Most workers have had at least an occasional frustrating moment or two where they fantasize about making a sudden, splashy exit from their jobs.
Few go through with it, but Greg Smith, an executive director for Goldman Sachs, actually did — in a very public way. He wrote a scathing essay to explain why he was leaving the well-known investment house, accusing the company of losing its “moral fiber” ... and he had it published in one of the biggest newspapers in the world.
“I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients,” he wrote. “It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.”
He then added, “It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as ‘muppets,’ sometimes over internal e-mail.”
The New York Times ran the missive on its Op-Ed page Wednesday, and by mid-afternoon the very public resignation letter had received more than three million page views. It’s online impact didn’t end there, either. Smith’s “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs” quickly became a trending Twitter topic, and spoofs began going up on other websites almost instantly.
Normally I’d caution workers against such a fiery exit, as it will no doubt result in some burned bridges along the way. However, odds are Smith will never have to work another day in his life. And if he does, perspective clients will likely see his stance as courageous and clamor to have him represent them.
Either way, having an insider call attention to Goldman Sachs’ alleged misdeeds in such a public forum could prove key to bringing much-needed, real reforms to Wall Street. And if so, we all just may owe Smith a debt of gratitude.
Amy Gehrt may be reached at email@example.com.