Exploring the problems black people face in Corporate America.
It really doesn’t matter who you talk to or where you go. For black people working in Corporate America, the dynamic is pretty much the same. Whether it’s racial politics from non-blacks, or hostility from other blacks, these situations are all too familiar. So why does this dynamic exist? Most folks would give some generic answer such as, “That’s just how it is.”
First off, let me say that office politics and co-worker envy is common in almost any workplace environment. The reason why it’s more prevalent towards blacks, however, is due to one simple fact: Non-blacks have been told their whole lives both directly and indirectly they’re better than you.
We don’t have to speculate what other groups say about blacks behind closed doors. (If we did, many of us couldn’t handle it.) All we have to do is look around us. The economic and social disparities between blacks and whites in this country have always been justified by black people’s poor decisions and lack of discipline; an indirect way of saying other groups are better than you.
If someone is convinced they are better than another group, what do you think their reaction will be when encountering someone of equal or greater intelligence/talent within the other group? One of two things are going to happen: They’ll either accept the fact that the stereotypes given to them over time were lies, or they’ll try to sabotage that person in order to protect their superiority complex. Unfortunately for many non-blacks, they choose the ladder. This is where the office politics come into play.
How does this affect the work environment? Blacks simply can’t be “too good” at their jobs. One of the quickest ways for a black person to get fired is doing his/her job too well. It’s ridiculous but true. I remember I was working a temp job in a call center once. This wasn’t a long-term job; just something to make ends meet until I found a permanent position. Nonetheless, I worked hard. After a week on the job, my manager calls me to her office and says in a serious tone, “I’ve been getting negative reports about your phone calls. You’re a little too confident and casual.” Yes, this is basically what she said. I preceded to “tone it down” a little. Whatever that means. A couple weeks later they let me go. Immediately I learned from this experience that coming off too confident would instantly put a target on my back.
Another hurdle that blacks have to face is not appearing too threatening. It’s no secret that we’ve had a tough time in this country. For this reason, many other groups are always on the lookout for rebellious outbursts. If you aren’t smiling or appearing gleeful, it may set off an alarm which always leads to a downward spiral.
So what’s the solution? Be the most mediocre yes man you can be. No, seriously. It’s important for blacks (specifically young adults) to understand the game before entering these environments. Realize that Corporate America doesn’t have to be a life-long situation; rather a revolving door. You can learn what you need to from these jobs until it’s time to be your own boss. If you do plan to make a life-long career in Corporate America, understand the dynamic and play the game for your own benefit. Do not lose yourself in the process or else you’ll set yourself up for a lifetime of frustration and disappointment.