Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Message

Don't push me cause I'm close to the edge, I'm trying not to lose my head - The Message by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five (Mellie Mel).  The Message was one of those songs that had it's  first lyrical conscious rap.  This song will remain timeless for a myriad of reasons.  However, its main lyric or should I say "hook" has been my corporate personal mantra for the past few weeks.  By the way my first rap corporate mantra is DMX's Ya'll Gonna Make Me Lose My Mind; works every time when an "all hell break loose" moment is about to erupt :), but for now let's talk about pushing people close to the edge.

Recently a situation occurred in which I facilitated a training session with staff and managers. The managers were belligerent, discounted everything I said, was disrespectful to their staff and worst of all sucked out any positive energy.  It was almost as if the Dementors from Harry Potter were present.  As the session ended I was extremely happy that the terror had now ceased; this happiness was very short lived as I heard the dreaded words, "Blacktina, there's been another class scheduled for this group with different team members but the same managers.  Y'all know I had an "aw shit" moment, mouth curled, eyes rolled, head shaking back and forth you name it moment. But wait there's more, just when I thought it couldn't get any worst, an email was sent to me my by the two Senior Managers requesting a meeting on training suggestions.  While part of me cringed at the thought of talking to these Senior Managers who I will refer to as Heckle and Jeklyl, I knew in my professional heart I had to concede and grant this request.  In an effort to appear fair and embody the team player mentality I agreed to the meeting and sent out the invite. Well unbeknownst to me Heckle and Jeklyl planned on having some sort of battle royale meeting in which I would be the weaker opponent. This little plan came to light when I noticed my meeting invite was forwarded to five additional managers.  As I retreated back to the "aw hell no" moment I quickly decided not to hold this in and take a minute to cool off which I normally would do. Nope, I decided this was one of those times where someone was trying to push over the edge and in the words of Mellie Mel "I was about to lose my head"! With this mindset I sent am email and stated the following:

Heckle and Jeklyl
To my understanding the proposed meeting was intended for Heckle, Jeklyl and myself.  I now see the meeting has been forwarded to several managers.  The presence of others managers who weren't on the original invite lend the impression that this would be an "attack" session in which I would be the one being attacked.  Considering the behavior of all managers during our last training session, it leaves me little to believe the contrary.  The purpose of this email is to set clear expectations, I will not be involved in a meeting reminiscent of the OK Corral. I want to be very clear this meeting is to take place between us three to provide training suggestions with the intent of enhancing training.  If your intentions are to alter materials then I suggest you contact the course Program Manager who will be more than happy to assist; other than that I have no problem meeting with the two of you as long as the conversation is civil, insult free and productive.  

I'm sure you could guess Heckle and Jeklyl's reaction. First let me tell you I was dealing with a white woman and a black man.  The black man by the way is married to a white woman and it's clear he has little respect for his kind (other situations provide credibility to this statement, that's another article :)).  The first response was from the white woman who did one of their common responses "I'm sorry you were offended, those were not my intentions."  Black guy's response "I think you mis-interpreted our intentions." Honestly, I knew I had them backed in a corner; my email was professional yet candid and to the point. Basically a translation of my email was "Um, hell no you said between us and I'm not about to get set up, so either y'all chill and leave as is or bounce boo and check your situation with the next one."  This whole little debacle did end with me just meeting with one of the Senior Managers, the Black guy, who apologize profusely regarding their behavior in my last class and only wanted to convey if I can skim over some topics they are not using and provide greater detail on processes his team is using.  I agree but I also told him this could of been conveyed in an email and you really didn't need 7 managers on a conference call to tell me that.  Again he apologized if it appeared as such.  BTW - Notice between the two Senior Managers the fake brotha is doing all the apologizing. Can you imagine the conversation between him and Ms. White Senior Manager about how to approach this situation, Arsenio throwback, things that make you go hmmmmmm.........

This scenario taught me a few things:
1) Never be afraid to call a spade a spade; if you feel it to be true then call it out
2) The truth will set you free; if you don't exercise it you will be imprisoned with some bullshit handed your way and
3) Remain professional and have your facts straight. Corporate America loves to see the angry black woman/man it gives them justification.  However, just because we want to avoid that stigma doesn't mean we shouldn't defend ourselves, we just need to learn how and when!

After all was said and done I was proud of myself. Yes I patted my back, wrapped my arms around myself gave me a big hug, hell I wanted to kiss myself in the mirror I was so proud!  As I get older I know one thing I like to sleep at night and there's no way I could sleep peacefully if I could let bullshit like this go on throughout my day.

Hope you enjoyed this story!

Peace Out,

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Truth Will Set You Free

It's that time of the year again where elections and feelings are running high. Either you're a die hard Obama fan or loving you some Romney; either way when it comes to the election and these spectacular debates the one thing that resonates with everyone is truth.  As in who's the truth??  According to the last presidential debate Romney seemed to be himself in which some critics have characterized his performance as the "true" Romney.  Obama on the other hand was viewed as tired, inexperienced and docile to Romney, which forms the questions was this the true Obama?

For many African Americans I think we know this wasn't the true Obama, however, his actions were very truthful to how some of us act when we're in professional debatable scenarios with white colleagues. Yes I know race isn't everything but to us African Americans and Latinos our interactions with the white race will ALWAYS be about race and how our positions are displayed.  For example if I'm in a meeting and I oppose an initiative I'm viewed as aggressive, my white counterpart is viewed as passionate.  If I ask too many questions I'm dumb and not on target, my white counterpart is inquisitive and insightful.  If I appear confident when my boss or colleague is addressing me then I'm arrogant; my white counterpart is assured and is deemed with leadership qualities.  Get the picture!

