Wisdom from a philosopher: for a less bro-y office, hire fewer bros

Photo: estelle75 (iStock)

The Wall Street Journal published a touching story yesterday about one tech start-up’s attempts to banish bro culture from its office.

Kitu Life, Inc., which produces an energy drink called Super Coffee, was already operating at a disadvantage as it had been founded by three biological bros. They were all white dudes who had been college athletes and tended to hire people they already knew. Jordan DeCicco, the CEO, described the atmosphere as “like a locker room sometimes.” This means there were inappropriate comments about women’s appearance and anti-Semitic jokes. DeCicco decided the solution to this problem was not to hire an HR consultant but a philosopher, who would diffuse defuse the obnoxious behavior without imposing corporate bureaucracy.

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The philosopher was Reid Blackman, who had recently become an ethical risk consultant after 20 years as a philosophy professor; he had also previously owned a fireworks business. It must be said that DeCicco didn’t have to look very hard to find him: Blackman had been one of his professors when he was a philosophy major at Colgate.

And what did the wise philosopher say? The Journal reports: “It didn’t take Mr. Blackman long to absorb the problem—he spotted a photo of the Kitu team on LinkedIn. It was mostly white men. ‘I said, “You’re courting disaster!”’ he recalls.”

Wow! What an amazing insight!

But wait! There’s more! Blackman prepared a two-page ethics statement for Kitu that included action items like, “Advertise in places where nonwhite guys are.” (The philosopher also recommended sourcing coffee beans from companies that treated their workers better, but the Kitu bros rejected that because they said they lacked the resources.) He really earned his $500-$600 an hour!

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Now Kitu’s 66-person work force includes 22 women and 11 minorities. (It’s unclear whether those two categories overlap.) All because of philosophy. It boggles the imagination.

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About the author

Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.