Thursday, July 27, 2006

Labels and Stereotypes - Translated: You're Not a Team Player!

As promised in the last post on this topic, today’s racist label and stereotype is…

You’re Not a Team Player

If you’re a hard worker and you’ve been told that you’re not a team player, chances are you probably told a White person “no” and they didn’t really appreciate it. That’s the easiest way to get this label.

Perhaps, you were asked to put aside a priority assignment with a tight deadline in order to work on someone else’s project with no deadline. Perhaps, you were asked to work on a menial project that was far beneath your job responsibilities or skills set and to which other junior staff were available to help.

On the flip side, you may be told you’re not a team player simply because you’re not trying to please everyone (read: white coworkers and supervisors) while wearing a smile that says you just came to life from the cover of a pancake box (with or without the kerchief). There are just so many ways to get accused of not being a team player that I can’t name them all here.

In my case, I was told that I was “me-centered” which meant that “I was not strong in a team setting.” This complaint about me being me-centered was made because I worked on more assignments that were based in other departments than assignments that were based in my own unit. However, my assignments were pre-approved by my supervisor, who was now accusing me of not being strong in a team setting and being me-centered because I didn’t work with my own group. The point was to deny me a promotion that had been promised to me.

When it comes to hard working and reliable African American employees, being told your not a team player is often not about being self-absorbed with your own assignments and being difficult to work with, it’s about the ability to make a personality-based criticism that doesn’t seem connected to race, yet will make your life difficult and impact your next performance review.

Being told that you’re not a team player often means you’re not playing your role—you know, as a slave on a plantation!

Tomorrow’s label and stereotype is one that every Black person has heard…

It sounds like you’re having a party in here!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


EEOC v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc.No. 04C 5273 (N.D. Il. March 13, 2006)

This complaint is for the Chicago District Office of Cracker Barrel’s Old Country Store. The owner of the store created a hostile work environment for black employees through the use of racially derogatory language, and to adverse terms and conditions of employment such as requiring Black employees to wait on customers that the white employees refused to serve and to work in the smoking section. A white employee was also subjected to racially offensive language because of her association with a black employee. Employees were subjected to adverse terms and conditions of employment for complaining about the discriminatory conduct. Management officials at the three Illinois stores failed to take effective corrective action to stop the harassment and other discrimination. The company took no action in response to complaints to the company's complaint hotline.

Under the 2-year consent decree resolving this case, Cracker Barrel’s Old Store, Inc. will pay $2 million into a Settlement Fund to be used to make payments of compensatory damages to individuals identified as class members. Fifty-one individuals are eligible to receive checks from the Settlement Fund, in amounts ranging from $7,500 to $300,000. Defendant must provide annual training, approved by EEOC, to managers on discrimination, including harassment and retaliation issues, and to all employees on workplace harassment.


Labels and Stereotypes - Translated -- Part 2: You Can't Take Constructive Criticism!!

At the conclusion of yesterday’s post (on labels and stereotypes in the workplace) we looked at the common criticism of Black employees that we are “angry and defensive.” As promised, today’s African American label and stereotype is…

You Can’t Take Constructive Criticism

When it comes to African Americans, there are so many cases when the issue has absolutely nothing to do with an ability or inability to take constructive criticism. Like being called angry and defensive, it is all about being able to legitimately apply a label that will easily convey that an African American has a bad attitude. The beauty of it is, accusing someone of not being able to take constructive criticism takes the race related edge off of personality-based comments. When you’re a solid employee and you’re accused of not being able to take criticism, there are so many other factors that may be at play:

· You spoke up to a White person – The easiest and most common way to get this can’t take criticism label is to speak up to a person who does not think you are in a position to demand to be treated respectfully, give input on assignments, make decisions, pass judgment or critique any aspect of the project you are working or to give constructive criticism to those you are working with. The person doesn’t appreciate your contribution to a conversation because you touched a sore spot that they have. While they may have been hypersensitive to your comments, you are the one who will actually get the label. Now, you will be considered to be a person who has extreme reactions to helpful advice and routine communication with other staff. You will be told that people feel they have to walk on egg-shells around you or perhaps that people don’t know how to approach you because of fear of how you will react. You will be painted with cartoon-like brush strokes as having a chip—or a Wild E Coyote-sized anvil—on your shoulder.

· Jealousy – you’re doing a good job and someone wants to knock you down a peg. Since they can’t trash your work, they’ll go after your personality. Painting an African American as unable to take criticism/being sensitive is an easily acceptable comment to make to management that will be remembered during the performance review period.

· Job Threat - you’re doing a good job and someone wants to knock you down a peg because you are perceived as a direct threat to their job. They don’t want you to start getting the same assignments they receive and they certainly don’t want you to have the same title and similar income. Out of competitiveness, they decide to play hardball with you and your reputation. They will take comments you make, blow them out of proportion, and ensure that you are stuck with labels that will haunt you.

· Fear – A person’s racially-based fears can easily morph into allegations of all sorts of negative behavior on a Black employee's part. Two women I had problems with at my last job, both White, are the same two women who were obvious racists. One person had issues working with other African American women—she even gave us all the same labels, but she’s put a different twist on them. She called me “angry and defensive,” another woman “moody,” and a third woman was “not nice” and “snooty.” She made sure to talk to all 3 of our supervisors or directors about our "bad attitudes." We each had to participate in a meeting, solely based on her word. We also heard her critiques at our yearly performance reviews.

The second racist on my job told me about how she came from a racist Mormon family. She assured me that she “wasn’t like that.” Yet, despite her protest, she always spelled and provided definitions for simple words as she spoke to me. And, she didn’t do this to anyone else in our department. Oh, that’s right. I was the only African American in the department, so she didn’t have a chance to be tutor to anyone else. Both of these women, whom I had to address about their negative behaviors, spoke to my supervisor with false allegations and labels. They, obviously, never shared their own offensive behaviors and stereotyping.

The problem with being labeled as unable to take constructive criticism is it’s hard to defend yourself, without making the label seem appropriate. Don’t forget, you can’t take constructive criticism so any attempt to explain a misperception or outright lie about your character will just reinforce the trap that’s been laid out for you. Racism is a trip, y'all!!

Tomorrow’s post will examine the label and stereotype…

You’re Not a Team Player!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Labels and Stereotypes-Translated!

This post is a follow-up to the 2-part posting about the slave mentality in the workplace. By slave mentality, I was referring to Black and White workers. Far too many people on both sides of the color spectrum bring way too much to the workplace regarding acting like they are still a piece of property, as well as in behaving as if they are still the owner of human life. The 2nd part of that post wrapped up by briefly discussing labels and stereotypes in the workplace, which are the result of a plantation mentality.

So, let me continue to break it down for you. In Corporate America, Whites explain, African Americans defend.

For this conversation about labels and stereotypes at work, I am not saying that there aren’t any African Americans who don’t fall into these categories. There are. But, probably to a lesser degree than their White counterparts—based on sheer numbers and history.

African Americans grow up under racism. It doesn’t mean we walk around as victims. Our history in this country shows great amounts of courage, perseverance, and triumph. But, it does mean that have learned how to assimilate into “mainstream” society and part of that assimilation means learning how to cooperate with those in authority, particularly those in a position to affect your livelihood and cause you financial harm. We completely understand living under double-standards and act accordingly, so as not to jeopardize our existence.

So, let’s take a look at a few of the labels and stereotypes and how they are used against African Americans in the workplace.

You’re Angry and Defensive

Being labeled “angry and defensive” seems to be the catchall phrase for Whites who don’t know what to do with a Black person--legitimately. You see, they can’t criticize your work or they would simply do so. Therefore, they resort to criticizing your ability to contribute to a so-called collegial and friendly atmosphere at work. They can’t say you’re a bad worker, so they’ll just say you’re a “personality problem.”

When you’ve gotten this label, somehow, you’ve caused Whites to think that you can’t be controlled or there is a need for Whites to control some aspect of your employment that presents “an issue.” Whatever the reason for this label, you’re now the Nat Turner of the workforce and they must put a stop to you.

