DEI, Belonging, and Values Fit in the Workplace

The latest episode of Distributed interviews Sid Sijbrandij, Co-founder and CEO of GitLab. The episode prompted me to revisit the comprehensive GitLab Values page. There’s lots of good stuff in here.

Diversity, inclusion and belonging are fundamental to the success of GitLab. We aim to make a significant impact in our efforts to foster an environment where everyone can thrive. We are designing a multidimensional approach to ensure that GitLab is a place where people from every background and circumstance feel like they belong and can contribute. We actively chose to build and institutionalize a culture that is inclusive and supports all team members equally in the process of achieving their professional goals. We hire globally and encourage hiring in a diverse set of countries. We work to make everyone feel welcome and to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities and nationalities in our community and company.

We demonstrate diversity, inclusion and belongings when we foster an environment where everyone can thrive and ensuring that GitLab is a place where people from every background and circumstance feel like they belong and can contribute.

Source: GitLab Values | GitLab

I like the addition of belonging to DEI. That’s an important part of Employee Resource Groups: fostering belonging. Belonging helps address the leaky pipeline, and hiring for values fit instead of culture fit helps address getting in the pipeline in the first place.

Culture fit is a bad excuse

We don’t hire based on culture or select candidates because we’d like to have a drink with them. We hire and reward team members based on our shared values as detailed on this page. We want a values fit, not a culture fit. We want cultural diversity instead of cultural conformity, such as a brogrammer atmosphere. Said differently: “culture add” > “culture fit” or “hire for culture contribution” since our mission is that everyone can contribute.

Source: GitLab Values | GitLab

I love the rule-of-thumb: culture add > culture fit. I might add it to my old, neglected list of rules of thumb for human systems. Changing the framing from fit to add better includes neurodivergent people.

Speaking of neurodivergent people, the page has a section on neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity is a type of diversity that includes: autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, cognitive impairment, and other styles of neurodivergent functioning. While neurodivergent individuals often bring unique skills and abilitieswhich can be harnessed for competitive advantage in many fields including cybersecurity, neurodivergent individuals are often discriminated against, and sometimes have trouble making it through traditional hiring processes. These individuals should be able to contribute as GitLab team members. The handbook, values, strategy, and interviewing process should never discriminate against the neurodivergent.


Source: GitLab Values | GitLab

“The handbook, values, strategy, and interviewing process should never discriminate against the neurodivergent.”

Wow, it sure feels good to read that so plainly written. Here’s some previous writing of mine to help avoid discriminating against neurominorities at work and, instead, create belonging.

De-centering Yourself in Distributed Work

Not everyone communicates the same way. When you work to make a distributed model inclusive, it is best if you can de-center yourself, your norms, and your experience, and start thinking primarily in terms of the experience of others. For example, how would a person with an auditory processing disorder experience a video meeting? A deaf person? A blind person? What avenues are there to make communication effective between all people?

Source: 18F: Digital service delivery | Building distributed teams

Auditory processing disorder makes video calls, phone calls, and the lecture model difficult for me. Before I retired, I was lucky enough to work somewhere that supports differentiated instruction, positive niche construction, and neurological pluralism. My career would have been much different and much shorter if I hadn’t spent 15 years helping build a distributed company that appreciates these things and tries to build them into the culture.

Here’s some framing to help “de-center yourself, your norms, and your experience, and start thinking primarily in terms of the experience of others”:

Remote Work, Leadership, and Neurodiversity

“In face-to-face interactions, most of us are very easily swayed by the power of personality,” says Purvanova. “Virtually, we are less swayed by someone’s personality and can more accurately assess whether or not they are actually engaging in important leadership behaviours. People are more likely to be seen based on what they actually do, not based on who they are.”

Georgia Southern’s Charlier is not surprised to find a wide gulf between the behaviours of in-person and remote leaders. “In any leadership role, you’ve got to establish that trust. It’s trusting that the person is going to do things, and trusting that they’re telling the truth and being up front and honest. But how you go about doing that virtually is a little different – it’s a different skill set.”

Source: The surprising traits of good remote leaders – BBC Worklife

One of the best parts of distributed work is that it levels the playing field for neurodivergent people who can’t compete in rooms and one-on-ones with the peak, manipulative neurotypicalism that is often confused for leadership.