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Before You Quit Your Job, Try This!

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We’ve all been there; the job is working your very last nerves. There is too much work to do and too little time to do it. On top of that, you have no time to spend with your family and friends and your social life sucks. It’s not just you. Over the last couple of years, many people I know have walked away from “good” jobs in pursuit of self-care, personal peace, and mental stability, myself included. In fact, The Mayo Clinic has identified “burnout” as one of the primary causes of workers leaving organizations. The lack of work-life balance, combined with impossible expectations, isolation, lack of autonomy, and chaotic office environments has been too much to bear for some, while others have decided to stick around, hoping for change. If you are part of the latter, keep reading for three ways to keep your job while maintaining your sanity.

  1. Ease into your day. In the fast-paced world of work, stepping into the office usually kicks off a tornado of activity where everything seems like a priority. Without proper time to prepare for your day, before you know it, stress, anxiety, and frustration can overcome you, curbing your enthusiasm and making you less efficient. Instead of creating a whirlwind of action, decide what must be done today by spending the first hour of your day reviewing emails, deadlines, and deliverables. Be realistic. Do not overextend yourself. Once you have a clear plan, get to work on the top priority items and if you have time left in your regular workday, tackle some of the tasks that are lower on your list. Interruptions and impromptu requests will come. Be prepared to say no to anything, barring an emergency that will keep you at work past quitting time. According to this Health Guide article, setting boundaries and learning to say no are two of the many ways to prioritize your mental health on the job.
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  1. Hang out with your colleagues. Anyone that knows me is well-aware of my history of apprehension about fraternizing with co-workers. Over the years, I learned that being antisocial in the workplace worked to my detriment. With so many studies done on the impact of isolation at work, it is no wonder inclusion is often paired with diversity and equity when leadership attempts to improve the employee experience. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs lists Love and Belonging as number three in the five-tier model of human needs. This sense of acceptance is so important, that it falls just behind physiological needs such as food and clothing, and safety requirements. Instead of working in your own silo, invite a co-worker to lunch or to happy hour after work. If that is a big ask for your personality, try small talk at the water cooler. Interacting with others can break up the monotony of the day and build a support system. You don’t have to become besties with the people at work, but forming meaningful and authentic relationships in the workplace is something we should all strive for.
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  1. Find new ways to do old things. A lack of control over the work you do can leave you feeling powerless and bored. The fifth item in Maslow’s Hierarchy is self-actualization. This is defined as the desire to reach one’s full potential, to grow and learn as much as possible. Discovering ways to be autonomous within the boundaries of your role can create a new appreciation for your work, provide fresh challenges to overcome, and give you a sense of pride in your accomplishments. Getting your creative juices flowing will breathe new life into an otherwise mundane task.
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Trying these steps before deciding to move on could be a recipe for success in your current role. That said, there are some jobs that are just crappy. Know the difference. If the work itself is burning you out, implementing the practices can help. However, if your employer is just toxic and the culture doesn’t align with your morals and values, perhaps it’s time to move on after all.

NyRee Ausler

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Black Women at Work: What Employers Can Learn from What Happened to Mo’Nique

Photo Cred: People.com – Lee Daniels and Mo’Nique

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past several years, you have heard something about the disagreement between the Comedienne, Mo’Nique, Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels, and Tyler Perry. I am going to focus mostly on Lee Daniels, as he was the most vocal in impacting public perception of the actress/comedienne.

Mo’Nique starred in the 2009 film, Precious, alongside Gabourey Sidibe. I will not go into the details of the movie since the trailer is linked, but to make a long story short, Mo’Nique was paid $50,000 for the role. At the time, no one had any idea that Precious would turn out to be an epic success, eventually winning the star an Emmy. As the buzz spread around the world, Mo’Nique was asked to travel far and wide to promote the movie. None of these responsibilities were included in her original contract and Lee Daniels, the film’s Producer, neglected to offer any compensation for the change in the scope of her work.

The actress refused to do additional work that she was not being compensated for and was immediately labeled “hard to work with”, “bitter”, and “angry”. Eventually, these stereotypes placed on her led to her being blackballed from the film industry for the last twelve years. To add insult to injury, when Steve Harvey invited her on his show to discuss that matter, he chastised her about how she addressed the matter, belittled her, and minimized her complaints. Mo’Nique’s words fell on deaf ears as public opinion had been formed based on the misinformation primarily pushed by Lee Daniels. Mo’Nique had her career stripped away in the blink of an eye for demanding to be paid for the work she was expected to do. Her “attitude” and her mouth were blamed for the loss of her livelihood.

