The Dangers of Hiring for Cultural Fit

Employers often aim to hire people they think will be a good fit, but their efforts can easily veer into a ditch where new hires all look, think and act alike

What happens when a boss tries to foster a more inviting workplace, but not everyone feels invited?

Employers often aim to hire people they think will be a good “cultural fit,” with attributes that will mesh with a company’s goals and values. But their efforts can easily veer into a ditch where new hires all look, think and act alike. That’s bad for anyone who cares about an office with a mix of races, genders and points of view.

“What most people mean by culture fit is hiring people they’d like to have a beer with,” says Patty McCord, a human-resources consultant and former chief talent officer at Netflix. “You end up with this big, homogenous culture where everybody looks alike, everybody thinks alike, and everybody likes drinking beer at 3 o’clock in the afternoon with the bros,” she says.

Human-resources consultant Patty McCord says some employers err in trying to attract top talent by offering such frills as office ping pong or the latest craft beer. PHOTO: DEVI PRIDE

An alluring culture is a coveted prize in today’s tight labor market, surging to first from fifth place in the last five years as the most important factor in recruiting top talent, according to a 2018 Korn Ferry survey of 1,100 hiring managers. But there’s a difference between cultural frills like office ping pong and craft beer, and deeper ones that mean more. To employees, it means loving a job for more than just the paycheck. And to employers, it means employees will keep working hard even when no one is watching.

Making a good match can be difficult. In a pattern researchers call looking-glass merit, hirers tend to look for traits in candidates that make them feel good about themselves. These may be more nuanced than race or gender. A manager who got bad grades as a college freshman is likely to warm to an applicant who also got off to a rough start, research shows. Or a hirer who attended a low-prestige school may favor applicants who did the same.

“What most interviewers are looking for and acting on is more of an intuitive sense of, ‘Would I get along with this person?’ and that often isn’t very reliable,” says Kirsta Anderson, global head of culture transformation in London for Korn Ferry.

Employees err in taking a job because it offers office ping pong, free lunches or heated toilet seats. Ms. McCord recently met an HR executive who claimed to keep employees happy by serving up the latest craft beers. “Well, that sounds like a fun vacation. I’d probably go to that resort. But that’s not what you’re here to do,” says Ms. McCord, author of “Powerful,” a book on building workplace cultures.

Hiring managers need to go deeper and figure out whether applicants are in sync with more fundamental elements of their culture, Ms. Anderson says. Are they excited about how the company innovates, serves customers or makes a social impact? Will they mesh with the way individuals and teams at the company work, by collaborating or competing? And will they naturally make decisions the way the employer wants—individually or as a group, embracing or avoiding risk?

It isn’t easy to suss out those traits in an interview. Jeanne Leasure, a human-resources executive, recalls interviewing applicants for a job that gave employees a lot of autonomy. She was looking for recruits who were self-starters, but wound up hiring one who turned out to be a lovable slacker. “We hit it off, we had similar personalities,” and the applicant gave convincing answers when she asked him about past accomplishments, she says. But on the job, he didn’t have as much drive as she’d hoped, says Ms. Leasure, who was recently named senior vice president, people, at SpotX, an ad-tech company based in Broomfield, Colo. She has begun asking more probing questions, such as, “What was your work ethic like as a teenager?”

Ad-agency founder Ed Mitzen looks for recruits who are empathetic and at ease in his company’s flat, no-titles, team-based culture. PHOTO:FINGERPAINT

Fingerpaint Marketing is a flat organization with no lofty job titles, and its teams must work smoothly together on tight deadlines. When Ed Mitzen, founder of the Saratoga Springs, N.Y., agency, interviews candidates, he explores whether they’ll be kind to everyone regardless of status, and pleasant to work with. If teammates enjoy working with them, he reasons the team will get more done and do better work.

