The “Becky” Meme as an Indicator of Homogenity in Workplace Culture

This week, I’ve started to take note of the organizational culture, paying particular attention to the age demographics of the staff. Shannon appears to be in her early forties, while the entirety of the Oakwood Arts staff (both paid and unpaid) are in their twenties. Essentially, the staff is full of millennials. This became especially apparent this Thursday, when the staff started laughing over the privilege of a woman named “Becky” who sent Shannon an email equivalent of “can I speak to your manager” over the property rights to the church that Oakwood Arts owned, even though Shannon had already clarified that she was the Founder and Executive Director of the organization. This lead to a lot of laughter from everyone in the room, and the promise that whenever anyone started acting with too much of a white saviorship attitude, we would now ask them to “quit their Beckery.”

Though the nature of Oakwood Arts as a baby non-profit and its overall chaotic leadership structure would normally generate a non-cohesive staff, moments like this point to the opposite being true, and I don’t believe that’s coincidental. Beckys, Sharons, Karens, and Susans are common memes in millennial culture, and it is from this shared understanding of the stereotypes behind these characters that progressive millennials establish community. This culturally shared sense of humor contributes to a workplace that thrives on its cohesiveness of similarity.

We’ve learned in leadership theory that homogenous groups achieve more harmony, both because there is less disagreement and more similarity in interests. Thus, work environments that can tap into this homogeneity are at an advantage in cohesiveness. Though there is a fair amount of racial and economic diversity within our staff, the cohesiveness of our age and general political leanings creates an organizational culture that, though chaotic, feels more like a family than a workplace.

The downside, of course, falls to lack of diversity in perspectives. These kinds of homogenous bubbles lead to groupthink, which has consequences in stifling the success of organizations by limiting opposition, both from a desire not to deviate from group norms and a lack of diverse thought. I certainly have felt uncomfortable at times challenging the ideas of my peers at Oakwood Arts, and this realization of our culture has helped me to understand why it is harder for me to voice controversial ideas in this space as opposed to others (such as my classes at Jepson).