Most people would have crawled in a hole and wallowed in self-pity, but not Mo’Nique. Now she was truly angry. That’s the thing; Black women at work are often treated in a way that would logically make any human being upset. When we finally do get mad, the bias is confirmed and the narrative set. In 2020, Mo’Nique filed a discrimination lawsuit against Netflix. Mo’Nique had been offered $500,000 for a comedy special on the streaming platform, while her white counterpart, Amy Schumer had been offered $11 million. In addition, Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle had received $40 million and $60 million respectively for their own specials. Mo’Nique believed that she had been underpaid due to both her race and gender. Prior to filing the lawsuit, Mo’Nique attempted to renegotiate the deal and was denied the opportunity. The case is still pending with the last update in 2020; Netflix attempted to dismiss the case and was denied.

Fast forward to early 2022. Mo’Nique gained an unlikely ally in the rapper and TV producer, 50 Cent, who is currently on a high in Hollywood due to the success of his hit show, Power. 50 happened to see Mo’Nique’s stand-up show on Super Bowl weekend and was so impressed by her that he vowed to put her back on top and reconcile the fractured relationships with Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey.

Apparently, 50 Cent’s voice carries weight because after twelve long years, Lee Daniels showed up to her comedy show in Staten Island, New York to apologize. He admitted to blackballing Mo’Nique and corroborated her story. After over a decade of being called a liar and constantly victim-shamed, her experience had been validated. The negative words commonly associated with Black women that refuse to stay ‘in their place’ had disappeared. Mo’Nique had won. But in a show of absolute humility, she immediately accepted Lee’s apology and hugged him. I applaud her for that because I am not sure how many people would have been so receptive after what had happened to her. As a show of good faith, Lee cast Mo’Nique in his upcoming Netflix film, Demon House, giving her the first appearance there since she filed the lawsuit against them.

Mo’Nique was validated and celebrated. Watching her win back everything she had lost was emotional for me because I know so many Black women that never get that chance. Most end up rebuilding their confidence and personal brand over several years with no admission of wrongdoing from an employer and with no powerful ally willing to vouch for them publicly. This situation eventually worked out, but many of us are still giving Lee Daniels the side-eye. It’s a shame that it took another powerful man to finally get him to do the right thing. Because of that I have to question his authenticity, but there are a few lessons employers can take from this situation:

  • Pay employees for all the work they do – If the scope of a job changes, compensate your employees for the additional work they are doing. According to this Gallup poll, in 2018, 43% of employees believed they were overworked and underpaid. With the Great Resignation in full swing and many Gen Z and Millennial workers willing to jump ship if they are not appreciated, pay and equity are crucial in retaining good employees and maintaining the stability of your organization.
nationalparternship.org – Black Women & the Wage Gap
  • Believe Black women – More often than not Black women in the workplace are put in a position of being both the victim and the advocate when treated unfairly at work. At first, they report an incident or pattern of behavior. Next, they are disbelieved and forced to advocate for themselves. Eventually, they are labeled “angry” or “difficult” because they refused to back down. In this Harvard Business Review article, the following paragraph stands out for me:
Harvard Business Review
  • Do the right thing… Even when no one is watching – It should not take over a decade for an employer to admit they are wrong. In fact, covering up the mistreatment of an employee should never occur. On one hand, most employers get away with it on the surface. On the other hand, other employees are watching and taking notes on how you treat people that work for you. They are fully aware and will be much more prepared when it is their turn to address an issue. A testament to this is that over half of American workers do not trust their employers when reporting workplace issues. Treating everyone at your organization with respect and dignity allows space to work issues out confidentially, avoids legal proceedings and EEOC complaints, and most importantly, signal to others that you are truly a good person, even behind closed doors.
Forbes.com
  • Do not make assumptions – I can already hear some of you saying, “But all of the participants in this story are Black, so Mo’Nique couldn’t have been discriminated against.” I know it seems like a logical argument… if you are not familiar with internalized racism/oppression. To sum it up, those suffering from this affliction have a desire to distance themselves from their own race, so adapt the same stereotypes and racist practices as those of oppressors. They tend to view themselves as “one of the good ones” and have a strong desire to be accepted by the majority. The fact that two people are of the same race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc., does not make it impossible for one of them to discriminate against the other.

