Thursday, March 15, 2012

Corporate Culture Revisited

Greg Smith has a popular post in the NYT titled Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs. His reason is that the organizational culture is now "as toxic and destructive" as has "ever seen it." In particular, Smith criticizes that the values and norms of the organization are oriented almost exclusively toward profit-making, with little or no regard for the well-being of other organizations and people, including their clients.

While I'm glad to see Smith acting as whistle blower, there are several problems with his discussion. In particular, Smith assumes that there were halcyon days at Goldman Sachs, in which profit-making was joined with helping other people, without providing any evidence that this was ever the case. Moreover, Smith appears oblivious to the fact that profit-making is in fact, legally and sociologically, the primary purpose of a private organization such as Goldman Sachs in the United States. Thus, although the focus on profit-making manifests itself culturally, an effective solution must move beyond the particularities of any private organization to the general political system in which such organizations must operate: to wit, we need policies that encourage private organizations to pursue other goals besides short-term profit-making, such as the advancement of social welfare and technology.

P.S. You can read the response to Smith's op-ed by Goldman Sachs executives here.