If you are a hard worker, pay attention to detail, and are excelling at your job—and you’ve been called angry and defensive—you may have done something right, such as:

· telling someone not to be disrespectful to you and to treat you in a fair manner;

· asking too many questions, which someone couldn’t answer or just resented you asking;

· correcting a misimpression made by a White person, such as the true reason a problem was caused on a project;

· asking for a raise or promotion based on your work output and performance;

· professionally confronting someone who was making false statements about you, such as blaming you for something you didn’t do;

· standing up to racism on the job;

· complaining to authorities about mistreatment or misconduct (Human Resources, etc.); or

· saying “no” to a White coworker.

Once you do any of these things, you should be on your guard. The name-calling will begin!! Even if you don’t hear about it to your face, a campaign to slander your reputation may be underway. But, people in the workplace are much slicker than they used to be. When people put enough forethought into their stereotype-driven allegations, they can avoid the racially loaded label of calling you names like “angry and defensive” by, instead, calling you:

· irate
· pissed
· confrontational
· sensitive
· touchy
· snooty
· moody
· not nice
· rude
· unable to take constructive criticism

Have you ever been called one of these names? If so, how many Whites have done the same thing you did or said the same thing you said? Did any of those people get called into a meeting or labeled as having negative personality traits?

Didn’t think so!

The next post, about the Black Factor in the workplace, will deal with the stereotype that Blacks can’t take constructive criticism.


Spell check and grammar check your work. As an African American, your intelligence level will be closely tied to how you write, among other things. Therefore, always proof your work.

Tip #1: Use the automatic spell and grammar check feature on your software application.

Tip #2: Another good way to check your document is to read it from the end of the document to the beginning of the document. This will force you to look at each word independently, as opposed to reading left to right where you might read what you expect to see—not what is actually written. Reading a document in reverse is also a great way to catch the misuse of words, such as “their” for “there.”

Tip #3: Associated with writing email, do not send out email written in all lowercase, all uppercase or that does not contain punctuation marks. Do not capitalize the lettering in large sections of text. This amounts to yelling at a person. Only capitalize abbreviations, etc.

Tip #4: Do not use slang or write in ebonics. Yes, I’ve read email from African Americans that were written this way.

Tip #5: You are judged based on how you write. Don’t try to get cute. No one cares if you know $50 words, if you are misusing them. Speak in simple English. Keep your email brief. Always be clear about what you need and when you need to receive it. Always ask a clarifying question, if someone is being unclear. Most importantly, if you cannot complete a next step until you receive information, documents, etc. from a coworker, put it in writing. Write something like, “I’ll be waiting to receive the McNair Report, so I can proceed.” That will make it clear that you are not holding up anyone’s project.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Slave Mentality in the Workplace - Part 2!

In the last post on this topic, I wrote about history. That history included the legacy of American slavery, historic racism in American society, the inherited and unwritten expectations of conduct that have been imposed on African Americans by White society, and the historic images that have been used to depict and define Blacks, such as the image of Mammy and of Blacks in roles of servitude. I concluded that post by asking if you had figured out what it all means. Well?

What it all means is…

People can’t always resist their racist impulses. The passage of time and the inherent racism in America has done little to stop the stereotypical imaginings of some White people. Blacks are, far too often, simply what Whites remember or hope for.

I truly believe that there are some who are so racist, by breeding, they truly do pine for the days where Rosa Parks should have moved to the back of the bus and, for some, even the days of slavery.

I know that sounds harsh, but when you’ve worked in an environment, as I have, where an African American is so insulted by something a White person has said that they immediately call this person an overseer, you’ve got serious issues on the job. You’ve got even bigger issues if the word “overseer” has been used by more than one African American in describing more than one White coworker.

Some Whites have tried to move past this offensive behavior, but far too many have been unsuccessful in fully ridding themselves of the stereotypes—just as some African Americans continue to play into stereotypes. American society still sees African Americans as entertainers, but they like the entertainment in non-threatening forms that often fulfill historical stereotypes.

Make us laugh! Make us dance! Make us laugh! Score that touchdown! Make us laugh! Shake that big Black booty! Make us laugh! Pass that basketball! Make us laugh! Make us laugh! Make us laugh! Make me laugh, but don’t get in my way. You’re getting in my way. You’ve got a chip on your shoulder. You are really sensitive. You are so angry and defensive.

Yes, the top stereotype usually thrown around at work often has something to do with an African American’s attitude. And, once those labels get thrown around, it’s nearly impossible to defend yourself without falling into the stereotype.

The follow-up to this post will be called, Labels and Stereotypes-Translated. Be sure to check back tomorrow!

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Let’s face it—there are often different standards for employees depending on their race or some other classification. I have been criticized and have seen others criticized for doing what was standard office procedure. For example, White staff working on a project could skip several unnecessary steps in procedures on a project and that was perfectly acceptable. However, African Americans staff that skipped the same unnecessary steps were reminded of “the process” and the “expectation” that they follow all procedures going forward. All the while, White staff continued to perform the work—quicker—because they were not held to the same standard. As a result, the White staff appeared to be more productive. You can’t always do what the Romans do, even in Rome. So, perform your job as efficiently as possible and per all of the guidelines or instructions. If someone ever says you can skip steps in a procedure, ask to get that in writing. Trust me, if something goes wrong, it will be attributed to whatever steps you skipped in the process and no one will admit giving you the green light to streamline the process by deleting steps.

The Slave Mentality in the Workplace

People have more in common than we like to admit. We can find arrogance, machismo, kindness, passion, rage, envy, and other emotions in any group of people—regardless of racial identity.

Unfortunately, in the workplace, there’s a tendency to label and stereotype people in ways that intrude upon their right to be fairly evaluated and to be treated respectfully. It seems to be easier for many people to place labels on others, particularly minorities, based—not so much on that person’s behavior—but, more on what perspectives the labeler is bringing to the table. So, often, what comes to the table is never seen through the prism of American slavery and racism, even though the history of enslavement and emancipation in America has lead to many of the stereotypes being used and perpetuated today.

During slavery, Whites controlled every aspect of the life of the African slave. We worked at the crack of the whip and by threat of a rifle. We were subjected to daily rapes. We had our captors’ religion imposed upon us (even to the point where slaves believed the Bible justified their enslavement and that they should only expect freedom in the afterlife). And, we endured other tortures of the mind, body, and soul—too numerous to list here. All of these premeditated tortures were aimed at maintaining control over the slave population in order to continue the free labor trade on whose blood, sweat, and tears this country was built.

Even after emancipation, there was still an expectation, a code of behavior, that African Americans were expected to show to Whites. Free or not, this is simply the behavior that many Whites preferred and demanded of the country’s former slaves. Whites had, after all, had their way with African Americans throughout slavery and didn’t easily forget their ownership role. Free or not, a nigger was not going to be a White man’s equal. A
ni-ger was going to know his place.

History has shown that many African American men, women, and children found themselves at the end of a hanging rope for disobeying—not necessarily Federal, State or local laws—but, for not abiding by undocumented standards of conduct. Some of these unwritten expectations and preferences included that African Americans:

· had to defer to the wishes of a White person (no matter how unfair or illegal those wishes might be);

· couldn’t behave in a “prideful” manner because Whites couldn’t stand the sight and sound of an “uppity” nigger;

· were supposed to act and be treated as subservient to White;

· had no actual rights when dealing with Whites (written law amounted to a paper tiger for African Americans);

· couldn’t “talk back” to a White person;

· had to avert their eyes when passing by or speaking to a White person;

· had to step out of the way of a White person who was passing by; and

· could not look upon/stare at White women.

Many African Americans obviously saw this unwritten code as unfair, immoral, and illegal, but the code was also a route to safety. Dealing with Whites was still a fear-invoking proposition, but following the rules meant you were a little less likely to be the priority Negro in town who had to be dealt with. Not breaking these unofficial rules was a way to avoid the hanging rope of lynch mobs, although the lynch mob never required much provocation when it decided to pick a Black person for “punishment.”

I believe that many African Americans still walk through life guided by these unwritten rules and expectations. We have done to ourselves exactly what Massa would have hoped—many of us passed on a slave mentality to our children.

