Earlier this year I filled out a lot of diversity forms. It fascinates me that Great Big Corporations are very hot on diversity in terms of gender, age, race, disability, sexuality and religious belief but are almost always strongly normative in all other respects. They want you to be just like them (so you fit in) AND a member of a minority (to prove they don’t discriminate).
An organisation’s cultural norms are often explicit. Many organisations have a list of expected behaviours mapped neatly on to grades and called “Competencies”. So if your temperament isn’t suited to ‘acting as a local leader driving forward change’ or whatever it might be, then you’ll never make it to Grade D. At the very least you are expected to espouse their cultural values – the Five Cs or Six Ss or Three Bears, or whatever was thought up for them by the consultancy they hired.
This post could go in so many directions.
- The banality of these corporate values would be a good one: Enron’s were Communication, Respect, Integrity and Excellence, which says it all, really.
- Whether to tick any of the boxes marked ‘other’ on the diversity forms. The box marked ‘other’ next to Sexuality is particularly worrying. (Yes I **** sheep*, but there’s no consent problem because I only **** dead ones).
- The fact that they don’t offer Atheist, Agnostic or Humanist under Religious belief, merely offering the option of ‘None’. Technically right, but subtly discriminatory against Agnostics and Humanists if you ask me.
However I’m going to limit this post to the question of cultural norms; to the question of
‘How we do things around here’.
You see, I sound cynical about corporate culture and professional competencies, but I’m not. In fact I buy into both of them big time. It doesn’t half make it easier when everyone is capable of doing their job well and behaves more or less acceptably. For the individual, it is hard to work with people whose behaviours or morals scrape on your nerves. And for the organisation, it is much easier to get a team to pull together if it doesn’t include mavericks, sociopaths, the suicidally depressed or pathologically dishonest, or even people who just don’t get on with each other.
Of course birds of a feather flock together to some extent, so some selection is done before applicants apply. The financially motivated are attracted to investment banking, literate arts grads veer towards the media, and those with social consciences virtuously accept the lower pay in the third sector.
However, when times are bad more people apply for fewer jobs and organisations really do have to do that screening. So they use psychometric testing, Myers-Briggs and all sorts of other tools to make the selections for them.
Now the questions in my mind are:
1. How ethical is it to reject a candidate because of character traits?
2. How ethical is it NOT to?
* Eat. Obviously. What did you think I meant? Revenons à nos moutons.
PS: How amused am I that the recommended tags for this post are: “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator” “Goat” “Livestock” “Domestic sheep” “Reuters” “Grazing” “Flood” and “Cattle”? That’s right. Very.
PPS: How did “Reuters” get in there? Suggestions in the comments thread please.