your fucking boots he tries to get the best night’s sleep he can before doing one of those surgeries and yes, you have to give up doing them when you no longer have the stamina. Practicing by having no sleep early in your career has fuck all to do with what happens when you are late in your career and your hips give out and you can’t stand for the entire 9 hours, or you have cardiac problems yourself and you get tired.

                Sleep deprivation and knowing how to push through fatigue is not a necessary component of good medical care.

                • JustMe

                  I don’t know what kind of doctors you know, but the ones I know typically get paged in the middle of the night when something goes wrong with one of their patients in the hospital or when they’re on-call and a patient arrives in the ER that they are the specialist on-call to handle.

                  Yes, there are some doctors that will spend their entire careers in office medicine, but many will work long hours and have to wake up in the middle of the night to head to the hospital to deal with a case. And doctors have to be trained to function under those conditions.

                • We are arguing against this “on call” system. I know plenty of doctors and know that when they are on call at the hospital they get woken up–thats a bug in the system, not a feature.

                • Manny Kant

                  So you are saying that Doctors need to learn how to be sleep deprived because we insist on creating a system where they have to work in conditions of sleep deprivation? The point is to get rid of the whole system, so that doctors don’t need to work while sleep deprived.

              • Josh G.

                Because sometimes a patient has a crisis in the middle of the night, and his doctor has to deal with it.

                Which is why they should work in normal shifts like everyone else. There needs to be *a* doctor available at night for emergencies, but it doesn’t have to be the *same* doctor who was working earlier during that same day.

                • And making hand-offs easier is one of the many reasons for trying to rationalize the medical-records system.

          • medrawt

            genuine question though –

            are they actually TRAINED? or is it simply an experience they persevere, and then believe that constitutes training? Is it even possible to train someone to preserve their focus and clarity of thought when sleep deprived? It seems rather like “training” someone to preserve their focus and clarity of thought when drunk; some people can do it better than others, but I still don’t want them reading my history to figure out which medicine won’t kill me.

            • mpowell

              It’s actually probably very similar to having practice being drunk! I think it’s pretty clearly established that an experienced drinker can appear more sober and perform basic functions like walking a lot more effectively at a BAC of say, 0.12, than a person who rarely drinks. The reaction time is slowed by just as much, but your brain finds other ways to mask the deficincies.

          • And if someone said “Hey 15 years ago I could do a standing back flip, but I haven’t practiced since,” what would you bet they could pull off the flip without disaster?

            Outside of TV shows the super smart expert genius doctor who is the only one who can save the patient who keeps dancing on the edge of death … Doesn’t really exist. Or if they do, they won’t be there to care for you because you can’t afford them.

            So, if you wind up in the hospital with some sort of weird heart condition that can’t be stabilized and you spend a few days nearly dying, there will be more than one cardiologist who is in charge of your care.

            Even in the OR, anesthesia providers spell each other for long surgeries.

          • Kamron

            Let’s have all of our critical professionals do this then. New rule: if you work in a profession where someone could get killed, it is important that you get extensive work experience when tired, sick, etc. Truck driver training will involve a coast-to-coast trip without sleep. Utility workers will be required to pull at least one 24+ hour shift a month. Heavy machine operators who call in sick on construction sites will instead have to work a double shift without adequate hydration.
            That way, although our fatal accident rate will go way up, our fatal accident rate in circumstance that we didn’t intentionally cause will probably go down some.

            Even soldiers who train to perform in suboptimal states don’t think that it’s a good idea to *actually fight* in those states. No general ever marched his tired troops around a mountain just before a real battle because they needed to learn how to fight exhausted. So the idea that medical professionals need to learn to deal with the occasional suboptimal state by intentionally creating lots of suboptimal states is bluntly crazy.
            If doctors wanted to do non-treatment activities while stressed/sick/tired/etc in order to get a better understanding of their mental state, how it impacts their decision-making, how to assess and control it, great. But not while they’re actually responsible for patients.
            [In “Crimson Tide”, the Gene Hackman character as a sub commander ordered a missile drill immediately after a dangerous fire was put out. This makes sense. A sufficiently ruthless military might even *set* a controllable fire and then run a drill. But no military anywhere would intentionally set a dangerous fire and then conduct an actual military operation- when trying to perform a dangerous and difficult job, you do it with every safeguard you can think of.]

            It’s a common symptom of hazing that those who’ve been through it generally support it. No one wants to look back on a period of suffering in their life and say “that was less than useless”.

            • JustMe

              But that’s why doctors experience it during residency– because it is a training period for the times when they will have to do it on their own when they’re in charge.

              Navy SEAL training involves a lot of sleep deprivation, too, because there will be times when they have to deal with that situation.

              • We are pointing out that in most cases this is a fiction maintained by the medical profession and hospitals so they don’t have to employ enough doctors for them to cover each other in a reasonable 8 hour shift.

                • mpowell

                  I think the continuity of care argument easily justifies a 12 hour shift during which sleep deprivation will not be an issue. But, yeah, otherwise I agree. I don’t understand why Just Me seems to be missing the point.

              • weirdnoise

                Do you have any evidence that such training actually works? And that the very real risks to patients under the care of someone undergoing such sleep-deprevation training is measurably counterbalanced by some later benefit? And that the detrimental effects on other aspects of training (see studies on the effect of sleep deprivation on learning) can be ignored compared to such benefit?

                Evidence, man, evidence. You’ve done nothing but hand-waving and stretching analogies beyond their breaking point. Where are the studies supporting your position?

        • Josh G.

          Because it’s not just intern hazing. That’s a very standard shift for an MD in a hospital setting.

          Well, first of all, if that’s the case then something is seriously wrong with the way we run our hospitals.

          But even if it is, only 13% of doctors work in hospitals; most will be in small private practices. It’s not at all clear how the residency helps someone become a better general practitioner, and we need a lot more GPs than we do cardiac surgeons.

          • mpowell

            Well, this is true. I would venture to say that medical training is not oriented towards the purpose of producing GPs. I’m certainly not defending the whole approach. The international examples suggest that it is hugely wasteful.

        • GoDeep

          Yeah, this issue isn’t as simple as it seems & its certainly not just hazing, tho that’s a part of it. Fundamentally the AMA is a cartel, and like any cartel its economically advantageous to limit supply. Now they don’t say they limit supply, they say they’re “increasing” quality.

          If you look internationally as you say, you’ll see DRs who are paid less, partially b/cs there are many more of them. In many countries med school is free or subsidized and folded into your first 4 yrs of undergrad so that you only need 4-6yrs of total education as opposed to 8 yrs here. These things increase the supply of DRs (and don’t compromise quality).

    • Hanspeter

      The resident shift schedule is not designed for keeping people out of the medical profession. It’s primarily due to a lack of manpower/money. When the new regulations went into effect in 2003 limiting residents to 80hrs/week (24 hrs in a row for residents, 16 hrs for PGY1 as of 2011) and ensuring that an attending was always present on site, the ‘overnight float’ attending was quickly instituted to deal with that. Wide-spread ‘float residents’ (or just having 2 or 3 resident work shifts) wouldn’t work without increasing the number of residents, and that brings in many other issues.

      Error rates as reported by interns actually went up after the 16 hour rule went into effect. It would be nice to see a repeat of the study with the current crop of interns since there could be transition year effects in the 2011 study.

      I lived alongside the residency schedule. It sucks. None of the proposals I’ve seen, however, really help the residents (and patients) while maintaining a high level of care.

