As long-time Dealbreaker readers know, we have been writing about the slightly unorthodox culture at Bridgewater Associates since 2010, when we received a spiral-bound copy of Principles, the hedge fund’s unofficial company handbook penned by founder Ray Dalio. The overarching theme of Principles is truth and "radical transparency" and tells employees:
- Why they shouldn't hesitate to identify and eliminate weak colleagues (through a philosophical discussion about "a pack of hyenas [taking] down a young wildebeest," which, Dalio writes, seems cruel on its face but based on the rules of the animal kingdom really isn't)
- That "firing people is not a big deal"
- That failing to confront a person about their shortcomings to their face means you're "a slimy weasel"
Meetings are videotaped, viewed firm-wide as training tools, and later archived. While some employees take to this way of operating (after an 18-month acclimation period), others who've experienced the Principles way of life firsthand feel the emphasis on criticizing people to their faces, often in front of their peers and on tape, as a way as way to supposedly get to the truth/avoid group think is simply an excuse to “dig in and destroy other individuals and say whatever…you hate about them.”
One instance in which someone might prefer a more traditional corporate culture would be if, for example, they were (allegedly) being sexually harassed and wanted to confide in someone but didn't want the whole god damn firm to know about this very private matter.
In his complaint, Christopher Tarui, a 34-year-old adviser to large institutional investors in Bridgewater, contends that his male supervisor sexually harassed him for about a year by propositioning him for sex and talking about sex during work trips. After he complained last fall, Mr. Tarui said, several Bridgewater top managers confronted him and sought to pressure him to rescind his claims. One manager, he said, accused him of lying and said that he was “blowing this whole thing out of proportion.” These and other allegations in the complaint could not be independently verified. Mr. Tarui said he remained silent for many months about the harassment out of fear the incident would not remain private and would impede his chances for promotion at the firm, which is based in Westport, Conn. “The company’s culture ensures that I had no one I could trust to keep my experience confidential,” he said in the complaint, which was filed in January.
Someone might also grow sour on a company that prides itself on getting to the truth above all else if said company took the truth and then put it in a box and told the box to STFU.
Eventually, Mr. Tarui did complain after his supervisor gave him a bad job performance rating even though he had been promoted and given a pay raise just a few months earlier. He said in the complaint that during a meeting in November 2015, he told a Bridgewater human resources representative and another top manager about the repeated sexual harassment by the supervisor. As is the case with every meeting at Bridgewater, the meeting was recorded. So was a later meeting with several top executives at Bridgewater including David McCormick, the firm’s president. Mr. Tarui said recordings from those meetings were “widely shared” with managerial employees at Bridgewater. The firm promised an investigation. But in his complaint Mr. Tarui said that Bridgewater’s management tried to persuade him to withdraw his allegations.
And then just, y'know, all of this:
Mr. Tarui has been on paid leave from the firm since Jan. 6, two days before he filed his harassment complaint...Jointly, Bridgewater and Mr. Tarui asked in March to withdraw the complaint from consideration by the Connecticut human rights commission. No reason was given by either party for the request, which halted the investigation. Bridgewater’s employment agreement requires employees to settle disputes through binding arbitration. In a related action, the National Labor Relations Board recently filed a separate complaint against Bridgewater. The new complaint says that the company “has been interfering with, restraining and coercing” Mr. Tarui and other employees from exercising their rights through confidentiality agreements that all employees are required to sign when they are hired.
For those of you thinking "THIS SOUNDS GREAT," temper that enthusiasm: they're not actively hiring.
Related: Bridgewater’s Co-CEO Once “Supervised Subordinates Stripping Off Articles Of Clothing And Setting Them On Fire During A Team-Building Exercise”; Ray Dalio Not Sure Why Recording People Talking About A Colleague’s Mistakes And Weaknesses And Then Playing Back The Tape For Said Colleague Would Be Viewed As Anything Other Than Positive