Does Silicon Valley have an arrogance problem? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Shuba Swaminathan, lives in Silicon Valley, on Quora:

Does Silicon Valley have an arrogance problem?

I think so, but not in the way many seem to think about it.

We have an arrogance problem in how we treat people, and the unstated/unspoken assumptions we make about others who do not conform to expectations.

The hubris of Silicon Valley engineers makes us assume that if someone is any good at what they do, they will be hired in under two weeks. Comments like "if he walks out of the building now and holds up a sign saying he will code for food, he will have a job in the next two hours, he is that good" are very common place. From this, the psyche has now evolved to the point where people justify terrible behavior by recruiters where one is supposed to implicitly understand that if they haven't heard in two weeks, the company is not interested and it's okay for recruiters to behave this way because if you know your stuff, you will be employed in less than two weeks after all. This mindset is in stark contrast to norms most of us are socialized with: when a person shares something, the recipient must acknowledge and thank the giver. In this case, the candidates have shared their time with the hiring team. They are therefore owed the courtesy of a timely response. Justifying bad behavior by saying it should be implicitly understood simply does not cut it.

Not every engineer who doesn't have an offer in under two weeks is incompetent nor is everyone looking for a job as an engineer in the first place. Other Silicon Valley examples:

  • Automatically docking candidates who ask about work-life balance as a poor culture fit.
  • Taking six months off to mountain bike in Patagonia and "find yourself" is cool but taking six months off to care for a child or a parent means you have a resume gap and responsibilities outside of work are looked at askance.
  • Working strictly 40 to 50 hours a week means you could not possibly be invested enough in your work.
  • Totally understandable if one needs to take time off to make it to Burning Man or Coachella, but wanting to take time off to coincide with your kids' spring break is frowned upon.
  • Foosball tables and catered meals are common place, but perish the thought of working from home regularly because you have a life outside the office that will greatly benefit from the three hours saved every day by not commuting in the crazy traffic.

These are all symptomatic of an underlying intolerance and lack of empathy for others and their realities, that manifests somewhere in the spectrum of hubris to arrogance.

Those who have opted to live in Silicon Valley and can comfortably do so are privileged in many ways. When that privilege (and the benefits that come along with it) is not acknowledged, and instead we revel in a lack of empathy for those who do not conform or choose to opt out of the rat race that is Silicon Valley, we have an arrogance problem.

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Published on: May 18, 2018