(p. B1) In 1993, Ray Dalio, the chairman of what is today the largest hedge fund in the world, Bridgewater Associates, received a memo signed by his top three lieutenants that was startlingly honest in its assessment of him.
It was a performance review of sorts, and not in a good way. After mentioning his positive attributes, they spelled out the negatives. “Ray sometimes says or does things to employees which makes them feel incompetent, unnecessary, humiliated, overwhelmed, belittled, pressed or otherwise bad,” the memo read. “If he doesn’t manage people well, growth will be stunted and we will all be affected.”
To Mr. Dalio, the message was both devastating and a wake-up call. His reaction: “Ugh. That hurt and surprised me.”
That moment helped push Mr. Dalio to rethink how he approached people and to begin developing a unique — and sometimes controversial — culture inside his firm, one based on a series of “principles” that place the idea of “radical transparency” above virtually all else.
. . .
(p. B5) Of course, the larger question is whether Mr. Dalio’s version of utopia — a place where employees feel comfortable offering blunt and in some cases brutal feedback — can exist outside Bridgewater’s controlled environment of mostly self-selecting individuals who either embrace the philosophy or quickly exit. Given the intense environment, as you might expect, there are horror stories of employees who have left in tears. Turnover among new employees is high.
Mr. Dalio’s critics — and there are many — say his principles offer permission to be verbally barbaric, and they question whether the $160 billion firm’s success is a product of such “radical transparency” or whether he can afford such a wide-ranging social experiment simply because the firm is so financially successful.
In truth, it is hard to imagine how harsh individual critiques in the workplace can work at many other organizations in today’s polarized and litigious world, where people are increasingly looking for “safe spaces” and those who say they are offended by a particular argument are derided as “fragile snowflakes.”
For the full commentary, see:
Sorkin, Andrew Ross. “DEALBOOK; Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio Dives Deeper Into the ‘Principles’ of Tough Love.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Sept. 5, 2017): B1 & B5.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 4, 2017, and has the title, “DEALBOOK; Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio Dives Deeper Into the ‘Principles’ of Tough Love.” )
The Dalio book, discussed above, is:
Dalio, Ray. Principles: Life and Work. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017.