He screens out big egos partly by asking drivers for his company’s car service how candidates treated them en route to and from the interview. “If they’re a jerk to the car-service guy, that’s a warning sign,” Mr. Mitzen says. He once rejected an applicant partly because he put on airs with the driver and expected him to open the door for him.

“Really? You’re applying for a $150,000-a-year job,” Mr. Mitzen says. “You’re not applying to be ambassador to France. Take it easy.”

The best hires find the company’s business goals motivational, Ms. McCord says. “A big filter for hiring people at Netflix was, were they interested in our goal of making the customer happy?” Ms. McCord says. She invited applicants to see the customer as someone like their mom—not the engineer at the next desk, she says.

Many employers post their cultural values on the wall but fail to make them explicit to job applicants, says S. Chris Edmonds, author of “The Culture Engine.” This can easily lead to misfires. Some 7% of workers ages 24 to 36 say they dislike their employer’s culture so much that they intend to quit their jobs in the next two years, according to a 2019 survey by Deloitte of 13,416 millennial employees.

More young workers are holding employers accountable for their values, and insisting that their companies stand for something, Mr. Edmonds says. Some 32% of millennials say businesses should try to reduce inequality and support better education, but only 16% of the employees say companies are actually doing so, the Deloitte survey shows. And while 27% of millennials think businesses should protect the environment, only 12% believe they’re doing so.

The growing employee activism is marked by walkouts protesting employers’ stance on the environment, immigration policy or use of their technology for military drone strikes. Some 38% of developers have approached their leadership with such misgivings or concerns, according to a recent HackerRank survey of 71,000 software developers.

All that promises to put more CEOs on the hot seat. As employees become more vocal, “C-suite leaders will have to listen,” Mr. Edmonds says. And that, he says, is a good thing: “It helps employers get clearer about, ‘This is what we stand for.’ ”

Jocks Rule, Nerds Drool

Elon Musk, didn’t improve nerds’ image when he tweeted that a diver who assisted in rescuing 12 boys trapped in a cave in Thailand was a pedophile. Mr. Musk later apologized, and said he had been angry with the diver for criticizing Mr. Musk’s design of a mini-submarine to rescue the boys.

.. The notion of nerds being kinder than other men fades faster every day. Part of that has to do with the way nerd culture has subsumed popular culture. Some of the most popular movies in America are based on comic books. If it was a little nerdy to spend too much time on the internet in the ’90s, well, everyone is now on the internet essentially all the time.

.. Nerds are the overdogs now. If they got into tech early, they’re obscenely wealthy, and all of America now likes the stuff they enjoyed as kids. But they’re not wielding that power in a way that is especially kind or thoughtful.

.. So what about their old schoolyard nemeses, those heartless bullies — the jocks?

Well, they suddenly seem pretty great by comparison.

Last week, another N.B.A. player, Stephen Curry, raised over $21,000 through a live-streamed event to help benefit the family of Nia Wilson, a young woman who was stabbed to death at a train station in Oakland, Calif.

In June, the former N.F.L. player-turned-actor Terry Crews gave Senate testimony in which he spoke about having been sexually assaulted and warned against the “cult of toxic masculinity” that led him to believe he was more important than women.

.. And of course there’s Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback, who drew national attention to police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem.

.. None of these guys sound like the heartless, monosyllabic brutes pop culture made jocks out to be. They sound like the kind of men who would patiently listen to you and commiserate after a nerd sexually harasses you.

.. These jocks are deeply decent men standing up to bullies in power. Just like nerds in old movies used to do.

Laura Bush: Separating children from their parents at the border ‘breaks my heart’

Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. We also know that this treatment inflicts trauma; interned Japanese have been two times as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease or die prematurely than those who were not interned.