Like many other Black women watching, I am happy to see Mo’Nique finally getting the apology and opportunity she deserves. On the flip side, I am skeptical (but hopeful) about the authenticity of the reconciliation. In the end, I would love to see those in control of our livelihoods take heed and do much, much better than Lee Daniels did in relation to Mo’Nique.

NyRee Ausler

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Today is the First Day of Kwaanza: 7 Reasons To Celebrate

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Several years ago, a colleague walked up to me and started firing off questions about Kwaanza. As the only black person working in the office, she assumed I would have in-depth knowledge of the holiday. I didn’t know whether I should be offended by the assumption or embarrassed that I knew absolutely nothing about it. Either way, I decided to do my research to enlighten myself about the meaning of the celebration.

Kwaanza is a secular holiday that takes place annually over seven days from December 26th to January 1st. It was started in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, an African-American Studies Professor, specializing in Pan-Africanism, in response to the Watts Riots. The goal of the Kwaanza celebration, according to Karenga, was to “Give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.” Originally thought of as a replacement for Christmas, which Karenga deemed a “white holiday”, many now celebrate Kwaanza alongside Christmas. Karenga believed that celebrating African cultural norms that pre-dated American slavery was a natural part of our evolution a necessary tie back to our stolen history.

Pan-African Flag – Photo Cred: Shutterstock

Kwaanza is a Swahili word meaning “first fruit”. It originated from the Nguni people of South Africa and the ceremony was a sacrifice of the first fruits of the harvest to God(s), who they believed was responsible for the abundance of food. It symbolized a time of prosperity after the agricultural season. Kwaanza is represented by the Pan-African colors; red, green, and black (yellow is often incorporated as well). The rituals performed during the holiday promote African tradition and are based around Nguzo Saba, the “seven principles of African Heritage”. The seven principles are represented by the Kinara, a candleholder with seven red, black and green candles. Each day one is lit until all have been used. Whatever your personal beliefs, there is no downside to implementing this celebration for your family. Personally, I try to practice these year-round but having a focused celebration on the importance of each is an excellent way to keep your family moving in the right direction. The thought of starting something new can be daunting, so to simplify, I have listed the seven principles below, along with how my family aspires to celebrate each:

  • Umoja (Unity)—To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race. On Day One, December 26th, my family takes part in a game day where we play games that require us to work together. In addition, we talk about struggles and either listen or offer suggestions to overcome them.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-determination)—To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. On this day, December 27th, we take the time to write down words that represent who we are and how we want the world to see us. This includes listing what is important to us, what he have learned and done in the current year and what we would like to achieve in the upcoming year.
  • Ujima (Collective work and responsibility)—To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together. Day Three is a continuation of Day Two; today we review the the self-determination items and collectively come up with ideas to help one another. We brainstorm ways that we can help each other reach the goals for the upcoming years.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative economics)—To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together. My household family is full of creatives; I write and create/sell products, my husband is a filmmaker/producer and videographer, my twelve-year-old is a YouTuber and my 10-year-old is a avid TikToker. In addition to their regular jobs, my grown children make music. On Day Four of Kwaanza, we spend time generating ideas, timelines and even working on projects for our collective businesses. The goal is to spend at least an hour focused on each individual’s ventures. In addition, we go over topics like, building credit, financial responsibility, wealthbuilding, equity, and provide funding for everyone to make a small stock purchase.
  • Nia (Purpose)—To make our collective vocation the building and development of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. Day Five is all about learning. With our goals and business ideas fresh in our minds, we focus on books, videos, and any other learning materials that can be beneficial in our success. Even whe nothing directly correlates, we spend the day reading, writing or watching movies related to our history or of eductional value.
  • Kuumba (Creativity)—To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. Day Six, the last day of December and of the year, we focus on giving back. We either go clean up an area in need or prepare and hand out post-holiday meals to those in need.
  • Imani (faith)—To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle. My family likes to start Day Seven, the final day of Kwaanza and the first day of the new year, by either listening to positive affirmations or reciting our own. We believe that faith and the Law of Attraction go hand-in-hand. What we believe, we will achieve. We end this day with gratitude by delivering gifts to our parents and elders who have been supportive and influential in our lives.

Food, of course is a staple throughout the entire celebration especially on the final day of celebration. On January 1st, we prepare a meal consisting of traditional soul food such as ox tails, greens, dressing, jambalaya, and cornbread, combined with some of our favorite Ethiopian recipes such as lamb dishes, veggie platter, including Shiro Wot and Misir Wot. Each year, we plan to add a new African recipe to our feast. These meals are included in our New Year’s Day gift deliveries.

