After two years at McKinsey and a decade of following the firm since, here’s my personal takeaway: McKinsey is filled with good people and problematic values.
As individuals, my colleagues at McKinsey cared deeply about making the world a better place. Most served on nonprofit boards and gave generously to philanthropic causes. They treated others around them with sincere respect—especially those who had less money or power.
And, when given the chance, colleagues jumped at the opportunity to serve on projects that had a social or environmental dimension, even when it meant their career growth at the firm might be slightly slower.
But when we served traditional clients in the secrecy of our confidential relationships, one value prevailed: the client’s interests.
In recent months, we have seen the human toll of this strict adherence to clients’ interests, as numerous investigative news stories have shown how these interests compelled the firm to recommend cutting spending on food for migrants and accelerate the sales of opioids.