Decoding Culture

After I posted my culture series for job hunters, I saw What Your Culture Really Says. (Hat-tip to Andy Lester who pointed me to it.)

This is critical:

Culture is not about the furniture in your office. It is not about how much time you have to spend on feel-good projects. It is not about catered food, expensive social outings, internal chat tools, your ability to travel all over the world, or your never-ending self-congratulation.

Culture is about power dynamics, unspoken priorities and beliefs, mythologies, conflicts, enforcement of social norms, creation of in/out groups and distribution of wealth and control inside companies.

This is why I ask you to think about your culture in Hiring Geeks That Fit. I specifically don’t judge your culture. Your culture is what it is. But if you don’t identify your culture, you are not going to be able to hire successfully.

Read the first part about hiring people who are a cultural fit. Make sure you’re not discriminating against people who are not just like you.

  1. I am seeing ageism disguised as cultural fit. Shame on you! I’m not afraid to yell about this one. Just because I’m over 30 does not mean I have nothing to contribute. I have plenty. And so do all the other people over 30, over 40 and over 50. Stop contributing to ageism. It’s wrong and it’s stupid. So there.
  2. The point about the team of people responsible for social events: I’m sensitive to this one, because “any woman will do in a pinch” is the general feel if none of the women are available. It doesn’t matter if the only woman available is the VP Engineering or the consultant who walked in the door that morning. (This is a true story.) If your culture is that you have been hiring all male developers under 30 (see point 1), and they are being treated as if they are spoiled children instead of adults, they will see women as only support staff. I walked into a client a couple of years ago and a developer asked if I was the new Cookie Woman. I kid you not. I suggested he try making cookies himself. I told him that I found that I learned things about my code when I took myself away from my code.
  3. Focus on shipping vs. not thinking about the future and technical debt? I just published a link this morning about an interview I did about technical debt. If you don’t make it visible, you can’t manage it. What do people talk about? That’s part of your culture. Do you talk about technical debt?

I could go on, but I’ll stop. Some cultures are better than others for releasing products over the long term. And, you have many choices for culture. But the first thing you have to do if you are hiring is to identify your culture. And, if you don’t like it, you can make small changes. Know it first.

About Johanna Rothman

I help managers and leaders do reasonable things that work.
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