The recent viral posting of "The Google Manifesto" has everyone in the HR and recruiting community talking (again) about diversity and inclusion in the Silicon Valley. The post, written by a male software engineer at Google, has people in an uproar -- specifically, about his claim that women don't handle stress as well as men and thus aren't suited for demanding jobs. He also cites biological reasons for the disparity.
Your Company's "Bro Culture" Is Bad if...
As a 15-plus year veteran of the HR and recruiting industry, I've seen the rise and fall of many companies. Especially, ones with "bro cultures." More importantly, as a woman who worked in the Silicon Valley in the late 90's as well as the tech staffing industry for several years, I've had plenty of firsthand experience with bro culture. In my experience, there are three warning signs a company with this type of corporate culture is headed off the cliff.
1. Their way of energizing the staff is to "party hard" more frequently. A great example of this is in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. Leonardo DiCaprio's character is obsessed with having a good time. He motivates himself and his staff with excessive partying. In reality, it's a distraction to keep him from looking in the mirror and facing the fact that things aren't as good as they appear. The thought process is: "They can't get mad at me when the whole thing crumbles because they were a part of it."
2. Yelling, screaming, and finger pointing are considered appropriate methods for coaching employee performance. Scaring people with public humiliation is (unfortunately) a highly effective short-term motivator. However, it also creates turnover (people quitting due to stress), and a decrease in accountability. Nobody wants to share bad news, point out mistakes, or offer up new ideas if it means getting embarrassed by the boss.
3. The office cliques are worse than they were in high school. When the office has an "in-crowd" who go out together and love talking about their over-the-top nights and weekends, it creates an us-versus-them culture that leads to passive-aggressive behavior. Backstabbing and sabotage become currency. The workplace become toxic with gossip and negative chatter.
Can Bro Culture Be Fixed? Yes, But It's Not Easy
To get rid of bro culture, a company needs to be ready to do some selective turnover. Specifically, getting rid of employees that create the environment via their personality. This can be particularly challenging because, oftentimes, the individuals who need to go have key relationships with clients or vendors. They don't tend to go without being pretty vocal about it, too, so a reputation management strategy should be discussed prior to making the changes. For example, it's likely these ex-employees will write something nasty on Glassdoor. Your company should be ready to respond to those negative reviews with facts and information to counter what is said.
P.S. If the Founder Is a Bro, Don't Expect Things to Change
Starting a company takes a lot of self-confidence. It shouldn't surprise us that many startups are founded by guys with the kind of bravado and personality that create bro cultures. Which means, if the CEO is a bro, don't expect things to change. At least not until the company gets big and the founder gets in trouble for his actions. Just look at what happened to Uber's CEO. My advice to anyone working in a bro culture that isn't going to change is to start looking for a new job. Life is too short to work someplace that doesn't align with your values and beliefs. With the unemployment rate at a 16-year low, now's the time to look for a new position with a company that you can be proud to call your employer.