Give me an ‘S’! … #SHRM18 Blog Squad

cheerleading-clip-art-13As you may know by now, I have been selected to be a member of the SHRM18 Blogger Team. Members of the team will be sharing information and content about the SHRM 2018 Annual Conference on social media (blogs, Twitter, etc.) before and during the conference. We are basically cheerleaders for the conference, without the matching uniforms and acrobatic stunts. Maybe we should get pom poms though. Because why not?

This is my first year being a member of the blogger team and I’m super excited about it. I even posted a video about it on Instagram which, if you know me, was major. LOL. One of my fellow team members, Michael Vandevort, is doing an interview series for his podcast, DriveThru HR. The point of the series is to get to know each of us a bit as well as discuss the conference and what we’re looking forward to about it. The episode featuring me is below (click image.) Check it out. While you’re at it, check out the other blogger team episodes too. We are one great group of inspired and inspiring HR professionals! When you see us at the conference, be sure to say hello.

See you in Chicago!

drivethruhr

 

Everything You Need to Know About Managing People: Q & A with Karlyn Borysenko #SHRM18

SHRM18 is right around the corner! Of course by around the corner I mean three months away. But it’s never to soon to start checking out the agenda and trying to plan at least half of the sessions you want to attend. I recommend planning but also allowing room for flexibility because stuff happens.

karlynI have the honor of being a member of the SHRM18 Blogger Team. Yay, me! As such I have the opportunity to select a few speakers to interview and give you a “behind the scenes” take on their sessions. First up is Karlyn Borysenko, PhD, Principal at Zen Workplace. I chose to interview Karlyn because she is an organizational psychologist which I find to be super interesting. I’m intrigued by all things dealing with the mind. Karlyn works with individuals and organizations to create better work experiences that lead to bottom line results and greater career success. Karlyn will be a busy bee at SHRM18. She’s conducting a Preconference Workshop, a Mega Session and appearing on the Smart Stage! I interviewed Karlyn about her Preconference Workshop, Everything You Need to Know about Managing People. (Statements I find particularly poignant are in bold.)

TR: Why is it said that people leave managers, not organizations?

KB: Managers dictate that daily experience that any employee has with their organization. If you have a great boss, you’ll have a great experience. If you don’t, then the organization might be an amazing place to work for people who have different reporting lines, but your experience won’t be so great. No amount of cultural or employee engagement investments can make up for when a person has a boss that doesn’t empower or support them.

On the flip side of this, however, is that you can have organizations that are pretty toxic from the leadership level…but if you have a great boss who makes their team the priority regardless of the example they are getting from above, you will have a better experience than others and probably be less likely to leave, all other things being equal. So, it works both ways.

This is why it’s so critical for managers at all levels to take responsibility for the experiences of their team members. Being promoted into a manager role is not just a more powerful version of being an individual contributor. You are, in a very real way, responsible for people’s lives. Unfortunately, very few organizations ever teach people how to be a great boss on a psychological level. They may teach you how to administer an annual performance review, the process for hiring and firing, but that’s just process. To be a great manager, you need to know how to engage and motivate a team based on how their brain works. That’s why a workshop like this is so important – we’ll look at the topic from the inside out to help you get the most out of your team members while creating an experience that will drive engagement and productivity.

TR: What skills are most needed to be an effective people manager and why?

KB: I believe the most important skill to develop is a service mindset. You may be in a position of technical power over the people who report to you (for example, you can make the case to fire them if you want to), but authoritarian power just gets people to be compliant. It doesn’t help them to embrace being empowered, go the extra mile when it comes to communication, or bring creativity and innovation to the table. To get there, you have to serve your team members, and that involves putting the ego aside and individually giving them what they need to achieve their best work. When they are successful, you will be successful.

TR: What is employee engagement and what role does it play in the success (or lack thereof) of a team/organization?

KB: There are about 1,000 definitions of employee engagement. Last year when I visited the SHRM exhibit hall, I couldn’t go more than a few booths without a company selling a tool proportion to solve your employee engagement problems. I asked many of them what they mean by “employee engagement” and almost every one of them gave me a different answer!

