The late country music legend Conway Twitty released a hit song in 1968 entitled “In the Image of Me.” The lyrics tell the story of a forlorn husband who pays the price for his adulterous ways. His wife returns the favor by cheating on him. He knows he is the blame and he feels so ashamed. He made her in the image of him.
We build workplaces in the image of ourselves. We tend to hire people for cultural fit. Most of time that translates into surrounding ourselves with folks who look like us, think like us, and act like us.
There is nothing inherently evil about giving preferential treatment to people who are part of our “in-group.” We favor people made in our own image. It is less about treating other people badly and more about showing preference to people we are most comfortable with.
Hanging out with our own kind gives us psychological safety. We can depend on people who talk our kind of language. They give us comfort and clarity which allows us to take more risks with them. We can easily marshal our resources with these like-minded individuals which increases our impact on the world.
In-group bias leads to vested interest bias. We assume that no one in our in-group would be untruthful to us. We trust them since they are special. We put them on a pedestal and assume they would never lead us astray.
We reward people in our own image. We don’t see them as a threat. We gravitate toward them. They hold our interest longer. When we look at them, they remind us of a solution and not a problem. We see our comrades in arms in a global context. We tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. We have these seemingly built-in connections with them which lead to high levels of engagement.
But building workplaces based on similarities is fool’s gold. We need people who:
• Make the smart move and others who will not move too early.
• Break the ice and those that complete the ice sculpture.
• Deliver the argument and others who help craft the argument.
• Keep our heads out the clouds and those that keep our heads out of rut.
• Fix today’s problems and others who see tomorrow’s trends.
• Learn from the past and those that see the future.
• Ask the how question and others who raise the why question.
We need all kinds in the government workplace since we have all kinds in the government marketplace. Just like the wife in the Conway Twitty song who abandons her philandering husband, our taxpayers may forsake us. After all, they pay the bills.
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