With a global pandemic in full swing, violence at an all-time high, and mental health issues becoming more commonplace, any reason to keep family close, build together and support one another is a welcome reprieve. Whether you take some of my ideas or come up with your own unique ways of celebrating, incorporating these tenets can be the start of an epic 2022. Start small with just you and your household. From there, you can start to include more family members and create meaningful and beneficial experiences for all. Happy Kwaanza and a blessed and fruitful New Year to you and yours!

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Friends vs. Co-Workers: Why the Two Can Almost Never Coexist

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I can recall the very first time I came to the devasting conclusion that a co-worker I had spent time with, built a bond with, and treated like family was not my friend. I was working in Payroll/HR at a construction company, and she was a Project Manager. We hit it off immediately, going to lunch on a daily basis, supporting each other through family issues and work-related matters. She even helped to host my baby shower. Naturally, when I began to realize I was underpaid and overworked, she was my biggest supporter… privately. I shared my conversations with my manager, my stresses and frustration regarding what I felt was a discriminatory workplace. She listened and agreed, seemingly upset that I was being treated unfairly. The workplace situation escalated when I was “laid off” while on maternity leave due to a supposed reduction in force. It turned out that the company had decided to replace me with the owner’s niece, who I had trained to fill in while I was out. They also paid her appropriately. My co-worker/friend provided me with details about the office after I left the company, noting that there was no reduction in force and the owners of the company simply wanted to employ their own. This, of course, prompted me to take legal action.

After meeting with an attorney, my former employer had their company records subpoenaed. This included all email correspondence. To my astonishment, my friend at work had been passing all of our conversations along to my manager. I scanned email after email that detailed all of my personal business I had discussed with her. She had been rewarded for her loyalty to the company with an increase and promotion immediately after I left. After finding this out, I contacted my former co-worker and she was speechless, offering no explanation for her betrayal. I didn’t need one, really. She had used me and my situation to look out for herself. She apologized, but I ceased any communication with her. The situation landed in my favor, but the damage had been done. Over the years, there have been attempts by her to reconnect and I have rejected them because there can never be trust in our “friendship” again.

When friendships formed at work go awry, it is not always this dramatic. There are, however, variables in place that can prevent the relationship from being authentic. Workplace relationships are usually formed from compatible personality traits or a shared experience, whether good or bad. Either you are in the trenches together and form a bond or you are in a toxic environment and lean on each other to make it through a tough time.

The problem with believing that you and your friend/colleague have compatible personalities is that most people do not bring their authentic selves to work so whether you actually know your co-worker is questionable. What’s important to them? Is it equality in the workplace? How about opportunities for advancement? Does money motivate them? Do they know how to form healthy, functional relationships? I cannot count how many times I thought I knew what was important to a co-worker only to be surprised by their actions. As a dedicated activist for diversity, equality, and inclusion in the workplace, I have connected with many people to help them through trying times. Those connections have led to friendships. But I’ve noticed that once their trials and tribulations are over, the friendship we had formed was not the same. Sure, if they are in trouble again and need support, they reach out but is that really a friendship?

Let’s talk about human psychology. In my last blog post, Black Women: Stop Going Where You Are Not Welcomed, I talked about a psychologist, Abraham Maslow, and introduced Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The illustration below shows the five human needs represented in this theory, starting at the bottom of the pyramid. As you move up from the foundation, each need must be met before moving to the next. One necessity cannot be fulfilled unless those beneath it have been achieved.

Photo Cred: Shutter Stock – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Once the physiological needs (food, clothing, and shelter) have been met, the safety needs, including employment, resources, and property must be met before we even think about friendship and social interaction. I would even submit that the physiological and safety needs are interdependent as you need money and resources to obtain basic needs. Let’s face it; no matter how much you love what you do or how good you are at it, most people work to provide for themselves and their families. Employment and resources equal financial security and stability and will always be a primary concern. To further exemplify this, in an article by Employment First Florida, the top two reasons people work are listed as money and independence.

To add to Maslow’s Theory, another psychologist, Frederick Herzberg, developed the motivation-hygiene theory illustrated below. The idea is that the hygiene factors on the left must be fulfilled before the motivation factors on the right can even be considered. The motivation factors are what people need to be satisfied and happy in the workplace assuming the basic hygiene factors are met.

