Problem with ‘culture fit’ hiring is ‘culture here does not reflect the culture of Black people’

“It shows you the insensitivity and the lack of awareness,” Rhett Lindsey, a Black former recruiter at Facebook told The Washington Post. He quit last November, less than a year after he was hired and created his own recruiting startup, the newspaper reported. 

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone didn’t delve into the Drake incident in his interview with the Post. “We’ve added diversity and inclusion goals to senior leaders’ performance reviews,” he said. “We take seriously allegations of discrimination and have robust policies and processes in place for employees to report concerns, including concerns about microaggressions and policy violations.”

Oscar Veneszee Jr., a Black operations manager at Facebook, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on July 2, 2020. “We have a Black people problem,” he told NPR last July. Veneszee, a Navy veteran, was tasked with attracting other people of color to the company as part of a diversity initiative, NPR reported. “We’ve set goals to increase diversity at the company, but we’ve failed to create a culture at the company that finds, grows and keeps Black people at the company,” he said.

Veneszee told The Washington Post that he identified more than six qualified applicants, all from underrepresented groups, and Facebook didn’t hire any of them. “When I was interviewing at Facebook, the thing I was told constantly was that I needed to be a culture fit, and when I tried to recruit people, I knew I needed to find people who were a culture fit,” he told the Post. “But unfortunately not many people I knew could pass that challenge because the culture here does not reflect the culture of Black people.”

Three Black people interviewed for jobs at Facebook said in the EEOC complaint The Washington Post obtained that they were told they wouldn’t fit the Facebook culture. “There’s no doubt you can do the job, but we’re really looking for a culture fit,” one employee told the Post after her lawyer requested the paper protect her anonymity. 

Lindsey told the Post he referred at least 12 people of color for interviews at Facebook, all of whom were rejected. “There is no culture fit check mark on an application form, but at Facebook it is like this invisible cloud that hangs over candidates of color,” Lindsey told the Post.

“It really boils down to who do I feel comfortable hanging out with,” he said.

Three years ago, Mark Luckie, a former manager at Facebook, published a similarly telling memo on Facebook in November 2018 about the company’s failings to prioritize the needs of Black people both internally with the company and externally on the platform. “Black people are finding that their attempts to create ‘safe spaces’ on Facebook for conversation among themselves are being derailed by the platform itself,” Luckie wrote. “Non-black people are reporting what are meant to be positive efforts as hate speech, despite them often not violating Facebook’s terms of service. Their content is removed without notice. Accounts are suspended indefinitely.”

Internally, Luckie described a “one-off” approach to diversity, leaving the company’s few Black workers to voluntarily answer questions outside of their scope of work like “What do black people think about…“, “Is this racist?”, or “Is this graphic culturally appropriate?”

He added:

Facebook’s disenfranchisement of black people on the platform mirrors the marginalization of its black employees. In my time at the company, I’ve heard far too many stories from black employees of a colleague or manager calling them “hostile” or “aggressive” for simply sharing their thoughts in a manner not dissimilar from their non-Black team members. A few black employees have reported being specifically dissuaded by their managers from becoming active in the [internal] [email protected] group or doing “Black stuff,” even if it happens outside of work hours. Too many black employees can recount stories of being aggressively accosted by campus security beyond what was necessary.

On a personal note, at least two or three times a day, every day, a colleague at MPK [Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park] will look directly at me and tap or hold their wallet or shove their hands down their pocket to clutch it tightly until I pass. The frequency is even higher when walking through Classic campus or Building 20. To feel like an oddity at your own place of employment because of the color of your skin while passing posters reminding you to be your authentic self feels in itself inauthentic.

HR is often a dead end.

Black employees will sometimes to turn to HR in search of a resolution, as employees from all backgrounds do. We often find, however, that our experiences are rationalized away or we’re made to believe these disheartening patterns are a figment of our imagination. That our eyes and ears are deceiving us and we’re simply not being a team player. It becomes clear that the conversations with HR are more often than not meant to protect the manager and the status quo of Facebook, not support the employee.

Black staffers at Facebook know that by raising our voices we risk jeopardizing our professional relationships and our career advancement. As much as we’d like to convince ourselves these are minor inconveniences, they continue to eat away at us and affect our work. It’s only when talking to other black employees experiencing the same issues that we come to accept that it is a pattern of behavior deeply connected to the culture at Facebook. And so we talk amongst ourselves, in small groups or one on one, finding ways to cope with the additional stress that comes with being a person of color at this company.

Certainly, these aren’t the experiences of all black employees. But these issues are so widespread that they should be an ongoing cause for concern.

It’s no wonder that Lindsey left the company. “It was a hard year,” he told The Washington Post. “The work from home, the racial justice protests. I worked for a platform where there was a lot of hate and disconnect, and as a Black man, I felt I was always under a microscope. Just because you’re in this place everyone thinks is great and have stability, you don’t have to stay somewhere that is problematic in your eyes.”

Editorial Staff
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