      • dollared

        Crap. You mean all those other countries where they don’t haze, they have bad health care?

        You really want better doctors, and the increase in quality and quantity of new ideas and practices that comes from a broader range of talent, stop hazing, add 20% to the capacity of our medical schools, and stop selecting for human memorization/sleep deprivation machines.

        For example, train more new doctors and make more bad doctors quit/move to other areas of the profession. That would be much better for quality of care nationwide.

      • L2P

        Nothing you say makes me think we couldn’t solve all of this by adding 20% more doctors.

      • DocAmazing

        Increasing the number of residents would be a good thing all around, but it would cost money, and we can’t have that.

  • You might argue that the less meaningful the work is, the less specialized and hard, the more absurd the hazing is going to be because there is just no meaningful way for the employers to rate and discard unneeded workers or to justify the absurd salaries they will earn once they enter the inner sanctum.

    • c u n d gulag


    • I swear this is the explanation my diff-eq professor had for giving us tests that had a median score of 50 (out of 100). It was easier for him to assign final grades that way because he had a nice bell curve to work with. Fortunately, I wasn’t a math major, so I didn’t give a damn.

      • GoDeep

        We got the same explanation from our Accounting professor. He gave us a final exam that even the CPA in the class (it was a graduate level class) only scored 80 on.

      • Bill Murray

        I am glad my diff teacher did not do that. The 102 I got on his test that was in the lower third of the scores on that test would have sucked as a 30

      • JustMe

        This didn’t bother me. I just expected that I would hit about class average or just above and get a B. The number on the paper didn’t matter once you acclimated yourself to scoring in the 60s. The grade was what mattered.

  • ruviana

    Finance puts a lot of importance on endlessly working to show how (essentially) macho you are. book, which I’ve used in classes, describes it well and how social pressure to work constantly drives employees to do it. Finance sounds awful to me, money or no money. Ain’t no way I’d sleep in my cubicle to show how dedicated I was.

    • ruviana

      Couldn’t get the link to work. Here it is: http://www.dukeupress.edu/Catalog/ViewProduct.php?productid=13226

    • Josh G.

      The only way I can see this as making sense would be if you got in at an early age, worked for 10 years or so to build up a nice pile of money, then left to do what you really wanted with your life. Of course, the flaw in this plan is that by the end of the 10 years, you might be acculturated into the institution and no longer want to leave…

    • I was thinking of playing up the masculinity part of this, but I don’t know enough about the workings of the industry to have a good sense of how correct I would be. I should have had more confidence I guess.

      • I have a few friends and a lot more acquaintances-who-I-have-no-desire-to-be-friends-with in that world. Testosterone poisoning runs though every working day for them.

      • gse

        You could have just linked to the GSelevator twitter feed –
        crass consumption, misogyny and machismo packaged together with fashion tips.

        “If a person says they ‘work smart, not hard’ odds are they are lazy and stupid.”

    • NewishLawyer

      Yeah, I think a lot of the long hours things can relate to machismo. I’ve know a lot of guys who get pleasure out of sharing these kinds of stories.

      They have a “St.Crispin’s Day” feel to them. They are battle wounds.

      • St.Crispin’s Day

        That’s the UK version. Here in the US it’s called “St. Potato Chips’ Day.”

  • Mike

    The third problem is the general expectation of extreme hours and massive personal sacrifice that has come out of the tech industry and infected much of our work culture. Americans today will simply volunteer to work 60, 70, even 80 hours a week at a salaried job, simply because it is so ingrained in the culture that no one questions it.

    Our national work culture of the twenty-first century is highly disturbing and needs serious reform. Bank of America effectively murdered this guy but they will go completely unpunished and do the same thing to next summer’s intern class.

    This happened in London and the guy was from Germany, but your point stands.

  • That’s … that’s a depressingly stupid way to die. But you really ought to supply waders when you know the comments section is going to be invaded by libertarian wank merchants who will gush about the risks and the market and invisible hands and freedom.

  • I want to add that this is, of course, a total man bites dog story. People routinely die picking strawberries because they are actuall worked to death. For all we know this kid, sadly, could have fainted in the shower and cracked his head regardless of the working conditions.

    • Lee Rudolph

      My tentative bet is on caffeine (and/or other stimulant) OD, maybe via the heart, maybe not.

    • Origami Isopod

      But he’s white and upper-middle-class, so more people will care about his death than about produce pickers.

      On the bright side, at least it’ll get some people to wake up.

      • No it won’t. I bet this has exactly the same effect of people seeing a heart attack notice in the New York Times:

        “How sad! I wonder whether his apartment will come up for sale?”

      • guthrie

        THey’re too tired working 14 hour days to wake up…

    • dollared

      thanks for saying this. And not just death from overwork, but death from industrial accidents, toxins, and simple lack of employer-provided health care. This incident is worth noting, but my sympathy is extremely limited.

      • Ronan

        Really? Your sympathy for a 21 yr old kid who dropped dead is limited? B/c of the job he had? His class? B/c people die every day in worse circumstances?
        It seems quite petty

        • dollared

          No – it’s not petty, it’s moral. The people who were blown to smithereens in West, Texas didn’t have a choice. This kid could have quit at any time before he died and suffered through what – a lengthy, prosperous career as finance VP at a large insurance company?

          Bluntly put, this shouldn’t be a news story at all – and the workers and volunteers at West got far less ink. We loved the explosion, we didn’t care about the workers. But you and the media care deeply about this one aspirant to the Massive Asshole class.

          • Ronan

            Its moral preening. Should I dismiss the dead in West Texas on the basis that theres someone dying somewhere (outside of the US) and thei death will receive no media coverage?
            Its the lack of humanity that only a political ideologue could muster, imo

            • CaptBackslap

              Yeah, the fact that there are sadder stories doesn’t mean this one isn’t also sad. And we definitely shouldn’t get into the business of deciding who is the Class Enemy and thus deserving of death.

              • dollared

                Nobody said “no sympathy.” but if the choice of who we care about – in the major press – is not maddening to you, then you have no sense of morals.

                • CaptBackslap

                  But we should care more about West and Bangladesh, not less about cats like this one.

                • Rigby Reardon

                  Nobody said “no sympathy.”

                  No, but you did say your sympathy is “extremely limited.” Which is in itself pretty fucked up.

                  Yes, he was training to enter a profession many of us – myself included – consider odious. But he was only 21 years old. People that age are very rarely the people they will eventually become, and the fact that at this point in his life he thought he wanted to do finance for a career is a pretty small crime, on the grand scale of things.

                  I mean, shit – it’s not like it was Jamie Dimon or Ken Lay or somebody who’d actually *done* something already to earn your scorn. CaptBackslap is right – we should care more about the things that don’t get reported, but not necessarily less about people like this, who are essentially victims of the same system – even if they do come from a different class, and the specific circumstances of their deaths were not similar.

          • Ronan

            btw you dont know what killed this kid. It could have been a genetic heart defect for all you know.I dont have a clue where your ‘choice’ is coming from (Which is also the rhetoric of reactionaries)

          • JL

            By this logic, we shouldn’t care about, say, the assassination of MLK, because he chose to be a political activist, while a lot of people get murdered who didn’t have that choice about their risk level. And misogynistic policy in the US shouldn’t be a news story because less ink gets spilled over how women are treated in various developing countries.

            Also, this blog covered the West, Texas story. Erik covered it repeatedly – spilled figurative ink on it, if you will.