I’ve worked with far too many African Americans who absolutely will not question a White person regarding any matter, small or large. Why? Because many Blacks would rather lay down in a bed full of rats then to tell a White person they are being unclear, that an approach may be against guidelines or completely unethical, or that there is a better way to get something done.

As African Americans, we’ve learned, throughout our careers, exactly what “our place” is on project teams at work. And, we know damn well what we can say that will offend a White person and possibly lead to problems on the job.

The fact of the matter is that some of us work on jobs where we are still relegated to working in the fields. We are the administrative force, we are junior staff or we are the low to mid-level managers. Many of us have been completely neutered. We are not involved in the early stages of planning projects, we are not asked for our ideas or to make contributions on project designs, we are normally not asked what we would like to do or what we would like to learn, we are not asked our opinion on how things are going on projects, etc. In short, we are perceived and have often accepted a role as labor only. Our voice is irrelevant. Yes, some of us are still forced to work in the field. And, some of us revel in that status.

Some African Americans know their place and will serve as an invisible society that can be utilized or ignored as seen fit—just as the invisible society in the lower 9th ward suffered silently before Hurricane Katrina hit.

A quiet and unashamedly well-assimilated African American will not ask for what he has earned, will not require equitable workplace conditions, will not demand equal pay, will often not ask for or fight for a promotion, and will sufficiently kiss the ass of the White staff they work with.

Stop for a minute and visualize the early images of African Americans in film, movies, and as described in books. We had characters in black face, Mammy, Sambo and the images of the so-called pickininny. African Americans were always shown providing eye-bulging smiles to our unseen Massa.

These images didn’t just reinforce and serve as a learning experience on racism for Whites. These images reinforced racism for many African Americans as well. These images reinforced African American status in society—images of stupidity, ugliness, laziness, servitude, and living a second or third class existence to those in White or “mainstream” society.

So, what does this all mean? Haven’t figured it out yet? Stay tuned for part two of this post…

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Racist Graffiti and Slurs Remained in Workplace Bathrooms for Years!

The EEOC filed a Federal lawsuit, on Friday, against a Denver distribution center for Albertson Inc. The EEOC contends that racially-based harassment was traced as far back as 1995. The company, including its Human Resources Department, which received complaints, did nothing to stop the abuse. Racist graffiti (including minorities with nooses hung around their necks) and racial slurs were scrawled on bathroom fixtures. These drawings remained on the fixtures for months or years. Some Black and Latino employees wre threatened with violence--even from a supervisor at the company. No disciplinary action was ever taken against any of the offending staff and supervisors. The EEOC is seeking compensatory damages. Source:

Monday, July 17, 2006

Be Careful Who You Select As Your Role Model!

No one likes a jerk—especially a Black one! Just because White employees can get away with being eccentric, dysfunctional, high strung, arrogant, mean or rude, don’t think these allowances will be made for you. Taking on the persona or copying the behaviors of your coworkers or managers won't greatly enhance your career. For whatever reason a White obnoxious person’s behavior may be tolerated, you are not them. Find your own path! If you can’t get great things accomplished with kindness, than the work that gets done based on cruelty isn’t as quality as you think it is! People will go the extra mile for you if you treat them with respect. For example, I (the only Black person in my department) was often the only member of my unit who could ask staff in other departments for favors (quick turnaround times on projects, to attend last minute meetings, etc.) because of my positive relationships throughout the company. Always work on developing a large list of allies at work.

Using the Friends and Allies of Your Enemy to Your Advantage - Part 3!

In the two previous posts on this topic, I provided you with the rationale behind attempting to network with the friends and allies of your enemy, as well as provided you with some sample questions for how to mine for information that can help your case/position/grievance against your enemy. This final post contains some tips on having and documenting these conversations.

Tip #1: When having these conversations, you should listen out for contradictions. You need to find out what is really being said and done behind your back to justify any actions being taken against you by your enemy. When you speak to the friends and allies of your enemy, listen out for contradictions that may illustrate your enemy’s lies. The contradictions may be subtle, but they may still be important when taken in the larger context of what’s going on at your workplace. Don’t discount anything shared with you by a friend or ally that goes against the words and actions of your enemy. Contradictions may provide the real reason why you are under attack by your enemy (race, gender, etc.), may indicate that your enemy is aware that what they are doing to you is wrong (if they’ve lied to their friends and allies about what they’ve done), and may help show that the reasons your enemy is giving to justify actions taken against you are nothing more than a pretext to hide their true motivation--racism.

For instance, your immediate supervisor may have said that the senior manager of your department made numerous complaints about your work and used specific comments to justify not promoting you. So, what you can do is go directly to the senior manager to get their face-to-face input on your job performance. In personally speaking to the senior manager, you may find that they are very complimentary of your work and didn’t offer any serious critique that would have prevented you from advancing. More importantly, you may notice that they didn’t offer any of the specific negative comments attributed to them by your supervisor.

Therefore, the senior manager’s statements would seem to contradict the words of your supervisor—your enemy—who it seems may have fabricated nonexistent statements from the senior manager in order to execute a tangible employment action, denying you a promotion. Perhaps your supervisor was comfortable attributing the statement to the senior manager because the supervisor didn’t believe you’d actually go check behind him/her or because your supervisor perceived the senior manager to be his/her ally in managing your department.

In either case, had you not asked a question, despite a potential alliance against you, you may not have begun to unravel what looks like an active effort by your supervisor, and not the head of your department, to deny you the opportunity to advance. And, if you keep digging, you may find a larger conspiracy. For instance, maybe the higher-ups at your company instructed your supervisor to fabricate allegations against you because the company did not want you, an African American, to advance. So, it was not a persoanl vendetta by your supervisor, but a company mandate.

You should create a log of the contradictions. This log can be used as evidence of an intentional campaign against you, can be used to trip people up who are trying to protect each other, and can help turn friends and allies against each other. Think about it. If what is happening to you is a violation of Federal law, there is motivation for a friend or ally, who has become entwined in your case, to try to extricate themselves by selling out the person instigating the attacks against you. As you prepare your case, keep thinking about contradictions when you are attempting to highlight the questionable, unethical, or non procedure-based actions taken by your supervisor or company.

Tip #2: You can use these conversations to slip information to the friends and allies as a way to spread your own propaganda. For instance, you may be able to buy yourself a reprieve from workplace attacks by “suggesting” to a friend or ally of your enemy that someone is about to be reprimanded for what has been happening to you. You should say this to a friend or ally that will definitely go back and tell your enemy what you said. Your enemy may take the bait and lay off your case for a while.

You can also spread propaganda to cause your enemy to be somewhat isolated from certain friends and allies. For instance, you may tell an enemy’s ally that you heard from a “source that’s pretty high up” that “management is really upset about this incident” and “they take it very seriously.” You can then add that you hope they (the person you are talking to and a friend or ally of your enemy), “aren’t involved in any way” because there definitely will be substantial repercussions. This is a good technique for throwing a monkey wrench in alliances at work, even if it’s only temporary. This works really well when you know your enemy’s friend or ally is absolutely spineless and can’t stand the thought of any attention from Human Resources or management.

Tip #3: Document everything! As soon as you have a conversation with a friend or ally, write down everything they told you—starting with the important items that can help your case. The statements can become part of your chain of evidence. Also, having a written record of face-to-face conversations can force people to turn on each other at a later time, no matter how unwilling they are to do so.

Tip #4: Don’t ever talk to more than one friend or ally at the same time! People are usually more truthful when you have them in a one-on-one situation. Even if you are, for instance, at a group lunch with several of your enemy’s friends and allies, you shouldn’t bring up your work situation or probe for any inside information. By talking to people in a group setting, you run the risk of having the person with the most dominant personality dictating what is said and done during and after the conversation. If you meet with people as a group, one person will take the lead on certain issues and everyone will nod their heads—knowing the person is lying. Another pitfall of speaking to people in groups is that it allows them to coordinate their lies in one sitting.

Tip #5: Decide if you’ve gathered enough information, over time, to report something significant about your enemy—as it relates to your case. For instance, you may have established that this person has been engaging in this pattern of negative and illegal behavior for years. Now, you may have witness corroboration to prove your position regarding your situation with the individual (e.g., they discriminate, make a racially-hostile environment, etc.) If you do not feel you have enough information to strike, just wait, and keep digging for the truth. As they said on the X-Files…The Truth is Out There! Don’t forget, this is just one strategy for dealing with racially-based problems at work. You also want to document examples of negative communication from your enemy, such as offensive email or voice mail, etc.


