Business: The Bias of Cultural Fit

Psychology has proven time and time again that we like to surround ourselves with people who are similar to ourselves.  Social psychologist Angela Bahns studied this issue extensively.  She explains, “the ironic finding is that in more diverse environments, we find less find less diverse friendships”. It is disappointing to think that despite ardent efforts to diversify American universities and workplaces, we still gravitate naturally towards those most like us.  The issue remains particularly salient in the business world, where “cultural fit” is often cited as being a critical aspect of the interview process for new applicants.  One survey found that 80% of employers worldwide cited cultural fit as a priority in the hiring process.  The reasoning for this is not unwarranted—cultural fit can play an important role in cultivating a collegial and cohesive work environment.  However, utilizing such criteria can also be dangerous, as it can act a catalyst for a lack of diversity. Some companies, including Google, have started to address discrimination based on cultural fit by bringing attention to these unconscious biases and changing their hiring practices to circumvent them—a trend that will hopefully become the new normal.

Contributor: Jillian Di Fillipo

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