The Search for an Authentic Workplace

As I’m hunting for a software development job, I have to keep reminding myself that this process is as much about me selecting an employer who fits my needs as it is about an employer finding a worker who fits their needs. The positive effects of a well-adjusted work environment and coworkers who mesh can’t be underestimated.

I read a relevant thought-provoking article about Google’s Project Artistotle, a company initiative to study why certain teams worked so well together.

“What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘‘work face’’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘‘psychologically safe,’’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy. We can’t be focused just on efficiency. Rather, when we start the morning by collaborating with a team of engineers and then send emails to our marketing colleagues and then jump on a conference call, we want to know that those people really hear us. We want to know that work is more than just labor.”

That’s hard to pinpoint when you’re going through the hiring process.

I think this nebulous perfect team environment becomes even more important for people with marginalized identities. If you don’t work in a team with high “psychological safety”, a team climate “characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves,” you don’t just leave part of your personality at home when you go to work. You leave part of your fundamental identity at home. You step into the closet.

And when you’re spending 40 (or more) hours a week at work, that’s a lot of time hiding who you are. Being closeted can be extremely emotionally damaging. As a queer non-binary-gendered person myself, I would never want to work somewhere where I can’t be my fully authentic self. But how can you assess that during a phone screen or an interview with a company? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

Written on July 19, 2016