Don’t show loyalty to people who don’t mean you any good. Don’t try to buy people’s loyalty because it won’t hold. Showering an undeserving or racist coworker or manager with attention and praise won’t get you any respect…and it won’t stop any mistreatment or illegal abuse. In fact, it will get do the opposite. No one respects an ass-kisser, even those whose asses are being kissed. So, instead of getting this person to stop their behavior, you are encouraging them to continue to mistreat you because you are agreeing to be a victim. Instead of aligning yourself with those that don’t deserve your energy or attention, you should focus on forming positive alliances and friendships. Those will be the individuals worthy of your respect and loyalty. These are also the people who are more likely to champion your causes.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


EEOC v. Commercial Coating Services, Inc. No. H-03-3984 (S.D. Tex. March 21, 2006)

This is a case where a Black Texas sandblaster (on an oil rig) was harassed because of his race. He was the sole African American on his crew. His supervisors and coworkers routinely made racial slurs and called him the n-word. He complained and demanded to be called by his first name, but nothing was done to correct/stop the abuse. He requested a transfer, but it was delayed—while other transfers were quickly processed.

A coworker made a noose out of heavy rope and threw it around the Black worker’s neck as he entered a restroom. The noose tightened on the Black man’s neck, as they scuffled. The supervisor broke up the fight and called it “horse play.” When nothing was done to stop the abuse, the Black worker resigned and filed a complaint with EEOC.

He will receive $1,000,000 and an apology from the President/CEO of the company. The company must also plant or designate an exisitng tree in honor of the Black employee’s service to the company.

Question from blogger: How long before they hang a noose from that tree—maybe with a Black person swinging from it? If the company picks an existing tree to name after the Black worker, it will probably be the one suffering from root rot or it will be intentionally infested with termites, so the tree can be torn down.


Using The Friends and Allies of Your Enemy to Your Advantage - Part 2!

Part 1 of this post, of the same title, asked you to consider cozying up to the friends and allies of your enemy in order to get information. This is a great tactic. I personally used it to get tons of information from coworkers and managers—information that I used in my external complaint against the company.

When you’re under attack from a racist coworker, supervisor, etc., it’s easy to get in the habit of isolating yourself. You may feel embarrassed because people know what’s happening to you, you could be the target of all the office gossip, coworkers may be treating you funny, etc. But, here are some of the reasons you may want to stay engaged in conversations with your coworkers:

· To get inside information! Personal and professional information about your enemy that you can use against them or to better understand them and their weaknesses. You may be able to find out their dirty laundry and use it against them to show their consistent lapses of judgment, personality clashes with other staff and managers, the mismanagement of staff and projects, similar complaints from other subordinates that may precede your employment with the company, etc.

· To find out your enemy’s strategies! To learn what they are doing and saying about you, particularly any tangible employment actions they may be planning to make or recommend that would negatively impact the status of your job.

· To spread your personal propaganda! Propaganda is a necessary part of any war. You may want to “leak” information to confuse or misdirect your enemy.

· To find out about your enemy’s enemies! The enemy of your enemy really may be your friend! Find out who has an axe to grind with your enemy and you can potentially protect yourself and your interests at work by developing a new alliance.

Your supervisor and/or employer will have no qualms with turning other employees against you, isolating/ostracizing you, ignoring your pleas for help with your situation or making false statements against you to undermine your contention that your rights are being violated. They will do whatever it takes to protect the company. You have to be prepared to go just as hard to protect your job, defend your reputation, stop the campaign against you, and fight for your employee rights, such as a workplace free from harassment, without discriminatory practices, etc.

I suggest you make nice with carefully picked friends and allies of your enemy. Only you can determine which friends and allies might actually provide you with information or assistance. I suggest you look for people who are levelheaded, unbiased, relatively honest, and seem to have a conscience. Once you identify these individuals, below are some suggestions on how to put them to work for you:

· Try to manipulate your enemy’s friends or allies to say more than they want. Again, this assumes you already have a decent working relationship with these individuals and it doesn’t matter if they’ve tried to stay out of whatever turmoil is going on at work. Ask the person for a few minutes of their time and tell them that you just have to talk to someone about your situation. Behave like you consider them an impartial and trusted confidante, express how much you value their opinions, praise them for always being in the loop and having inside knowledge, and assure them that more people should be like them—treating others with respect, contributing to a harmonious environment, etc.

This form of praise can get you a lot of information. People love flattery. But, don’t be over-the-top. Your praise should be realistic and should seem appropriate. Remember, this is not about butt-kissing. This is about misappropriating the use of someone else’s friend or ally to feed your own interests. You shouldn’t feel dirty when you’re done.

When talking to an enemy’s friends and allies, you are not giving information—you are trying to receive information. If the person is looking for reciprocation, feed them relatively unimportant scraps of information to satisfy their feeling that one hand is washing the other.

Don’t act too pressed for information. Be conversational and act like they are one of your trusted confidantes. But, don’t actually trust them! Always keep it in the back of your head that something that was said might be repeated to others—particularly your enemy.

The post, listed below, has some sample questions to get you started.

Questions To Ask The Friends and Allies of Your Enemy!

The following are suggestions for things to say to and ask of an enemy’s friends or allies that could yield useful information. These are guidelines. You should not speak as if you’re reading from a script. Tailor the questions to your natural style of speaking, based on your previous relationship with this person and based on the facts of your job. Don’t act too pressed for information. Just be conversational. Ask the following:

· Did you hear what happened to me? (If they weren’t present during the incident). Or say, "Can you believe what happened? (If they were present during the incident)

· You know I trust your opinion. What do you think about what (name) did or said to me?

· Would you have taken it the same way?

· I keep going over things in my head and still can’t figure this out. I’m really surprised by his/her comments (or actions). Why do you think she said (or did) that?

· Is it me or is he/she always like that?

· If they say they believe it’s your issue, ask for a reason and politely question anything that sounds suspicious or correct any lies told to them by your enemy (which might explain why they blame you for the incident, if they do).

· If they say it’s not you, ask who else your enemy has or has had a problem with (especially problems that’s similar to your case).

· I think he/she is going to formally write me up. Has he/she said anything to you about it?

· I think he/she is going to the Director about this. Did she say anything to you about that?

· I may be forced to report this. If you were me, what would you do about what (NAME) has done?

Hopefully, you see where this line of questioning is going.

· You’re trying to get to know your enemy better, from his/her own friend or ally.

· You’re trying to see what your enemy’s motivations are and where their head is at.

· You’re trying to uncover anyone else they’ve had similar experiences with, so you can track their negative and inappropriate work behavior. And, you want to know about any of their future plans for you.

More importantly, if your enemy tries to use deniability as a defense (e.g., by saying, “I don’t know what she’s talking about.” or “Nothing happened.”), you can use a friend or ally’s comments to support your case by saying something like, “Well, one of his/her confidantes told me this person has a pattern of this behavior. This is not the first time this has happened. He/She has done it to me and other people and I can prove it.”

DOCUMENT EVERYTHING YOUR ENEMY'S FRIENDS AND ALLIES TELL YOU! They don't know that you are using them to build a case against a person. Even if you never file a grievance, it's best to have as much inside information as you can.

The final part of this post will be available tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Using The Friends and Allies of Your Enemy to Your Advantage!

My mother always said, “You can count the number of your real friends on one hand." I think this is absolutely true. However, when it comes to counting actual friendships in the workplace, you could lose a few of your digits and you still wouldn’t be at a loss to finish the task. And, that’s during the good times. When things begin to go terribly wrong at work, due to bullying, harassment, discrimination or retaliation, isolation can become a major part of your workplace life.

But, cheer up. Even if you find that everyone is suddenly really busy when you stop by their office and no one wants to go to lunch with you anymore, it doesn’t change the fact that you can still find ways to get the friends and allies of your enemies to provide you with useful information that supports your allegations of workplace abuse.