      • tt

        The contrast between the 79 comments in the couple of hours this has been up and the 0 in the post below is fairly interesting.

  • ajay

    These guys are doing petty, unimaginative secretarial and data entry work – because they’re interns – so the only way for them to outdo their rival interns is to work longer hours. It’s not like their managers are saying “Well, Vincent, you’re a very competent stapler, but I’m afraid you just don’t have the same flair that Joe does, so we’re making him the job offer.”

    • c u n d gulag

      I needed that laugh! :-)

    • ajay

      And I see now that Aimai made the same point. What is more, she cheated and made it first.

      • FMguru

        You’re just going to have to start pulling consecutive all-night shifts in the comment sections if you really want to prove you’ve got what it takes to be a part of LGM Industries.

        • dl


        • But the rewards, when you get them, will be superlative. Imagine having the key to the LGM washroom?

          • Origami Isopod

            No thanks. I heard JenBob snuck in there after hours and wrote his name on the wall in his own poop.

            • Some people might think that was a perk. I don’t have a key yet, so I just have my fingers crossed.

            • And don’t ask about what’s floating in the hot tub.

    • Stradlater

      I wonder if you’re understating the work this guy was doing for Bank of America. I am twenty years old and I just finished an internship at a network-security firm where I locked down firewalls, managed email-filtering system the company used for their clients, and fixed the Internet setup at a certain furniture store by installing new firewalls that completely changed the way that business got onto the Internet (what they were doing before was terrible and it was a wonder that it ever worked). Now my job was obviously easy enough for a young person who knew nothing about Internet protocol before this summer, but it did entail more complicated tasks than stapling papers together. If Mr. Erhardt really was working such late nights and died from stress as the article suggests, then I should imagine that he was doing much more than menial office work.

      • JustMe

        I should imagine that he was doing much more than menial office work.

        Yes, you would imagine. But no. He was tweaking spreadsheets and editing powerpoint presentations.

        • Stradlater

          Have you found a source online that says that tweaking spreadsheets and editing PowerPoints was all that he was doing? Because the article in the OP doesn’t say that. If you can’t believe that Bank of America would give a twenty-one-year-old intern more challenging work than that of a typical middle-schooler, then all I can say is that they could have paid him much less than twenty-seven hundred pounds a month.

          • They could have but they didn’t because the internship was more a way for the banks to get their hands on future movers and shakers than it was a real job that needed to be done and that was hard to do. If it were complicated and legally signficant they wouldn’t turn it over en masse to interns. Legal liablity and all that.

          • ajay

            Have you found a source online that says that tweaking spreadsheets and editing PowerPoints was all that he was doing?

            No, but I have friends and relations who have worked as interns for major investment banks, and that is what they were doing. Mostly it was collating packs of documents for potential investors.

  • LeeEsq

    I think there are two prongs to the problem of extreme work hours. Some people simply love their jobs so much that the distinction between work and play is very blurry and don’t mind sixty to eighty hour work weeks. Naturally, they assume that everybody else is like them and make others follow along when they become boss. You get this a lot in the tech industry and the arts to a lesser extent.

    The other problem is that a lot of people assume that certain high status jobs should have sixty to eighty hour work weeks just because life should be hard or something like that. Its a combination of frat boy hazing ritual and stoicism.

    • witless chum

      I have never met one of those people who love their jobs that much.

      • Lee Rudolph

        There were many weeks while I was employed as a perfesser that I worked 60 or 70 hours (I don’t think I could physically handle 80), including both the compensated hours and the uncompensated, which latter I certainly did (and do) for love of the work (and, I suppose, the indirect and mostly non-monetary compensation I got/get from mostly academic sources—emphatically not including my academic employer, damn their eyes—that found/find it appreciable and valuable).

      • I agree with Witless Chum–I have never met anyone who “loved” their job that much if it was a job and not a vocation. And even a vocation has to make room for eating/showering/and other things. My grandfather loved writing that much and my father loves science that much but neither of them ever denied themselves the other pleasures of life such as family, food, wine, parties, travel, drama, or art. A finance guy who “loves his job” to the exclusion of all else is just a morally and aesthetically impoverished gambler and/or money grubber.

        • Bruce Baugh

          I’m wondering if this is another thing where sociopaths turn out to be setting norms. It’s easier to be a workaholic if a bunch of usual satisfactions don’t and can’t actually satisfy you.

          • NewishLawyer

            There was an episode of This American Life where they explored whether CEOs were sociopaths.

            • DrS

              I believe there’s a study about just how few sociopaths it takes, if placed in key positions, to induce sociopathic behavior across an organization.

              If sociopathy leads to a measured productivity gain, then without some other factor moderating it, won’t you just get sociopaths or at least mimicked sociopathic behavior across the board?

              I think there’s a psychological indictment of free market capitalism to be found in there.

              • Bruce Baugh

                Me too, lest anyone think the inference in my original comment was unintended. :) When a system reliably rewards sociopathic behavior, that system is wrong, at least to that extent.

        • witless chum

          My dad was happiest when he was busy, but he didn’t go out and practice extra veterinary medicine to be busy. He would do things like cut down trees in the woods to manage the wood lot, making maple syrup in the spring or building a corral for my sister’s horse or a million projects. He liked his job, but if he worked a 70 hour week at it, it was because a lot of people’s cows had problems calving or a lot of dogs got hit by cars, not because he wanted to.

        • NewishLawyer


          When I was involved in theatre, I knew a bunch of people who made strong shows of how busy they were. They seemed to take a form of bragging rights/pleasure in saying that they did not have time to sit down and eat a proper lunch or someone forced them to sit down and eat a proper lunch.

          • NewishLawyer

            They loved to brag openly about “How busy they were” etc and were doing one meeting and then running to a different meeting for another production, etc.

      • GoDeep

        I love my job that much. I’m the happiest when I’m pulling 60hr weeks.

        Full time I-bankers routinely average 80hr weeks & that means there are many weeks they’re working 90hr weeks. My best friend averaged 85hrs a week as a banker & only got 2 weeks vacation a year. And when we took 4days vacation, he ended up pulling an all nighter for work. But, hey, he was an EXTREMELY well compensated 24yo.

        Some of these guys do tire eventually & quit & do something “easy” like consulting, where they only have to work 70hr weeks to be the leader of the pack. Or some go corporate & work for companies like IBM where they only have to work 60hrs a week. There’s no reason to sympathize for these guys, they make their own beds. It is what it is.

    • Ed K

      Some people simply love their jobs so much that the distinction between work and play is very blurry and don’t mind sixty to eighty hour work weeks. Naturally, they assume that everybody else is like them and make others follow along when they become boss.

      This wins the psychologizing individualizing rationalization for a system of exploitative management practices brought about by a complete failure of standards, regulation, and organized resistance award.

      Seriously, managers don’t do this because of some quirk of individual psychology. They do it because this is precisely what their job–and the system that produces it–demands of them, and because there is no effective resistance to their doing it within the current system of work relations.

      • GoDeep

        These guys are competing to make six-figure salaries straight out of undergrad. I personally wouldn’t work 100hrs a week, but if they love money that much that’s really their own problem. There are a LOT of people who get burned out by the hours in I-banking & trading & quit…then there are ppl who like the job, pace, and the MONEY and stay. Their life, their right…their problem.

        And, btw, poor kids from Appalachia & the hood volunteer for the military & often work just as many hours–not to mention risking their lives–for abt 1/10th the compensation.

