I DARE YOU TO SAY "NO" TO A WHITE COWORKER!
Whites can take “no” from another White person (even if they don’t like that response), but some Whites just get down right indignant when they get the same answer from a Black person.
So, go ahead. Tell a White coworker the word “no!”
Once you say “no,” notice how you are immediately on the receiving end of a look that screams, “Who the hell do you think you are? You can’t say no to me.” Yes, it’s almost like they think they own you. You are supposed to drop whatever you are doing because they have asked you to do something else. This perception, that you should drop everything, will even sometimes come from White people who are junior to you. So, what do you do?
When I have to tell a coworker “no” to a request, I always provided a reason why I’ve given that response. I’ll make suggestions, if I have ideas on who else might be able to assist them or I will tell them where they can go to get help.
But, here’s the thing. A White person will get mad at a Black person for denying a request, even if that White person has:
--made a last minute request because they failed to properly manage their work;
--made a last minute request because they chose to let an assignment sit on their desk until the last minute;
--made a last minute request because they preferred that someone else do the work, but when that person wasn’t able to do it, they decided to settle on another coworker;
--failed to properly manage the expectations of clients by intentionally promising work before it can realistically be done by anyone in the office (in an attempt to impress the client with a quick turnaround time);
--failed to properly manage the expectations of clients, by not explaining processes and timing/scheduling of work.
Yes, sometimes things happen and you have to impose upon a coworker. However, mismanagement of work, people, and projects often causes more problems than any spur of the moment issues.
Despite any reasons why someone’s request is imposing upon a Black person performing their duties, we are supposed to drop everything. Because, there is often an innate feeling that Black workers don’t have anything better to do. Everything we work on is assumed to be so marginal that it can be dropped at any given time. And, that’s why “no” doesn’t go over well when those two letters fall over the full lips of a brother or a sister on the job.
Regardless of why something can’t be done (even if it is known ahead of time that a task is nearly impossible to complete), a Black person is supposed to bend over backwards and try to make it work anyway. Why? Because we have been asked and because we are often perceived to be darn near owned by the company and its employees (of a certain race). Or, so some people think!
And, that’s the kicker. Because of “perceptions,” there is a palpable anger that develops when a White worker has been told “no” by a Black coworker. That anger often turns into a power struggle. To gain dominance, and out of anger, a White worker will often report a Black person to their supervisor and will now refer to the Black person as being:
--not a team player
The power struggle is designed to make sure that Black person relearns who is in charge. It’s the ultimate double-standard. Black workers often don’t have the basic right to say “no” without it being construed as having to do with a so-called attitude, instead it of just being about business.
We are believed incapable of appreciating the “big picture,” company protocol, deadlines/prioritizing work, ethics requirements, and/or fiscal responsibility (e.g., not performing unnecessary or redundant work, etc.).
At far too many companies, many African Americans don’t believe they have a right to disagree and take a contrary position to a White person because they fear it will make them appear to be confrontational. Remember the series of posts on racist labels and stereotypes in the workplace? And, that means we fall right into the hands of those who wish to prevent us from excelling at work. We remain silent. We let people take advantage of us and our fears of labels and retaliation. And, we often cow-tow to the will of nearly every White person who engages us, regardless of whether or not they are in our chain-of-command, in our department, etc.
It’s the plantation, y’all. Except this time, they don’t have us working out in the sun. Those jobs are for the immigrants. Or, should I say illegal aliens. No, make that Mexicans.