Who is your enemy? For the purposes of this post, your enemy is whoever is spearheading the attacks against your job security, work performance, character, ethics, etc. This may be the supervisor who gave you a fraudulent performance review in order to deny you a promotion, the person who is causing you an offensive work environment by making racial slurs and slandering you with false charges to other staff in an attempt to isolate you from your coworkers or it may be a person who is denying you assignments because of their racial prejudices.

Your enemy is a specific person or people. If your company, as a whole, is trying to run you out of a job, you have a much larger and threatening problem, but can still use some of the strategies in this article to try to mine for insider information. And, that takes us right back into how you can manipulate the friends and allies of your enemy into giving you information they normally might not share.

Who exactly are the friends and allies of your enemy?

Friends are people that your enemy actually likes, including those your enemy goes to lunch with (not a business lunch), and/or meets with outside of work hours (happy hour, shopping, recreational activities, or to participate in other social events, etc.).

An ally may be a person that your enemy may or may not like, but there’s a strategic reason why they have some sort of pact or agreement to cooperate with each other at work. The pact can be a spoken or unspoken arrangement that just works in the best interest of both parties. As with friends, the allies of your enemy may be other coworkers, managers and supervisors, executives, or Human Resources personnel.

The friends and allies of your enemy can and may be co-conspirators in any actions taken against you with regard to your continued employment at your place of work. Even if they are not involved in assisting your enemy in tormenting you, they likely have the inside track on what is going on with the individual you’re having problems with. It’s for this reason that the statements and actions of the friends and allies of your enemy can be an important part of proving a case of bullying, harassment, discrimination or retaliation. For that reason, you shouldn’t necessarily shy away from these individuals. Instead, you should identify who may have useful information—and a disposition—that may help your case against your enemy.

This strategy will only work with people that you already have some sort of positive working relationship with. You don’t want to approach a coworker you’ve never spoken to or someone who dislikes you and begin trolling for information about your enemy who they, at least superficially, have a reason to protect.

You may be asking yourself, “Why would someone provide me with information about their friend or ally?” Here are a few reasons:

· If you play your cards right, they won’t even know they’re doing it! You’re not going up to people asking 20 questions. You’re just finding opportunities to manipulate situations to your advantage by subtly probing for information.

· People like to talk! The workplace is a breeding ground for gossip, innuendo, and a desire to prove more knowledgeable than others—by revealing things most people don’t know about it.

· Many people have a secret agenda! Who’s to say that a friend or ally of your enemy isn’t secretly after that person’s job or doesn’t secretly hold some sort of grudge against them that they’ve longed to settle? Remember, just because you don’t know whether or not someone has an agenda, doesn’t mean they don’t have one. If a person does have an agenda, it can be another motivating factor for them to share information with you.

· Outright Jealousy! There may be an element of envy that plays a part in the relationship between your enemy and their friends and allies. Therefore, jealousy might be a motivation for someone to “accidentally” assist you by providing you with information. IMPORTANT: When it comes to those who are speaking to you out of jealousy or because they have a secret agenda, you have to make sure that you’re not being fed a bunch of lies so that someone can settle a score with a third party. You should always try to verify any information you’re given with other sources that have knowledge about whatever “tip” you’ve been given. You’re talking to all of these people with the same purpose a private investigator might have when conducting an investigation, to find out the truth from people who have motives to lie or impede the truth from being told—even if their reasons for concealing information are not malicious.

· They have a conscience. Believe it or not, the people you decide you should speak to may truly resent the actions being undertaken by their friend or ally and, therefore, want to provide you information or with stealthy assistance that may help you protect your job. They really may feel terrible about what’s happening to you because they have integrity and a sense of fairness.

· They may actually like YOU! Therefore, even if they aren’t willing to stick their neck out for you because of their friendship or alliance, they may be willing to feed you information.

Still not sure you’re interested in tapping into this strategy of exploiting the bonds between your enemy and their friends and allies? Part 2 of this post will be available tomorrow. Stay tuned for more information.


Burn the olive branch!. If someone is continually screwing with you, don’t try to kiss up to them to get them to stop their behavior. When you decide you need to put your foot down, put it down—right on their neck. No, that’s not literal. You’d end up in jail. But, you need to get into the habit of immediately tracking and reporting the negative or illegal behaviors of your coworkers or managers.

Tip #1: Try to speak to the person about the issue. Provide them with examples of their behavior and tell them how their behavior impacts you. If they don’t respond, take it to your manager. If the problem is your manager, go over his/her head. Yes, you have a right to report your manager.

You don’t have to be harassed or disrespected by anyone. You have the legal right to complain. Federal law expects that you would have informed the appropriate officials at your company about mistreatment. So, report it. Do not let others convince you to extend an olive branch to someone who won’t stop disrespecting you, bullying you or harassing you. This will only elongate the time that you will suffer from the negative behavior, it reinforces that you will do nothing to stop the behavior, it will encourage them to continue their behavior, it will negatively impact your health, and it will destroy your morale.

Tip #2: Report it! Keep your power. When you have no alternative, burn the olive branch and take official action by reporting misconduct and abuse.


Reviewers should be keeping notes about the performance of their suborindates throughout the year. However, many reviewers keep poor notes or no notes at all. They wait until the end of the review year to try to piece together a performance picture on those who are up for review. Don’t give your reviewer this kind of power.

Tip #1: Keep a log! One of the most important things you can do is track all of your accomplishments for the year and to maintain a log of the feedback you’ve received. Before your performance review, be sure to send your logs to your reviewers.

Tip #2: Don’t forget to track your publications, awards and honors, customer service statistics, etc. Customize the information you track about yourself to your job function. Show how you are contributing to your deparment and the company.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Reader Submission: The Harsh Reality!

Racism hurts. Pure and simple. The lies and the innuendos by those in positions of power; the selective amnesia of coworkers who suddenly never saw that manager or director hurl a set of books towards your face; the coworker who could not remember saying that she heard your supervisor call you a dirty Ni-ger in the restroom.

Fighting or standing up to racist behavior is a fight you will undoubtedly wage alone. Prior to taking on this huge challenge, and trust me it is a challenge, you will have good, maybe even great relationships with management, coworkers, and staff. Afterwards however, you’ll be lucky if you get a “good morning” out of anyone. You may even work for an organization that loves to use the term or phrases “diversity,” “diverse work environment,” or “our belief in cultural diversity.” Buzz words my brothers and sisters, just buzz words.

It seems like men and women all believe in cultural diversity, that is until the monkey on his or her back jumps off in anger and calls you ni-ger, or tells you to go back to the swamp, or to take your a%$ back to the jungles of Africa,1 or steals your ideas, spreads malicious lies throughout the company, labeling you as being stupid and incapable of handling your responsibilities.2

1) I don’t know how many jungles are in Africa but I do know this: Africa is a huge continent, the United States has 50 states, Africa has 54 countries (approximately), and you can drop the United States in Africa and never find it again.

2) Dumbfounded, you wonder, how can I be stupid when this person stole my ideas and received a promotion?

In the world of racism and racist behavior, logic is a stranger and common sense nonexistent. The reality is people don’t leave their prejudices at home when they walk into the workplace, the sky isn’t falling, terrorism is relative, and racism thrives in our country and our country’s workplaces. You can choose to fight what you know is illegal and morally wrong or you can sit back and do nothing. Remember though if you sit back and do nothing, the time will come when you find yourself sitting in the victim’s chair. That’s called K-A-R-M-A.

I’m a lover of words and history. And the quotations below seem appropo for the topic at hand:

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. Norman Cousins

What’s died inside of you because you chose to turn a blind eye to racism?

I am not blaming those who are resolved to rule, only those who show an even greater readiness to submit. Thucydides

Judas, Benedict Arnold, The House Negro. Enough said.


Many clients will send out emails and/or cards thanking you for doing a good job on a project. If your supervisor and the director of your department are not copied on the email, make sure you forward the email to them and anyone else who should be aware of the great job you did on behalf of the company.

Tip #1: Create an email folder solely to store these types of emails.

Tip #2: Print out hard copies of the emails and save in a folder.

Tip #3: Forward copies of congratulatory emails to your private Internet account.

