I continue to hear from clients and read articles on the increased number of biased aggressions occurring in the workplace. The following is such an issue that was forwarded to me for my comments. The suggestions covered in the article were very good and I have added my input in the response I gave at the end.
I Wish There Were A Guide To Dealing With Racism At Work Jopwell February 3, 2017
I’m a 26-year-old advertising account executive in liberal Southern California, where I was born and raised. When I started my career, I could not have predicted that I would encounter racism so regularly at work. But I do. And I’m not entirely sure what to do about it.
To back up a bit, it wasn’t until college that I felt able to create my own identity. I went to a small private high school in San Diego where being a woman of color had, without my permission, defined me. In college, I decided to reclaim and explore this definition. I lived on an all-Black dorm floor and joined a Black sorority, and as I learned more about my culture and heritage, I began embracing the influence of Black culture in all aspects of my being. This allowed me to step into a newfound space of responsibility that comes from protecting your people and culture. Among those of other races, I became an ambassador, educating friends and colleagues who had questions and gently correcting those who needed additional guidance.
That ambassadorship is not always easy. I bask in Black girl magic when I’m with my tribe — a group of women who understand what it’s like to be an ambitious, passionate, female minority in a less-than-friendly world. But when I leave, there’s a looming threat of entering a space that lacks that empathy and understanding.
One of those spaces is my office.
I work in advertising, and my office has a pretty casual, comfortable feel. We regularly celebrate birthdays and achievements together, have a communal stash of booze, and enjoy low rates of employee turnover (it also doesn’t hurt that colleagues regularly bring in their dogs). While it’s a nice environment, there is still, at the very least, subconscious racism.
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Every time I walk in with a new hairstyle (I wear my hair natural), a whole group of teammates weigh in with questions and amazement. One or two even assume it’s okay to touch my hair, an action that makes me feel more dog than human. When I pull away, issuing a small physical objection, there’s an immediate reaction of surprise, as if there’s something strange about asserting my right to my body. And then there are the times when it’s much worse.
During a seemingly routine afternoon meeting dedicated to kicking off a new project, my team and I began discussing producing creative work for an area frequented by people of color. But before we could even get into the details, a coworker began repeatedly explaining how “ghetto” the area was, even advising others not to wear red there for fear of gang associations. I happen to know this place; it houses a Nordstrom Rack, a Macy’s, and several restaurants. I’ve never seen gang members hanging out there. But, yeah, there are Black people around.
I found my coworker’s comments to be rude, disruptive, and, of course, inaccurate. They were disrespectful to the Black culture and community I’ve grown to love and fiercely wish to protect. Yet I felt alone in my sentiment. No one was directly addressing the situation.
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At that point, I had a few options:
I could express my opinion in a direct, assertive manner, which would likely make others uncomfortable and potentially jeopardize my job. I feared that if I did this, my coworkers would see me as nothing but an angry Black woman who can’t take a joke.
I could let my coworker continue, but that felt like letting down my family, friends, and every Black person who has ever fought for me to be in the space I was in. As a minority, I feel like I’m constantly teetering between representing and misrepresenting my race and community.
I could wait until the meeting was over, talk to my boss privately, and let her take it from there.
I ended up feeling so angry — angry that my boss, who was in the room, didn’t take control, and angry that I was, in that moment, too upset to pull it together — that I didn’t show up to the office the next day.
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When I returned to work on Monday, I spoke with someone in HR who directed me to the offender’s boss. While she was empathetic, the fact remained that the onus to educate and correct not only my coworker, but also my company’s management fell on me. So many questions flooded my mind when I realized how the response to inappropriate behavior is actually a pattern. The victim always has to justify why he or she is offended when the real issue is the behavior itself.
I’ll be honest: The situation didn’t leave me feeling particularly hopeful. There was no direct follow-up or talk about how to do things better in the future. I’ve now thought through the potential courses of actions and outcomes in hindsight many times. For anyone who finds themselves in a similarly upsetting situation, I hope you’ll learn from my experience and consider following these important steps:
1. Confide in your tribe.
The first thing I did after my disaster of a meeting was to reach out and text my girls. I couldn’t believe what had happened. I needed some love, a lot of support and a safe space to vent— if only through the phone. Your tribe exists for these moments. Rely on them to listen and to find strength and encouragement.
