So here’s a crazy paradigm that happens at a lot of organizations: You all wear jeans and loose t-shirts with funny slogans. You all watch Game of
Thrones, or maybe it’s Downton Abbey. You’ve all got the COEXIST bumper sticker and you believe fervently in eco-diversity, bio-diversity, social diversity and hiring diversity. But when the company runs into trouble, you have to hire an outside consultant to help you take a new approach because you’ve got a serious case of group-think.
It can be easy and fun to work with the kind of people you would invite to your parties. But it means that when there’s some hurdle, you only have one, big toolkit. You have one set of solutions where an opposing or different view might prompt a more creative, balanced approach. Someone from a different background, nationality, age, gender or career track could introduce ideas and perspectives that an organization stuck in a particular mindset would never have stumbled upon otherwise, because they just don’t think that way.
Unfortunately, though, diversity isn’t the same as avoiding homogeneity. Shortly after AT&T was broken up for anti-trust violations in 1984, a lot of new, smaller telecoms formed. Nobody wanted to hire anyone who came from “Ma Bell” because “they were all the same.” The fact is, they weren’t all the same. There are always people toeing the line for the sake of security but wishing all along they could do something different. Find those people, I instructed my clients starting telecom companies. They will be your best employees because they’re so thrilled to be doing something new while building upon their knowledge of that industry.
I’ve also seen people hire employees who are really different just to shake things up. The trouble is, nobody knew that’s why he was hired except the CEO who then proceeded to toss him to the wolves. This is a very bad idea. Other employees don’t know why the new guy is there and the new guy is miserable. If you’re going to disrupt the organization, make it clear what you’re doing and create an atmosphere where disruption is supported. Employees must know that, whatever the old rules may have been, you expect all perspectives to be respected in discussions and that you’re looking to break out of group think. If that’s made clear, they won’t be so likely to eat the new guy for lunch.
Here’s the thing though, it can be uncomfortable to hire someone who isn’t like your group. Suddenly the easy repartee is interrupted and the shorthand with which you used to speak doesn’t work anymore. That’s hard. But just as you can’t build a stable economy on only one industry, you can’t build a stable business on one kind of employee. You have to create your culture based not on whether you all took the afternoon off to go see The Hobbit but based on really important factors like how people see work and how they treat each other. How do you do that? That’s next week’s blog.
We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.