You should keep a record of how you’ve succeeded at work. These emails are great in not only showing that a client is happy, but can also reveal some specific contributions you made and may highlight your positive behaviors and attitudes. This is important evidence that shouldn’t be ignored. Your performance review is directly linked to your salary increase.

Tip #4: Right before performance reviews are being written, email all of these congratulatory messages to your reviewer or provide them with a hard copy. Copy any congratulatory cards and share them with your reviewer.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


EEOC v. Jax Inns, Inc., d/b/a Spindrifter HotelNo. 3:04-CV-978-J-16MMH (M.D. Fla. April 13, 2006)

This is An EEOC case where a White worker was fired because of The Black Factor. She was targeted by her employer for associating with Blacks on the job and for bringing her bi-racial children to work. According to the EEOC profile, White management was shocked and disappointed that the worker had children of mixed race. The following week (after management saw her children), the worker was subjected to listening to negative remarks about Blacks. Management began interviewing other candidates for her job and she was fired without explanation. The worker received $99,000 as a result of this EEOC case.



This is another big one for African Americans because we are often fighting the perception that we don’t care about our work, projects, etc. We’re sometimes perceived to be going through the motions and just waiting to cash a check.

To help fight this false perception, you should get more involved in projects--especially if you hope to advance within the company. Even if you are normally ignored, make sure you speak up in meetings. But, no matter what anyone says, don’t just speak for the sake of speaking. I once had a White manager tell me I should ask questions that I knew the answers to, that I should paraphrase or agree with something that someone already said or that I should make a suggestion, even if it wasn’t great or if I didn’t believe in what I was suggesting. The rationale was that this behavior supposedly showed I was listening and participating in the meeting. Sorry! I didn’t buy that argument then and I don’t buy that argument now. I think it’s clear when people are just talking to be talking and I think it makes you look ridiculous.

Tip #1: If you don’t have anything of value to contribute, shut up.

Tip #2: If you have a question, ask for answers.

Tip #3: If you make suggestions, keep a list of the ideas you’ve shared. That way, if you are later accused of not providing your input, you can respond with specific examples of ideas you’ve shared with the group.

It's Okay To Say "No!"

Far too many African Americans have been conditioned to believe that we can’t say “no” at work, especially to a White person. So, no matter how much our gut is telling us that something can’t be done, might be unethical, isn’t worth the reward, is redundant, should be done by someone else or another department, can’t be done in the proposed timeline (no matter how many people work on the project) or is just plain wrong, we’ll agree to do it because we are too afraid to say “no!”

But, part of any person’s job is being able to discern appropriate vs. inappropriate work, informing people of limitations they may not be aware of or are ignoring, knowing that you should not engage in unethical conduct, being able to identify work that is fiscally irresponsible, etc. So, it’s okay to tactfully tell someone about any issues that present themselves regarding your assignments or proposed assignments.

Yes, people don’t like to hear the word, “no.” But, that’s their business. Sometimes, you have to go there. If problems are encountered and you did not speak up, you will get all or some of the blame for not saying “no” to the request or for not checking with someone else. You can also get in trouble for taking on too many little tasks that prevent you from concentrating on the main focus of your job. Don’t let people bog you down who are just trying to lessen their own workload by pawning it off on someone who will do it without question. If you have to tell someone “no,” offer solutions on how to get the task done, inform them about alternative options, provide other staffing choices, get a second opinion or check with your supervisor for guidance.

Don’t worry about a person holding a grudge because you shut them down. If they are that childish, that’s on them. You can’t control how people respond. But, you can control your own actions.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Don't Be Afraid To Make It Known That You Want A Promotion!

Make it known that you want a promotion. Many African Americans feel we should be grateful for having a job and that we should not make a fuss at work. We are afraid to ask White supervisors and managers for something that others ask for on a regular basis. While White employees will go to their supervisor, Human Resources or executive and demand a promotion (sometimes with threats of resigning), many African Americans are afraid to ask for or to even discuss a promotion. We’d rather wait until someone brings it up, which may be every 5 years or so, if we’re lucky.

There’s nothing wrong with sitting down with a supervisor or manager and telling them that you want to be promoted. You should make your argument for why you have already demonstrated the capability to work at the next level.

In addition to being afraid to discuss promotions, some of us are afraid of even requesting more advanced work and challenging assignments in our current positions. So, we allow people to stifle our careers by forcing us to work on the same types of projects that only allow us to utilize a certain set of skills because we’ve been seasoned into submission and have accepted the fact that we have no or little control over work day, assignments, and future.

Any good manager should be focused on ensuring that his or her staff are being challenged and are moving in a path that gives them no other choice except to develop new skills, overcome weaknesses, improve on areas of strength, and to advance.

My advice is that you shouldn’t wait for your supervisor to tell you that you’ve reached a point where you can take on more work. You should perform your job to the best of your ability, try to exceed expectations and requirements, and make your case that you are ready to continue to the next phase of your career path. If you have not had the opportunity to perform higher levels of work and feel you legitimately need to build up your skills before advancing in the company, tell your supervisor or manager that you’d like to know:

-- What skills are needed to be promoted?

-- Is any training or are any special skills needed in order to be considered for a promotion?

-- How do I currently stack up for a promotion?
-- What are my strengths?
-- What are my weaknesses?
-- How do I improve my weaknesses?

-- Can I get more advanced assignments to show that I can work at a higher level?

-- Can I be placed in charge of small, mid-level or advanced projects (depending on your level)?

-- Can I have or have more client contact?

-- What suggestions do you have for me as I work towards a promotion?


In 1996, the 7th Circuit Court reasoned, in Bryson vs. Chicago State University, “Depriving someone of the building blocks for…a promotion…is just as serious as depriving her of the job itself.” Keep that in mind when you are considering a promotion. You have a right to earn a livelihood, to develop new skills on the job, and to advance.

Working with Soap Opera Characters - Part 2 (But, is it a Crime?)

In part one of yesterday’s post, we established that there are some pretty dysfunctional people in the workplace. These people are dysfunctional even before you add racism into the mix of personal issues that they may be bringing to work each day.

Far too many workplaces are inhabited by people (including supervisors, managers, and executives) who truly seem to believe they are on a nighttime soap opera. And, they certainly fit all the roles on a soap opera, as they cause drama and intrigue throughout the office. Most offices have some or all of these characters/personality types:

The Diva – This person could be male or female. They don’t believe the sun rises until they wake up in the morning. They believe everyone comes to work to further their personal goals and to advance their career. They look down on other staff. They only cater to those they feel are powerful and can advance their careers. The diva will decide who is acceptable or not—they live to snub people who they don’t feel are good enough to be in their clique. Often, this person is rarely as talented or intelligent as they’d like to believe, but they give off such an air of confidence, they easily position themselves as the go-to person and can rise quickly through the company.

The Bully – This person is socially incompetent, weak, and insecure. But, they generally have no idea because they choose to focus on and target those they believe they can take advantage of. This person likes to micromanage, will give incomplete or incorrect directions, can be loud and brash, is extremely judgmental, enjoys bringing others to tears or instigating trouble, likes to form cliques against select staff (typically women). They are vengeful, unrelenting, and, amazingly, seems to be made of Teflon. No matter how many complaints are made about this person, they seem to have an astounding knack for remaining employed for an extended period of time after instigating problems at work.

The Brown Nose – This is one of the vilest creatures in the workplace. Watching a brown nose in action makes your skin crawl. They don’t care how many people are around; they will go all out to ingratiate themselves with anyone in power. This person will go so far as to do personal favors outside of work in order to gain favor with supervisors, managers, and executives. They will volunteer to work weekends just so they can go to the office on Monday and talk about their dedication to the job. This person will go along with anything, no matter how unethical or immoral it may be. It is nearly impossible to demean a brown nose because they will let you drag them through raw sewage if they can get something out of it. The brown nose is the cornerstone of any clique, as the truly popular members of the group require at least one person of this type to stroke their egos throughout the day.