Photo Cred: Shutterstock – Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory Illustration

Although “relationships” are listed as one of the hygiene factors, once relationships are established, they can be impacted by the quest for achievement and advancement. Simplified, it’s highly likely that despite your friendship with your co-worker, if the possibility of losing a job, opportunities for achievement, recognition or advancement come into play, they may through you under the bus, drive over you like a speed bump, then throw the bus in reverse to make sure you are dead. Even more will play both sides against the middle, telling you what you want to hear while simultaneously using your situation to benefit themselves. Since you, too, need your basic needs met, it’s important to consider the why in workplace interactions. Be friendly. Be cordial. Be easy to work with, but also be reasonable. Always bear in mind that everyone is there to fulfill one of their basic needs and everything else is secondary.

With that said, I will tell you that I have met some awesome ladies in the workplace and been able to maintain authentic, supportive friendships outside of our professional connections. The landscape of those relationships has changed because we are no longer having a shared experience in our careers, but the common denominator is that we have things in common that have nothing to do with our jobs. In addition, when we did work together we were upfront, transparent, and never created an element of distrust. From a Human Resources perspective, I can say that often, friendships that start in the workplace fall apart when tested with the possibility of losing stability and resources or the introduction of an opportunity. Choose your close associates wisely and set boundaries. Remember that a listening ear is close to a running mouth.

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.

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Black Women: Stop Going Where You Are Not Welcomed

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I usually don’t write about pop culture, but this story caught my attention for many reasons. Yesterday, I came across an article on Yahoo by way of HelloBeautiful. The post talked about an incident that occurred at E11even, a nightclub in Miami. A group of black women was waiting to get in and apparently being bypassed by the doormen. Cardi B approached to make an appearance and the women advised her that they were being discriminated against. After being made aware of the situation, Cardi proceeded to “advocate” for the women by chanting, “Let them in!” until the men at the door relented.

Although we can all appreciate the Latina rapper stepping in to make sure these women were able to drink, dance, and party the night away. As a black woman, I experienced some serious secondhand embarrassment. Before I get into the reason for that, I would like to say first that Cardi B has no obligation to stand up for me or you or anyone. With that said, instead of leading a “Let them in” chant, I would have preferred she left a club that refused service to any people of color and took her talents and fans elsewhere. But I digress.

Black women throughout history have fought for the right to be seen, heard, and treated fairly and equally. We have protested for the rights to vote, read, write, against police brutality, escaped the horrors of slavery, and came out of Jim Crow and segregation. We have come from some of the worst circumstances to become who we are today. The stakes have been high, and we have always risen to the occasion.

Today is a new day, though. Collectively, black women are becoming well-aware of their worth no longer settling for mediocre treatment, and foregoing inclusion in spaces that make us feel like an outsider. Whether it be a job that is devaluing us, a relationship where we are settling for less than we deserve, or establishments that make it clear that we are not a part of their target demographic, we are just saying no. So it astonishes me that a group of grown women stood in the face of rejection with such low stakes and collectively begged to enter a nightclub that did not want them there.

I get it; human beings have an overwhelming need to be accepted. According to this thoughtco.com article explaining Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, human beings have five requirements to be happy in life:

  • Physiological food, shelter, and drink. These are the basic things you need to survive. Without meeting this need, nothing else matters.
  • Safety – the need to feel safe from harm and have stability in a predictable environment. Without feeling safe and meeting your basic needs, it’s difficult to consider less pertinent necessities.
  • Love and belonging – this applies to romantic relationships, family, friends, and social circles. People must feel loved, accepted, and included.
  • Esteem – self-confidence and feeling good about oneself along with being valued by others. We need to feel that we matter and that our contributions are valued by others.
  • Self-Actualization – the feeling that we are walking in our purpose; the idea that we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing.

Assuming that the women that pleaded to be granted entry in this nightclub had their physiological needs met, my guess is that their actions were taken in pursuit of love and belonging, and esteem. From code-switching to attempting to meet Eurocentric standards of beauty, black women have long felt the need to fit into spaces we were never intended to be in; despite what we thought about ourselves we felt forced to compete with the barrage of non-black images inundating our daily lives and labeled the epitome of beauty. Even with our black features and vernacular in high demand, these attributes were still unacceptable when paired with black skin. A lot of progress has been made and black women have decidedly shown up authentically wearing natural hair, full lips, and covered in black girl magic. Even still, there are many of us that want to be accepted into circles that are not interested in us. Some of us want to prove we are special by getting validation from places that have forsaken us in the past.