.. People on all sides agree that our immigration system isn’t working, but the injustice of zero tolerance is not the answer.
.. . She reported that while there were beds, toys, crayons, a playground and diaper changes, the people working at the shelter had been instructed not to pick up or touch the children to comfort them. Imagine not being able to pick up a child who is not yet out of diapers.
.. Twenty-nine years ago, my mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, visited Grandma’s House, a home for children with HIV/AIDS in Washington. Back then, at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, the disease was a death sentence, and most babies born with it were considered “untouchables.” During her visit, Barbara — who was the first lady at the time — picked up a fussy, dying baby named Donovan and snuggled him against her shoulder to soothe him. My mother-in-law never viewed her embrace of that fragile child as courageous. She simply saw it as the right thing to do in a world that can be arbitrary, unkind and even cruel. She, who after the death of her 3-year-old daughter knew what it was to lose a child, believed that every child is deserving of human kindness, compassion and love.

In 2018, can we not as a nation find a kinder, more compassionate and more moral answer to this current crisis? I, for one, believe we can.

Only a Country Like Canada Could Produce a Guy Like Jordan Peterson

There is a certain image that Canada projects to the world, one that is particularly compelling to Americans. It’s the image of Canada as a tolerant, progressive, kind and humanitarian nation, populated by mild-mannered and polite people.

.. The idea of Canada the Good — a Scandinavian-style socialist democracy, with the added bonus of multicultural harmony — is an attractive one, helpful in providing Canadians with some kind of national identity, and left-leaning Americans with a handy rhetorical device for political arguments: Look at what’s possible, right next door!

.. But it’s worth remembering that this image of Canada, currently personified by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is a relatively recent construction, largely put forth by Mr. Trudeau’s father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Before that — and for most of the intervening years, between Trudeaus — the public face of Canada has looked a lot like, well, Jordan Peterson.

.. Canada is home to many more Jordan Petersons than Justin Trudeaus.

.. Mr. Peterson is — to use one of his favorite terms — something of a national archetype, the default setting of the Canadian male: a dull but stern dad, who, under a facade of apparent normalcy and common sense, conceals a reserve of barely contained hostility toward anyone who might rock the boat.

.. those who make a fuss are bothersome and ignorant at best, and probably dangerous and destructive too.

.. This is how “peace, order and good government” came to be the Canadian answer to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

.. Charisma is suspect here, and when Mr. Peterson uses that word to describe Mr. Trudeau, it’s not a compliment.

.. Suspect, too, is any whiff of revolutionary spirit. Pierre Trudeau might have technically been a liberal, but he was the kind of liberal who declared martial law in 1970 when a bumbling handful of Quebec separatists were deemed enough of a threat to justify suspending civil liberties en masse.

.. Our politics reflect our sense of unease with anything radical.

.. Liberals who think of Canada as a lefty haven should look to our most recent federal election: the New Democratic Party, ostensibly the major party farthest to the left, ran its last campaign on a platform of balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility. Not even the Green Party dares to suggest divesting from Alberta’s oil sands.

.. On every issue, from peacekeeping to pipelines, carbon targets to Indigenous relations, Mr. Trudeau has largely continued the policies set by his predecessor.

.. Canadian conservatism is not brash. It not belligerent, it is not loud. It is not Fox News. But our most popular columnists all deliver the same message: Things are the way they are for a reason. Those who agitate for change are stepping out of line.

.. He reserves particular ire for young activists. I tell 18-year-olds: Six years ago you were 12 — what the hell do you know? You haven’t done anything,” he says. “You don’t have a degree, you haven’t finished your courses, you don’t know how to read, you can’t think, you can’t speak.”

“It’s just not right,” he says, “to tell people in that situation that they should go out and change the socioeconomic structure of the culture!”

.. Delivered as a fiery sermon, this impassioned plea for humility and self-improvement gets laughs from Peterson fans. But in practice, it’s actually an argument for submission to the status quo that would have prevented any number of people, from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Emma Gonzales, from ever speaking up.

.. Americans are raised to believe that individuals, even flawed ones, can indeed change the world, and sometimes should. Canadians, for all that we’ve managed to construct a society that Americans sometimes envy, lack this ethic.

