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!