These ladies waited outside in the December cold, overlooked and ignored, imploring a woman who has allegedly been colorist toward women that look like them in the past to throw them a lifeline. They were finally admitted as a negotiation to secure the presence of the said non-black woman. Perhaps they felt the need to be included in the social circle that E11even represented or maybe they felt that entering this business would prove to everyone around them that they were among the women that were considered beautiful by the patrons and staff. Either way, it was a sad sight to see. The disappointment I felt in my heart for these women that settled for being treated like second-class citizens while contributing to the offender’s bottom line was heavy.

I will sit in my house alone for the rest of my life before I allow myself to be marginalized, disrespected, or mistreated anywhere. But I don’t have to. There are people and places that respect and appreciate black women. There are social circles that you will be welcomed into with open arms; cultivating your sense of belonging and boosting your self-esteem by connecting with people that wholeheartedly believe that black is beautiful.

Below are a few resources with black businesses to frequent and support. A simple Google search will turn up many more. We no longer go where we are not welcomed and in the words of the amazing High Priestess of Soul, Nina Simone, “You’ve gotta learn to leave the table when respect is no longer being served.”

Thirty Black-Owned Restaurants Throughout the US

82 Black-Owned Clothing Lines

27 Black-Owned HairCare Brands

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Is it “Imposter Syndrome” or Gaslighting?

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Over the past several years, the term “Imposter Syndrome” has inundated social networking platforms like LinkedIn. Imposter Phenomenon was first introduced in 1978 in an article entitled, “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention” by Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes. The idea behind imposter syndrome or imposter phenomenon is that despite overwhelming evidence that you are competent, you doubt your skills and abilities and have a constant fear of being exposed as a fraud. You attribute your success to luck or the ability to deceive people into believing that you are smarter than you actually are. Wikipedia provides a detailed description here. Imposter syndrome is usually used to refer to women in the workplace but also occurs in men and in interactions outside of work.

I wasn’t aware of the term in my early twenties but clearly recall the first time I doubted myself. I was working in a Payroll department with no manager so decided to apply myself and take on manager duties. The CFO of the company was happy with my performance, so much so that they decided not to hire a manager for over a year. As the company grew, the need to expand the department became obvious, so the role of Payroll Manager was opened. I had performed all of the duties and done them well, but to my surprise, an external candidate was selected and I was completely overlooked. To add insult to injury, I was enlisted to train the new manager to take on the duties I was already performing. When I got up the nerve to confront the CFO, I was told that although I could perform the job, they were still (after two years) trying to determine whether or not I was a cultural fit for leadership at the organization. As the only black woman working in a company full of white men and sprinkled with a few white women, I read between the lines and understood that I was too black to be promoted.

Despite understanding what had gone unsaid in that situation, I began to overthink every single action I took during my tenure. Maybe I should have gone to lunch with co-workers more. Could I have smiled more? Is it possible I could have handled even more work? Was I “angry” or “aggressive”? Perhaps I was not as smart or talented as I thought I was. Despite being fully aware that my skills and abilities in payroll were exemplary and receiving confirmation from numerous outside sources, that self-doubt stuck with me for several years. I would refrain from applying to positions I was qualified for and stay in roles I was overqualified for, constantly working above my title and pay grade. I was afraid of rejection; scared of finding out that I was stupid and didn’t know it. Even after realizing my worth, I continued to battle with “superiors” who wanted to keep me in my place throughout my career.

I believe the term “gaslighting” originated from George Orwell in his book entitled 1984. If you haven’t read it… Whew! You really need to. But a great explanation of gaslighting can be found in this NBC news article by Sarah DiGiulio. The article defines gaslighting as someone manipulating another person into questioning their own perceptions, recollections, and reality. The manipulator is essentially telling the victim, “Don’t believe your lying eyes.” It’s a form of emotional abuse and usually occurs in relationships, whether professional or personal, where there is a power dynamic. Sometimes imposter syndrome starts internally. Other times it is imposed on you by outside sources. External gaslighting from those in positions of power can cause you to believe that your success was a fluke or that you are pretending to be something that you are not.

Imposter syndrome is not an equal opportunity condition. As a matter of fact, according to this Equality Matters write-up by Sheryl Nance-Nash on BBC, women of color (specifically Black and Latinx) are impacted by this far more frequently than their white counterparts. With less than five percent of corporate board seats held by women of color and virtually no black women heading up Fortune 500 companies, it’s no surprise that there is an overwhelming sense that we don’t belong when considering roles in leadership or submitting our candidacy. Even more often, we are allowed to do the work but denied the recognition and compensation associated with it.

