This topic may be a bit triggering for some. Read at your own risk. I will hold anything back as I express my feelings, thoughts, and experiences being Black while working in corporate America. I will not hold back while I express my experiences and feelings being a beautiful, black, and intelligent woman in corporate America. Why is this a thing, you ask? Well, trust me, we will dive deep into this subject matter and as I share some of my experiences I’m sure it’ll make sense why being black, and specifically a Black woman in corporate America, is a troublesome place, especially when you have a crusader-like spirit such as myself.
This will be a multiple part post, as some of my other subjects have been. In order to keep my blog posts at a consistent length and keep it reader friendly for you all, I’ve decided to start with two parts and see where it goes from there.
So, if you’re black and have ever held any position in corporate America you know it can often feel like you are a target. And often times, it’s because you are a target. I want to share three specific times I was totally targeted at one place I worked in corporate America, and tell me if you agree. I know I was, I truly believe I was, but I’m open to hear all opinions and open to all feedback. I
I was working as an insurance sales agent at a company that many of you are familiar with, many of you may actually use to cover some of your goods and properties. During training, the group of trainees to include myself were told to go to a conference room for a couple of hours to take part in a personality color test. We were instructed to return to the training room afterwards to clock out and go to lunch. This personality test and the activities that followed took about two and a half hours to complete and when it finished, we all returned to the training room to clock out on our computers and go to lunch. Well, when we arrived to the training room – everyone but one trainee who decided to go straight to lunch without clocking out (smart man, John!) we were told that instead of going to lunch we had been assigned a project to do first. Mind you, we had been at work for about four hours now and we all were hungry. I proceeded to ask the trainer, “What made you change your mind about us going to lunch?”
This young southern white woman proceeded to tell me,” First of all, because I said so. Secondly, because I have a project for you all to do.” Imagine my complete and utter shock! Here – we have an adult white woman talking to a bunch of other adults, all minorities mind you – five black, two Hispanic, and then John, the only white person, had already left. So, I asked her if she could step outside in the hallway and have a conversation with me. Naturally, I felt like I had to advocate for myself first, but for all the other adults in the room, too. In the hallway I asked (let’s call her Sarah for the purpose of this blog) if she would never speak to any of us adults that way again. She proceeded to say she didn’t mean anything by it and didn’t mean to offend me. She apologized and then we went back into the training room, did the activity, then went to lunch.
The next day, I had an email invitation for a meeting with Sarah’s boss (let’s call her Tina) later that afternoon. During that meeting, Tina proceeded to tell me that Sarah said I confronted her aggressively in the hallway and made a pretty confrontational statement and was intimidating. I told Tina my version of what happened and told her that there were plenty of witnesses to what Sarah initially said that led to the conversation in the hallway, but that the conversation in the hallway was my word against Sarah’s and that’s where it ended. Tina said she understood why I wanted to have a conversation with Sarah and then she excused me from that meeting.
I ask, what was your take on that interaction? Did it seem like Sarah had the infamous inflated sense of power and took it to a parental level in how she dealt with and spoke to fellow adults? Or was I trippin? I trip sometimes, so if you say I was trippin it’s okay. I don’t think I was. But, it happens. I think Sarah was out of line to tell us the reason is because “she said so. “
I also think Sarah was completely out of line for telling her boss Tina that I was aggressive and confrontational. Sarah didn’t think anyone would challenge her authority, and that’s something I’ve never had a problem with, and that was the problem – nothing more. I think it’s the crusader in me, the Black Panther blood that flows through my veins, or the strength of the ancestors’ spirits in and around me that make it so, but it is so. After this incident, I felt deep in my soul that Sarah had it out for me and was determined to make me an example. The training program was eight weeks long. By the time I made it to the sales floor, I already had a reputation. People had already heard about the incident between Sarah and myself. Obviously, she was talking about me behind my back, which was no surprise, but at the same time it was a surprise. Professionalism truly is like common sense, everyone just doesn’t have it.
Yes, I know – crazy! But, corporate America can often be liked to the hallways of the pettiest high school on the planet. The cliques, the gossip, the pettiness, the emotions, the ridiculousness of it all reminds me a lot of being an adolescent in high school trying to make it through each day with your mental health and pride in tact. Kids can be cruel. Adults can be too. So, as I was finishing training and about to start taking sales calls on my own, there was an issue with my license so there was a delay. I was told I’d be shadowing other colleagues in the meantime, to get a first hand look at the job I’d soon be doing. One lady I sat with, when I introduced myself, said, “ Oh yea, I heard about you.”
Yes, that has very petty of that woman to spread nonsense and gossip like that but it was also completely and utterly ridiculous that this was the environment that I was stepping into. This was the toxic environment created ahead of me; before I even stepped into it, there was chaos.
What y’all think? Have you ever experienced something like this in corporate America? Have you ever felt targeted, manipulated, lied on in the place you work? I’ll be back tomorrow to share how this whole thing played out and to share another crazy incident I had with Sarah.