Barbara WaWa –Mr. or Mrs. WaWa is always in somebody’s business. Yes, Barbara WaWa can be a man (who should have been born a woman).Barabara WaWa is the reporter of the group and loves water cooler gossip, which he/she will spread around the company by the end of the business day. Mr. or Mrs. WaWa always wants to know “Why come you did this?” or “Why come he said that?” or he/she is raising questions about someone’s sexuality, health status, the parentage of coworker’s children, prognosticating on potential in-office affairs, etc.

The Tattletale – The tattletale will use direct conversations, eavesdropping, and office gossip to wreak havoc in the workplace. The tattletale is extremely dangerous because, unlike the brown nose, the tattletale doesn’t need the prospect of personal gain to justify his or her actions. The tattletale is happy with simply being able to participate in the creation of and watching the unfolding of office drama. The tattletale pretends to be friendly, pretends to be engaged in conversations, but is really only listening for salacious details to repeat. The tattletale loiters around open office doors, hangs around the copy room or lingers in other office spaces—in order to listen in on conversations. They will back-stab coworkers at any opportunity. This person doesn’t know the meaning of confidential and will share your salary information, medical history, the make and model of your vehicle (including list price), the vital statistics of your spouse or romantic partner, and any other details they can compile about your personal life. No matter how sweet and innocent they portray themselves, and they’re good at doing just that, this person is 100% malicious. They know they will be causing confrontation, drama, and tension within the workplace—and they love it!

The Slickster – The name says it all. This person thinks they have the greatest game running in the workplace. They fancy that they are working both sides of the aisle, friendly to bosses and to coworkers. But, anyone with half a brain can spot this shyster in action. The slickster is rarely as slick as they imagine. When they get caught in a lie, they’ll just stand there and make up poor rationalizations in order to justify their actions. They hype up everything to sound more important than they are and they talk a good game. But, they can rarely back it up. They’re con artists, who often try to pawn things off on other coworkers, such as work assignments, responsibility for errors, menial tasks, etc.—all while pretending to be cool with the person they’re imposing on or selling out. This type of person has likely lied all up and down their resume.

The Wanna-Be – The wanna-be is the would-be stalker of the office. They are different from a brown nose in that they won’t go to such extreme lengths in order to ingratiate themselves with supervisors, managers, executives, and coworkers. However, the wanna-be will take on the speech, style of dress, and eccentricities of those they consider “role models.” This person is usually, and rightfully, insecure and will constantly seek the approval of those they admire. The wanna-be rarely picks a person worthy of such fanatical appreciation.

Not Me – This is the good for nothing on the job that refuses to be accountable for anything they’ve done—that went wrong. Not Me will blame anyone, including pointing the finger at their supervisor (behind their back) for projects that go over budget, that were done incorrectly, that missed deadlines, etc. Not Me is completely self-serving, a liar, and can’t be trusted under any circumstances. However, Not Me’s often do a good job of diverting attention from themselves and successfully laying the blame for problems on other staff members.

Now, imagine how the dynamics in an office would change if you throw in a person who is an outright racist. Envision these individuals acting in concert against targeted employees (African Americans, the disabled, etc.) and you can see why the workplace is a breeding ground for employee rights violations, including harassment, retaliation, and discrimination based on race/color, age, etc.

BUT, IS IT A CRIME? While the behavior of these sorts of workers may be tough to put up with, the behavior may not rise to the level of offensive and illegal behavior as defined by Federal law. People are given a bit of flexibility when it comes to acting inappropriately in the workplace. Therefore, truly illegal behavior is defined as behavior that negatively changes the conditions of a person’s employment. For instance, someone that creates a hostile work environment, harasses you, retaliates against you, etc., may be engaged in illegal activity. Someone making a few offensive jokes likely doesn’t rise to the level of breaking employment laws.

Always think about proving that the conditions of your employment have been negatively changed by the actions of your coworkers or supervisors. That is the standard that must be met to prove that behavior has crossed legal lines.


TIP #1: Don’t set sail on someone else’s drama cruise. If someone is trippin’ out in the office, let them have it. You can listen. You can laugh. But, don’t let them drag you into an office scandal or cause you to sully your reputation by association.

TIP #2: Learn to listen to people, to what they are really saying—not the surface communication. Watch people. Get a feel for how they get down! As the cliché states, actions do speak louder than words.

TIP #3: When you see people for who and how they really are, start putting people in boxes. For instance, certain people are cool for going to lunch, one or two may actually be people you can confide in, certain people can tell you what’s going on behind the scenes, etc.

TIP #4: Don’t expect that you can fully trust anyone. This includes people who are unlike those on the list of soap characters. Assume that anything you say may be repeated, that people may secretly feel competitive with you, that someone is secretly jealous of you, etc. Stay on your toes, even with those you believe are friends. After all, it is work. You never know what motivations people may have that can lead to potential issues on the job.

TIP #5: Document the foul behavior of your coworkers…it could be the leverage you need—someday! If you know people are screwing in supply closets, reading or sharing confidential information, sabotaging others, etc., write it down and collect the proof. If you ever get called out on petty nonsense, you can certainly question why you are being called to task, while others are known to be running wild.


The EEOC clearly states, “…Federal law does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not “extremely serious.” The conditions of employment are altered only if the harassment culminated in a tangible employment action (firing, demotion, transfer, etc.) or was sufficiently severe or pervasive as to create a hostile work environment.”

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Tell Us About Your Craziest Experience With Workplace Racism!

Ever been cornered by a White person who wanted to know why Black people have different hair textures?

Ever been quizzed and grilled about the authenticity of the fabrics you were wearing? For instance, "Is that real leather?"

Ever work your butt off, only to be accused of being "lazy"?

Do you only get to meet or speak to clients when they're also Black?

Well, if you've got racism, send an email to and tell us about it. Select emails will be shared with readers, as space permits. Please keep your email to under 400 words!

Corporate America a.k.a. Working on a Nighttime Soap Opera

If you’re fresh out of college or graduate school and are beginning your first job, you’ll realize something very quickly—the childishness, mean-spiritedness, bullying, and popularity-based cliques associated with academic life don’t cease to exist simply because people have supposedly matured outside of the classroom environment.

In fact, the opposite is true. Too many employees, supervisors, and executives are just as juvenile and socially dysfunctional as they were when they were in grade school. The same idiots you were glad to get away from after high school or college are the same idiots who will be working side-by-side with you at the office. The only difference is that the idiots will be better dressed and may hold a position of power over you.

HARSH REALITY: The people you work with will be self-serving, ruthless, backstabbing, and conniving. Even the most low-level employees may behave as if they own 99% of your company’s stock or will act as though they are full partners in the corporate firm.

We’ve all got baggage. But, when you enter the workplace, you see just how much baggage people are carrying around. Regardless of a person’s intelligence level, the number of degrees they possess or their job title, they may truly be socially incompetent and offensive to those working with them. When you begin to work in corporate America, don’t be surprised if you start wondering about whether or not someone was abused as a child, is an alcoholic, is a perpetrator of domestic violence, is on a mind-altering drug, etc. A good percentage of folks on your job will be plain crazy or neurotic!

If you are decent, moral, ethical, honest, fair, likeable, sincere, non-judgmental, patient, and team-oriented, be prepared to be outnumbered at work by those who live a life contrary to those values.

Corporate America is not like a daytime soap opera. No, the level of sex, deceit, and other shenanigans are strictly made for primetime. In fact, you may wonder when Alexis Carrington is going to punch the clock and strut her stuff all the way to the executive office.

Don’t get me wrong. You will have lifelong friendships that will develop with people you’ve worked with. But, (and “but” is a big word) those are not the people that make you want to vomit on your commute to work. And, they are not the people who cause you to have violent fantasies about all the ways to kick someone’s butt with a stapler and a pack of highlighters.

From talking to people I’ve worked with and through personal experience and observation, I believe that many problems people have at work are actually not work-related—they’re people related. That’s why I’d like to caution you against believing the people you will work with and work for are going to be any different than those you’ve already met throughout your life. People will have personality disorders...and that's before you throw racism into the mix!

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll discuss the different types of characters found at work and strategies for dealing with over-the-top personalities.

Faith Is Not Found In Slogans!

Let Go and Let God!

On the one hand, that’s a motivating sentiment. Don’t dwell on your problems. God has the answer. Everything will be alright.

