Trading Coach: Maybe your problem is you

Mon Oct 15, 2012

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Denise Shull on looking in the mirror.


DEAR DENISE:

I've reached my limit and I just have got to ask: Isn't running money supposed to be a meritocracy? Would you even believe me if I told you that the highest performing PM in my fund is getting treated like dirt?

Well believe me, because it is me! I don't know if someone is jealous or if I pissed off the Gods but in the span of six months, I've had two of my best analysts pulled from me, my windowed office now belongs to a sycophant, and getting more capital feels just like it did back when I had a few mil and a short track record.

Last year I was up 11% and this year I'm tracking at 16%. The firm, however, is mired in the mid-single digits. What is going on here? More importantly, what should I do?

--Persecuted Point Man

Dear PPM:

You are absolutely right! This makes NO sense!

Nevertheless, you've got two choices: Figure out who doesn't like you and ask straight away to discuss it with them...or leave. With the first, prepare yourself to hear things you vehemently disagree with. This won't be easy but you are trying to decode others' perception of you and this takes a resolve against defensiveness (i.e., don't look or act like Obama in his first debate).

Truthfully, however, I'd also like to know if you have ever felt this way before. Is the experience familiar or repetitive in any way? Did you perform the best on your basketball team but not always get invited for beer? If so, consider that what's called "projection" is involved. This is when we feel a certain way but believe the other person feels that way. Rarely do we realize we are accusing others of feeling how we feel. We then act on our misperception and in turn indeed induce others to treat us how we unconsciously want to treat them. I know, it gets a little confusing. But if you were honest with yourself, are there people--your CIO for instance--whom if you had your way you would be pushing out of the corner office?

Once you've acquired more intel--on them and on yourself--you've got to ask yourself, is this fixable?

Clearly merit counts more in some places than others. The human brain is a very social thing. So-called cultural fit can surreptitiously  trump every other factor. My guess is, in the end, the only plausible solution is to find a firm where a number of eccentrics coexist. This will prove that performance counts most and you will be a lot happier.

Denise

Readers are invited to write to trading coach Denise Shull, a recognized expert in risk psychology and author of Market Mind Games. Send questions to editorial@absolutereturn.net.

See also: Newly-minted PM asks "What's the point?" -  Avoiding afternoon impotence -  When the shadow boxes back