- On Wall Street, in Silicon Valley, across the legal profession and the corporate world, a growing chorus of companies are singing the praises of a kinder workplace, announcing policies like generous maternity leave at Netflix and Goldman Sachs’s rule against investment-banking analysts working on Saturdays, according to a New York Times article.
- But, writes Noam Scheiber, a closer look at the forces that drive the relentless pace at elite companies suggests that — however much the most sought-after employers in the country may be changing their official policies — brutal competition remains an inescapable component of workers’ daily lives.
- In some ways it’s even getting worse, Scheiber writes.
Robert H. Frank, a prominent economist at Cornell University, told the Times that that far more people are interested in top jobs than there are available slots, leading to the brutal competition that plays out at companies (especially law firms) where only the best are destined for partnerships or senior management positions.
As long as there are a large number of new employees competing for a limited number of highly lucrative positions, the Times reports, policy changes focused on work/life balance and other worker-friendly ideas aren’t likely to persuade many people to ease up.
Even so, the article concludes that even the notoriously brutal legal profession is resorting to "alternative work arrangements" and many previously elite law firms are finding they no longer have the profits or the partnership slots to make the their traditionally competitive partnership system work.
“Amazon is at the top of the food chain,” William Henderson, an expert on law firm economics at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, told the Times. “Maybe they can get away with it. But most firms can’t rank and yank.”