The Cultural Fit Polarity

All human beings have privileges and all human beings have oppressions. The issue is not that they don’t exist, it is some people can’t process the fact that you can experience both simultaneously. Privileges include things like racial privilege, able bodiedness, gender identity, education level, financial privilege, socio-economic privilege etc. Oppressions include things like racial oppression (especially for non-whites), gender identity, disability, educational, socioeconomic status, etc. Are you starting to pick up what I am putting down? No, let me elaborate.

Our privileges and oppressions manifest daily in our cultures and create a process for the expectations we create around the performance and presence at work. Usually it is the presence of privilege and the absence of oppressions that impacts whether or not a company’s culture is inclusive or exclusive of certain populations. In fairness, all companies have a culture. Usually the culture is meant to be inclusive but due to unconscious exclusion we are finding out it doesn’t always work out that way. In unfairness, these cultures sometimes consciously and unconsciously exclude populations, especially if those populations are not at the table during the formation of the expectations that create said culture.

Culture translates into many facets in our company: our missions, visions, values, strategic plans, hiring and firing processes, and especially in our recruitment process. Culture has a polarity, the exclusive versus the inclusive culture. Inclusive cultures are built around equality and equity for current employees, incoming employees, and job candidates. Inclusive cultures build, evolve, and grow along with the employees in the workplace. Exclusive cultures build the culture first and then expect employees to fit into it.

The idea that we are looking for a certain candidate profile can be both a pro and con depending on which side of the inclusive or exclusive polarity your company exist. For example, if your company practices or perpetuating homogeneity of race, ability, gender identity, communication style, sexual orientation etc, you are probably shifting more towards the exclusion part of the polarity. If this is the case, you should probably incorporate an equity lens to check the following:

  • Recruitment practices
  • Company language
  • Hiring processes and decisions
  • Performance reviews that impact promotion processes and decisions

Culture fit is flawed because it represents assimilation and lives on the exclusive side of the polarity. What it says to a candidate is that if you think differently, act differently, and look differently from a majority of our culture, this is not the place for you. Your company should be practicing cultural addition. A process that looks for people to bring in their identities and is willing to create policies and practices that allow those to exist on an equitable career trajectory.

To practice cultural addition ask this question, “Does this candidate truly fit the current and future needs of this role and this organization?” If the answer is yes, that’s great. An interviewer or panel must also consider, “Is this person different from me/us? Will they bring new perspectives and experiences to the company?” If not, why you must have a very difficult conversation to understand how you collectively came to this decision and whose voice is missing in the process.

I hope that this article will spark an initiative to begin redefining culture in your company.

Dr. Cheryl Ingram aka Dr. CI, is a very successful entrepreneur, blogger, content creator and expert of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices.

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