Bridgewater Associates: Radical Transparency or The Emperor has No Clothes?

Just how radical is the “transparency” at Bridgewater Associates? The huge hedge fund gathered quite a bit of negative press after an employee filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities about the firm’s culture of constant video surveillance and recording all meetings. Matters were further compounded by a filing by the National Labor Relations Board, which revealed some of the behind-the-scenes workings of the firm, which seemed to include a fair amount of humiliation and occasional harassment.

At the New Work Summit conference sponsored by the New York Times, Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio described the culture of his organization as being like a nudist camp: “…it’s very awkward. There has to be getting over the emotional reaction,” he said.

As an expert in cultural transformations in the workplace, I see a cutthroat culture where employees have license to discredit one another as one is pitted against the other. If the New York Times statement that one-third of their hires leave within two years is accurate, they either do a terrible job of hiring people or it’s a horrible job—or perhaps both.

Adam Grant in his book, The Originals, highlights Bridgewater as having a “commitment” culture where “the secret is promoting original ideas.” This is great in theory but has a dark side when applied without parameters that reinforce civility.  As I discuss in my book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire, employees’ behavior is rooted in the workplace culture that surrounds them. As Oscar Wilde said, it’s the prisons, not the prisoners, which need reformation.

I’ve written recently about how Uber CEO Travis Kalanick who reeling under allegations needs to change the way he leads. The behavior of his firm reflects the culture he created. This is true of all CEOs, although sadly neither Kalanick nor Dalio seem to grasp this.

Photo credit: Business Insider