The Two Words That Terrify Junior Employees
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The Two Words That Terrify Junior Employees

Curt notes sent by higher-ups wreck weekends and family time; ‘Until you’ve gotten that 10 p.m. ‘pls fix,’ you just don’t get it’

Tue, Oct 11, 2022 8:46amGrey Clock 4 min

Picture this: It’s 9 p.m. and your workday is finally winding down. You, a professional in your 20s or 30s, haven’t heard from your manager in a few hours. Things are looking good as you start closing out dozens of tabs and spreadsheets, hoping to shut the laptop and take a few hours after dark for yourself. Suddenly, a ping.

A “pls fix” email.

“Until you’ve gotten that 10 p.m. ‘pls fix,’ you just don’t get it,” says Amelia Noël, a former consultant and investment banker turned career coach.

“Pls fix” is shorthand for a curt note from someone up the chain—and is a phrase that has become a phenomenon among corporate stiffs in certain high-pressure fields. The buzzword has spawned “pls fix” merchandise, and made it into the Urban Dictionary, which defines “pls fix” as a frequent email reply from a boss in consulting or finance that “more accurately translates: ‘fix this ASAP and don’t F$%^& up again.’”

The text might vary—“please action” or “make better”—and the notes tend to come with little instructions. (What the heck needs fixing?) But the message generally translates to: stop what you’re doing to send the 39th version of a PowerPoint slide to your boss.

“If you get that email, it’s expected to get turned over by the time your managing director gets back into the office the next morning,” says John Senkarik, a 39-year-old business analyst, who says he recently got a pls fix message while at a cabin with his family. As his children played nearby, Mr. Senkarik stepped outside to a back porch to work through the assignment, which took about two hours.

Few things panic young professionals like getting the notes. On Instagram and TikTok, they share snapshots and stories of receiving “pls fix” emails at all hours and on vacation, while at bars, at the gym, by pools, on trains, slopeside at ski resorts, or as they are boarding a flight. A podcast called “Pls Fix Thx!,” which started early in the pandemic, talks about “modern-day fads and trends that leave us feeling overwhelmed, drained and burned out.”

Sanchit Wadhawan, a 25-year-old consultant who lives in Atlanta, is one of the podcast’s hosts and knows the terrain well. One Friday evening, he was planning to watch Netflix with his parents at the end of a long week. He was about to close his computer when he saw an urgent instant message from his manager.

He received a draft PowerPoint with about 50 slides—a compilation of several files formatted in different styles. Mr. Wadhawan needed to make the font uniform and ensure the color was consistent throughout, and he needed to do it right away.

“You can’t put weird fonts in front of a client,” he says.

At the office, many workers are dialling back efforts and reporting lower levels of engagement. But consultants and bankers—who have tended to be corporate climbers terrified of the “out” part of “up or out”—are still leaning into the grind.

To be ready to respond to a “pls fix,” Ms. Noël, the former consultant and banker, would lug her laptop to brunch and bars. She took it on a Christmas carriage ride in Central Park with her family, and regularly charted her running routes to stay within a 15-minute radius of her laptop.

Those few seconds between double-clicking on the email attachment and understanding the scope of the assignment held a special dread. Was this a few quick wording changes to a slide deck? Did she need to rerun an entire data analysis? Was this going to blow up her night?

Close readers of The BOG—a satirical internal newsletter at Boston Consulting Group—will find Easter eggs in the copy referencing “pls fix.” In one, The BOG writers joked that high-level managing directors and partners speak certain languages conversationally including: Please fix, arreglalo porfa, and correggilo per favore. (The newsletter’s writers declined to comment.)

Susan Grimbilas, global head of human resources at BCG, says consulting has always required late-night work, but in-person feedback can be more meaningful. A “pls fix” email can feel transactional in a remote setting, especially without much instruction about why something needs to change, she added.

BCG teaches managing directors and partners about giving more effective feedback, she says. Still, if a presentation’s numbers don’t square, she adds, “I don’t care what time it is or where you are—you’re going to have to make sure your numbers make sense.”

Alex Raines, 29, who lives in Austin, knew about the “pls fix” culture when he started as a data-analytics consultant last year.

Before he began, he rewrote the lyrics to “Lose Yourself” by Eminem and posted it on LinkedIn, in a homage to his chosen field.

“His arms are heavy, knees weak, palms are sweaty / There’s coffee on his vest already, spilled his Yeti / He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to pls fix, but he keeps forgetting the right deck.”

