Testosterone-driven traders create culture of fear

Oct 23 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Bullying, harassment and intimidation are the ugly reality of working life in Londonís financial sector according to research carried out by the BBC.

The survey asked more than 300 City workers about their experiences and found that almost a third said they had experienced bullying at work. Half characterised their workplaces as Ďhostile, aggressive and stressfulí.

Meanwhile, a separate survey by Accountancy Age magazine and recruitment firm Robert Half Finance and Accounting also found that a third of working in the finance sector believe that a glass ceiling is preventing them from advancing further in their careers.

Testosterone-driven trading floors and broking houses had the highest rates of workplace bullying. More than half (56 per cent) of the brokers, traders and analysts surveyed said that they had experienced or witnessed bullying, harassment or discrimination in one form or another while at work.

The behaviour described ranged from racial and sexual abuse, to verbal bullying, physical violence and public humiliation.

Earlier this year, Steven Horkulak, a former senior director at broker Cantor Fitzgerald won a settlement of almost £1 million against US-owned broker Cantor Fitzgerald in a case that unveiled a world where bullying, excessive drinking and the use of prostitutes were part of everyday life.

ďThe court has said that whatever the environment, however rich and powerful the boss, whatever the rewards, there are standards below which no employer should go,Ē Horkulak said at the time.

Another extreme example was that of a Jewish former banker won an out of court settlement against Tullet and Tokyo Liberty after he said that he was told to wear a Nazi uniform as a punishment for being late for work.

But the BBC found that few of those affected are prepared to come forward because they fear that doing so would see them labelled as a troublemaker and kill off any chance career progression in the closed world of the City.

Only a quarter of those who said that had experienced or witnessed abuse every made a formal complaint, and more than one in three said that the reason for their silence was that such behaviour was engrained in the culture of the City.

Despite this, the Accountancy Age survey of 1,200 workers suggests that more women than ever are entering the finance profession despite evidence that its culture hinders their promotion chances. Indeed, one in five men agreed that barriers were placed in the way of women and that there were significant challenges to overcome.

Steve Carter, managing director of Robert Half Finance, said that he was confident that the strong influx of women entering the profession was setting up the foundation for a gradual balancing-out of the genders in senior roles over the next five to 10 years.

Sadly though, its seems that it will take much more than Ďa gradual balancingí to change the attitudes or behaviour of a significant minority of the UKís highest-paid bullies.