Investing in Your People

I remember when I worked for Lehman Brothers (at their mortgage-serving subsidiary in Scottsbluff, Nebraska with headquarters in Aurora, CO) after leaving Citi in ‘06.

Lehman had a corporate policy of only providing tuition reimbursement for 1- & 2-rated employees (top 30%) & they had to get an A or B in the course. And it didn’t even cover books or materials needed!

I tried convincing “them” that the 3- & 4-rated employees (65% of the workforce) would benefit even more from a college education than the higher-performing people.


I fought with everyone tooth & nail over this…but they were nothing but stupid, head-nodding puppets. No matter what I said, it fell upon deaf ears.

There wasn’t the tiniest hint of “Let’s see…maybe I can help you raise this issue up the corporate ladder”.


Wrote to the CEO & the President…no formal response whatsoever from them.

I even paid for 2 of my people (females) to take an Access database training class at the local college. Midway through their course, I’m summoned into a meeting with the head of HR & my boss. HR actually had the gall to ask me if there was any funny business going on & if I was playing favorites.

It really was an accusation, poorly disguised as a question. I was freakin’ furious…and hurt!

And I told that exactly to my boss & the other Senior VP, albeit in a somewhat, slightly-raised tone of voice. Requests for me to calm down and a chorus of “Well, you need to understand how it looks. We never had anyone ever do that before!” just pushed me over the edge. I may have used a couple of not-really-nice words.

I asked them if I should call my lawyer now or wait until the meeting was over.

They kept reassuring me that no one was taking any action against me. That this whole charade was really for my good so “there are no indications of favoritism or anything else”.

I was no longer being accused, but the idea of physically banging their two heads together until I could actually play a tune did cross my mind.

A couple of times.

“Are you OK, Mike?”

“I’m fine. My hands always shake like this!”

I should’ve sued the pants off those small-minded idiots like I threatened to!

When Lehman Brothers finally crashed & burned in September as the 1st fatality of the Great Mortgage Crisis of 2008, I profusely thanked Ms. Karma (though it was personal hell for me).

And I remembered how they reassured us earlier that year how securely capitalized we were. In fact, when the global investment firm Bear Stearns (our biggest competitor) went belly up March 2008, only to be rescued by JP Morgan Chase, corporate Public Affairs provided a script, as well as a Q & A listing, for my people to use if & when our customers called, worried about the safety & stability of our firm.

After reading all the material, I refused to distribute it to my people.

We were in a big meeting at the time with the honchos at Aurora & of course, being that crazy NYer, everyone seemed to give me “that look”.

You know, like they caught me sneaking in after curfew & were disappointed in me!

I told them that the prepared communication piece amounted to nothing more than a bunch of propaganda & that they were stating stuff as “facts” that just couldn’t be proven or substantiated. I wouldn’t agree to have my people lying to our customers.

The material had to be carefully revised, I said, so that my people were, indeed, telling the truth…in a somewhat-crafty manner. Public Affairs had very bright people who could easily handle that task.

Bottom line? I rewrote the piece myself in <30 minutes & they took an hour to approve it. When I got the word back that I should now distribute it to my people, I told them that I already did.

An hour ago.

All right, that’s it for this story.

As always, thank you so much for listening!

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