So, a bunch of smart people in Silicon Valley need some roommates, and they posted this absurd advertisement looking for new roommates. Now, I know nothing about laws regarding roommates in California, but I do know I'd be very hesitant to hire anyone who lives in that house--especially in a management position. If they currently worked for me, I'd be having a long talk about diversity. Not skin color--I'm sure they are all on board with that--but with thought and personality.

Here are their requirements:

  • Have a top-class degree or job with a strong math/science requirement
  • Exercise at least 15 hours in a normal week
  • Commute by car less than 20 percent of the time (bicycle commuter!)
  • Prefer organized systems and common rules
  • Like petting dogs

OK, let's leave aside the fact that I don't know a soul who exercises 15 hours a week, but I'll consider that there are such people who hold jobs and manage to do more than two hours of exercise a day. If they do commute via bike, then that undoubtedly counts toward the two hours. The dog thing makes sense if there are dogs already living there--you don't want someone moving in who doesn't like dogs.

But here's the thing. A top-class degree or a job in math/science doesn't make you a better person or a better roommate. But, they go beyond that and give characteristics that are "exclusive to disappointing housemates." This list includes, but is not limited to, wearing makeup regularly, having more than one tattoo, having been prescribed anything by a psychiatrist, and driving a vehicle given by parents.

Take a step back from this and see it not as quirky people looking for a quirky roommate, but as people who honestly believe that any difference makes someone a bad person. If you can't handle a roommate who wears makeup, are you going to think less of a colleague who does? If you think that being prescribed drugs by a psychiatrist makes someone a bad roommate, does someone with an ADA-protected mental illness not deserve to work with you? You'd probably be surprised at the number of "normal" people you know who have taken drugs prescribed by a psychiatrist.

The problem is that I can't trust people who are so openly harsh with their opinions about "different" people to not carry those things over into the workplace. Now, I'm all for letting people have personal opinions. I don't want anybody prying into political opinions, Facebook pages, or political donation pages to try to find out someone's beliefs. I don't really care what people do on their off hours as long as they are doing their work when they are on the clock.

What these people are doing is taking common characteristics and labeling them unacceptable. I had some rotten roommates in my day and you know what the rotten ones all had in common? They brushed their teeth at least twice a day. So, after that, it made sense that I only approved roommates with advanced periodontal disease, right?

See the ridiculous nature of the whole situation? Their inability to evaluate individuals based on their own merit is what worries me. Sure, culture and fit are important in the office and even more important in shared living space, but rejecting huge swaths of people on trivial matters isn't right for any company culture.

Now, one last note: There's a probability greater than zero that this whole listing is a joke and that it was written after they violated their own rules about alcohol consumption. While it was a dumb thing to do, if they meant to be funny, I wouldn't hold it against them. Even though they have top degrees and work in math and science jobs, that doesn't guarantee a good sense of humor. People with a bad sense of humor are not a group I'd want to reject out of hand. That would be dumb.