I am not sure how many are following the bullying case that is going on in the NFL right now with the Miami Dolphins. The big headline is about the use of racial slurs, but to me it was all too familiar. I want to say this first, I have anger management issues. I was a yeller and a screamer. When I wasn’t screaming at floor clerks for my clients, I was busy giving the silent treatment to those who worked with me and pissed me off. I know I had issues, but in the financial world, we’re a dime a dozen. I wasn’t a bully, but I did have issues in controlling my emotions. My only saving grace was that I had in compartmentalized within my hours of work. Once the bell rang and the markets were closed, I switched back to the happy go lucky Carl Larry. Now that I think about it, that was pretty socio behavior. Still, I never tried to bully people, in my mind I was pushing for respect and success.
Part of this emotion was part of the sell to my customers too. If anything, clients loved the fact I was yelling and screaming for their best interests. Back when there was a trading floor, there was a disconnect between the floor to the people on the desk to the customer. All that was in between all of us was a phone line. We didn’t use a lot of instant messenger and we only knew what was trading because of what we heard on the phone. We couldn’t control much and yelling and screaming gave us a sense of control. This circle of business was accepted at a lot of banks and even encouraged at a lot more. The clients screamed, the sales traders yelled, the clerks on the floor yelled and it ended at the trader on the floor who would sometimes turn the yelling right back around and it went the other way.
I’m not here to talk about my days. I still feel a little guilt about those days. I still talk to a lot of those people I yelled at or didn’t yell at. Things are OK. I am here to talk about the bullying in the oil industry. When I heard about this treatment of Jonathan Martin in Miami, I was fascinated. Everyone has been commenting about how there are these grown men who are 300 pound behemoths threatening their co-workers. Let me say if you’ve been in the oil industry long enough, you know there are plenty of 300 pound behemoths here too. When money is on the line, the tactics to bring in success, can be brutal, demoralizing and above all, a major case of bullying.
I am a guy who’s been all around the financial markets. I’ve worked on the floor of the CME, on retail sales desks, institutional sales trading and even research. I’ve spent time on the OTC marketing and brokering side. I’ve seen bullying. I’ve been bullied. I understand why a man like Jonathan Martin would choose to just walk away. I’d like to think it was because I was older I knew to just step away, but it’s not that. I was smarter. I imagine that Mr. Martin is a lot smarter than I was until my later years. Arguing or complaining about it is not going to change what is happening. If there is a bully in our adult world, they are holding something much more than a physical presence over you. It could be money, a job or your potential to further advance your career. There comes a point when you realize that there’s more to life than all of that. There is your peace of mind.
This isn’t to highlight my issue. I almost feel like it was cathartic to be on the other in this situation. I was paying my dues for being “that guy”. Still if not in my state of mind, I might have taken a lot of offense to being “the old guy” or “the waste of money”. My curiosity rose when these people actually thought “I was ruining their business” and “I had showed them no respect”. I actually found this funny. What disturbed me the most though was that other people who were being bullied couldn’t see the joke.
This industry is full of dominating personalities and this era is more sensitive to people’s work environment. That doesn’t mean that this bullying environment is less than it was back in the earlier days of oil, this means it’s more hidden. Gone are the disruptive traders yelling and screaming at the person on the other end of the phone. What we see now is more people venting directly at subordinates. We see these subordinates taking more abuse because this is an industry of money. It’s a chance to make money and more than one could ever imagine. There’s no barriers to what one can make and it’s similar to the NFL issue in that when you get a chance to get into that position, you do anything you can to stay there. You take abuse, you listen to derogatory comments and you wait for the day you move up and you’ve earned your chance to make that money an look down on others.
I don’t know how abusive the USPS work environment was back when workers were going “postal”, but I do know that I have seen men reduced to tears in this industry. I have seen people berated and emasculated. I have seen people scream at others until they are red in the face. I have never seen anything solved using all of these ways. This note will not change anything, but for those in the industry, you can change the way you view these things. You would not want your loved ones being put down or yelled at by these bullies and it’s time we stop doing business with them.
In the oil industry there’s a lot of overcrowding. There’s too many traders, too many brokers and definitely too many oil analysts. It’s time to make smart choices. In this post Dodd Frank world that we have to show solid reasons why we deal with certain companies. There’s no more “conferences” with speakers presenting over a steak dinner and a bottle of wine. There’s no more team building on Aspen slopes without a justifiable cause. There are consequences to everything in this industry now. We think it’s time to start realizing that bullying will have it’s consequences too. The business you do is your choice, we think it’s time to know the power that you have can make a difference.