When Goldman moved into its shiny new headquarters, it was only months removed from accepting a $10 billion bailout from the U.S. government as part of the Toxic Asset Relief Program. Although Goldman repaid the debt the following year, its role in the financial crisis that triggered the Great Recession had been crystallized. That role was summed up most forcefully in a scathing Rolling Stone article that began, “The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who’s Who of Goldman Sachs graduates.”
Regardless of how valid the criticisms of Goldman were, its role in the financial crisis had an impact on its reputation—in the eyes of both the public and its employees. Indeed, applications for open positions declined in the years following the bailout. After all, few graduating students aspire to work for a “great vampire squid.” Still, Goldman seems to have weathered the storm. Those inside Goldman point to its collaborative culture as a steeling force that helped it weather the crisis. Says John Rogers, an executive vice president, “I will always believe that the culture was one of the most important factors in getting us through the crisis.” CEO Lloyd Blankfein agrees, noting, “I think of the culture as the operating system … Our culture is what allowed us to reprogram ourselves … The operating system was intact.”
Goldman has also gotten more aggressive in image advertising—marketing that focuses on the company’s brand itself, rather than specific products and services. It launched a national branding campaign around the slogan “Progress is everyone’s business.” It also created more of a presence on Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Rogers describes the efforts like this: “There was a conversation that was taking place about Goldman Sachs, and we had the option to either be a part of it or not be a part of it. We had seen the effect of not being a part of it.”
1. If you were working in a company that struggled through a crisis like Goldman’s, how exactly would that experience harm your organizational commitment? Would the impact be felt most intensely with affective, continuance, or normative commitment?
2 Are there ways in which such a crisis could strengthen your organizational commitment? Which form (or forms) would be strengthened?
3. How sensitive do you think you are to corporate image, whether when applying for jobs or staying with an employer? Do you think image advertising is capable of helping with these sorts of issues? Why or why not?
Sources: A. Vandermey, “Yes, Goldman Sachs Really Is a Great Place to Work,” Fortune, February 3, 2014; M. Taibbi, “The Great American Bubble Machine,” Rolling Stone, April 5, 2010
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