Julius Baer is the latest Swiss bank to settle with United States justice and tax authorities over an investigation that revealed its active participation in a scheme with wealthy American clients to avoid taxes. Were this an isolated incident, one could chalk it up to greedy bankers and self-centered multimillionaires—the former for the hefty fees, the latter for the hefty fortunes. Yet this is merely the latest in ongoing investigations. Even if we were not in our current age of omnipresent—and, to be sure, omnipotent—electronic financial trails and travails, why do some people still consider integrity a human trait best left to our society’s do-gooders? Why can clean balance sheets still not be taken for granted, if only because they are so difficult to hide nowadays, let alone because tax fraud is hardly a victimless crime?
In just five days, when December 20th comes to a close, autumn leaves and we brace for winter. How many of us remember the start of 2015 as though it took place a mere few months ago? Then multiply that feeling by 10 and a decade has passed. How easy it is to forego an extra hour for Law & Order, a further hour for Judge Judy, confident that the time could well be made up tomorrow, next month, next year…. Fill in the blanks for any activity that stretches a bit too far and the hours add up like credit-card interest, unable to be recouped and ultimately a waste.
To be sure, those few extra hours in bed or relaxing in front of the browser, cup of tea in hand while nursing a cold, or that two-week vacation in Paris or Prague after an intense and productive period of work, are both wise and rejuvenating. Yet day to day, this extra 10 minutes here or that 15 minutes there can add up to hours each day, dozens each week and hundreds beyond.
Self-esteem in the workplace can be both healthy and productive, as it points to self-respect and confidence in one’s abilities. Lawyers, for example, having gone to four years of college and three of law school before passing a rigorous bar exam, not only have reason to be confident but in fact must be, given the competition and stakes involved. Doctors require years more training with life and its quality at stake. Executive assistants need to be highly organized and efficient. Insurance salesmen must be well versed in the often-arcane byways of life, home, auto, health and disability. The same parameters of individualized excellence apply to a thousand other professions, which lead to promotions, salary increases, personal fulfillment and positive societal contributions.
Yet why does the ego so often cross the line from benefit to baseness? S. Mark Young, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, points out that “narcissists may do the most damage at the top, but they can disrupt workplaces at all levels. They possess very little empathy and have grandiose views of themselves, leading to feelings of entitlement and a constant need for admiration. Narcissists are cutthroat and scheming; they tend to dominate the conversation and will do just about anything to be the center of attention, even if it’s negative attention.”