        • Bill Murray

          No its not just their problem because of standards creep, it eventually starts to effect us all.

          • DrS


          • GoDeep

            Standards creep? Bankers have been working 80+ hour weeks since 20 guys in NYC thought it’d be fun to trade paper under a Buttonwood tree on Wall Street.

            The number of hours middle class ppl work today has everything to do with globalization and nothing to do with Wall Street labor practices.

            • Wrong: where do you think the expression “keeps bankers hours” came from? It meant people who did not work past three in the afternoon.

              • GoDeep

                Those were (highly regulated) commercial bankers–the guys you see when you walk in your local branch and who originate mortgages, sell checking accounts, and give away toasters–not i-bankers.

                Here’s a great story abt JP Morgan. JP Morgan’s father–a wealthy banker himself–used to make 10yo JP balance books and build financial statements every evening until late in the night–after he had completed all his other homework.

  • Ed K

    One word: academia.

    (And with the decline of full time, tenure-track work where research and service are compensated, the amount of this labor that is strictly unpaid increases every year–not to mention that academic publishers have been making money off ‘free’ writing for eeons).

    • Lee Rudolph

      Eeons==donkey’s years?

      • eeeons = lengthy horror movies.

      • ajay

        That’s Eeyons.

        (“Another grant application to write,” he said dolefully. “And I don’t suppose any of the others will help. Not Owl, anyway. Not since he got Tenure.”)

        • Karen

          I did actually laugh out loud when I read this. Since I’m supposed to be reading inspection reports, this was in fact noticed and became the subject of critical comment.

          It is, however, still really funny.

          • I imagine it depends on the kind of inspection the reports relate. Home inspections for social services, laughter is bad form. Short-arm inspections, laughter is par for the course.

      • Ed K


  • FridayNext

    At least this guy was paid (I think)

    In my industry, museums, unpaid internships are the rule (and sometimes they are just “volunteers”) and people just starting out routinely work a full 40 hours a week or more without remuneration and sometimes on top of a paying job. And the profession just writes it off as something “everyone has to go through.” Of course, then everyone wonders why the profession is full of rich white people, when they don’t outright ignore the issue.

    • JustMe

      Growing up, I realized that some jobs were just reserved for people from rich families with trust funds, and I just accepted that reality.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Those coupons aren’t going to clip themselves!

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    “because we can” is all the reason big money ever needs

  • Gone2Ground

    In construction we call this sort of thing “illegal”. And “unproductive.”

    It is not only dangerous to work too many hours, it has been shown scientifically that productive labor drops off quite steeply after 40-50 hours. In other words, you’re just wasting your time working that much because you’re not getting anything done efficiently or correctly.

    Macho hazing indeed. Guys who tie nooses around their necks every day to go to work must feel more than a little emasculated….

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      there you go again, talking about science when willpower is the primary reason for success

      friend of mine works construction, and the mindset seems to be that if you don’t work every single day you can someone will come in on your time off and the boss will give him your spot permanently. He calls it ‘cocksuckering’. Reminds me of the attitude baseball players had in the thirties

    • FridayNext

      In some professions this can be called “prostitution,” because contrary to what some on this thread claim (rightly in some professions for all I know) interns and “volunteers” (the latter in non-profits only I suspect) do a lot more than staple, photocopy, and collate. They are more and more taking over the responsibilities and tasks of experienced, trained professionals a company has laid off or refuses to hire. Young professionals do this because they are told, and sadly believe, that working for free gets them “in” a company or profession so they can network and make contacts. (sometimes it works, other times I have seen young graduates exploited for years this way. Why buy the cow, etc etc) To coin a phrase from the entertainment industry, people are willing to work below scale in hopes of future work. Prostitution. Meanwhile these professionals are performing professional services that utilize their training, experience, short though that may be, and eduction, for which they are typically deep in debt, to work FT hours for no money.

      It’s wrong and I am glad to see some judicial movement against it in the USA, but we will see how long that lasts.

      • Informant

        That’s an extremely bizarre use of the word “prostitution.” Do you also pronounce “Raymond Luxury Yacht” as “Throat Warbler Mangrove”?

        • ajay

          Yeah, I was going to say I didn’t think that most hookers were in the business to network and make contacts that would be useful to them in their later professional careers. The word is, I think, “exploitation”.

    • Coastsider

      The “unproductive” part I think applies to any industry. Here’s a good literature review by the ILO on research into working hours – Effects of working time on productivity and firm performance I haven’t read it all, but in the IT supply chain space, we try to limit working time to 60 hours or less because there’s real research showing quality issues if people work longer than that.
      Maybe the BofA guys should have read this section in the report – “..worker performance in a sample of white-collar jobs decreased by as much as 20 per cent when 60 or more hours were worked per week (Nevison, 1992). High overtime levels can cause poor employee morale, which can affect productivity and absenteeism.”

  • David W.

    One of the reasons I quit my job as a computer programmer back in the 1980s was the cultural expectation that putting in extra hours was the norm, every week. The only way to end that culture is to make overtime pay mandatory for all salaried employees who have regular work hours.

    • Josh G.

      The FLSA really needs to be updated to reflect the realities of white-collar work. Right now, anyone who does any kind of creative work, or anyone who supervises anyone else even as a relatively small part of their job, can be classified as “exempt” and thus ineligible to receive overtime pay. They can be forced to work absurd hours for no extra pay. That needs to change. The legal definition of “supervisors” should be changed so that it only applies to top management, and professions like computer programmer should not be considered exempt at all. In addition, there should be a hard cap (no more than 10%) of the number of employees per company who can be considered exempt.

      • dollared

        this. And the real cost? Kids get zero attention from overworked parents. Nobody can afford to volunteer at school, the YMCA, that innovative new welfare to work nonprofit down the street. People don’t have time to get involved in community leadership, politics. Etc, Etc.

        It’s a win-win for the upper class, because they can hire the Tea Partiers and the Democrats are all working unpaid overtime.

      • GoDeep

        Seriously, that’s just crazy. If you want to get ahead that requires hard work. If you’re not prepared to make that sacrifice then its entirely appropriate to find another line of work.

        Its better to hire 90% of the people you need and have only a 10% chance of layoffs than to hire 110% of the people you need and have a 100% chance of layoffs. Most companies are organized according to the latter principle b/cs execs like to “empire build”, I strongly believe in the former.

        • Bill Murray

          but if you think you need 10 people working 80 hours a week rather than 20 working 40 hours a week, you aren’t actually very good at managing

          • GoDeep

            The work isn’t discrete enough to be broken up into 40hr “chunks”…As someone said above, a surgeon doing a 12hr surgery can’t just stop at the 8hr mark and hand it off to another guy to finish…Its not that we wouldn’t like to break up the work, but its just not doable at an analyst level.

        • Origami Isopod

          Does your username reflect the degree to which you have your tongue up your boss’s asshole?

          • LeeEsq


          • GoDeep

            Listen, I come from a working class family. We spent 10yrs living in the projects & on food stamps. My father has worked 2 jobs his entire life–and not desk jobs either. Same with my uncles.

            Now I’ve benefited from gov’t assistance & scholarships & the like, and I was raised to recognize that if I wanted to make the most of those limited opportunities I better work my butt off. So I went to a college that believed in piling on lots of work.

