It’s hard to maneuver in your career while being Black due to societal expectations. When black employees react negatively to other employees or unfair situations at work, the spotlight often is on the employee and not what triggered a reaction. On our podcast C-CRETS, we’ve discussed certain ‘triggers’ such as microaggressions in the workplace. This has enabled our listeners to feel understood. We also provide helpful tools and resources to deal with common workplaces issues when you’re black.
In the podcast episode ‘The 4 P’s of Black Expectation,’we talked about another layer of potential triggers that black employees face.
First is pronunciation.
Black people are expected to pass an “articulation” test, and many employers will not consider someone who’s qualified if they pronounce words different than expected.
Second is punctuality.
Punctuality is not only time-related. It also matters when it comes to submitting projects and assignments. And in the episode, we discussed black employees taking additional time to process situations—not only what they’re doing or what is said, but how what they do or what they say, might be perceived.
So, it isn’t just about turning in a project on time. It’s also making sure the Ts are crossed and the Is are dotted. Because while a white employee might get away with minor or overlooked mistakes, a black employee often double and triple checks his or her work in order to negate potential bias.
Third is performance.
Black people are placed in positions as ‘puppets’ of an organization, representing blackness while being asked to speak out about the great things the organization is doing, being highlighted in photos to demonstrate diversity, and so on. The company knows its tokenism. And guess what? So does the black employee.
The fourth expectation is perfection.
People of color, and black people specifically, do not get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to experience or making mistakes.
There are only two roads–we are either perfect, or we are incompetent.
There are no distinctions based on the situation. An employee can be flagged in their colleagues’ minds, coloring his or her employment at a company. This is often seen following a performance appraisal. And in the podcast, we advised that it’s often best to move on from an organization if you have a negative performance appraisal in your file, because you will be judged by it.
Because a performance appraisal can cast a shadow on that employee.
During the episode, we provided 3 C-CRETS on how to overcome the shadow of the 4 P’s.
First, do your best at your job. In other words, show up and show out. Follow the company rules and find ways to excel at what you do.
Second, don’t just go to work, do your job, and go home. Instead, find connection points with colleagues. You’re a hybrid worker? You can still connect with others.
For example, if a colleague mentions on a Zoom call something about a play he’s going to see or a sporting event, and it’s also something you’re interested in, say it. It may seem like a fleeting moment, but people remember talking points.
Lastly, moments like the above mentioned go hand in hand with controlling your narrative. You have the power tosteer the direction of how people see you, rather than letting it be based on snippets of your job performance or what others have said.
In addition to letting your work speak while also ensuring that your performance progress is something your manager is aware of, you are your own mouthpiece.