As I looked at Obama's demeanor during the debate it was as if he was afraid to be himself.  It was almost as if he were more concerned that his appearance did not offend Romney, because such offense might be mistaken as a disrespectful badgerer.  It was obvious that his performance was lackluster and just plain ole terrible! But I wonder was it really that bad or is it really bad that we have to act a certain way in order for us not to be misjudged, and if so when are we able to show our true selves?

Recently while being interviewed I noticed that I was very uncomfortable with my speech, demeanor and overall conversation.  When I left the interview and got in my car I played my mixed CD of Biggie, Blackstar, Tribe Called Quest, DMX and Nas.  I felt relieved that I was done but more importantly I felt like ME! The sad part of assimilation for African Americans is we really can't be ourselves and if we can't then how in the world do we pretend to be happy when we have to act for at least 8-10 hours a day and I mean some serious Oscar winning performances.  This revelation made me realize that within certain circumstances like interviewing I have to be me! No I will not issue a response like "Gurl, I'm saying....",  but I and like many others have to find that median where we're not selling out to be sold out and remain true to ourselves.  First and foremost many of us are innately intelligent whether its academic or common sense, we need to understand that assimilation shouldn't mean dimming our light so others can shine.  Would this mean my chances of success are slimmed, maybe it is, but I do know it may also mean that my happiness and inner truth will be happy as all hell!  Maybe if President Obama can find his median and display his truth perhaps he will have a successful debate! Let's keep our fingers crossed that President Obama can set the standard of display that if we oppose you it doesn't mean we're Nat Turner and about to revolutionize, for God's sake all we want is to be able to be our TRUE selves!

Peace Out,

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tom and Sadie Please Sit Down!

Oh Tom and Sadie, smh..... Honestly I personally detest using these terms for the sole reason that I'm smart enough to know the Tom(s) and Sadie(s) did what they had to do to sustain their sanity.  However, for the purpose of this article I need to somehow identify my characters so Tom and Sadie it is!

Being black in Corporate America, I'm purposely omitting the term "people of color", not all of those of  "color" experience what black person(s) experience.  Our presence in corporate consists of defense, overly intelligent, hard working, the teflon approach (we take a lot of crap and just have to shake it off half the time), and a strong sense of teamwork. The one thing that some of us have mastered and some of us just can't seem to wrap our heads around is the "kissing up" technique.

Being a black/hispanic woman I have enough on my plate.  I can commit to working hard, doing more, ignore stupidity even deal with the Prozac population.  But the one thing I can not and will not do is kiss up! For those of you who are confused with kissing up vs teamwork, let me give you a couple examples.

1) The boss tells a stupid joke, it's not even funny in any manner.  Kiss up Tom will crack up like he's at a Chris Rock concert.  Non-kisser person may give a little smile, this smile is only meant to acknowledge regarding the attempt of being funny.
2) Your boss informs the staff there is no more office space and we all have to sit in the hallway until something becomes available.  Sweet Sadie responds "oh that's cool we can greet everyone who's coming in" mind you we are NOT receptionists. Non-kisser will oppose being subjected to being placed in a demeaning location, will argue the violation of respected privacy and will challenge management to seek alternatives.

As you can clearly see there's a stark difference between Tom and Sadie vs Non-kisser.  The problem with this situation and it's a sad one, is unfortunately for us Tom and Sadie look like us and presents a cosmetic notion that we should all act the same.  In the true form of the way God made us, no two people are alike; regrettably for Mr./Ms. Boss they so wish we were!  Because the wish is so intent and will not be granted for everyone, the Non-kisser appears to be confrontational, adversarial, and difficult to work with.  Hence affecting positive performance reviews, promotions and a huge like-ability reduction.  All of this because Non-kisser refuses to suck up!

It's a shame that in today's world there is still the expectation that we need to kiss up to get ahead.  It's not about our education, our commitments or contributions, rather how much and how good can I kiss up to you.  Personally my job is not make anyone feel good, yes I am a strong proponent of all well balanced friendly work environment; however, I am equally passionate about rewarding based on productivity and meaningful contribution.  I have witnessed many passovers and layoffs of extremely intelligent individuals who did not practice laughing at every joke, who refused to be demeaned for any reason.  I truly hope one day, Mr./Ms. Boss whether white or black get over the you have to make me feel good, save that shit for your Man or Woman.  We are not here to provide that service.  It's almost reminiscent of slavery when anything Massa did, for example, if he laughed you laughed even if he called you a Stinky Monkey who ate Shit!  My advice to the Tom(s) and Sadie(s) the next time you compromise yourself remember a few things 1) you have to keep it up and that in itself is more detrimental than eating poison and 2) the more you do it the more you set us all back!  How can we move ahead when we still have to coon! In the words of Dave Chappelle (paraphrasing), "you'll get tired of the cooning".

To the rest of us who not only battle the daily wars of Corporate America but have to deal with our "sistahs/brothas" as a challenge, all I can say is keep doing you. Do not compromise your values, ethics and inner morals. Think of your ancestors and how far we've come that we demand to be respected and not faulted cause we don't grease the lips and kiss up!  One day our descendants will put an end to this, but it starts with us.  Black people chill, know your worth and exercise the value that comes with it!

Peace Out,