Now, that’s not to say they don’t have some great tools that could help, but fundamentally I don’t see employee engagement as a technological question. I see it as a human problem. That’s why my definition of employee engagement is all about intrinsic motivation: Employee engagement is when your team comes in primed to give it their all, no matter what their role is. They are intrinsically motivated to do their best work. 

It’s the intrinsic motivation piece that trips a lot of people up. Engagement is not about a paycheck or a raise or a promotion…no one is going to turn those things down, but it’s not the psychological driver of long-term high performance (it gives a nice short-term boost but that only lasts about two weeks). People need to feel listened to, they need to feel valued, they need to know that their manager sees the effort they are putting in and positively responds to it. And when they’re trying to improve areas of their performance, they need to hear from their manager that they see the effort and the improvement to keep up their momentum.

engaged

Don’t Be Like THIS Manager.

Now, here’s the thing: A piece of technology like all those vendors sell seems like a quick solution to say that you’re “working on” or “fixing” employee engagement. Connecting on a human level is much harder, and much more uncomfortable for many managers, but it is truly the best way to drive the long-term results you’re looking for.

TR: What does it mean to manage “from a human perspective?” Why is this important?

KB: There’s not a single person that goes to work and leaves their humanity at the door, yet most people try to deny that aspect of themselves when they enter the office. We build up these walls and tell ourselves “it’s not personal…it’s just business.” You’re talking about people’s livelihoods here – their mortgages, their car payments, putting their kids through school. It couldn’t be more personal!

No matter how you try to frame it, you can’t get around how our brain is hardwired to work. Most of our decisions are driven from the subconscious emotional part of our brain, and then we use logic and reason to justify what we’ve already decided to do emotionally. What that means for managers is that you have to appeal to people on an emotional level to get them to do their best work. There’s no getting around it…it’s science.

kumbayaNow, I’m not suggesting that you all need to be sitting around the fireplace singing kumbaya, but you do need to be very mindful of how your employees perceive their experience. Do they think you really listen to them, or do you just wait to talk in meetings (or, worse yet, take notes on your laptop)? Do you give them significantly more positive recognition than critical feedback? Do you take the time to coach and professionally develop them? Do you allow for failure as a natural part of progress, or do you make them believe that any misstep will have consequences on their career? These are all issues we’ll address in the workshop, and how to do them really well to appeal to that human element.

TR: What is the biggest takeaway you want attendees to get from your session?

KB: This workshop will be a crash course in the top four things I think managers need to do to drive productivity and engagement on a psychological level – adapt, communicate, empower, and support. We’ll go high level, and dig down to some very specific, actionable tactics. However, the takeaways that I want people to leave the room with is the responsibility that comes with being in a manager position and developing that service mindset I mentioned earlier. Management is not about process. It’s about people.

TR: Any additional comments?

KB: For those managers thinking about attending, understand that you have a responsibility to provide a great working experience for your team, even if your boss is not doing it for you. So often, I hear from managers, especially at the mid-management level, “my boss isn’t doing this stuff so why do I have to?” I’ll be blunt: You do it because it’s the right thing to do, not only from a work perspective but as a human being. Is it fair that your boss might not put the effort in for you but I’m asking you to do it for you team? No. But change has to start somewhere. You can choose to be the person that opts out and uses your boss as an excuse….or you could be the person that says “I’m doing this regardless, because I know it’s what’s best for my team.”

Connect with Dr. Karlyn Borysenko.
If you’ve ever seen my posts on Twitter or LinkedIn, or had a conversation with me, you can see from Karlyn’s responses why this session is right up my alley. Everything she’s saying is everything I stand for. Humanity in the workplace. Positive employee experience. Managers taking responsibility for their people. The tagline on my site is “Life. Human Resources. It’s All About the People.” Because it is. Full stop.

Looking for a Job – The Full-Time Job from Hell

Over the past few days I’ve had multiple conversations about the job searching process. Some of them have been with myself, some have been with others. One thing me, myself, I and everyone else I’ve spoken with has agreed on is that the process sucks. It’s broken. It’s been left on the side of the road and needs to be fixed. Somebody call AAA.

