By Muthoni Ndegwa
A while back, I met with a CEO in charge of a fintech company. While we were conversing, she casually commented; “I can only trust my tribe at work. If I have a senior position, I always attend the interviews and ensure someone from my tribe is picked. The ones I have worked with have proven to be very competent. As the leader of my company, I cannot take risks by hiring from another tribe –especially for management positions.”
This had me very worried for the future of the job market. The CEO saw nothing wrong with her stance.
Are you of a similar opinion?
Do you believe only a few tribes can effectively execute a particular task?
Having a few tribes working for you can have negative effects not only for the company but also the job market in general.
Here are some of the negative implications of hiring one or a few tribes.
1. Tribalism kills variety
When you have employees from different tribes, you’ll be sure of different approaches and viewpoints. Since different cultures have different lifestyles, the employees will have varying ideas on how to execute a task.
From these diverse ideas, you can easily find one that works.
When you hire from one tribe, on the other hand, you’re limited to the number of unique ideas from your employees.
2. Tribalism creates a negative working environment
Last year, I interviewed a candidate for a finance manager position. At the end of the interview, the interviewee had a few questions for me. One of the questions was how diverse the working environment would be if she got the job.
When I asked why, she told me of her previous position. All the employees were from a single tribe. During lunch, they would hurdle together and converse in their mother tongue. At times, they would freely discuss work in their mother tongue.
This made her quite uncomfortable. She addressed the matter, but there was little change. In the end, she had to leave.
Having employees from different tribes creates a conducive working environment for everyone.
3. Tribalism creates separation and isolation
When most of your employees come from certain tribes, everyone else will feel as though they do not fit in. As in the case shared above, the lady didn’t feel as though she fit in the working environment.
A thriving working environment should be inclusive of everyone. When you have different tribes working for the organization, everyone feels they have a voice in the company.
As we can see above, having only a few tribes in your workforce can negatively affect the company.
How can you ensure your organization includes a wide variety of employees?
1. Have a fair hiring process
Tribalism starts at the recruiting process. If the applications are measured by the qualifications and experience, you’ll have different tribes working for you. One of the ways of ensuring a free recruitment process is by outsourcing your recruitment needs to an impartial party.
2. Create an environment of unity and togetherness
Most of the company culture trickles down from the management to the employees. When you interact with employees from different backgrounds, it brings forward a sense of inclusion. This then creates a pace for the employees to interact, engage and work together.
You can also create a sense of synergy and togetherness by mixing up different employees into various departments.
3. Benefits should be based on performance
When it comes to a sensitive subject such as promotions, there will always be someone who feels they have been discriminated on or passed over. However, when the process is just and fair, most of the employees will see this. Moreover, they’ll be driven to work hard.
Tribalism has long affected the country. While it doesn’t look like the situation will change much, there is still a lot you can do at the corporate level to start off the process. Every notable movement started at one point then scaled up. The way to change the face of tribalism in the region is by making changes at our organizations.
Muthoni Ndegwa is the Chief Operations Officer at Corporate Staffing Services.