Thriving and Surviving In and Out of The Workplace
To be young, gifted, and Black in corporate America sometimes means dealing with situations that are only somewhat solved by putting Solange’s “A Seat at The Table” on repeat. Navigating race and gender in the workplace is even harder, yet, every day we’re expected to do it and excel. Given how much time we spend at work, it can significantly impact our mood and well-being elsewhere in our lives. It can spill over into your relationships with your partner, your family, and friends. Moreover, if you find yourself as “the only” at work, that can add layers of stress that ultimately impact your overall health. If any of this sounds familiar, we have some encouraging tips on how to navigate the workplace in all of your glory and keep your sanity intact.
Stand tall in the face of microaggressions. “Not everything is about race.” “I don’t see color.” “Are you taking notes?” As a Black woman at work, chances are you’ve heard some version of these statements. If it caused a surge of anxiety or made you frustrated that you couldn’t react, you are not alone. These situations happen so regularly, there’s a name for them: microaggressions. They are defined as, “subtle indignities and offenses that members of racial minority groups experience in their daily lives that involve the interaction between perpetrator and recipient.” While someone might suggest you are overreacting, you likely aren’t. Microaggressions come in various forms and have been linked to stress and impact the mental health of Black women of all occupations. There are ways to address microaggression head on and these actions can empower you to set the standard on how people approach and address you.
Reclaim your seat at the table. You’ve probably heard of instances where a high ranking Black woman gets mistaken for the janitor or secretary. While there’s nothing wrong with either occupation, being mistaken for “the help” or “the other Black woman” is frustrating – but don’t let it consume you or diminish your power. Address the ignorance and when that next meeting comes around, don’t be afraid to literally take your seat at the table. You’ve earned the right to be there just like your co-workers, and even your boss. Always remember if you’re in the room it’s because you’ve proven yourself capable of being there and your perspective and voice matters. Also, know that when you shrink yourself in one place (at work) it’s possible that the pattern will take hold and you will shrink yourself in friendships and romantic relationships as well. In order to feel more empowered at work, it’s worthwhile to create a space to be your full self at work. Only then can you bring your best to the table.
Find your tribe by building relationships with people you relate to and who can provide the support needed to be able to thrive in and out of the workplace. Being the only or one of few Black people in the workplace can be challenging. Find an Upspoken woman or male ally that you admire, can bounce ideas off of and confide in regarding your workplace experience. Depending on where you live and work, sometimes your tribe may not include many who look like you. But as long as you share common beliefs, values and they are genuinely interested in your well-being, they may be the people to help you get through difficult moments and provide a safe space.Being an Upspoken woman in the workplace is about positively owning the spaces you’re in and giving what you have to give while getting what you need. When you can be your full self at work with no apologies, you will feel empowered to build strong work relationships and create fruitful collaborations. Your commitment to your mental wellness at work has benefits throughout the rest of your life so don’t be afraid to, “Protect Your Magic.”