Wall Street celebrations are back… but don’t make these seven mistakes.
After the 2008 economic crash, many financial institutions pulled back the reins on the budget of their annual year-end lavish soirees. Considering the taxpayer bailout and the public outrage at the industry, it was frowned upon to openly celebrate on Wall Street. Some institutions even canceled their planned gatherings altogether.
In recent years, however, the holiday party is making a comeback.
And it’s the time of year when the rumors and ghosts from Christmas Past usually surface after a few cocktails. We see vice presidents and assistants making out in the corners, people saying things they’ll regret in the morning, and bonus figures dancing in people’s heads. Ah yes… ‘Tis the season.
But unfortunately, the holiday party offers a high-risk and low-reward scenario.
In 1996, when I worked at Morgan Stanley, our holiday party was held at Au Bar in Midtown Manhattan. The darkly lit basement screamed chic and swanky… But it couldn’t hide the hints of Drakkar Noir in the air.
I was in my third year on Wall Street, the equivalent to a sophomore in high school. I was no longer considered the lowest of the low, but I still couldn’t rap about nursery school admissions, mortgages, and luxury vacations.
If you’re on your way up on Wall Street, you can’t not go to the holiday party. A no-show gets labeled “not a team player,” “elitist,” or “apathetic.”
Still, I wanted to be that cool sophomore. The one who makes the varsity team, dates an upperclassman, and gets invited to senior parties. So the holiday party was a big night for me… I wanted to show off my weekend charm, dance moves, and swagger. Plus, I had few real skills other than networking, so this was a perfect opportunity to show off my smooth-talking abilities.
It started well. But I should have passed on the last shot of tequila…
I was talking with a group of back office guys when I felt it coming up. To my left was a group of managing directors. To my right, there were several female partygoers. So I bent down like I was tying my shoes. And then it happened, all over the circle of shoes standing around me.
I bounced back up and smiled. How could I pass this off?
“Did you just puke?”
I had to think fast. If this got out, I was done.
“I’ll buy you all lunch tomorrow if you don’t say anything,” I said.
At this point, the five guys were looking at me in disgust and reaching for napkins to wipe off their shoes. I begged. I told them they could order from any place they wanted, even Stage Deli – home to oversized and expensive triple-decker sandwiches. But if I heard one whisper about me puking, no one would get a free lunch.
It worked. But as it happened, I didn’t need to swear them to silence.
Instead, the only thing anyone could talk about for the rest of the night… the next morning… and the following week was a young analyst from Yale named Phil.
Phil thought it was a bright idea to grab a managing director’s breasts. Through the next year, Phil would come up in conversation. And even at the next holiday party, it was like it just happened.
Every time I heard it, I knew that the story could have been me puking on five coworker’s shoes. It was close…
A little later that night, I was at the bar talking to a girl named Michelle. She was the assistant to one of the managing directors on the floor. She was sweet, honest, and had no business working on Wall Street. She looked at me curiously, then wiped off my tie. “You got bean dip there,” she said. She grabbed a napkin from the bar and wiped her wet hands from the bean dip. I smiled. She smiled back. “I love bean dip too,” she said.
Of course, if you’re on your way up on Wall Street, you can’t not go to the holiday party. A no-show gets labeled “not a team player,” “elitist,” or “apathetic.”
To make the night easier, I’ve come up with a list of “don’ts”…
1. Don’t wear a Santa hat or bring mistletoe.
2. Don’t be the guy who suggests doing shots
If you feel the need to do shots, find the “drunk guy” and plant the seed into his head… “Wow can you believe 50 Cent got shot eight times,” and “You know my favorite line from Deer Hunter is? ‘You have to think about one shot; one shot is what it’s all about.’” It’s like the Jedi mind trick… he’ll be screaming “shots for everyone” in no time, and you can act like you’re the poor guy stuck next to “drunk guy.”
3. Don’t do dances from the video game Fortnite.
4. Don’t use a stall if a managing director is in the bathroom with you. I don’t care how bad you have to go, pretend you need to wash your hands, hang out near the exit, and then wait for him/her to leave. Otherwise, they’ll assume you are doing cocaine.
5. Don’t hit on a coworker. I promise you, not worth it.
After all, if you don’t eat the forbidden fruit, you will be that much more desirable when you do resign… especially if you go to the buy side. Save the fling at your current company for the first six months when you start at a new firm.
6. Don’t bring your American Express Black Card unless you intend on using it.
7. Don’t dance to the Divinyls “I Touch Myself” or to the Black Eyed Peas “My Humps.” If you can’t control your sex appeal when dancing, stick to a ballad. Try to slow it down. The slower the song, the classier.
And if you plan to do the “Keyser Soze”… You know, limping out of the bar when no one is looking after the first hour and then hitting a full sprint when you reach the sidewalk… There a few things you need to do first.
• Find the professional photographer and make sure you are in three completely different shots. Pick three random groups of people and smile wide.
• Walk around the party several times asking people if they’ve seen so and so. Make it like you are always looking for someone, preferably someone who didn’t show up. Keep moving around the room. Be seen.
• Dance twice, have a drink at the bar, stand near the buffet, and act like you are having a blast. Then escape.
• And please use the Drunk Employment Regression Analysis model… For each year employed at your firm, you can slide the drunk scale from 1-10. If it’s your first year, you’re probably looking at about three beers maximum. By year five, you can switch to hard liquor.
Be careful out there this December. Nothing good comes from being the life of the office party.
Turney Duff is a former trader at one of the biggest hedge funds in the world, the Galleon Group, where its founder and several Galleon employees were found guilty of insider trading. Turney rose through the ranks and then fell prey to the trappings of Wall Street: money, sex, drugs, alcohol, and power. Turney chronicles his spectacular rise and fall in his bestselling book, The Buy Side: A Wall Street Trader’s Tale of Spectacular Excess.