Non-HR folks are usually surprised when I can commiserate about how painful this process tends to be. In their minds, I’m part of the group of evil sadists who have created the problem.

one of them

But trust me, I know your pain. I know the agony of uploading a resume and then having to complete an application with the EXACT. SAME. INFORMATION. I, too, cringe when having to answer irrelevant questions like when you graduated high school or what your last salary was. Or worse yet, the salaries for all of the jobs you’re listing, along with the name, address and current contact info for each of your former managers. If we aren’t connected on LinkedIn, chances are, I don’t have it.

rebukeLet’s not forget the cover letter requirement. Heaven forbid you just look at a resume and gather why the person is interested in the job. I absolutely suggest cover letters for career change situations. If your job history has been in sales it may not be immediately apparent why you’re applying for a job as a social worker. But if your job history is a long line of social work or social work adjacent roles, it should be pretty obvious. Cover letters should not be required to apply for a job.

We need to stop making it difficult for people to work with us. We want great people but we don’t want to value their time. I can just imagine the number of great candidates who have been lost to a tedious application process. Who wants to spend 30 minutes applying to one job?

Don’t get me wrong. I get that an application is a legally binding document whereas a resume is not. I get that cover letters are often used to assess writing skills. Some employers call themselves weeding people out by not making it too easy to apply. “If it’s too easy, everybody will apply! We only want the cream of the crop who doesn’t mind spending an entire evening applying to our jobs!” Well, that’s a place I’m dying to work at. Not.

The hiring process is a window into what it’s like to work at an organization. This includes the application. If the process is tedious, time-consuming and disjointed it reflects an organizational culture that doesn’t value people. For example,

  • Long, drawn out application process
  • Waiting several weeks to contact people to schedule an interview
  • Bringing people in for more than two interviews

If you don’t value someone’s time when they are trying to work at your organization, that already tells me you won’t value it when they work there. Hard pass. 

job-search-5The job search/application process needs to be fixed. All applications should be mobile-friendly and involve no more than three steps. It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.  Sometimes I just want to apply for a job real quick during my commute. Resumes alone should be accepted. Until we come up with something better than resumes. Interviews should be scheduled in a timely manner. Communication should be consistent during the process. It’s really not that difficult to create a more person-focused process.

Value people. Value their time. Value their desire to work at your organization. Value the fact that after they’ve sifted through numerous job postings (another mission from hell) they’ve decided to take the time to apply to your job. Then don’t make them use too much of it. Looking for a job shouldn’t BE a full-time job.

If we really want to make a difference, let’s also have all job postings include salary ranges, realistic expectations and only consider requirements as things that are legitimately required to be able to do the job. What a wonderful world this could be!

 

will

Real time image of someone who’s spent the day searching and applying for jobs.

Be the Change… You Belong at #WorkHuman

betheWe’ve all heard the oft-spoken directive “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” The words are usually attributed to Gandhi but my friend Google tells me this is not actually a direct, verifiable, Gandhi quote. Sounds good though, so let’s go with the sentiment.

When I think about the WorkHuman conference, I think about being the change I wish to see in the workplace. Recently a peer asked me a version of “what does your ideal job look like?” Ideally, I would have a role in which I am able to focus on employee experience – to make work a place folks don’t dread going to everyday or drag themselves to just to pay the bills. I want to create environments in which people are able to do their best work because they are free to be their whole, best selves. I want to help develop cultures in which individuals are valued for their unique backgrounds and experiences and recognized for their accomplishments. I want to help people understand what diversity truly is and that it means nothing without inclusion. I want to train managers to coach and encourage their direct reports. I have no idea if this job exists other than in my dreams but that would be the ideal.

That’s what attracted me to WorkHuman. I first heard about it in 2016, after the second conference was held, and immediately committed to attending the 2017 conference. At the time I didn’t know how I was going to make it happen but I knew it was a must because it was the first time I’d heard about a conference that focused on exactly the areas I’m passionate about. I had to be there.

From the website:

Globoforce pioneered the WorkHuman movement to galvanize leaders worldwide to harness the transformative power of people for the next generation of HR. We celebrate breakthrough organizations building human-centric workplaces where employees achieve their fullest potential – where people feel appreciated, connected, and empowered for who they are and what they do. WorkHuman recognizes businesses that thrive by bringing humanity and crowdsourcing to the employee experience. WorkHuman is the future of the workplace.