It is vitally important to differentiate between authentic imposter syndrome and being gaslighted into believing you are an imposter. A feeling of self-doubt prompted by being the only one, the first person that looks like you to be in the position, coming from a non-traditional background, or being unable to relate to the people around you is normal and can be overcome with self-work and personal counseling. But the latter, being told that you are unqualified, not ready, or not a “cultural fit” despite exhibiting competence and living up to expectations is downright abusive. Determining which is afflicting you is important and whatever the cause, taking action is necessary. If your self-doubt is self-imposed, seek help. If you believe that you are being used and abused, speak up and remove yourself from the situation. Your feelings are valid nothing is more important than your mental health. Know your worth and protect your peace.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental health crisis, the CDC offers connections to various resources here.

If you believe you are being/have been discriminated against in the workplace or subjected to disparate treatment, contact the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

Thoughts, Theories and Theatrics Blog

The Inclusion Illusion: Black Women Are Opting Out of Corporate America

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Last night I dreamed that my teeth were falling out. The dream was so vivid that when I woke up, I ran to the bathroom fully expecting to see nothing but gums when I opened my mouth. This prompted me to search do a quick Google search for the interpretation of this dream. I came across a post by Delta Dental. To summarize, this dream is associated with starting anew and insecurities surrounding embarking on an unfamiliar path. The dream analysis seemed to represent exactly where I am in life.

I always felt smart. I read early, got good grades, and when I finally took my first job in Payroll and Human Resources, I expected to work hard and climb the ranks to the top of my field where I could really make an impact. I did my part; I worked hard, learned something new when I identified an area where I was lacking, and always worked well above my title and pay to prove I had what it took to be promoted. In my naivety, I believed that the playing field was even and that everyone that worked hard would be rewarded. The truth hit me like a ton of bricks.

I first became aware that I was held to a different standard than my colleagues in my early twenties. I was working a hybrid role as a Human Resources and Payroll Specialist. I caught on quickly and was “rewarded” with more work but my title and pay remained the same. The company grew and decided they needed a manager in my department. Although doing the exact work for over a year and receiving accolades, I applied for the role. I was overlooked and someone with less experience was hired into the role. After it was decided that they could not keep up with the workload, the organization came back to ask if I was interested. I wasn’t so I moved on.

That was not a unique situation. My career progression has come at a staggering cost. Many times, the only way I could be promoted was to apply for a new job. I always hoped that new leadership would see my value and give me the opportunities I worked so hard for. I cannot think of a time where that was the case. My leveling up has always been a hard-fought battle, leaving a bad taste in both mine and my employer’s mouths. They believed I should just be grateful to work for them while I believed I should not have to work two times as hard as my peers in order to be valued.

The beginning of the end of my Payroll and Human resources career came this year. I came into an organization because I believed the CEO was a true ally. This time would be different; he understood the plight of black women in the workplace and was doing something about the inequality, or so I thought. After a year and a half of working at a Director level while being paid and titled as a Manager, I left the company. Right after leaving, I heard the CEO discussing issues such as mine on a podcast and decided to reach out on LinkedIn. I believed that by sharing my experience, I could help to make the company a better place for those that came after me. I thought he cared and would appreciate my insight. Instead of simply thanking me for my feedback, I was given first-hand experience with performative allyship. Although proclaiming his support publicly, this leader became defensive, even going as far as to blame me for the experience (more on this in my upcoming book, The Inclusion Illusion). The experience was so shocking and traumatic that I spoke with the company’s legal team but opted to end discussions as I wanted to maintain my right to speak out about what happened to me. Far too often, people that look like me are offered severance pay in exchange for their silence allowing these problematic employers to continue inflicting damage on others while sucking the lifeblood out of them.

Since leaving that organization early this year, I have been involved in a plethora of job interview loops. I have sat in many Zoom interviews, explaining to people that did not look like me or relate to me why I am a good fit for their organizations. There have been times that I made it to the end, but another candidate was selected. In those situations, I have asked for feedback and been told repeatedly how great I was and that the only issue was location although each role I applied for was remote. Other times, I have discovered red flags about companies that have led me to drop out of the process. The thought of getting into another role where I am overworked and overlooked creates extreme anxiety in me and I am no longer sacrificing my mental health for financial gain.