            In my family we brag abt how hard we work. Last year when my cousin worked 90hrs straight thru without going home he won the award for the foreseeable future! (but hopefully for life, he went on to work over 100hrs that week). You will probably laugh, but he was opening a brand new plant & as the COO he was responsible for getting it up on time. No one twisted his arm to be COO tho, and if he didn’t still appreciate the challenge he could always step down a rung.

            • DrS

              That assumes that there’s a rung to step down to that doesn’t also come with the same time commitments.

              Also, your family sounds terrible.

              You make more sense though.

              • GoDeep

                There is a rung to step down to; many, actually. He works harder now as COO then he did when he started at the company as a union machinist. Even when he’s off work he’s on duty. We’ll watch a basketball game and it’ll be 9p at night & every commercial break he goes in to his iPhone App to check if the plant is meeting its hourly production quotas. If they aren’t he calls up his managers & finds out why.

                Maybe its the Protestant in me, but I respect the heck out of that.

                • DrS

                  I thought that, in your construct, there was a rung below where you were not constantly at work.

                  And then, by your own admission , you recognize that there is not.

                  There is only more work. But for less pay.

                  Oh, and your respect.

        • Rigby Reardon

          If you’re not prepared to make that sacrifice then its entirely appropriate to find another line of work.

          This sentence is evidence of either a pro-exploitation mindset or extreme ignorance on the part of its spewer. I haven’t yet decided which.

          • JMP


          • Bill Murray

            to be fair it could be both

          • GoDeep

            Are you kidding me? Pro-exploitation? These aren’t ppl who have no other opportunities; these are ppl with every other opportunity. We’re talking abt making in your 20s the kind of money that would make Midas cum…of course its in the Aegean Stables, but that’s not a surprise.

            People who get burned out on I-banking quit all the time. They’ll make their $1M or $2M or $5M and then say, man, I’ve had enough. I personally declined to do it but of my friends who did I don’t know a one of them who regret having made the sacrifice. I did mgmt consulting instead & that meant ~70hrs a week (abt 15hrs a week less than bankers). It was a rewarding, challenging, and exceptionally exciting opportunity to test my personal intellectual, emotional, and professional limits.

            The work isn’t cut out for everybody but, hey, its a free country. If you don’t want to work that level of hours there are plenty of equally rewarding careers, whether its engineering, public service, teaching, journalism, writing, preaching, etc.

            • DrS

              Ahh, there we go. Management consulting.

              I’m really getting the picture now.

            • JMP

              Are you typing from a flip-phone with just nine keys for the entire alphabet, so that writing actual full words are a pain in the ass and constant use of abbreviations are understandable? Or did they teach you “mgmt” consulting that it’s OK to be lazy and refuse to hit just three more letters and type out full simple words like people and about when, no, it just shouts out to the world that you are an idiot who can’t write properly?

              • wjts

                They certainly didn’t teach him the differences between Aegean and Augean.

            • mpowell

              I’m not going to comment on managment consulting, but software development is really something that can almost always be broken up into 40 hr chunks. More importantly, there are very few people who will get more done working more than 60 hrs a week regularly. And I mean in total, not just hourly. A lot of over working in engineering positions is just people not acknowledging this basic limitation.

        • JustMe

          The funny thing is that management realized that people would work hard to “get ahead” and then concluded that they would be willing to work just as hard to “not get fired.” So the realized they no longer had to “reward” people for hard work, just allow them to keep their jobs.

        • JMP

          Um, no; most companies hire far less people than they need, then end up forcing people to work 80-hour weeks and “hiring” unpaid interns who they exploit ruthlessly; and also has the added bonus of leaving those positions only open to people who come from rich families.

        • ajay

          Its better to hire 90% of the people you need and have only a 10% chance of layoffs than to hire 110% of the people you need and have a 100% chance of layoffs.

          No, this is wrong. It’s better to hire 110% of the people you need because then, when you grow your business, you have the spare capacity to serve new customers. Planning to have a smaller than needed workforce so you don’t need to lay anyone off is, essentially, planning for your business to shrink.

    • sparks

      Same here, but later, in the ’90s, just too many hours, and too many were unproductive. I was assigned to work at a “satellite office” located in an industrial park, where they stuck the maintenance and customization programmers. Butted up against the office was a warehouse with considerable activity that was easily heard, and many of the forklifts backfired repeatedly. The warehouse contained charcoal. I wasn’t able to get much work done out of fear and annoyance when there was a lot of racket.

      That experience drove me right out of the field except for y2k jobs.

  • Kip

    The problem in law firms is one of competing based on number of hours. You win your last three cases and gotten positive feedback from your clients on the last four projects? Okay, but how many hours did you bill? Well, Bob here did 20 more hours than you last month and may have lost his case, but you are falling behind him.

    • Yeah, Mr. Aimai used to (and for all I know still does) bill his work in six minute increments. When he was working at home he used to have to deduct that six minutes every time I came in to get a kiss and then add it back in by working it later in the day. Coming from an academic background, where as the saying goes you can work any 80 hours a week you want, I couldn’t fathom why he was glancing rituallistically at his computer screen clock every time I walked into his office.

    • NewishLawyer

      This is one reason why I like plaintiff’s law. The contingency fee creates incentives for doing good work in reasonable hours. Plaintiff’s lawyers tend to have a rate they “bill” at but it works as a cap. So they do math like “I’m worth 400 dollars an hour and think this case can get me 500,000 dollars. This means I can devote X hours to it max.”

      Also some lawyers like immigration charge flat fees.

    • Karen

      I always wondered why this wasn’t an ethics violation. Charging extra for crap work should be the sort of thing that the Invisible Hand eliminates, but I still frequently see real crap spewed by lawyers who make for one case what I make in a year.

  • NewishLawyer

    1. When this story came out last week, most of my friends were angry at the copy editor. They thought that working 24 hours is insane and immoral but they were angry at the comparison to slavery. Personally I find getting angry at copyediting to be a kind waste of effort.

    2. I think the protestant work ethic is very much alive in the United States and this goes for liberals and conservatives. Most of my friends are good Bay Area and NYC liberals (or at least solid Democratic voters). They like Bill De Blasio and rail against people getting priced out of SF and NYC because of luxury condos. They still think I am a bit too much for advocating for a national vacation policy and seeing the attraction of the French 35 hour week law. Plus my view that At-Will employment is immoral. This is where they find the GOP mantra of “personal responsibility” to be attractive though they will concede with me that the GOP is hypocritical and lecturing about this mantra.

    3. Related to number 2, I think a lot of Americans do like work and think they should find personal psychological satisfaction in their careers. I know very few people who just want to work to obtain a “medium chill” lifestyle and receive personal satisfaction from other areas of life. The only people I know who take low-stress jobs so they can focus on other things are artists and they are certainly willing to devote long hours to their art when needed or possible. Even people dropping out of the office rat race seem to want personal satisfaction from work with making arty bread and jams and whatnot or owning a small farm (I know two people who left SF and bought a small farm in upstate NY.)

    4. I’m amazed at how much hazing continues for the simple reasons of previous generations saying “I went through this when I was your age and now you will too”. This happens in law, medicine, and banking. Probably other careers. A lot of young people seem to think of it as the price you pay for the brass ring.

    • dollared

      You need to expand your social life. Go hang out at an REI or a YMCA. You will find a large number of nurses, EMTs, school teachers, mid level finance managers, computer programmers and the like that are exactly looking for “medium chill.” Of course, I’ve found that the majority of medium chills choose that so that they can be involved in raising their kids, rather than delegating to an au pair.

      And of course, they find medium chill nearly impossible to maintain, because of the grasping parasites at the top.

