How Mike Bloomberg's 'first guy in' management style drives a 'cult-like' work culture - and a $62 billion fortune
- Billionaire Mike Bloomberg will contend with other Democratic presidential candidates today at the Nevada caucus.
- Bloomberg founded his namesake company in 1981, after getting fired from the investment bank Salomon Brothers.
- In numerous interviews, Bloomberg said he attributes his success to his work ethic. Many employees said they worked 11-hour days at Bloomberg LP.
- Bloomberg also tended to demand a "cult-like" loyalty from his employees, one that may have led to a toxic culture for women.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
At the Nevada Democratic presidential debate, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said he deserves his money because he "worked really hard for it."
Whether he deserves his money or not varies by who you ask, but Bloomberg did, in fact, work hard. Maybe too hard.
In interviews, Bloomberg has credited his success to his tireless work ethic. He said he routinely worked 10-plus hours a day, six days a week, and expected the same out of his employees. In one 2011 interview, he encouraged employees not to "take a lunch break or go to the bathroom," as they might miss important opportunities at work.
Like other CEOs, Bloomberg has adopted a leadership style that influenced how he managed his staff, both at his company and in City Hall. Bloomberg LP reportedly brought in $10 billion in revenue in 2019.
In addition to overworking himself and his team, Bloomberg has said he was always focused on ensuring his company could adapt to changes in the market. Former employees have said the mogul created a "cult-like" culture at Bloomberg LP, which included widespread sexual harassment.
"I just don't have anything in common with people that sit there and say, 'Oh my God it's over,'" Bloomberg said in a 2014 interview when asked to give advice to struggling entrepreneurs. "Get on with it and start another business the next day."
Bloomberg's key to success: outwork the competition.
Since entering the workforce, Bloomberg's secret to success has been to outwork the competition. He began his career by landing a job as a bond trader at the investment bank Salomon Brothers after he graduated from Harvard Business School in 1966.
During his 15-year stint at Salomon, Bloomberg proceeded to head equities before becoming the firm's chief of information systems, according to an interview he did with The New York Times in 1999. He wrote in his 2001 book, "Bloomberg by Bloomberg," that he worked 12-hour days and 6-day weeks at Salomon.
In an interview with Fast Company in 1997, Bloomberg claimed to have been the "first guy in and the last guy to leave" the Salomon Brothers office. Working late led Bloomberg to develop relationships with people in higher management levels than him, he said, allowing him to quickly rise the ranks.
"I'm not smarter than anybody else, but I can outwork you," Bloomberg told TechCrunch in 2011. "My key to success for you, for anybody else, is to make sure you're the first one there every day and the last one to leave. Don't ever take a lunch break or go to the bathroom. You never know when the opportunity is gonna come along."
The US workforce suffers from high rates of burnout, or the clinical syndrome caused by work-related stress. The country is notorious for offering very few federal protections guaranteeing paid leave for employees. Sleep deprivation, a symptom of burnout, has been linked to cancers, weight gain, and impaired memory.
Employees described Bloomberg's company culture as "cult-like" in the loyalty he required from his team.
Bloomberg brought his tendency to overwork himself to his company. He began by creating the Bloomberg terminal, a system that provides traders with real-time financial data, the day after he got fired from Salomon in 1981, he wrote in "Bloomberg by Bloomberg."
Similar to Bloomberg's hours at Salomon, his company's employees told The Times they typically spent 11 hours working a day. "He is also an obsessive worker, and numerous employees complain of a punishing work schedule," Times reporters Felicity Barringer and Geraldine Fabrikant wrote of the media mogul.
In 2001, employees described "Bloomberg culture" to Michael Wolff, a New York Magazine columnist: a company that thrived off working long hours and staying loyal to its namesake leader.
"When I joined Bloomberg Financial Markets, I wondered if I had inadvertently joined a religious sect, such was the dedication of the employees to its founder, and their enthusiasm for the company," a former executive named Elizabeth DeMarse, appearing as E. DeM, wrote in "The Portable Bloomberg," a book workers gifted to the media mogul.
The 1990 book, republished in full on Insider, included crude jokes Bloomberg reportedly made. (Bloomberg's representatives told Insider he "may or may not" have said these jokes.)
Bloomberg LP's "cult-like" culture has a dark side. A Business Insider investigation revealed that many former employees have accused Bloomberg of creating a toxic work culture for women, and many have filed lawsuits over sexual harassment.
"When Mike says outrageous things, it's sort of a test," DeMarse, told Wolff. "It's a loyalty test. It's a bonding thing when everyone laughs. You stop thinking that it might be inappropriate."
As mayor, Bloomberg strove for near perfection from his staff.
Upon taking over as New York City mayor in 2002, Bloomberg's strategy was to hire the most capable experts for his team, regardless of political affiliation.
In "The Many Lives of Michael Bloomberg," author and former New York Times reporter Eleanor Randolph wrote that Bloomberg, who was elected as a centrist Republican, didn't care to fill his staff with like-minded politicians. He even kept on staff from his predecessor Rudy Giuliani's tenure to head the fire department and transportation commission.
Like at Bloomberg LP, the mayor demanded his staff work grueling hours, according to Randolph. He reportedly assigned strict deadlines to his proposals, and reportedly demanded his staff work seven days a week to meet them. The mayor installed a count-down clock during his second term to encourage staff to work faster.
Bloomberg was also an early adopter of the open office. He "thrived in the clatter of his open workroom," Randolph wrote. He preferred to have conversations on sensitive matters in public, she added, where his staff could see him.
The open workspace allowed him to occasionally spy on his staff's working habits. Infamously, Bloomberg once fired a city worker for playing solitaire on the job.
"Bloomberg let it be known he liked strong personalities," Randolph wrote. "He wanted people who would move fast, far beyond the comfort level of the city's workforce."
Ultimately, Bloomberg believed his company's success was tied to how quickly it could adapt to change.
In "Bloomberg by Bloomberg," the mogul described feeling betrayed after he got fired from Salomon after 15 years at the company.
But his disappointment was short-lived. The night he received the boot, Bloomberg said, he drank a bottle of champagne with his wife at the time, and he got to work on building the Bloomberg terminal the next day.
Bloomberg extended his ability to adapt to change and adversity to his time as a CEO. He told The Times in 1999 that he believed few companies survive market cycles and new technological advancement.
''I can guarantee you that if we don't keep changing, innovating, giving our customers more for their money, we will not survive,'' he said.
Quickly adapting to market volatility makes for a prudent CEO. But as president, Bloomberg may need to prepare to lead a divided Congress - and country - resistant to sudden change.
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