The Impact of a Negative Work Environment
And, while we may be quick to jump on our fellow people of color, who do or say things that we don’t like, many Blacks hesitate or refuse to address a White person who has said or done the same thing. Some of us are quick to challenge an Asian or Hispanic/Latino coworker, but we’ll excuse a White coworker as simply having a bad day. Or, we’ll convince ourselves that we misunderstood the White person. Or, we’ll make ourselves believe that a pattern problem is just another isolated incident.
But, no matter what rationalization you give it, deep in your core you know when you’ve become a target at work simply because of your race. You know it just as sure as you know you need to breathe air in order to survive.
So, I want to dedicate a moment to dealing with how it feels to be sucked into a racially charged situation at work, particularly a situation that neither Human Resources nor corporate management chooses to alleviate.
Keep in mind that people are different. So, the reality is that we’ll all respond differently to varying situations. But, from my experience, and those that others with similar experiences have shared with me, if you are being attacked, intimidated, discriminated against, or are suffering from retaliation, you will likely:
· Feel like you’ve punched in the gut by the old version of Mike Tyson! This is especially true if the instigating remark or action caught you completely off guard.
· Feel like nobody is giving you love. If you have become a target, some of your friends and coworkers may side with management and take an active role in targeting you for abuse. Coworkers may stop going to lunch with you and avoid speaking to you—even privately—for fear of being reprimanded for associating with you!
· Feel ashamed and have a hard time looking people in the eyes. You may find it hard to face your coworkers and may find yourself disengaging from normal interactions with your office mates.
· Spend every day feeling like you’re writing your own eulogy. “Here lies [NAME]. He/she was a good person!” You can barely get your work done because you’re always responding to an accusation, a memo, an email, etc. Every time you communicate with someone, you feel like you have to defend every aspect of your character.
· Wonder if you brought the problem on yourself. When you become a target, particularly the target of more than one person, you begin to wonder if the problem really is you. Can all those people be wrong? Yes, they can. It’s easier than you think to indoctrinate employees in a campaign against someone else.
· Turn into a temporary psychopath. All of the legitimate anxiety about your mistreatment and abuse will have a psychological impact on your mental well-being.
· Suffer a physical breakdown. You may begin to experience headaches, nausea, insomnia, loss of appetite or high blood pressure. There is often a physical reaction to being the victim of repeated attacks at work.
· Overdose on sick leave. All you want to do is hide out. You just want a moment or a day when you don’t have to deal with the bullshit. Sometimes you call in sick because you think to yourself, “Today is the day that I will beat her to within an inch of her life, if she just looks at me!”
· Wonder if the attacks will ever stop. If things have gone too far for your employers to apply a remedy (a substantial delay in stopping harassment or retaliation still may make your employers liable for monetary damages), there may be an escalation in attacks in order to run you out of your job or to cause you to make mistakes that can result in you being fired.
· Drive everyone crazy. Everyone knows what’s happening to you at work. Friends and family love you, they feel bad for you, but they can’t take the constant discussions about your job or your tormentor.
· Become a bitter and negative person. Attacks at work can eventually turn a good, fun-loving person into one of the most hateful individuals the planet has ever known. It’s hard not to become jaded and mean, when you’ve been completely shafted on the job.
Most people experience some or all of these things. This is a normal part of becoming a target in the workplace.