      • NewishLawyer

        I’m not really a mountain climbing/REI/camping kind of guy.

        The nearest YMCA is pretty far from my house. I belong to the gym associated with my law school’s university because I get a very nice alumni membership rate. Plus it is a 15 minute walk from my apartment instead of a 20 minute car ride. At 6 AM, this means a lot.*

        *I hate working out at night. I need to do it first thing in the morning before work.

    • This is a class thing–the vast majority of the country doesn’t get to “achieve a medium chill” or any kind of job satisfaction at all. Upper class and middle class liberals have careers with job satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, or creativity or some kind of ethical or moral goal–most people work to live, have zero control over their hours or the work conditions, and etc…etc..etc..

      • FridayNext

        Just because it impacts middle and upper class people disproportionally, doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem that needs to be addressed. In my experience, a corporate culture that encourages exploiting the scions of richer families also exploits those who work in the lesser pay/status ranks. Conversely in my experience, corporate cultures that encourage cultivation of talent through fairer, less draconian means also does so up and down the org chart.

        This specific news story might be of one symptom that effects only upper class workers, but the disease rots the whole body.

        Also, as I point out elsewhere on this thread, this type of occupational gate keeping makes it all but impossible for people to work their way up the class/status ladder and stymies inter-generational wealth accumulation. The only people who can afford to work such ungodly hours for little or no pay are the ones that can live off their parents for life’s necessities. Doing something about this institutionalized caste system would be at least a small step in addressing income inequality and the complete lack of diversity in many professions.

      • MPAVictoria

        Come now Aimai, those poor folks could always trade two cents per hour of their wages for better working conditions. Just ask Matty Y.

        • rea

          To be fair, Matt Y’s point was that workers couldn’t make that deal.

          • Bill Murray

            but these aren’t minimum wage workers, so they maybe could do that

          • MPAVictoria

            Yeah but only because the minimum wage prevented them from doing it.

      • NewishLawyer

        Admittedly but I still think class and lifestyle preferences have a lot to do with it.

        I’m not really a country person and I like shorter commutes. When I worked in downtown SF, there were quite a few people who commuted in from far in the East Bay or from Wine Country.

        When I asked why, they talked about their multiple acres of land and ability to own horses (or other animals) and be mini-country farmers or vineyard owners and this was worth the two or three hour commute to SF.

        I am not much of a pastoralist and don’t feel the need to own horses, goats, or cows. Owning multiple acres is also not necessary for me. If I ever buy a house, a nice yard on a quarter acre or so is fine.

        The two or three hour commute also sounds bad to me. There are nice towns in Marin that are twenty to thirty minutes from SF (if I stay in SF). Some are pricey and I am willing to work for that closeness to the city. Not insane hours like above but certainly more than 40-50 a week for a while if necessary.

        • Micky Kaus

          I am not much of a pastoralist and don’t feel the need to own horses, goats, or cows.

          What are you, some kind of pervert?

        • Class and lifestyle? You are still talking about a massive disposable income differential to even imagine that you have a “choice” in where to live–with your horses on your horse farm or in the city in your pied a terre? Its a choice the woman the NYT talked about who works the 311 line didn’t have–she had to spend 1.5 hours on the train to get to work in order not to be late.

          We’ve made plenty of middle class trade offs–I’m a stay at home mom instead of piling up the uncounted dollars that teaching in anthropology could have gotten me–but that is a luxury, an upper class luxury. Doesn’t mean that I didn’t lose something in the trade off, and gain something too, that isn’t accounted for in mere money. But being able to choose to put taste above money, to trade preference in time over money, is itself the biggest luxury of all and one that is not afforded many people in this society.

  • dollared

    OK, we’re at 70 comments and not one person has pointed out how this actually creates the culture of greed, macho competition and recklessness that trashed our economy.

    Winner take all means take any risk to win, and don’t care who loses. Goldman Sachs and subprime bets against your own clients, anyone?

    • NewishLawyer

      Someone pointed out machoismo above.

    • NewishLawyer

      Greed is also a relative and subjective term. See my response to Aimai. Am I greedy for preferring a shorter commute to multiple acres of housing?

      • dollared

        No, but you are clueless. You don’t see the suffering all around you. You just think life is a choice between plaintiff side or defense side for comfortable, well educated folks.

        • NewishLawyer

          Calling someone clueless is a great way to win an argument and get them to your side!

          I am overwhelmed by your rhetorical skills and nuanced positions.

          • Origami Isopod

            OTOH, it’s a great way to demonstrate to lurkers that certain clueless utterances will be roundly mocked and perhaps they should think twice about saying them.

            • CaptBackslap

              Or, from their perspective, that the commenters here are ideological and hostile to even slightly divergent views, and that they shouldn’t bother to join the discussion if they don’t agree with everyone else.

              I’m not saying that would be accurate, but we shouldn’t work at making it so–unless we just want an echo chamber. And the Internet has enough of those already.

              • Theobald Smith


                • Lee Rudolph

                  And Echo answered, “Hisssss!”

                  …Actually, anechoic chambers are dead space that you really don’t want to converse in. In my few months of observation of LGM, I have hardly found it to be an “echo chamber” in the Dittohead sense. The acoustics are very nicely tuned, mostly.

                • killians irish bread

                  just look at all of this concern

              • LeeEsq

                This is pretty much why I don’t post on foreign policy or Middle East threads.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  I’m sure that’s our loss. Why not try it again some time?

              • NewishLawyer

                What CaptBackslap said.

                Couldn’t resist :)

                • dollared

                  I guess you need some elaboration on “clueless.”

                  OK. You enter a thread where we are talking about people dying in industrial accidents while making minimum wage, and you drone on about how you don’t know anybody who, you know, is even middle class. Then you talk about your difficult choices between a long and short commute for your comfortable, six figure income. And the advantages of plaintiff’s versus defense work for that top 2% income. You are utterly unresponsive to the discussion on the thread except as how it relates to your choices of really nice life or really super life.

                  Never once acknowledging that perhaps there are people right next to you (Daly City, Redwood City, East Palo Alto) who would only dream of having your choices, and who have no clue about how to ever get their children in position to have those kind of choices, because they are trying to make sure their kids have adequate nutrition and they don’t get evicted, much less getting them into select soccer and robotics camp by the time they are 11 so they can join your children on the Stanford track.

                  So yeah, clueless. Sorry if I offended your delicate sensibilities. But really, I so want you on my side. Tell me, what would it take for you to break out of your cocoon and make it a priority to consider the issues facing a majority of your fellow citizens?

          • killians irish bread

            Nobody gives a shit whose side you’re on, because you’re an idiot.

            Stop being an idiot and then maybe you can join our side.

      • You aren’t greedy for preferring one thing and paying for it. That simply isn’t even the issue. You are foolish to ascribe everyone’s situation as the result of a choice they make, a tradeoff they can make between two ideal situations. Most people don’t get precisely what they want, they have to compromise because either the money, or the location, or the time for the commute is beyond their means. They have to choose between evils, not between goods.

  • Joshua

    This story is tragic and wrong, obviously, but I really don’t care if an i-banker wants to work 100 hours a week. I-banking has enormous upside, as we all know.

    It’s quite a bit different to work those hours trying to get a million-dollar payoff and working those hours because your company has fired everyone around you yet requires all the same work gets done.

    Obviously this doesn’t apply to interns, just the work culture of that field in general.