I want to be part of that future! That’s why I’m looking forward to attending the conference again this year and in perpetuity. The tracks for the 2018 conference are:

  • Crowdsourcing and the Performance Revolution
  • The Business Case for Social Recognition
  • Thriving through Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging
  • Your Whole Self
  • Humanizing Your Employer Brand
  • HR Leaders as Culture Facilitators
  • The Human Workplace

It’s perfect for me! In addition to the sessions, I look forward to soaking up wisdom and inspiration from the incredible roster of keynote speakers which includes Tarana Burke, Brené Brown, Shawn Achor, Salma Hayek Pinault, Simon Sinek, Amal Clooney and Adam Grant.

Join me in Austin as we discuss creating workplaces that focus on people as human beings, not just as workers. We are only two weeks out from the conference (April 2-5) but there is still time to register. Through April 1, you can save $200 off the onsite registration fee. Use code WH18INF-TRA for an additional $100 off. Don’t say I never gave you anything. 🙂

Hope to see you there!

Previous posts on WorkHuman:

WorkHuman 2017 – Bring Your Whole Self

WorkHuman? How Else Are We Gonna Work?

The Gender Pay Gap is Real; Particularly for Black Women. #InternationalWomensDay

I have shared parts of this video multiple times on Twitter but today I thought I’d share the entire interview. No discussion of women and equality of opportunity and pay is complete without discussing Black women. All Black women. Everyday Black women. But folks tend to take more notice when celebrities bring up a topic. I can’t think of any more we’ll known, celebrated and talented celebrity to illustrate this issue than Viola Davis.

“If I’m the Black Meryl Streep, pay me Meryl Streep money.” I cringe at that comment because Ms. Davis is more than worthy of being paid top dollar without being compared to a White actress. Yet, here we are. And if SHE isn’t getting paid what she’s worth, just imagine what it’s like for the rest of us who haven’t won Oscar, Emmy and Tony awards. The rest of us who toil away in office jobs, working hard, never winning awards or having our faces on the big or small screen. Ms. Davis also said something along the lines of, if white women are getting paid half of what men are getting paid, black women are getting paid a fraction of that. Yep.

So on this International Women’s Day, as we recall, relive and remember the greatness and sacrifices of the women who’ve come before us – The Ida B. Wellses, the Shirley Chisholms, the Marian Andersons, the Madame C. J. Walkers, the mamas and aunties and grandmamas and foster mamas – we must also remember that we still have a long way to go in this fight. One of the greatest actresses of our time – not black actresses, actresses, – still has to fight to get paid what she’s worth. In 2018, HR folks are discussing using ‘blind resumes’ so hiring managers aren’t influenced by gender or racial biases.

Karen vs. Ken.

Karen vs. Keisha.

Harvard vs. Howard.

Glass ceilings still exist. Boards and Executive teams are still overwhelmingly white and male. The gender pay gap is very real.* This must end. Run us our coins!

*The gender pay gap is very real. But the best-known stat—that women earn 76 cents for every dollar earned by men (according to PayScale’s latest data)—only tells part of the story. This stat is representative of the uncontrolled—or “raw”—gender pay gap, which looks at a median salary for all men and women regardless of job type or worker seniority. When looking at the uncontrolled gap, it is true that the median salary for men is roughly 24 percent higher than the median salary for women. But what often gets lost in translation is what the uncontrolled gap truly represents—that women are less likely to hold high-level, high-paying jobs than men. The more stubborn gap is one of opportunity rather than “equal pay for equal work.” (Payscale, 2016)

Are You Woke or Are You a Joke? (#BlackBlogsMatter)

#BlackBlogsMatter Challenge Week 3: The Tao of Woke

Most of y’all know me as an HR pro but as I said in my intro, I contain multitudes. I’ve been a social media management consultant (and a makeup artist and an image consultant. I’m sure you see the connection to HR. 🙂 ) When the world of social media was the world in which I lived, it seemed every other person was referring to themselves as a social media “guru,” “rockstar,” “ninja” or some other equally self-aggrandizing title. I’ve actually noticed a similar trend in the HR world but I digress. I bring this up because to me, calling yourself ‘woke’ is similar to calling yourself a ‘guru.’ If you have to constantly tell folks you’re it, you probably aren’t it.

