Author: Wadnes Castelly (ADCOLOR Content Team)
Client Solutions Partner, Spotify
James Baldwin once said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost all of the time — and in one’s work.” Baldwin said these words decades ago but the impact still rings true today.
Working in the midst of two pandemics, COVID-19 & police brutality, brings new levels of challenges for Black professionals. The emotional labor of dealing with the many hats, microaggressions and pressure to perform at our best is mentally exhausting. Working twice as hard to get half as much may have been the mantra of our parent’s generation, but not anymore. We’re not living to work but intentionally choosing to work to live. Here are four work stigmas Black professionals need to re-evaluate to better navigate today’s work environment.
The emotional toll of being Black in the workplace is draining. We shouldn’t normalize trauma and internalize our feelings because of our fear of making our colleagues uncomfortable. When traumatic events happen in society, Black employees go back to their office feeling the burden of making their white co-workers comfortable by making them aware of their unique challenges, as it can negatively impact their level of engagement and productivity. Navigating how to approach these situations and brokering these conversations is taxing as we often have to offer solutions to manage our own trauma while processing how these traumatic events are affecting the black community at large. However, through my own experiences, I’ve learned that uncomfortable conversations with actionable solutions are necessary if you want better outcomes. Without acknowledging and discussing your trauma, you won’t be able to treat it nor will your workplace know how to effectively support you through it.
Curating Ideal Images of Success
As Black professionals, we spend a lot of mental energy curating how we want people to see us instead of simply being ourselves. Whether it’s because we’re the only one or one of few in the office, we tend to create profiles of who we think we have to become in order to be successful in the spaces we’re in. Hate to break it to you but no one has ever been successful long term pretending to be someone they’re not. Again TAXING is the word here to explain how emotionally draining doing this would be. Michelle Obama said it best in her book Becoming, “If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and accurately defined by others.” Simply put, if you’re not aligned with your authentic self, you give society permission to control your narrative in life. In a constantly changing work environment, don’t conform to the environment you’re in, just adapt to the circumstance and press ahead.
Aiming for Perfection
While working through multiple pandemics, don’t drive yourself crazy trying to be the perfect employee. Aim to hold yourself accountable for delivering what you’re responsible for and the rest will take care of itself. Don’t just show up to work, show up consistently to make an impact the way you uniquely can. And remember all wins, whether small or big, are celebrated equally.
Speaking Up for Change
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama
Be the change you want to see in your circle, your workplace and your community. Organizations are run by people so learn how to speak up in ways that work best for you. Regardless of your title or tenure, your voice matters and should be heard across all levels of leadership. Don’t feel compelled to ask for meaningful change; implement the change you seek wherever you are. Whether you’re working while black or leading while black, rise up and reach back to be the change you seek.