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March 28, 2012

Goldman Sachs Execs Missing the Point, Now Looking for Employees to Blame

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse at Goldman Sachs, it looks as if the blame game is starting.  After last week’s 2.15 billion loss in market value, Goldman Sachs is now reportedly reviewing internal emails for the word “muppet” and other ways in which employees referred to clients in less-than-positive ways, according to Reuters. This move comes after a senior leader resigned and shared his thoughts about Goldman in an op-ed in the New York TimesIt was a shot that was heard around the world.

The company said in a conference call with partners this week said that it was taking the employee’s claims seriously.  Last week, in a post on the Goldman website, the company said the employee’s assertions didn’t represent the values of the organization. The post and the reports of this week’s conference call stops short of any acknowledgement of issues within the culture, and what the company is doing to correct them.

It seems as if the company is looking for employees to blame instead of senior execs looking at themselves in the mirror, asking whether there’s an issue or not.  According to reports from inside and outside the company, the employee’s assertions were clearly not an isolated case.

How is it that the senior-most leaders at Goldman don’t think they might have an issue? 

What are they waiting for to acknowledge they have an issue, and move swiftly with actions to help address the cultural issues and their issues with clients? 

This is a leadership litmus test, and so far, the execs at Goldman have failed miserably.

The problem with blame is that it’s often a smoke screen for the real issue or problem, which doesn’t get solved.  The execs might get immediate gratification, which is a trap.  Said another way, focusing on blame distracts you from the real solution, and from valuable lessons.

Maybe that’s what the Goldman execs want.  I would encourage them to stop looking for someone to blame, admit that they might have created the problem, and fix the issue.

There’s a lesson here for leaders everywhere.  Are you guilty of playing the blame game?

-Daivd Grossman

Photo Credit: Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs Lloyd C. Blankfein talks during a business roundtable event at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington February 14, 2012. Reuters/Larry Downing


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