So what does it mean to be ‘woke’ anyway?

 

woke

I’m gonna go with this definition. 

 

The other day a friend of mine referred to me as one of the two wokest people she knows. I took it as the compliment I knew it was intended to be. I knew she said it because she knows me as being quick to point out an injustice and work to fix it. She knows I’m passionate about inclusion, diversity and equality. She knows I’m always down for the cause. She knows I do it for the people. If that makes me ‘woke,’ I’ll take it. Unfortunately, too many folks have started co-opting ‘woke’ the same way they’ve co-opted “Bye, Felicia.” Watering it down and overusing it to the point that it becomes pointless.

A few weeks ago I read the following question in an advice column from a woman who identified herself as white:

“I consider myself to be pretty woke but I’m dating a black guy and I need to know how to deal when we visit his family for the holidays.” 

This, my friends, is the problem with self-proclaimed wokeness. Take the racial component out of this question and it’s perfectly innocent. How do I deal with my boyfriend’s family over the holidays? However, the racial component is clearly the crux of the issue, since the writer felt the need to specify that she was white and her boyfriend was black. But she wasn’t just any white woman. Oh no! She was a ‘woke’ white woman. How did she know? Because she told herself so. ‘Woke’ but had to ask a stranger how to interact with a group of black people. Ok. She was probably a rockstar too.

Wokeness is such a complicated and fickle state of being. Can one be born woke? Raised woke? Suddenly woke? If you are woke today does that mean you were previously asleep? At what point does one cross the line from asleep to woke? Are there levels of wokeness? Is there a wokeness registration process? Can your wokeness be lost or revoked? Can you be a woke person of color and be in a relationship with a non-woke white person? Can a woke white person be in a relationship with a non-woke person of color? So. Many. Questions.

I don’t have the answers, people. I told y’all, I’m not a thought leader. I just know that using the above definition of ‘woke,’ I’m proud to be it. I think it’s something every single person should be or strive to be. It’s 2018 and this is not a time to be asleep. We have too many nightmares and monsters under the bed to contend with.

Stay woke.

 

Minding Your Business at Work WORKS

Recently I co-presented a ‘Lunch & Learn’ session on ‘Work/Life Integration and Signs of Burnout.’ It was surprisingly well attended and the presentation I put together on short notice was pretty great, if I do say so myself. Which I do. Thankfully others concurred. I feared; however, that the folks most in danger of burning out probably weren’t in attendance. When you’re on the fast track to burnout you don’t give yourself much time for lunching or learning. Still it was a good sized group and a good conversation.

Work-life-integration-titelbild

We talked about work/life integration vs. work/life balance i.e. having a more holistic approach to the different facets of life, including work, instead of trying to figure out a way to “balance” life with work i.e. giving equal attention to each which rarely works. You CAN have it all, it just won’t be in equal proportions. We talked about the physical, mental and emotional signs of burnout, what you can do to avoid it and what you can do to get out of it. Then we had an open discussion portion. This is where things really got good.

Folks went around the table and shared their thoughts and experiences and I was glad for the openness. As we talked about how some people had been successful (or not) at work/life integration, the topic of flexibility came up – not being tethered to your desk and bound by the clock. #ProductivityOverEverything. At this point one of the attendees mentioned that they thought of flexibility as a generational desire. Tell me more. They indicated that based on their generation (Boomer) and work experiences, they actually had a negative view of people who they saw come into the office after 9am or leave before 5pm. I was grateful for this comment. Grateful because the person felt comfortable enough to share. Grateful because it gave me insight into a different POV which is most likely also held by others. Grateful because it actually related to both of the topics of discussion. Fear of the perceptions of others can be a big part of what leads to employee burnout. Employees often come in early, stay late, take extra work home, etc. because they want to (or don’t want to) be perceived a certain way by their colleagues. Even if it’s not in their own best interest.

burnout

So maybe it’s a generational thing. Maybe it’s a personal thing. I honestly am not a fan of the whole “this generation is like this at work and that generation is like that at work” idea that’s the topic of so. many. articles. But back to the topic at hand — Someone may have had a doctor’s appointment. Or have to pick up their children. Or have worked extra late on a project the night before. Or not be feeling well. Or have arranged with their manager to have a more flexible schedule. Reasons abound. No one is obligated to share the details of their work schedule with their colleagues unless it directly impacts the other person’s work.

dont-worry-about-what-im-doing-worry-about-why-youre-worried-about-what-im-doing-quote-1

I was also grateful for this comment because it gave me the opportunity to not only hear but to respectfully challenge this person’s thoughts on the issue and show them a different point of view. It gave me the opportunity to encourage everyone in the room to not make assumptions about the work ethic and/or productivity level of their colleagues based on partial facts. We all know what happens when folks make assumptions.