    • Yes. This. All of these work overload problems could be solved by forcing companies to hire more workers–not splitting one job into two half jobs but recognizing what has happened thanks to worker overproductivity and splitting the workload and creating two real full time jobs. You can do this by creating an incentive in the form of double overtime pay or you could put a cap on the work week and a floor too so that companies can’t employ people part time and can’t force them to do overtime.

      • NewishLawyer

        I concur. I’m all for the French 35 hour a week law.

        • CaptBackslap

          It didn’t achieve its stated goal, though. The idea was that it would force more hiring, but it turns out that people just spent an hour a day less on Minitel or making cream sauces or whatever they do with extra work time there.

          • DrS

            This could also be taken as proof that the 35 hour work week is a bar set too high.

      • GoDeep

        Actually that’s a prescription for economic instability. If you split an 80hr white collar job into two jobs you’ve just increased labor costs by 100%. If you’re splitting less than an 80hr job you’ve increased costs by even more. An employee costs abt 140% of their salary (b/cs of benefits). So hiring add’l workers is very expensive–and creates more bureaucracy. Overhead begets overhead. All this does is to raise costs and increase prices.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          you’re really okay with an 80 hour work week?

          • sparks

            You couldn’t tell from his other comments?

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              sometimes I like to ask the direct question. I’m sort of dumb that way

              • GoDeep

                I’ve worked plenty of 80hr work weeks…Its not ideal but I’ve worked them. As we said in college–they build character.

                • jim, some guy in iowa

                  a bit more direct: do you think the 40 hour week is an artificially low standard?

                  (aside: I farm. I work screwy hours based on the season and weather – sometimes 80 often not)

                • LeeEsq

                  Building character seems like a poor reason to inflict misery or worse on people, especially if they don’t build a very admirable character.

                • GoDeep

                  Jim–No I don’t think the 40hr week is artificially low. I think for blue collar and non-exempt white collar positions it makes a great deal of sense.

                  But for exempt, white collar positions I would never hire anyone who wasn’t willing to average 50-60hrs a week.

                  I can’t really fathom working less than 50hrs a week, frankly. I get that ppl have family responsibilities, but having kids is a choice. So if someone makes that choice they should find a job that accommodates that.

                • DrS

                  So, basically what you are saying is that there should be no American middle class.

                  I believe the term for people like you is “tool”

                • Well, Go deep doesn’t need an american middle class. Hell, his company lifestyle doesn’t even support the idea of an American younger generation. Apparently if there are no jobs that support the worker having a family that would be just peachy. I guess we can import H1Bs to work for a few years and leave their families at home.

                • LeeEsq

                  GoDeep, if enough people decide not to have children than human civilization is going to have some rather interesting solutions. Like whose going to take care of all the old people for one thing. Saying children is a choice is true to an extent but not to the way you envision.

                  I also believe that the science shows that mental labor is actually more tiring than physical labor, so if anything white collar people should work fewer hours.

                • GoDeep

                  Lee, LOL. True. Most ppl will have kids & most ppl will eventually find jobs that suit them or otherwise “figure out” accommodations. Some of my friends hire nannies, some of my friends quit work until the kids are older, and some of my friends take lower paying, less stressful jobs. These are all valid decisions.

                  Aimai–I care deeply abt the middle class, but its prolly fair to say that we have very different ideas abt what constitutes a vibrant middle class. Your comments remind me of my Brazilian, French, and Italian friends. There’s much to like abt those countries, and I love my friends dearly, but I strongly believe in the so-called Protestant work ethic. Its worked great for my family.

                • DrS

                  Heh, good for all your friends that can just quit work to have kids.

                  For the rest of us proles, we can’t exactly do that, nor can we hire full time nannies, etc etc.

                  So, while you may pay lip service to the idea of a middle class, what you support is in stark contradiction. This either makes you a liar or incredibly dense.

                  Also, Americans work more hours but it doesn’t show up as a positive in productivity statistics. We just work more hours.

                • GoDeep

                  DrS the problem comes in having caviar dreams and a catfish paycheck. There are ppl who want to have it all & unfortunately the thing abt life is that we have to choose. The avg income for a person w/ a college degree is $64K. That’s $128K per married household. That’s not a great deal of money, but you can raise a family on it. One of my friends is raising 10 kids on less than that–in Chicago no less! You can’t send your kids to private school or fancy summer camps, but you can give them a household free of privation and full of love.

                  And Americans work more hours compared to Europe, but we work fewer hours compared to East Asia… So, ultimately, its all abt personal choices.

                • DrS

                  How old are you, Mr. GoDeep?

                  Serious question.

                • DrS

                  Actually, fuck that. I don’t actually care.

                  It doesn’t matter if you are an asshole just cause you don’t have enough experience in the world or if you’re an asshole just cause you’ve ‘won’ something and think it’s all about your puritan work ethic merit.

                  Either way, you’re an asshole with a severe empathy deficiency. That’s been more than explained by your commentary today.

                  McKinsey, right?

        • JMP

          Oh so then our nation’s mega-corporations will have slightly lower obscenely high profits than they currently do. That would just be such a horrible disaster!

          But hey, it’s certainly telling that you look at workers’ salaries and immediately see them as costs instead of income and look at it them as a negative.

        • Mire prople have miney to spend. What do i care about increasing overhead costs? Let it come out of profits-the owners take–and not out of wages.

        • Joshua

          Yea, it’s not like we have economic instability with our current system or anything.

  • rea

    Why do investment bankers work such hours? Is it because they are dealing with markets in various time zones around the globe?

    Hong Kong is present
    Taipei awakes

    All talk of circadian rhythm
    I see today with a newsprint fray
    My night is colored headache gray

    The bull and the bear are marking
    Their territories
    They’re leading the blind with
    Their international glories
    I’m the screen the blinding light
    I’m the screen, I work at night.

    • NewishLawyer

      I used to be a freelance legal proofreader. Every now and then I needed to do a graveyard shift or risk not having my agencies call me. I hated these shifts because even if they only happened once every few weeks, it would still throw off my sleeping schedule.

      A lot of the times they were because of the globalized economy. Something came in from Hong Kong or somewhere else and needed to be ready for the NY lawyers by 8 AM.

    • GoDeep

      Bankers work these hours b/cs of a few different reasons, globalization certainly being one of course. But often even in wholly domestic deals there are legal requirements that have to be met in short periods of time & there are competitive pressures to rush & there’s a lot of work to do & it can’t be easily handed off analyst to analyst. At an analyst level, particularly, there’s a lot of knowledge abt the numbers which is hard to hand off seamlessly to another analyst. Its been awhile since I was an analyst but back then I’d say it was more or less impossible.

      • Then the banks need to hire more analysts and split the work up so that multiple people are doing it over a reasonable number of hours.

        • Rigby Reardon

          Butbutbutbut overhead! Labor costs! HIGHER PRIIIIIIIICES!!

        • rea

          And you know, there are times when I’m on deadline and have to work long hours. But if you have a work life in which you are always on deadline and always working ridiculously long hours, something’s wrong.

        • GoDeep

          The lid on hiring analysts isn’t margin pressure–the bankers, like the DRs, are making gobs of money. The lid on hiring more workers is that the analyst’s job can’t be easily split.

          If I create a 10-tab spreadsheet with 100 different inputs creating 50 pages of financial reports then I can’t just hand that off to another analyst. They won’t know what assumptions were built into the model, won’t know the formulas that drive the model, won’t know where key inputs are. Read the above comments abt DRs and Continuity of Care. Its a similar issue. Its ‘too many cooks ruin the soup’ all over again.