Litquidity, known for finance-related memes, sells a “pls fix, thx” mug for $15 and a ball cap for $35. Crazy Mgmt Consultants, a meme account on Instagram, sells a “pls fix”-themed ugly Christmas sweater for $45 and baby onesies for $25 reading: “Daddy and Mommy, Pls fix my milk ASAP, thx. Sent from my iPad.”

Some managers send “pls fix” emails, but urge recipients not to pull an all-nighter, as Mohak Mehta, a New York-based consultant, says he does for his direct reports. Sometimes he says he tells them to “time box” an assignment. (That’s consultant-speak for seeing how much can be done in 10 minutes, or an hour, and then leaving it until the next day.)

Still, Mr. Mehta says many young professionals in finance and consulting are high achievers, and ignore his instructions and work late anyway in pursuit of a perfect final product.

“At the end of the day,” he says, “that’s what clients are trying to pay you for.”


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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Why Prices of the World’s Most Expensive Handbags Keep Rising

Designers are charging more for their most recognisable bags to maintain the appearance of exclusivity as the industry balloons

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The price of a basic Hermès Birkin handbag has jumped $1,000. This first-world problem for fashionistas is a sign that luxury brands are playing harder to get with their most sought-after products.

Hermès recently raised the cost of a basic Birkin 25-centimeter handbag in its U.S. stores by 10% to $11,400 before sales tax, according to data from luxury handbag forum PurseBop. Rarer Birkins made with exotic skins such as crocodile have jumped more than 20%. The Paris brand says it only increases prices to offset higher manufacturing costs, but this year’s increase is its largest in at least a decade.

The brand may feel under pressure to defend its reputation as the maker of the world’s most expensive handbags. The “Birkin premium”—the price difference between the Hermès bag and its closest competitor , the Chanel Classic Flap in medium—shrank from 70% in 2019 to 2% last year, according to PurseBop founder Monika Arora. Privately owned Chanel has jacked up the price of its most popular handbag by 75% since before the pandemic.

Eye-watering price increases on luxury brands’ benchmark products are a wider trend. Prada ’s Galleria bag will set shoppers back a cool $4,600—85% more than in 2019, according to the Wayback Machine internet archive. Christian Dior ’s Lady Dior bag and the Louis Vuitton Neverfull are both 45% more expensive, PurseBop data show.

With the U.S. consumer-price index up a fifth since 2019, luxury brands do need to offset higher wage and materials costs. But the inflation-beating increases are also a way to manage the challenge presented by their own success: how to maintain an aura of exclusivity at the same time as strong sales.

Luxury brands have grown enormously in recent years, helped by the Covid-19 lockdowns, when consumers had fewer outlets for spending. LVMH ’s fashion and leather goods division alone has almost doubled in size since 2019, with €42.2 billion in sales last year, equivalent to $45.8 billion at current exchange rates. Gucci, Chanel and Hermès all make more than $10 billion in sales a year. One way to avoid overexposure is to sell fewer items at much higher prices.

Many aspirational shoppers can no longer afford the handbags, but luxury brands can’t risk alienating them altogether. This may explain why labels such as Hermès and Prada have launched makeup lines and Gucci’s owner Kering is pushing deeper into eyewear. These cheaper categories can be a kind of consolation prize. They can also be sold in the tens of millions without saturating the market.

“Cosmetics are invisible—unless you catch someone applying lipstick and see the logo, you can’t tell the brand,” says Luca Solca, luxury analyst at Bernstein.

Most of the luxury industry’s growth in 2024 will come from price increases. Sales are expected to rise by 7% this year, according to Bernstein estimates, even as brands only sell 1% to 2% more stuff.

Limiting volume growth this way only works if a brand is so popular that shoppers won’t balk at climbing prices and defect to another label. Some companies may have pushed prices beyond what consumers think they are worth. Sales of Prada’s handbags rose a meagre 1% in its last quarter and the group’s cheaper sister label Miu Miu is growing faster.

Ramping up prices can invite unflattering comparisons. At more than $2,000, Burberry ’s small Lola bag is around 40% more expensive today than it was a few years ago. Luxury shoppers may decide that tried and tested styles such as Louis Vuitton’s Neverfull bag, which is now a little cheaper than the Burberry bag, are a better buy—especially as Louis Vuitton bags hold their value better in the resale market.

Aggressive price increases can also drive shoppers to secondhand websites. If a barely used Prada Galleria bag in excellent condition can be picked up for $1,500 on luxury resale website The Real Real, it is less appealing to pay three times that amount for the bag brand new.

The strategy won’t help everyone, but for the best luxury brands, stretching the price spectrum can keep the risks of growth in check.


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