So if you hold outdated, unfounded and/or uninformed beliefs about a colleague based on random criteria and partial information such as the hours you happen to see them in the office, I encourage you to take a step back and ask yourself why. Why do you have this belief? Why does it even matter to you? Then think about how you may have allowed those thoughts to color your interactions with that individual. If the effect has been negative (ex. bias, gossip, mistrust, snooping,) it’s your responsibility to fix it. Fix it = stop it. Understand that everyone is different and has different needs and works differently. Your colleague may be working differently (different schedule, location, etc.) to achieve greater work/life integration and avoid burnout. Which is a good thing. Of course, if all else fails, minding your business works too.

 

Everyday Black History Makers & Moments

lena horneBlack History Month has rolled back around. Gotta love it! It’s the time of year when we learn, or relearn, about great Black luminaries such as Carter G. Woodson, Madame C.J. Walker, Bayard Rustin or Fannie Lou Hamer. Children get to dress up as Malcolm X or Harriet Tubman for school presentations. For a full 28 days we are free to celebrate our greatness and can use hashtags like #BlackExcellence without receiving virtual side-eyes or comments like “but what about white excellence?” from all but the most blatantly racist folks.  For the most part, folks can freely celebrate Black people and their contributions to society with minimal disruption. Icing on the cake – we got a Lena Horne postage stamp!

As I thought about writing a post for Black History month I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to go in. Do I write about my sheroes, like Shirley Chisholm or Eartha Kitt? Do I write about how we can celebrate Black History Month in the workplace? Both good ideas. But for some reason my mind kept going back to my Dad. My Dad and Black history and workplace shenanigans. So here goes.

Deep in a Maryland forest, George Rasberry sits on an upturned pail and peers through a camera with a calibrated lens at the trees above him. He is measuring the leaf coverage present at each level of the forest. Here and there in the wilderness, buckets are placed to catch samples of the leaves. These reveal what species are in the canopy and how much it grows annually. 

So begins the article, “Uncovering the Secrets of Forest Canopies” in the July 1999 issue of Smithsonian Magazine. The article goes on to discuss some more science and forest canopy* stuff that, to be honest, isn’t that interesting to me despite its importance. Scroll, scroll, scroll down to the part that discusses the difficulty of studying a forest canopy because of the difficulty in getting to it. They could use a crane (expensive,) build a tower (can only access one place and skews observations,) OR they could use the balloons. The balloons that were invented by my Dad!

These refrigerator-size helium bags were invented by George Rasberry. They can take light sensors and measuring devices up into the trees and reach all sorts of odd places. They also can be raised gradually to take measurements from the ground up to the top of the canopy. And they are cheap.

canopy (2)

Horrible pic, I know, but it’s the only one I could find.

You may be wondering what this has to do with Black history. He didn’t cure cancer. He didn’t win a celebrated award. But Black history (history in general) is made every day in big, medium and small ways. To my mind, inventing a tool you and other scientists can use to do necessary research is pretty darn historical. I’m grateful to Smithsonian Magazine for acknowledging my Dad’s invention. Especially because he was only credited as a “contributor” in all the scientific journal articles I found about it, while his “colleague” got top billing. Which leads me to the topic of Black folks doing work that white folks later get credit for. But that’s fodder for another post.

Happy Black History Month! Read. Learn. Share. Celebrate!

Don’t forget to acknowledge the everyday Black history makers and moments. There are so many folks who have contributed to society and some how made the world better whose names we don’t hear, whose faces we don’t see and whose sacrifices we don’t know.

