Workplace Culture and Hiring for Politics
- Steve Williamson, VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.
- Monday, January 29, 2024
Would you ignore an otherwise well-qualified candidate because they hold a political view different than your own? Do all your employees seem to have the same social worldview?
Identity politics is a very real thing. We draw conclusions about someone's entire worldview based on a bumpersticker we see on their car or the kind of clothes they wear.
We draw broad conclusions about that person based on single data points. We know nothing about their personal history, their education or career experience, or any number of significant aspects of what makes that person an individual once we've quickly and unilaterally decided they're "one of them."
This flawed classification of others extends to the working world, too.
The propensity to categorize others based on little information (stereotyping) is unfortunately a common human characteristic.
Hanging out with people who share your beliefs and perspective about politics, religion, or just about any other broad social viewpoint is common. It's downright understandable, in fact. It's hard to be chums if you don't seem to have anything in common.
Common ground is something we seek by default. If you are traveling abroad in a country that speaks a different language, and suddenly you hear a voice in the crowd speaking your native tongue, your head will be on a swivel trying to spot them. That's a natural and understandable reaction that represents our desire to seek the comfort of familiarity.
But what happens when this drive for familiarity inadvertently (or quite intentionally) shapes the culture of your workplace? Is there a downside to everyone on your team sharing the same politics?
Consider this question, and give it some honest thought.
Would you rather work with someone who shares your political views but is only mediocre at their job, or would you rather work with someone who is a rock star in their role but voted for someone else during the last election?
Before you answer, consider this. There are several unconscious biases at play in this scenario that influences just about everyone at some point. Considering these biases are unconscious, you're likely unaware they are at play.
The first and perhaps most common is Confirmation Bias. We are drawn to things, people or behaviors that are similar to our own choices because they subconsciously affirm or validate us. If you see someone wearing similar clothes or driving the same car as you, it will make you feel validated because someone else made the same choice.
There's an old adage that says you should dress like the person who can promote you. This is a Jedi mind trick that actually has some truth to it. It works because the person who can promote you will feel validated in their choice of wardrobe without even realizing it.
If you see someone in a crowd wearing the same t-shirt you got at a rock concert back in high school, you're likely going to think more highly of them before you've even met. That's Confirmation Bias at work.
If you interview three candidates for an open role at your company, all equally qualified but one has the political stickers on the back of their truck that matches your own, guess which one you will subconsciously prefer over the others?
What's the downside to hiring people who share your views?
Creating an homogenous workplace culture has some potentially huge downsides.
On the plus side, you have a group of people who all seem to share the same world view as you, at least outwardly. That feels nice because it's comfortable. You won't feel challenged. They're chums.
But, you may be victim of the unconscious bias called the Bandwagon Effect.
From our article, "Challenging Cognitive Biases in Hiring":
"The probability of one person adopting a belief increases based on the number of people who hold that belief. It is a form of groupthink, and it can be exacerbated when a person of organizational seniority or power expresses a preference for one candidate over others in a hiring committee. The rest of the group can feel reluctant to hold or express differing views or preferences. Some organizations have taken the bold step of removing the hiring manager from the interview phase to ensure that only objective, unbiased opinions are gathered and considered."
Perhaps the biggest downside to hiring only those with similar worldviews is you will exclude candidates who are supremely qualified and well-suited to the role because you instead gave preference to those who's top qualification is similarity in viewpoint.
Congratulations on building a team of buddies instead of rock star employees.
Did you know that a lack of diversity in your team costs you money?
Companies with diverse employee hiring practices are more profitable than their more homogenous competitors. This cost-benefit doesn't just apply to the factory floor, either. Companies with more diverse executive teams also have higher revenue and profit.
There is no decision you can make as a business or team leader more impactful than who you hire. Your team's success or failure will directly impact your overall organization's success or failure.
Considering that, do you really want to make such an important business decision based on who the candidate voted for during the last election?
Go to eRep.com/core-values-index/ to learn more about the CVI or to take the Core Values Index assessment.
Innovator/Banker - VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.
Steve has a career in project management, software development and technical team leadership spanning three decades. He is the author of a series of fantasy novels called The Taesian Chronicles (ruckerworks.com), and when he isn't writing, he enjoys cycling, old-school table-top role-playing games, and buzzing around the virtual skies in his home-built flight simulator.
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