Then yesterday it hit me. On a plane ride home from my grandmother-in-law’s funeral, I had the epiphany life is too short to be unhappy. I already knew that, but told myself that I had put so much into my career and could not just throw it away. It was familiar and stable but it was not my dream. I realized that although I had left one workplace, I was still constantly interviewing for roles that would put me right back into the position that I had so desperately wanted out of. I accepted that Corporate America was not set up for black women and that it would be a long time, if ever before we found ourselves on equal footing. With that, I went home and canceled all of my upcoming interviews. I immediately felt a weight lifted off my shoulders and a true sense of freedom.

The decision to walk away from something I have dedicated my whole life to was not an easy one. It takes financial preparation, a clear sense of direction and self-worth, confidence, support from family and friends, and most importantly a sense of exhaustion with the status quo. My dream about losing my teeth represented all of those things and came right after I made the life-changing decision to let something that I have worked so hard for die in order to give life to my true calling. I am not alone in this. Black women are leaving Corporate America in droves. We are tired of working twice as hard, proving ourselves repeatedly, and going unrecognized. We are exhausted with ignoring microaggressions, silencing ourselves to keep the peace, and being overlooked. We are opening our eyes to the possibility of successfully launching our own ventures when we stop asking for a seat at the table and decide to take a seat at our own.

Black women are starting businesses at breakneck speed. With organizations refusing to do something tangible about the lack of equality in the workplace, the economic landscape will change drastically over the next decade and that is not necessarily a bad thing. We will do what we do best; survive, overcome and thrive. But the absence of black women in the workplace will have a negative impact on companies for many years to come.

Willfully Unemployed

The Great Resignation & How I Became a Part of it

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Ever since the pandemic started last year, people have been quitting their jobs left and right. The looming threat on the health and viability of the general public has caused so many to realize that sometimes a job is just not worth it. Others already had a growing disdain for the co-workers, bosses, the job itself or the work environment in general. That was not the case for me.

I started a new role three months prior to Covid-19. I came in excited about the role and ready to tackle the job head on. Immediately, I realized I was being titled (and paid) as a Manager, but the duties aligned with those of a Director. I decided to give the job my all anyway, believing that once I proved my value, the company would automatically recognize that I am underpaid and fix the problem.

Fast forward over a hear and a half, after several acquisitions, building a global team, working virtually around the clock, and numerous conversations with my manager I found out that instead of fixing the issue, the company had opted to give me the highest possible increase based on performance (4%) instead of doing the right thing. I decided I could not and would not allow myself to be undervalued. I left the organization and five months later, the position (now properly titled and paid) remains open.

There are employees out there that love their jobs, manager and co-workers, respect the company they work for and just want to do a good job while also being treated fairly. Employers that miss this basic mark do a disservice to themselves, exiting employees and those left behind to fill the gaps. Here are five simple things an employer can do to retain good talent:

  • Work/Life BalanceBe well aware of the staffing required to allow employees to perform the duties of the job while still participating in their own personal lives. Hire enough people and be clear about the expectations for each role.
  • Listen to Your Workers – Everyone has a perspective and an opinion. Even if you disagree with an employee’s point of view, listen and attempt to find common ground. Being dismissive is off-putting and does not inspire loyalty. Sometimes no action is even necessary; just active listening and sincere empathy.
  • Don’t Talk About it. Be About it With the spotlight on discrimination, mistreatment and police brutality, we have seen many CEOs (some known to be problematic) exhibiting Performative Allyship. They talk a good game, but do not back it up with tangible action or continue to act contrary to their public persona behind the scenes. A true ally needs to do the work to listen, understand and act when necessary; not just when the cameras are on.
  • Be Fair & Equitable – Whether employees are sounding the alarm or not, it is up to your business to audit regularly and make changes when necessary. Not only should your salaries and benefits be competitive in the market, they should be comparable across your organization. Review salary bands, employee performance and demographics regularly to ensure everyone is treated fairly.
  • Pay for the Job – When the duties for a job are enhanced, so should the pay and title. When employees take time away from their regular jobs to do diversity, inclusion and equity work for your organization, compensate them for the contribution; this is an asset to your business. That is it and that is all.

Having experienced the workplace and the phenomenon of being overworked and undervalued more often than not, I can all but guarantee that ensuring these five tips are followed will make any impending “Great Resignation” from the workplace a small hurdle instead of a Global challenge for Human Resources and Talent Acquisition teams.

A true leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.

John C. Maxwell