          • I don’t actually believe that. Its just a fancy way of obscuring the data, on your part, to make your work look less reproducible and to make yourself seem more indispensible than you are.

            • GoDeep

              Riiight, ‘cuz analysts are like tooootally indispensable and irreplaceable…

              And because they’re so indispensable and irreplaceable they INSIST on working 85hr weeks. Yeah, Lloyd Blankfein is like totally at analysts’ mercy.

              • killians irish bread

                Empty sarcasm: like an argument, except minus the argument

                • killians irish bread

                  In the future, consider saving undue wear on your keyboard and just go with “nuh-uh!”

          • DrS

            That’s a ridiculous way to build something that complex. That shouldn’t be in a spreadsheet.

            But, like Aimai said, it does make you appear more indispensable, especially since that’s going to be prone to breakage.

            It’s amazing to me that anyone pays for your advice. Don’t get me wrong, I know they do. I’ve met plenty of management consultants just like you.

            • GoDeep

              If you don’t use spreadsheets DrS all you have left is abacuses and slide rules…

              The real issue is that a few professions are very craft-oriented jobs. That’s b/cs they’re complex and custom. Complex jobs are hard to automate & custom jobs are almost impossible to standardize.

              • dollared

                And they are best accomplished by well coordinated teams and not by workaholic greedy loner top 10 MBAs.

              • DrS

                Spreadsheets suck as an analytic tool.

                I’ve seen these sorts or spreadsheets. They are disasters.

                There are so many better tools, but the simple do love spreadsheets.

          • JustMe

            For the amount of money they’re making, they could figure out a workflow to split it up.

            • GoDeep

              They certainly have an incentive JustMe, but a workflow only works well when the work is easily standardized. Sometimes that’s the case & sometimes that’s not. Take sizing a market. You might size the market for bubble gum and you might need 5 inputs. But say you’re sizing the market–as I once did–for broadband only broadband hasn’t been invented yet (yes, I just dated myself). Well, then, that spreadsheet looks entirely different. You might have 30 inputs & you might have to run 10 different scenarios for each range of inputs.

              My first assignment ever was to size the market for timber land. What does that have in common with a spreadsheet for bubblegum or broadband? I worked until 2a every night for a month. My gf called me late one night for an emergency & apparently I kept saying to her over & over again, “How many trees are there? How many trees are there?” I don’t remember the conversation actually but she told me abt it the next day.

              You know the thing is, as tired & grumpy as I was when I left work at 2a, when I woke up the next day I just couldn’t wait to get back.

              • dollared

                Wow. I think I went to college with you. Or a friend of mine at McKinsey did the same thing 20 years ago at Weyerhauser.

                But I digress. That is perfect example of work that should be done by a team and not by a loner workaholic who is obviously nonfunctional at 2am.

                • DrS

                  Like, ZOMG,

                  I don’t know anything, but if I just spreadsheet it, and spend 70 hours on it, then, well

                  That will beat 20 years experience.

                  Cause spreadsheets.

          • ajay

            If I create a 10-tab spreadsheet with 100 different inputs creating 50 pages of financial reports then I can’t just hand that off to another analyst. They won’t know what assumptions were built into the model, won’t know the formulas that drive the model, won’t know where key inputs are.

            Basically you’re saying that you’re sloppy and bad at documenting your work?

          • Brian Haunton

            I’m sorry but you’re describing doing a piece of system analysis, design and construction badly: this sort of thing was bread-and-butter work for me when I built software for the reinsurance industry.

            If you can’t write requirements, assumptions and calculations down then you can’t be clear about what you’re doing and you won’t be able to show that what you’ve produced does what you claim it does and you probably won’t be able to maintain or correct it, particularly if you’re at the end of a 60 hour week.

      • MPAVictoria

        You know maybe if the big banks spent less time breaking the law and needing to hire expensive law firms they would have enough money to employee more workers?


  • Walter Sobchak

    Reminds me of an old DA office I used to work in and Saturday and evening arraignments. And they wonder why people don’t stay. People will put up with punishing schedules at a bank, but not a shit salary.

  • DrS

    The health insurance company I worked for, up until 3 weeks ago, seems to have become totally infected with this sort of thing. Real culture shift in the 5 years I was there.

    There was some real macho bullshit going on. Punishing hours, no reason for it. A real “in group” of bros that protected each other, the director and a couple of his directs. And with the state of the job market, a lot of people just tried to keep at it.

    I was thrilled when they laid me off.

    In the last two weeks I was there, I had 4 people, 1/2 of the team, tell me about their psych issues they’d developed working there.

    Just my anecdata. :)

  • Johnny Sack

    Amazing what you have to do even in non highly remunerative fields just to have a career and nice things. Not fancy things just a new car not one you bought for $800, new clothes, a nice place. A Republican might say I have a sense of entitlement.

  • NewishLawyer

    While American society is bad for long work hours, we are far from the worst. Doesn’t Japan have a word/term for death from over work? I seem to recall that. I think they have been talking about this problem for years (if not decades) and still have not come up with a fix.

    When I lived in Japan, you had a lot of people dropping out of the system instead of trying to change it. They saw reform as being futile or impossible. I think they were called “Freepers” or Herbivore Men or something like that. Women were given the far more horrible and disgusting term of “parasite single.”

  • NewishLawyer

    I worked at a law firm that was very good with this kind of stuff. The only people on salary were associates and partners. Support staff, paralegals, contract lawyers, accountants, IT, etc were all on an hourly wage and given a strict 35-40 hour work week. You needed written approval from two partners to get overtime.

    There is another firm in the Bay Area that shuts down from 12-1 every day for lunch. Shuts down means lights off, all phones go straight to voice messaging, etc. The problem is that I think they do half day Saturdays. I’d rather have Saturday off and work through lunch.

  • Lee Brimmicombe-Wood

    I manage people in an incredible demanding software industry that often crunches its workers. The rule of thumb is that manual labour should not work more than 40 hours a week. For creative/mentally demanding jobs that threshold is around 35 hours. If you crunch over these limits for more than 2-3 weeks you find yourself in a state of negative productivity. Your workers will be less productive and any gains you make during the crunch period will be lost.

    This stuff is well known. It goes back more than a hundred years to the earliest time and motion studies. If you push your staff over 40 hours a week and try to sustain that rate for more than a short period YOU ARE A BAD MANAGER AND DESERVED TO BE FIRED. Any work culture that demands long hours is a bad culture that is inefficient and unproductive.

    Working hours deserve to be the priority of both labour and management. It’s not a macho game to prove who is the toughest.

  • Timurid

    It seems odd that overwork would be such a problem with a large and growing labor surplus, but it may be that hours worked have become such a precious commodity that there is an incentive to hoard them. Combine that with the common attitude in management that 80 hours from Mr. Excellent is better than 40 from Excellent and 40 from Very Good… long hours provide self-affirmation, a marker of high status symbol and the expectation that your position is secure…

    • Origami Isopod

      It seems odd that overwork would be such a problem with a large and growing labor surplus

      Not at all. The less power labor has, the more power management has.

  • Popeye

    An intern on Wall Street getting worked to death is literally unheard of, or at least was until this particular story. So I’m puzzled by how this particular story reveals all of these systemic problems about labor in this country. Is it time for the investment bankers to form a union and at least demand some monetary compensation for all their hours from their capitalist masters?

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