Three senior-level staff have resigned from a religious denomination, following an outcry over its hiring practices and a lack of diversity among its senior leadership.
To summarize: a white, male, ordained minister hired another white, male, ordained minister to lead a regional area. A woman of color, who is not ordained, was a finalist but did not get the job. She said the reason given to her was that she was not “the right fit for the team.”
Resulting controversy focused primarily on race, but what came to my mind was the emphasis placed on being, “the right fit for the team.”
To be honest, I don’t know what was meant by the statement, but what it evoked for me, was the use of “culture fit” when choosing between job applicants.
I’ve long been concerned about the use of culture fit as a determinant in hiring, and this incident and its backlash seem to encapsulate the dangers. I feel especially sensitive to the culture-fit practice, because I struggle with social nuances as part of being on the autism continuum.
So much of job-search seems based not on what you can do, but how well you can “package” or “promote” it and successfully create rapport.
I’m worried that “culture fit” can too readily be misused — not to find the most-qualified, hard-working or ethical applicant, but to instead base hiring decisions on a candidate’s “likeability.”
It’s entirely possible that a preference for the familiar can veer into discrimination against someone who “isn’t like” the rest of the team. “Culture fit” becomes an excuse that makes it difficult to identify and examine any underlying prejudice.
Moving forward, if a company is trying to increase diversity among its workforce, the question is how to achieve it?
I hope the church is willing to take a look at the role of culture fit, and to ask how much weight is given to ability and how much to being “the right fit”?
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