 

*The forest canopy is home to a majority of earth’s species. It combs pollutants out of the air, takes energy from the sun and in general controls the exchanges of energy or heat, and material, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor.

Fried Chicken and Watermelon

#BlackBlogsMatter 2018, Week 2 – Stop Worrying What White People Think

Whew! This is such a loaded topic. Not because it’s not so on point because it is. But because there is so much historical context to why Black folks obsess over what white folks think. It’s been ingrained in many of us by our parents/grandparents/great-grandparents. It’s been ingrained in us by society. Intentionally and unintentionally. “Don’t say/watch/think/do/listen to <insert anything.> What will white people think?” In some instances, worrying about what white people think could actually save your life. No hyperbole.

moneySociety places white people at the top of the food (i.e. money, power, respect) chain so, by nature of survival, we tend to not want to upset white people any more than we’d want to upset a lion, tiger or bear. We’ve seen far too many examples of negative, even fatal, outcomes for Black people who didn’t care what white people thought. We’ve seen too many opportunities lost. We’ve seen LIVES lost. Even when we tell ourselves we don’t care, even when we don’t want to care, there’s often this little teeny tiny voice in the back of our minds thinking, “What will be the repercussions if I say what I really want to say or do what I really want to do? If I pop off right now because some white person has said something ignorant or disrespectful or treated me unfairly, what impact will that have on me? My family? My livelihood?” Because we all know at the end of the day, if someone has to go down, 10 times out of 10, it’ll be the individual of a darker hue. I’m actually getting a little heated just thinking about this, so I’m going to take it down a notch.

Let’s talk about some of the seemingly inane but deeply rooted ways caring about what white people think shows up in the workplace. Do any of these sound familiar?

I won’t eat fried chicken or watermelon at work. I can’t let white folks see me eating that.”

“More than 2-3 of us can’t stand/talk together too long. White folks will get nervous.”

“I don’t wear my natural* hair (or braids or locs) at work or to interviews. White people view it as unprofessional.”

“I have to be at least twice as good and work at least twice as hard as my white colleagues to succeed/get opportunities at work.”

I’ve heard some version of each of these statements multiple times from multiple people.whiteppl I’ve seen Black business owners who don’t use photos of Black people in their marketing materials because “white people won’t take us seriously.” I’ve also seen Black business owners make a point of not only hiring Black people, for the same reason. Now, of course I’m not saying they SHOULD only hire Black people, but when’s the last time a white person seriously worried about what non-white folks would think if they only hired white people? Or only had white people in their advertising? Granted there is more focus on diversity in recent years, but overall you could be a successful all white business and no one would blink an eye.

Black people in this country have been conditioned to worry about what white people think because, historically, what white people think has a major impact on, well, everything. So how do you stop worrying about what white people think when, most likely, your supervisor/loan officer/landlord/neighborhood police officer is a white person? To add insult to injury, at work, in addition to being judged for our blackness (are we good/smart enough?,) we are constantly being policed for tone, attitude and behavior. Making white folks uncomfortable can cost us opportunities, jobs, promotions and pay raises. This is a fact.

maskTRUE STORY: I had a Black male colleague who prided himself on the fact that white people (i.e. org leadership) viewed him as “safe.” Safe = not angry or scary. Relatable. One of the “good Negroes.” It worked for him. He received multiple promotions and pay raises. Mission accomplished. However, he also acknowledged that in ensuring they retained that view of him, he had to suppress other aspects of his personality. In the words of Paul Laurence Dunbar, he wore the mask.

I, too, wear the mask. But mine has cracks in it. The real me shows through from time to time. To my benefit or detriment? I don’t know. My Twitter bio says, in part, “I might say/RT some things you won’t like.” Because I might. Especially when it comes to race, racial disparities, inequities and the generally foul treatment of my people in these here United States. I used to keep my timeline pretty low-key. I’m a Virgo and an introvert so I’m not into confrontation and starting mess. I have a lot of white followers and I appreciate them, I do. As individuals, I do care what they think, especially the ones I know personally. But we are living in trying times. Too much sh*t is happening for me to sit by and only talk about HR and reality TV so I won’t make certain folks uncomfortable. The real ones, as the young folks say, will stay around and initiate a respectful dialogue so we can work on fixing things together. The others – the ones who insist on being offended, defensive and white privilege martyrs – can..

martin

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know not caring about what the “dominant” group thinks about your words or actions is easier said than done. Especially if you rely on them for some aspect of your well-being (professional, financial, etc.) Being unapologetically Black in a world that wants to stamp your sense of pride out of you at every turn is a full-time job. When folks want to counter #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter because valuing Black lives makes them uncomfortable and you know you’re working in the same office with some of them, it’s not easy. I get it. I, too, am a work in progress. I am all for breaking down barriers and teachable moments, but I refuse to care about the thoughts of folks who refuse to care about me aka the racist and/or willfully obtuse.

