Wall Streeters are cursing and complaining in company chats about their WFH situations, and it could be a sign bad behavior is around the corner

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  • Wall Street employees have been more stressed than usual while working from home, which could lead to compliance breaches as frustrations continue to rise.
  • Behavox, a New York startup that uses artificial intelligence to suss out rogue activity among employees, has seen a 10 to 20% uptick in negative sentiment among customers that use its platform. 
  • NabeelEbrahim, the chief revenue officer of Behavox, told Business Insider that an increase in red flags for conduct is typically a leading indicator of future misbehavior.
  • Family responsibilities, unrelenting bosses, and working in a less professional environment has led to employees using inappropriate language and criticizing coworkers more often, Ebrahim said. 
  • Click her for more BI Prime stories.

Shaky internet connections, demanding bosses, and close quarters with in-laws have Wall Street employees stressed about their work-from-home situations, and one expert believes it’s a sign bad behavior could be afoot.

Some have pitched the opportunity to work remotely as a silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic. Employees at financial firms known for long, grueling workdays get a chance to spend more time with their family while working from the comfort of their own homes.

However, one startup that helps companies monitor employee conversations has seen workers show signs of increasing stress and negativity about their situations.

Behavox, a New York startup that uses artificial intelligence to suss out rogue activity among employees, has seen a 10 to 20% uptick in negative sentiments — from explicit language to complaints about coworkers — from customers using the platform since work-from-home orders were put in place.

Nabeel Ebrahim, the chief revenue officer of Behavox, told Business Insider that an increase in red flags for conduct is typically a leading indicator of misbehavior.

“When there’s an uptick in inappropriate language or stressful sentiment or negative sentiment, it means things aren’t going according to plan,” he said. “And typically you then start seeing some of these compliance breaches following.”

Ebrahim said Behavox, which received a $100 million investment in February from SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2, categorizes the increases into three main camps.

First is the stress around dealing with family while working from home. Whether it’s children, spouses, or the difficulty of working in a space that likely has more noise and distractions than a typical office, employees can be found voicing frustration.

Mothers-in-law, in particular, were the subject of many complaints, Ebrahim said.

“As you can imagine, for people with kids, all of a sudden having your kids at home and home schooling them was a real shift in the way a lot of people have been living their lives,” he added. “People just complaining about their family situations.”

Next, Ebrahim said complaints about supervisors were also on the rise. Much of it stemmed from people who were upset their managers didn’t seem to understand their job was proving more difficult under the circumstances. There was a clear misalignment, he added, between reality and what managers were expecting.

A big part of the issue, Ebrahim said, was employees feeling their businesses’ continuity plans weren’t up to snuff, leaving them without the proper equipment to do their job. That was coupled with some managers unwilling to relax quotas thanks to predictions about the economy making a V-shaped recovery.

The internal gossip and complaints aren’t completely alarming. However, Ebrahim said the real issue was employees voicing their anger to friends or acquaintances at other companies.

“When I start seeing it between someone internal to someone external, that’s when I know that we’ve got a problem on our hands,” he said. “If I’m sending it to someone external, there’s nothing stopping them from giving it to someone else and saying, ‘Oh, this is the situation at XYZ company.'”

Finally, Ebrahim said working from home has also led to a relaxation from some employees about the language they use, which has led to an increase in instances of sexist and misogynistic comments.

While Wall Street has taken steps to diversify its ranks, Ebrahim said that as a result of their new surroundings, some employees have felt comfortable reverting to “bro language.”

Further complicating the matter has been the market downturn. Had people been working from home during a bull market, they might have been more likely to enjoy themselves and complain less. 

“The fact my profit margins got wiped out, my taking got wiped out — they start thinking, ‘Are we going to make the commission we thought we were going to make this year?'” Ebrahim said. “When you start seeing that negative sentiment creeping in, then you start seeing people trying to cut corners.”

To be sure, Ebrahim said Behavox has yet to see an uptick in malicious behavior. In recent weeks, there have been a handful of compliance breaches at some customers, but they’ve all been identified as genuine mistakes, as opposed to the employee taking part in unscrupulous behavior. 

Still, Ebrahim said there was a “100%” chance we will see a rise in compliance issues that bad actors intended.

“A market like this is also ripe for opportunity,” he added. “You’re definitely going to be seeing a lot more of the creativity and the malicious intent as things continue to get tighter and tighter.”

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