Source | LinkedIn | Sue Bhatia | Founder and Chairwoman
When I first came to the United States, I always felt like my viewpoint was different. I felt that the people from the United States expressed themselves through a layer of security and safety that I simply didn’t possess. In India at that time, career dynamics took a “survival of the fittest” mindset. The stakes were so high that you had to work hard every day and nothing could be taken for granted. I did not have the luxury of following my dreams there because the pressure of getting a decent job after graduation was paramount to survival.
I tried to fit in and be just like everybody else at my American workplace, changing my British-Indian vocabulary to fit in with my new American colleagues. After all, in America I had to say I wore “shorts” as opposed to “half-pants” and said I took a shower as opposed to a bath, or else I was the recipient of strange looks.
Over time, I slowly started to embrace what made me different, and accepted that I was an outlier. I was surprised and delighted to find my commitment to authenticity had a positive impact on the workplace. My American colleagues learned from my viewpoint and I learned from theirs. It was a process of humbling one another, and creating dynamic solutions that ended up fostering immense creativity.
Over the past few years, companies have tried to hire for “culture fit” which has led to managers hiring people they would want to be friends with. The problem with that strategy is that often people want to be friends with people who have similar backgrounds and experiences as themselves. While there is nothing wrong with that, it can lead to a work culture where everybody looks and acts the same. When everybody has the same viewpoint, there is less opportunity for innovative thinking because everybody is looking at it with the same unconscious bias.