The bottom line is, in the end, focusing on what white people think makes them comfortable but what does it make you? What effect does it have on your psyche? Not being true to yourself eats away at you little by little. It causes stress and depression and high blood pressure. I’m not saying to go to work and start flipping tables when something unjust happens. But you can start by speaking up and being authentic.  And you can damn sure eat fried chicken or watermelon (or whatever you like) at work whenever you want to. I know I do.

* I realize natural Black hair does not consist of only kinky/curly textured hair.

#BlackBlogsMatter STILL – Here Goes Something!

I’m not an overachieving blogger. In other areas, yes. In blogging, no.  I post sporadically at best. I post when the mood, or a good topic, hits me. Or not. Sometimes a good topic hits me but never makes it from my brain to my fingers to the keyboard. I write what I want to write about and rarely think too much about outcomes and feedback. Which is not to say that I don’t appreciate feedback. I’d be lying if I said a slight smile doesn’t cross my face when my posts are shared or I receive notification of a new follower. I just don’t usually consider my posts having any major impact. Hence, #NotAThoughtLeader. I’m just me doing me saying what I want to say about topics of interest to me. If you like it, I love it. However, I recently realized that sometimes you’re having an impact and don’t even know it. Picture this…

Last week I received the following unexpected message from one of my HR peers in Canada:

“Hey! Thinking about you at the start of Black History Month, and how things like your blog and contributions mean so much as a needed voice from a perspective of gender and colour. I admire you and your strength, and what you give to others!”

You could have knocked me over with a feather! Seriously. Never would I ever have imagined that anyone held any thing I said in such esteem. I mean I know I’m smart and witty but this is pretty much the best compliment I could have ever received, blogger wise.  It got me thinking. It also happened to be the first day of the #BlackBlogsMatter challenge, 2018 version. Serendipity, no?

A few weeks prior, the creator of the Black Blogs Matter challenge, @thebuzzonhr, had reached out to me to give me the heads-up on this year’s “bigger and better” challenge and the proposed topics. It was some heavy stuff. I (half) joked at the time that I had to figure out a way to participate and retain my employment status. I have some very, shall we say, strong thoughts on certain race-related topics. This is too important for me not to participate though. It’s not just about me. It’s also about amplifying the voices of other Black bloggers – voices that are all too often overshadowed or dismissed on topics that affect us the most. Or that include us to any degree. Too often we are spoken for but not listened to. Or not even considered. Far too often I’ve seen lists of the “top” or “most influential” bloggers in a particular space or industry and there isn’t a Black person to be found among them. This must end. We’re out here and we deserve to be heard.

So, I’ve been following the hashtag on Twitter, but for various reasons, hadn’t posted anything yet. Then I get this tweet:

“Just putting pressure on @tmrasberry for her contribution to #BlackBlogsMatter. I always enjoyed reading her blogs and they’re very informative and educational. I just find these challenges as great eye openers and inspirational.”

Far be it for me to not give the people what they want. So here goes something!

I can’t promise I’ll post for every week of the challenge, but I will definitely be participating and sharing. I encourage you to do the same. Should you be apprehensive due to your status as a non-Black person, @k8bischHRlaw has provided us with an excellent example of support/allyship done right: Some Of Us Hear You. 

Ways You Can Support #BlackBlogsMatter:
  • Follow the hashtag on Twitter.
  • Share tweets and blog posts using the hashtag.
  • Write a blog post (see this post for topics.)
  • Continue to follow, read, share &  support the participants even after the challenge is over.
  • Tell your friends.
  • Never forget.

BLACK BLOGS STILL MATTER!