HR Strange But True!
March 20, 2008

There is havoc in investment banking in London, and no, it's not at Bear Stearns. The question is why would a young broker who trashed her company in print be surprised at her termination? Guess she didn't read her employment contract.

Last month, Venetia Thompson, a 23-year-old trader for BGC International (formerly Cantor Fitzgerald International) wrote a derogatory article about the company--and her bosses--for The Spectator describing drunkenness, physical pranks, and sexual and racial jokes, although she didn't identify the employer by name.

In the article, she described her workplace on the trading floor with mostly male colleagues as one of long liquor-filled lunches, working drunk, and raunchy talk filled with sexist and racist terminology. She also added that when someone spread the rumor that her boss was dead as a joke, "the news was greeted with merriment."

So after writing what the Here Is the City blog called "the longest career suicide note in history," Thompson says she was surprised when she was called into Human Resources only hours after the magazine hit the stands and suspended pending a disciplinary meeting.

Days later at the meeting, Thompson alleges that HR read excerpts from her article, then excerpts from her employment contract to show her how she had violated it. She says she was asked to name the employees who used the racial and sexist epithets, which she said elicited nervous laughter from her, but no names. She was then terminated.

Her next move was to give an interview to The Daily Telegraph to add more nasty details to the story. A photo of Thompson, nicknamed "Posh Bird" because she is an attractive woman ("bird" is British slang) and a graduate of a prestigious university (posh), accompanied the story. She said that she had stayed in the job despite the horrors, against the advice of friends and while other co-workers quit, because she was "addicted to the adrenalin, the noise, and the aggression" of investment banking.

Did her termination elicit great sympathy? Not according to blogs on several English Internet sites. Some bloggers, saying they were former colleagues or brokers at other firms, said she broke the "Golden Rule" of not telling tales about co-workers' antics. And there seems to be no discussion of why Thompson didn't report the unacceptable forms of behavior to management before she was called in on the article.

Thompson has moved on to a writing career; Cantor Fitzgerald has made no official comment.

You know this story will become a movie. We pick Scarlett Johansson for the Thompson role, but who will play the HR manager?

Sources: The Spectator and The Daily Telegraph

TGIF - It's HR
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