What sets Gtmhub culture apart

December 7, 20215 min read
Flat Earth diagram

This was supposed to be a blog providing an OKR example for the Strategic HR Partner. Somewhere along the way it turned into my own personal meditation on why the Gtmhub CEO's recent tongue-in-cheek endorsement of flat-earth theory matters. After reading it, I hope you agree.


It's not about you, mate

I'll never forget the first day of my first office job. It came thirty years ago back in London, my hometown, where I was born and raised. 

As you would expect, I arrived early, bright-eyed, and feeling a little apprehensive. I entered the ground floor office space to discover the head of HR at the center of attention. 

I'd met him during the interview process. Now he was holding court, surrounded by a semi-circle of my future colleagues, each one hanging on his every word as he told a joke about 'Pakies’.

For those not familiar with British slang, a 'Paki’ is the racial slur reserved for people of subcontinental descent. I remember how they all laughed at the punchline. 

An awkward moment followed as one-by-one they noticed me standing at the entrance, dark-skinned and unimpressed. "Don't worry," said the head of HR in an effort to reassure me. Referring to the joke, "it's not about you, mate." 

The evolution of HR

HR has come a long way since those heady days. Back then, it was essentially an administrative function concerned with compliance around hiring, firing, and payroll. As you can gather from my testimony, 'cultural considerations' were not a concern.

In contrast, today, HR is recognized as a strategic function concerned with nothing less than helping the organization achieve competitive advantage. This accounts for why the HR function is often represented in the boardroom by a member of the leadership team. 

Meanwhile, fostering 'the right culture' has become an essential part of the HR strategy for delivering that competitive advantage. 

In search of diversity of a different kind

But what is the right kind of culture? The diversity agenda seems to provide the answer for many. But others, including in many cases those it is supposed to benefit directly, remain unconvinced, or at least unconvinced about accepting it uncritically. 

For some of them, the price of an ideology that emphasizes material considerations like skin color is too high. Why? Because it makes the dream they shared with Martin Luther King Jr of a world in which "the content of our character rather than the color of our skin matters" seem even further away.

Some resent the attendant whiff of being a "diversity hire", considering it a new form of stigma. Being perceived as an “ungrateful diversity hire” can be even more trying. 

Meanwhile, others resent self-appointed commissars who appropriate the struggle to make policy in their name, claiming to speak for them while doing no such thing. 

Then there are those who remain unconvinced by the vision of diversity embodied by the 'multiculti' team endlessly promoted in so many Hollywood movies - i.e. a team filled with people with different skin colors, genders, orientations, and ethnic costumes, but who all think in exactly the same way on all the important issues.


On Radical Tolerance

Some advocates of the new dispensation remain unmoved by such doubts. There's no other way, they argue. It's for your own good, they assure us. Therefore, if anything, we should be grateful for their interventions.

But fortunately, when it comes to the claim that we need such radical conformity of thought, the Gtmhub CEO Ivan Osmak doesn't seem entirely convinced, even when dealing with outlandish points of view. 

Proof of this came in an email he recently sent to everyone at Gtmhub. The eyebrow-raising subject line of that email read, "Gtmhub: The official position on the curvature of the Earth". 

In the email, Ivan went on to proclaim that the "Earth is undeniably flat." He was not serious, of course. I doubt Ivan believes in flat-earth theory any more than I believe the earth orbits the sun on the back of a turtle. 

The real point was to inform us that he had been seriously considering adding one more value to the list of Gtmhub core company values. In his own words, that value is "Radical tolerance – of opinion (or lack thereof), of thought, of expression, of being…"

Our very own philosopher CEO-cum-workplace Spartacus, (also from Bulgaria, don't you know?), added, "let me assure you that you will never be at a disadvantage at Gtmhub if you believe the Earth is round." 

Clearly, a seemingly whimsical email from our CEO was nothing of the sort. It was an oblique expression of his conviction to ensure Gtmhub will never become a place where having a different opinion from the majority, however outlandish, will be a problem. 

It seems during Ivan's watch, Gtmhub will not become one of those places where failing to applaud at meetings is noted, where being a contrarian and a toxic employee are one and the same thing, and therefore keeping what you really think to yourself is always the wisest course of action.



What happened to the OKR example?

I'm sorry. Needless to say, all hope of concluding this article by pivoting to the topic of an OKR example for the Strategic HR Partner has long since gone to hell in a handbasket. 

I assure those interested in the topic that I will follow up with a blog on it in due course, complete with the latest on what leading analysts and thought leaders have to say on the subject.

But for now, forgive me for concluding this particular blog with an appeal to our illustrious leader…

…Dear Ivan, 

I appreciate you don't claim to have all the answers. As you modestly put it, "you are giving me way too much credit when you expect me to have an intelligent, or even informed take on religion, the meaning of life, or cultural heritage…."  Despite this, I think you are right not to uncritically accept what is in vogue in terms of organizational culture.

With this in mind, I urge you to formally confirm 'radical tolerance' as a Gtmhub value. Because your stand sets the stage for those who work here to be able to express themselves without fear of repercussions for not conforming, and that really does set us apart in an increasingly illiberal age.

Furthermore, I admire you for being prepared to wrestle with the difficult questions that others ignore. Because it means you have not been cowed by fear of criticism into docilely endorsing an agenda that comes with the danger of achieving one kind of diversity at the expense of another.

For what it's worth, I, for one, would not sacrifice freedom of expression, even to eliminate the racism that I have experienced over the course of my life. It seems to me that such a cure would be worse than the disease.

For all these reasons, when I consider your position on radical tolerance, I say bravo, and… I'm Spartacus.

Ravi Bains, Gtmhub Storyteller, India