Say it with me, everyone: “Tech companies aren’t ruled by data, they are ruled by pattern recognition.”
This week, Harvard Business Review published more evidence that the masculine, always-crushing-it, toe-stepping, war-like culture that VCs so lionize as the only way to build a company is—SHOCKER!—the worst way to build a company.
From the report: “Why do companies get caught up in illegal behavior, harassment, and toxic leadership? Our research identifies an underlying cause: what we call a “masculinity contest culture.” This kind of culture endorses winner-take-all competition, where winners demonstrate stereotypically masculine traits such as emotional toughness, physical stamina, and ruthlessness. It produces organizational dysfunction, as employees become hyper competitive to win.”
After surveying thousands of workers from different industries, HBR identified four “masculine norms” that are “highly correlated” with organizational dysfunction.
“Show no weakness”: These cultures can’t admit doubt, reconsider a decision or admit a mistake.
“Strength and stamina”: Defaults towards forcing people to work extreme, unsustainable hours and hiring has a bias towards certain types like athletes or physically strong men.
“Put work first”: Where parental bias blooms. Any break from work is considered disloyal.
“Dog eat dog”: Encourages ruthless competition between workers resulting in a lack of trust.
Also from the piece, explaining why these environments are just as toxic for men as women: “What all of this means is that masculinity is precarious: hard won, and easily lost. And the need to repeatedly prove manhood can lead men to behave aggressively, take unwarranted risks, work extreme hours, engage in cut-throat competition, and sexually harass women (or other men), especially when they feel a masculinity threat.”
This leads to unnecessary risk taking, illness and burnout from working unnecessary hours, cutting corners to one-up one another, and anxiety, defensiveness, among other dysfunctions.
And that’s the risk for white men, in these environments. They are untenable for women and minorities. Among other business risks HBR details, these environments tend to have bullies in management and cultures with little support for families and where women are frequently abused and harassed.
All of this clearly flies in the face of all the bs rhetoric about being a “team” and a “family.” The logic in the Valley has long been that an aggressive “us against them” culture galvanizes a company. Uber showed the folly in that thinking in practice, and Harvard makes a strong case against it in research.
Go check out the whole article to get your new talking points when a VC tells you that he only backs people who are up at 3 am and don’t ever see their families.