2. Take care of yourself.
Self-care is a real thing, and it’s especially important when you feel a lot of different things at once. Whether you’re unusually tired, stressed, or revved up, a deep psychological ache can easily spill into other areas of your life. Acknowledge this and take healthy steps to address your needs and make yourself feel better.
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3. Write everything down.
Documentation is important for several reasons: Your memory is most clear right after an event, and when you do make a formal complaint, you’ll want to reference those notes. The longer you wait to write things down, the more likely you’ll forget vital details. On a personal note, journaling can also help you work through complicated sets of feelings.
4. Give self-acceptance a shot.
Take a moment to zoom out and remind yourself that you matter. Your experiences and feelings are valid. Even when you’re second-guessing yourself about whether or not to take action, know that if the smallest part of you feels uncomfortable, it means something. No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable or less than. Do what you can to improve the situation while remembering that it’s not your responsibility to take someone to task. You may very well need (and deserve) help. After all, isn’t that what HR and all those management trainings are for?
TELL US: Have you experienced discrimination at work? How did you deal with it? Share on Facebook!
This piece originally appeared on The Well, Jopwell’s editorial hub. It is reprinted here with permission.
HERE IS MY ANSWER AS SUBMITTED TO THE ARTICLES REQUEST AT GLASSDOOR
This a difficult and uncomfortable situation and yes, often times it does fall on your/our shoulders to represent and educate, as one challenge we will always have is ignorance.
I would suggest two approaches, tied together or not:
1) if you know this person I would have a side conversation with them. Explain that areas carved out in the best of cities may have marginal neighborhoods nearby but that never means 'danger or gangs' - Hollywood goes from grandeur to despicable in a matter of blocks as does Santa Monica, San Francisco downtown etc. Chose an area she can relate to as data/example. Explain that the consumers and management of that area would not have unsafe conditions or those stores and restaurants would not be there. Point out that the statements could be perceived as coming from lack of knowledge and exposure to people of color, or an 'unintentional bias. Then go on and convey Your experience visiting in the area. And lastly, your feelings that it was a hurtful projection of 'people of color means dangerous area'. Sometimes we have to convert the Bigots, Racists and Ignorant one person at a time.
2) For the next meeting of the group simply volunteer 'just revisiting some comments on the area' and provide quick data on safety in the area, crime, number of visitors, demographics of visitors, whatever you can access and like. Then end directly with something like - 'the area is fantastic cause it does serve All People excellently as it should. People of all colors are safe and happy there'. Most people will recognize a positive message and correction when they hear it.
Good Luck and stay confident in presenting who you are and what truths you know.
In the first article I talked about understanding and preparing for the changes that you may see in your business. That is essential to be prepared for how the marketplace may affect the direction your company is going and the opportunities that typically arise with change. It is good business to anticipate changes and have a plan that allows you to benefit from what the consequences (good or bad) are for your organization.
Many of us were surprised at the results of the election. It has slightly altered how many of us proceed (definitely slowed me down) and has given us more concern as we look for what is known and unknown in the future. Trump winning was not the change we were all anticipating when I wrote part 1 of this series.
Make sure you stay attuned to his revised commitments and changes versus the campaign threats. Some things may change in importance and some approaches may be altered as his administration and advisers formalize and prioritize actions. You must consider what evolves and its effect on your market and employer.
We all expect that we will see an increase in micro-aggressions and sometimes outright racist behavior. In fact, we have seen in the news and on the Internet, negative and derogatory vocalizations towards brown and black people in schools and public places. We expected some negative comments based on the rhetoric from the campaign, however short term there have been more emboldened individual reactions after the Trump win.