.. The resulting mind-set, disdainful of idealism and suspicious of ego, is one we are now, evidently, exporting.

.. Jordan Peterson is considered a heroic figure of historical importance, the man who finally said “Enough!” to political correctness run amok, to mobs of rabid Social Justice Warriors, to an ideologically driven “leftist-Marxist” movement hellbent on destroying Western civilization itself.

.. Mr. Peterson can be more accurately described as a previously obscure Canadian academic who believed, erroneously, that he would soon be forced by law to use gender-neutral pronouns and who refused to bow to that hypothetical demand. The proposed human rights policy that made Mr. Peterson famous is now Canadian law, and no instance of “compelled speech” has occurred as a result of it or resulted in criminal charges, as Mr. Peterson feared. On the issue of legal requirements for pronoun use, things remain the way Mr. Peterson wanted them — the same.

.. Mr. Peterson was taking a stand not against power in that instance but on behalf of it. His acolytes, some of whom might consider themselves to be walking in the tradition of rugged American individualism, should note that they are in fact taking marching orders — “Rules for Life,” no less — from a line-toeing Canadian, preaching a philosophy not of American defiance but of Canadian deference.

 

 

Harvey Weinstein Is My Monster Too

Knowing what I know now, I wonder if it wasn’t my friendship with them — and Quentin Tarantino and George Clooney — that saved me from being raped.

.. The range of his persuasion tactics went from sweet-talking me to that one time when, in an attack of fury, he said the terrifying words, “I will kill you, don’t think I can’t.”

When he was finally convinced that I was not going to earn the movie the way he had expected, he told me he had offered my role and my script with my years of research to another actress.

.. he gave me a list of impossible tasks with a tight deadline:

1. Get a rewrite of the script, with no additional payment.

2. Raise $10 million to finance the film.

3. Attach an A-list director.

4. Cast four of the smaller roles with prominent actors.

Much to everyone’s amazement, not least my own, I delivered, thanks to a phalanx of angels who came to my rescue, including Edward Norton, who beautifully rewrote the script several times and appallingly never got credit, and my friend Margaret Perenchio, a first-time producer, who put up the money. The brilliant Julie Taymor agreed to direct, and from then on she became my rock. For the other roles, I recruited my friends Antonio Banderas, Edward Norton and my dear Ashley Judd. To this day, I don’t know how I convinced Geoffrey Rush, whom I barely knew at the time.

.. Now Harvey Weinstein was not only rejected but also about to do a movie he did not want to do.

Ironically, once we started filming, the sexual harassment stopped but the rage escalated. We paid the price for standing up to him nearly every day of shooting.

.. So he told me he was going to shut down the film because no one would want to see me in that role.

It was soul crushing because, I confess, lost in the fog of a sort of Stockholm syndrome, I wanted him to see me as an artist: not only as a capable actress but also as somebody who could identify a compelling story and had the vision to tell it in an original way.

.. I was hoping he would acknowledge me as a producer, who on top of delivering his list of demands shepherded the script and obtained the permits to use the paintings.

.. But all of this seemed to have no value. The only thing he noticed was that I was not sexy in the movie.

.. He offered me one option to continue. He would let me finish the film if I agreed to do a sex scene with another woman. And he demanded full-frontal nudity.

He had been constantly asking for more skin, for more sex. Once before, Julie Taymor got him to settle for a tango ending in a kiss instead of the lovemaking scene he wanted us to shoot between the character Tina Modotti, played by Ashley Judd, and Frida.

.. When Harvey saw the cut film, he said it was not good enough for a theatrical release and that he would send it straight to video.

This time Julie had to fight him without me and got him to agree to release the film in one movie theater in New York if we tested it to an audience and we scored at least an 80.

Less than 10 percent of films achieve that score on a first screening.

I didn’t go to the test. I anxiously awaited to receive the news. The film scored 85.

