Thursday, January 29, 2009

BSDs Take Note

Many tell all books by ex-Wall Streeters note the macho culture among traders (mainly, market makers and brokers). Get a bunch of 20-something guys in a room all day, and its kind of inevitable. The temperament of traders, as opposed to IT guys, suggests they probably have higher-than-average levels of testosterone.

Clearly macho behavior can go too far, and a civilized society should discourage rudeness because real diversity is about treating everyone as a person with as much dignity as yourself (as opposed to 'celebrating' differences). On the other hand, taking these issues to court is a poor way to handle one's umbrage. Take the case of Ryan Pacifico who is suing Calyon, charging that his one-time boss at the French financial firm mocked him for avoiding meat and wearing snug-fitting shorts during triathlons:

Catalanello's alleged abuse is the meat of the nine-page complaint, which accuses the boss of saying, "Who the f--- cares?" when another trader questioned what Pacifico would eat during an outing to a steakhouse.

"It's his fault for being a vegetarian homo," Catalanello is accused of saying.

"You don't even eat steak, dude," Catalanello is accused of saying. "At what point in time did you realize you were gay?"

It's such an adolescent jab, it would be hard to get too worked up about it. Even if I were gay, I think I would laugh at the sheer immaturity of the comment (does any slam with 'dude' at the end sting?). Best to shrug it off, and order a salad at the steak retreat, with lots of wine. Politeness is two sided: not giving unintentional offenses, and not being too thin skinned.

And wearing snug-fitting bicycle shorts is kinda asking for the equivalent of an office wedgie.


Anonymous said...

When I was trading, one of the more high testosterone traders got on one of the other guys' machines and IMed this stuff coming out and such and whether the other traders would care. They made fun of him for quite some time after that. He probably could have sued if the guy had any money.

Anonymous said...

By him, I mean the guy whose machine he borrowed, not high test. trader.

zjelveh said...

it's not about politeness or being a BSD. The bigot happened to be the guy's boss.

Eric Falkenstein said...

If his boss doesn't like him, no law will make him like him. The fact he makes a fool of himself criticizing the employee makes it easier for the employee to explain to potential new employees that his last position did not work because his boss was a jerk. If the boss did not mouth these things, the employees future under him would still be the same, and his ability to argue he was a jerk would be more suspect.

Lawsuits are sometimes necessary, but very rarely. Those not willing to stand up and say 'you're out of line' or 'that's a and idiotic thing to say' are cowards, hiding behind lawyers, like the kid who tells the teacher when his friends make fun of him.

Unknown said...

It's not just traders. I worked for a software development company. It was almost normal, until a massive layoff left us with 10 like minded 25-35yr old males working in a separate open plan office. A few days later the "F-bomb" was dropped in a meeting, and was the opening of a Pandora's box of filth. Soon the office culture was one part Def Comedy Jam and one part "Lord of the Flies." The comments were savage and unending. Our VP/CTO was at the apex of it all, and "took it as good as he gave it." Andrew Dice Clay would have probably found him offensive.

Best office I ever worked in; most productive team I've ever worked on. We maintained almost zero turnover for 4 years (until the company was bought out.) Everything else about the company sucked, and yet I almost couldn't wait to get to work the next day.

My gut tells me: if this guy was at the top of his game he could have commanded the respect he wanted, or easily taken his skills elsewhere. His lawsuit has the hallmarks of a cowardly misuse/abuse of anti-harassment laws to strike back.

Anonymous said...

The lawsuit filer is either a massive wimp or trying to extort money (or both). If it was so bad why would this Pacifico guy spend 3 years at the firm?

I've worked with pretty rough crews before. Once you get over the initial shock I agree with Denovich that it's an absolute blast. The camaraderie you develop makes crappy conditions tolerable and at the end of the day you're happy to just be one of the guys slugging it out under less than ideal conditions. A guy like Pacifico would be a morale destroyer, the proverbial turd in the punchbowl.