The good news is that we've also seen an outpouring from American companies and their management (in very public ways) on the importance of diversity and working together. The CEO of AT&T has been very upfront in describing how he felt about maintaining efforts towards diversity, inclusion and support of Black Lives Matter. The CEO of Grub Hub was very outspoken on his post-election feelings towards people who supported the president elect and his commitment to a culture of inclusiveness in his organization (Bloomberg Nov 11). We also have seen many Fortune 500 companies stand up and speak to their employees in ways that indicated that they will continue to support the efforts to hire minorities LGBT women, etc. into their work environment and to help promote and guarantee their success (i.e., Microsoft announces diversity as a key factor in executive bonuses).
These announcements from the corporate leaders in the U.S. are very positive. We recognize that part of it is driven by the fact that much of their growth and success will be in appealing to the minority consumer and global marketplace. Minority participation in the workforce is also key if they want to have the best talent.
Likewise, their global image must have diversity efforts included as all other countries (buyers of their goods and services) are watching. Whether it's selling phones in South America or providing accounting services to the Middle East and Europe, people are watching.
The Fortune 500 recognize that they cannot afford to stumble in their diversity efforts and that racially diverse organizations outperform non diverse ones by 35% (Forbes 2015). That's the good news. The bad news is that many of us don't work for Fortune 500 companies.
Therefore, we must recognize that there are things we must do to be prepared personally and to be able to survive and thrive in this new environment.
Let me suggest three things that will make a difference for you:
In the last two weeks I have had multiple occurrences of people talking with me about concerns with the current environment and their relationship with management. One person was concerned with what they have seen as escalating negative attitudes towards her role and career. The current hired in expert (2 years in the job) had always been difficult but has become more antagonistic and negative towards her recently. Although she has a record of being a star performer she has been treated with some distance and disdain by this new manager.
She is a black female in a very traditional white, middle-aged business structure (Commercial Financial Services). She has been with the company for almost 2 decades and has always met her management and performance goals, but he has recently suggested that she would not be around for the long term.
We talked about her strategy for improving the relationship. First, we considered his background and the nature of his being. We recognize that he was a successful analytical social style who probably had never directly managed a woman or minority in the past. Additionally, he was a very conservative, Midwesterner with a stay at home wife and used to having his way. He did not seem to approve of her single mom status and didn’t really connect with any of the female employees or support staff. She and he had never had an informal or social interchange. She didn’t like or trust him.
I suggested that she approach him with a quid pro quo discussion. That discussion would revolve around three things. First, she recognizes his discomfort with her and understood, but her perceived differences/disadvantages actually made her a more determined and creative manager that resulted in her being successful for the organization. That he could count on. In addition, if she could spend more time with him learning big deal tactics and financing options, he could forecast more business or over-attain next year’s goals. Lastly, she would single handedly approach the minority market to add to the organization's numbers and meet new diverse customer targets (something she wanted to do and upper management wanted to see happen).
The discussion went well and now she is more optimistic as to her long-term success and ability to grow. They will have their first lunch meeting and joint customer visit soon. It was all quid pro quo (his time and mentoring her additional business). In fact the result is she is slowly converting him (at least in the business environment) and opening his eyes to the possibilities of working with women and minorities.
The second conversation was with a lady who had been approached by another manager who recognized her for getting things done, but did so by stereo typing her as a neck twirling, hand on the hip aggressive black female, none of which was true. She was shocked when it happened, but after our conversation, decided that if it happens again, she would very quickly address the fact that her success is based on making the right decisions and doing the right thing as any educated and prepared business person would do, period. I applauded her approach and strategy. She is more confident on what to do next. That’s how you handle micro-aggressions and the ignorant.
So in summary:
Speak up and provide simple responses and solutions that open eyes when the opportunities for education and conversion on Bias and Micro-aggressions are there.
Know and connect with the decision making structure and build your personal virtual team for success with planning and ‘Being There’.
Understand the political environment's effect on opportunities for the future for you, your market and business so you can make the right decisions and plan for your success.
We will continue to see change. We must plan and deal with change in ways that prepare us for the future. The post Trump election environment is just another opportunity for working with change for mutual success. We must always find ways to make the best of change when it happens.