.. He also would never know how much he hurt me. I never showed Harvey how terrified I was of him. When I saw him socially, I’d smile and try to remember the good things about him, telling myself that I went to war and I won.
..  the film industry stopped making an effort to find out what female audiences wanted to see and what stories we wanted to tell.
.. between 2007 and 2016, only 4 percent of directors were female and 80 percent of those got the chance to make only one film. In 2016, another study found, only 27 percent of words spoken in the biggest movies were spoken by women.

Americans have always been nice. But is it just a sham?

The paradox of Trump’s insisting on his own niceness even while engaging in distinctly nasty conduct (political and otherwise) has a long history in the United States.

Trump epitomizes the conventional version of American niceness, which assumes that Americans are fundamentally decent and benevolent people with the best of intentions, whose acts of aggression are reluctant and defensive necessities designed to protect us.

.. This is the kind of amiability that obscures the shadowy side of American life.

.. Americans have also historically attempted to transform our niceness into a national attitude rooted in justice and mutual respect by acknowledging American cruelty and using it as an impetus to live up to an ideal of moral integrity based on the courage to tell the truth.

.. Since the 19th century, Americans’ belief in our own niceness has never wavered. Yet even then, American niceness obscured a tendency to refuse accountability for aggression and offense — and even unspeakable cruelty.

.. In 1814, Gen. Andrew Jackson supervised the mutilation of the corpses of more than 800 Creek Native Americans killed at Horseshoe Bend in Alabama during the Creek War. The desecration of the bodies involved cutting off the tip of each Indian’s nose to count the number of victims, and taking long strips of skin from the dead to use as bridle reins.

.. Thus the mistreatment of Indians wasn’t only a political problem but a profound failure on white Americans’ part to live up to their Christian reputation for courtesy, respect and kindness.

.. This same conflict could be seen in the issue of slavery.

.. If kindness were the rule in the master-slave relationship, Douglass argued, then Southern newspapers would not be filled with runaway-slave notices describing branding with irons and scarring from whips.

..  One is based on historical forgetting, on empty gestures and cliches, on refusing to own up to American errors; the other connects niceness with ethics and justice by recognizing Americans’ failures to be the kind people we imagine ourselves to be

In China, It’s the Party That Keeps the Boy Band Going

So what explains their appeal?

“I like them because they express such positive values,” said Jia Su, a 24-year-old advertising worker in Beijing. She has followed the group since she was a university student and now manages the Weibo account of a fan club for TFBoys. “They are nice, kind, hardworking. That’s what the Japanese and Korean boy bands don’t have.”

Unlike many teenage pop stars in Japan, South Korea and elsewhere, the members of TFBoys display no signs of youthful rebellion. They decidedly do not walk on the wild side. They sing of studying hard and serving the nation. The group’s music is cheerful with upbeat lyrics, and the boys’ appearance tends toward neat outfits and sweet smiles.

.. That wholesome schoolboy image has won TFBoys love not only from Chinese fans, but also from the government. They have twice been featured on the Chinese Lunar New Year television gala staged by CCTV, the state broadcaster.

.. “One way the Chinese government controls the entertainment industry,” said Zhu Dake, a cultural critic at Tongji University in Shanghai, “is by honoring and financially rewarding those who, from the government’s perspective, are conveying positive values.”

In this case, “positive values” means not just traditional values such as filial piety, social harmony and hard work, but also deference to the party line.

.. Since South Korea agreed last year to allow the United States to install a missile defense system — called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad — South Korean shows have been blocked from the Chinese internet, and South Korean singers and actors have been barred from Chinese television.

.. “No company can risk sponsoring a ‘bad boy’ band that might end up on the government’s blacklist,”

.. “Before the early 2000s, the mainland Chinese entertainment industry was dominated by Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Celebrities from those places were regarded as true stars,” Mr. Zou said. “But it’s different now. We have the money, and the market. What’s more, entertainment companies have learned the key to producing successful idols.”

.. “There’s a Chinese saying: At the age of 3 you can already see what a man will be like when he is old.”