Look around you. Chances are HIGH all your bosses look the same, talk the same, and act the same. If you so happen not to look like your boss, then you might be limited in your upward mobility. We all know people tend to favor those who are more similar to themselves.
My dentist is a Black woman. I’ve been going to her for over 10 years now because she’s amazing. She bought out my old dentist’s practice (a White man), and I just stuck with her. She also has one of the most decorated resumes I’ve ever seen, having graduated from Stanford (undergrad), UCSF (dental school), and Harvard (MPH). I feel my gums and teeth are in good hands.
One day, she decided to put up a picture wall to celebrate her six employees. All of them were women and only one was White. Coincidence? Obviously not. She feels more comfortable working with women and people of color. It’s her practice. She can hire whomever she wishes!
So long as I get the best dental care possible, that’s all that matters. But if I have a bad experience, I rationally might start seeking alternatives. From the diversity and size of her clientele, I don’t think they care about the homogeneity of her staff either. My dentist is doing extremely well.
Diversity Is Necessary To Give Other People A Chance
Unfortunately, meritocracy can only take you so far if the boss is good buddies with your colleague who grew up in the same town. Diversity is necessary to give other people a chance to shine. But why is that?
It’s because diversity lets more people hire, promote, and pay more people who are just like them! We must diversify our biases!
What perplexes me is the pressure for companies to publish their employee makeup, even private companies. It’s almost as if diversity is more important than meritocracy. Only the best people should get the job, and to make it not the case is disrespecting those folks who did get their jobs because of merit.
Let’s take two companies competing in the same business looking to hire 100 people.
Company #1 is based on 100% meritocracy. They only hire the best people for the job, regardless of background or race. They also base promotions on performance not politics.
Company #2 is based on 100% diversity. They have a goal to hire four racial groups in 25% even splits. In addition, they must hire an equal amount of people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s as well. Finally, the gender split must be 50/50 male/female.
Obviously this in an extreme example of two companies at opposite ends of the spectrum. But you’ve got to ask yourself two questions: 1) Which company would you want to invest in? and 2) Which company would you want to work for?
I would personally invest and work for company #1, even if 95% of the people didn’t look like me. The reason? I don’t care about what people look like. I just want to work with the best people possible. Business is war. Business is not a sociology experiment. If you don’t get the best people in the right seats, there might not be a business for very long. When a company is winning, everybody is winning. People are nicer and much more collaborative when things are going well. A business’s main goal is to grow and be profitable.
Company #2 will have a more difficult time surviving in a hyper-competitive world if they emphasize diversity over hiring the best people for the job. Yes, it would be wonderful if more companies have a diverse pool of employees who also happen to be the most qualified candidates. But diversity is hard to manufacture. Most businesses fail within five years anyway, even after hiring who they think are the best people for the job. A company might receive good publicity for being very diverse, but in the end, dysfunction will result if merit is undervalued, and people will quit or lose their jobs.
DON’T BE DIVERSE FOR DIVERSITY’S SAKE
As a minority, I understand what it’s like to be picked on, put down, and discredited. It’s why so many minority groups tend to stick together. “Work twice as hard to get half as much,” is a good mantra for everybody to adopt, not just minorities. Things have definitely improved since the mid-90s when I first experienced racial conflict working at McDonald’s. But there’s still room for improvement.
If you are intrepid enough to start a company, have no shame trying to hire the best people you are most comfortable working with. If they happen to all look and talk like you, then so be it. It’s your own private business, literally. It’s so brutally difficult to create a sustainable business out of nothing that capitalism alone will force you to make the right moves.
If you’re looking to join a company, look to join a firm that hires the best people first, but is also sensitive to the importance of diversity to address a diverse customer base. If you feel uncomfortable with a company’s employee demographic or homogenous management team, move on.
If we must focus on diversity, then let’s focus on diversifying through people of different economic backgrounds instead. Let’s give the poor a greater chance to succeed. It’s been my consistent experience the people from the most humble backgrounds have the largest internal fire, not the college graduate who rolls into work in a $60,000 SUV his parents bought him.
It’s Hard To Be Completely Objective
No matter how hard we try, we will never treat everyone the same. Even parents have favorite children; what makes you think bosses don’t have favorite employees?
Study the four pictures in this post. They clearly demonstrate a bias towards hiring people who are more like the boss. Nobody should be surprised The Huffington Post’s editorial staff is 100% female since the editor in chief is female. Nobody should be surprised Paul Ryan’s interns are majority White. Nobody should be surprised E.B. Johnson’s interns have a large representation of Black women and minorities. And nobody should be surprised when the Asian Pacific American Institute of Congressional Studies folks went to visit Congresswoman Grace Meng. Having an interest in people like you is just a natural thing. Nobody is to blame.
Only the naive believe there will ever be complete equality. True meritocracies do not exist, even though we’d like to think they do. Instead, be so good people can’t ignore you. And if you still can’t gain the respect you deserve, find a firm that will. If no firm will, then screw them all and be your own boss! Nobody is stopping you from getting what you want.
Recommendation For Leaving A Job
If you want to leave a job you no longer enjoy, I recommend negotiating a severance instead of quitting. If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training. Since you got laid off, you’re also eligible for up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.
Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye, on how to negotiate a severance. I first published the book in 2012 and have since expanded it to 180 pages from 100 pages in the 3rd edition thanks to tremendous reader feedback and successful case studies.
Updated for 2020 and beyond.