Preparing Your Work Space for a Post Trump Election by Gregory Harris
All of us should be considering and preparing for the world as it will be after the 2016 election. The reality is that regardless of who wins or loses, the attitudes towards minorities, equality and racial relations is definitely changing and the discourse on bringing us all together will take major steps backwards.
The angry and now outspoken supporters of the Trump following and their negative, but pervasive discontent will undoubtedly continue well past Nov 8. If Hillary wins there will be an out roar of ‘fixed elections, ballot tampering and political manipulation’. If Trump wins there will be triumphant and loud endorsement of the reversal of all things previously held as truths of racial inequities and inequality in work and life options for minorities.
Implicit bias will rise to explicit action based on the current rhetoric. That rhetoric gives rise to economic anxiety. That anxiety means loss of jobs and opportunities for white America, but comes based in racial anxiety that says Mexicans, blacks and immigrant Muslims are getting all the jobs and opportunities that are left after Obama has let jobs go to China and India. Unfair to white Americans and requires a taking back of America. But back from who?
* How do you take back from these very real statistics?
* Black unemployment – 8.8% vs 4.9 for whites Dept of Labor 2016
* Poverty levels-26.2% black, 23.6% Hispanic, 10.1% white ‘14 census
* 38% of black children live in poverty, steady since 2011, PEW 2015
* 1 Black female CEO in Fortune 500 - Forbes 2015
* Billionaires black -2, white – +500 - Forbes 2015
* 1 in 3 black men will go to prison in their lifetime UN sentencing 2013
* Jailed men- black 1 in 15, Hispanic 1 in 26, white 1 in 106 - ACLU 2011
Although the data tells a different story, minorities (black, brown, women, LGBT) will be facing a new reality. We will live in a world where the angry, racist and disenfranchised members of the majority will now believe in their own rhetoric and the beliefs and biases that they have silently held onto for years to be true in the now. Trump and his movement have given them a new emboldened voice, a new endorsement of their delusions.
However, now is not a good time for a backwards change with all of the consistent affronts to the minority population. Police killings, a justice system that targets black males and the lack of advancement opportunities in the black and brown communities, is not a good environment for further backlash. There will be reactions from the minority communities, but how each of us responds in the workplace is key to changing and managing fear and discontent on both sides.
For those of us who are employed, we have the unique opportunity to reach more civil minded or liked minded individuals who can recognize disconnects in the dialogue. It becomes our charge to change the racialized landscape and attitudes while we protect our jobs and the future of those coming behind us. Sometimes we do this ‘one naysayer at a time’ but do it we must. The alternatives are grim indeed.
When we do see opportunities to change attitudes, perceptions and fix the world we live in, we now have a challenge to (continue or start) working within the system in our work space for the benefit of us all. You and I must initiate our personal movement towards the elimination of implicit bias and racism in our workspace and educating our peers, associates, and comrades on the benefits and potentials of working together.
But first, ‘To thine own self be true’—think about the business you are in: will it be immediately affected by a change in administrations? Good or bad with Hillary or Trump? Will there be Green Company failures with Trump in office? Will interest rate changes affect your company’s ability to grow? Will social cuts loom for local, state and government employees? Although none of these changes would have effect immediately, consider what might happen in your industry and business and prepare accordingly with some thoughtful thinking and planning on what to watch for to predict and respond to impending change.
When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare became a reality, many medical manufacturers cut staff or benefits, etc., to protect earnings in preparation for additional taxes and cost they thought were coming. They closed plants, reduced staffing, etc. to protect earnings.
In this hostile climate, what and who may affect businesses trying to get away with cutting first? Is the business you are in secure? Are the real leaders in your organization part of the ‘Make America Great Again’ movement, or believers in civil rights for everyone?
Consider all of the above questions as you review your current occupation. Evaluate where YOU are and make your plan. This is the first step in preparing for the Post Trump Election.
I will talk about personal preparation and converting the majority (people issues) in part 2 of this series next week!!