One of the biggest obstacles I have seen for many organizational leaders is the exclusive nature of creating, perpetuating and protecting organizational culture. In a world where diversity, inclusion and acceptance rule the day the idea of anything exclusionary borders on the edge of taboo. With the speed of PR through the lightning fast conduits we have dubbed social media, there is a sense of uncertainty and, quite honestly, fear regarding exclusionary practices. Many see it as a precursor to discriminatory practices, and in some instances it can be.

east-vs-west-cultureWell buck up camper. There is hope. There some people who will use discrimination to make choices no matter the scenario, and they are many times found out. That’s not the real point here. Your organization needs to develop a culture that is strategically sound and facilitates healthy employee engagement. That means certain types of leadership, certain attitudes and behaviors, and certain perspectives on how to work will have to be excluded in order to protect and maintain this culture. It’s the nature of the beast.

If you’re doing it to be discriminatory, shame on you. If you’re doing it to create and maintain culture, good on you!

I can almost hear the cringing of the HR generalists who think they see legal liability through whatever feeble claims people want to make as to why they didn’t get a certain role or not. We should all take legal issues seriously, but hiring for culture fit is no crime so lets all lighten up a bit.

Here are a few suggestions on how to make sure you are fair and honest in the exclusionary nature of protecting your culture.

  • Clarify your culture – Unless you’re leading the Illuminati – or Fight Club – you can be frank and honest about what makes your culture tick. Communicate it across multiple communication channels. Make sure the world knows exactly how you roll as an organization and don’t apologize for it. We have it right on our website and it excludes certain types of people. We’re happy about that.
  • Explain why – You’re speaking to adults, at least most of them act that way. You have good reasons for developing the culture you have, so tell people what those reasons are. If you’ve explained why well enough, the wrong people won’t want to work for your organization. If you can be exclusionary because of skills, why not culture?
  • Be honest with yourself – Don’t take the easy way out of having an honest conversation with someone by pinning it on a lack of “cultural fit”. Making culture a scapegoat undermines the value and benefit culture brings to your organization. Don’t bastardize it because you’re chicken.
  • Make it public – Pull your culture into your PR messaging. Don’t craft some sellable phrase, but authentically communicate who you are as an organization from a cultural perspective. It is a great way to attract folks who align with your culture and keep those who don’t align with it at arms length.

Stop feeling dirty because your culture is exclusionary – all the best ones are on some level. If someone doesn’t like it, thank them for their feedback and keep doing what you know to be right. We all have our critics. At least be criticized for doing the right thing for the right reasons.

Image courtesy of