But, on the other hand, that religious slogan can be a crutch. Let Go! Let Go! Let Go! To some of us that just means…Do nothing! Do nothing! Do nothing!

I think some of us use religion as a crutch to do nothing about our life situations. People get carried away with the “Let Go and Let God” mantra. To far too many African Americans, that saying means that you should sit back and do nothing because God will handle it all.

My pastor used to say, “You have to make a step towards God and then He’ll make two steps towards you.” He spoke of physics and the fact that matter can’t occupy the same space at the same time. He said people resisted getting rid of something bad, but by doing so there was no room in their life for something good to take its place. He talked about holding on to dead-end jobs that were killing you just as much as he talked about hanging on to a man that was no good. He talked about freeing yourself of the evil and negative. He spoke of walking by faith and not by sight.

Yes, God has the master plan. But, relinquishing control to God, who’s in control 24/7, doesn’t mean just sitting around and praying for His intervention.

During the Civil Rights Era, our church leaders didn’t just make speeches from the pulpits. They organized boycotts and marches and got involved in the political process. They didn’t just talk about social and economic justice, they did something about it! They believed in action—non-violent action—that could change the life of the masses.

Those of us who are religious or spiritual should rely on our faith, in good times and bad times. But, don’t use faith as an excuse. Live in reality, look in the mirror, and ask yourself what you can and are willing to do to improve your situation.

Have faith that God wants you to take responsibility for your life!


Be friendly with the friends of your enemies. If there is someone at work who is consistently giving you a hard time, get close with their buddies. You will be surprised how likely it is that you can stumble across important information that can provide insights into their perceptions, motives, and actions. When talking with your enemy’s buddies:

-- Be very general—don’t come across as having tunnel-vision about your enemy.

-- Pretend to be only semi-interested in what they have to say—they will share more information, if they don’t feel they are selling out their friend to a vulture!

-- Be very casual when asking questions—again, you don’t want to appear focused on your enemy.

-- Use your enemy’s buddies to feed strategic information to your enemy. (e.g., things you want them to know without telling them yourself).

There will be future posts on this topic in the near future.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Impact of a Negative Work Environment

In order to cope with racism, African Americans have learned to be damned good at rationalizing not only unequal treatment, but outright mistreatment and abuse. When it comes to race and the workplace, some people—even African Americans—often choose to believe that as long as you weren’t called a “nigger,” whatever happened really wasn’t that bad. We always find a way to lessen the impact of negative behavior and offensive language.

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.


TIP #1: You have to be proactive in coming up with strategies for how to cope with your problems at work, including deciding when it may be time to end your employment. Remember, you can always continue your fight to clear your name, when you have severed employment with a company.

TIP #2: If you should decide to leave employment, carefully examine the job market, your finances, and your options. If you are forced to resign your position, always try to leave a job on your own terms.

TIP #3: If you stay at your job, do everything in your power to create a positive and peaceful environment. Bring your favorite CDs to work. Bring in artwork or photos that provide a visual getaway. Take a 5-10 minute walk outside of the building. Or, simply stand outside for a few minutes to purge the negative energy from the office. Make a quick phone call to a friend and talk about something other than your problems at work. Meet a friend for lunch and talk about something other than your problems at work.

TIP #4: Focus on doing your job correctly. Don’t give your employer ammunition to use against you that will “justify” your continued mistreatment.

Don’t forget, exercise helps to relieve stress and tension.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Show initiative. This is one of the best excuses for pigeon-holing someone in a job. Depending on which word your supervisor likes to use, you may be accused of not showing enough “initiative,” of not being “motivated,” of not being a “self-starter” or of not being “proactive.” Take away that argument. Know what needs to be done. Take the initiative and volunteer to perform a task, make some calls, speak to a client, develop a presentation, etc. Don’t wait to be asked to do something that you know is your responsibility. Get things done early or on-time, at the latest.


Keep your business to yourself. Don’t set yourself up for gossip mongers. Not everyone you meet—or even trust—has your best interests at heart. Assume that anything you share may get around the office. Don’t talk (at least not in detail) about your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, yearly salary, sexual history, sexual orientation, etc. Here’s a hard truth. Many White people like to get in Black folks’ business. They want to hear stories about the ghetto, where they will believe you are from. They will want to know whether you are from a two-parent home or were raised by a single mother (on welfare), etc. Once the rest of the office plays telephone with your life story, you (like the rapper 50 Cent) will have been shot 9 times, will have sold drugs, etc. Don’t even go there!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The View's Negro Termination Check List!

Let me start by stating that I am not a huge fan of Star Jones. I don’t even watch The View. And, never have! But, I have seen enough clips of the show and read enough newspaper articles on the quartet of women to know that Barbara WaWa did not have to rain on Star’s parade the other day on The View!

Star was just creating a little Negroidal drama when she got all choked up at the start of a segment that was supposed to be about some damn air conditioning. Instead of talking about how to cool down, Star used one of the biggest names in media, Barbara Walters, for a jump off!

Star said that she’d “prayed on it,” and decided that “this is the right time” to announce that she was leaving the show. Some idiot on the panel murmured, “I’m shocked.” Meanwhile, Barbara Walters was so pissed by Star’s announcement, all Ms. WaWa could do was lower her head and make some incoherent statements. Barbara asked Star when she’d be leaving the show and Star told her she’d be on The View until mid- July.

Anyway, the next day, there were only 3 CHAIRS on the set of the show. And, Barbara WaWa proceeded to jump bad! Now, I didn’t see the show. But, I saw the clips/instant replay. A few things immediately jumped out at me:

1. It’s amazing that live television was able to air the blueprint that so many employers use to justify attacks on Black employees. Now, I’m not saying what’s happened on the show has been right or wrong. I wasn’t there. I just know that it’s more than coincidental that the language used against Star (regarding her having a negative attitude, turning people against her, not being a team player, etc.) is similar to the language used against many Blacks who are set up for termination by their employers. Who knew so many African Americans, especially Black women, have personality/social disorders?

2. It’s amazing how tough Barbara WaWa was when Star wasn’t sitting right next to her to tap that a%s! Where was all that venom when Star was close enough to slap away Ms. WaWa’s speech impediment?

3. It’s amazing how everything negative Barbara WaWa had to say about Star could be chalked up to personality bashing. However, it is worth noting that Ms. WaWa tried to slip in a comment that Star was single-handedly responsible for the show losing viewers. Show us the poll data, Ms. WaWa and explain why Star was the sole target of “extensive focus groups.” Anyway, I’m glad I know that you can get a focus group to say exactly what you want by asking leading questions.

4. ABC allegedly wanted to fire Star back in November but Ms. WaWa rode in on her White horse (no pun intended) to “protect Star.” Star is a grown a&s woman! But, more importantly, if extensive focus groups show Star was causing ratings to plummet to the point where Star needed to be fired, ABC would not have tolerated Star’s presence through mid-July, when they asked her to leave. If the audience was being driven away, advertising dollars would have been driven away. Ms. Jones would have been axed in November!

ABC went to the Negroidal termination checklist and covered all of their bases by portraying Star as a disloyal, uppity Negro with an overall bad attitude. So, Star’s termination came down to alleged personality issues. It’s the Same Old Song! Some people are allowed to have temper tantrums, can throw things at staff, can humiliate coworkers, can offend clients, can show up late for events, can show up for work drunk, etc. and it’s all good. But, boy, when one Black person is too big for their britches—it’s just too unbearable.

If Star had sat there and done every “good ni--er” thing she was asked to do, she’d still be employed. But, Star did her thing and was true to herself—just like White people are allowed to be who they are (good or bad). Now, ABC is claiming no fault with the outcome of Star’s departure from the show.

ABC and Ms. WaWa acted like Star Jones was the first b-tch on TV. But, for better or for worse, Star Jones kept people watching that show because she was the off-the-set newsmaker. That’s what drives up TV ratings and keeps them high.

I’ve heard some Black people say that Star Jones played herself. They say she tried to do what Romans do in Rome. The only problem was that Star might have felt she was a Roman, but she still looked like a ni--er to the people who had the power to pull the plug on her career.

What’s the real story? I don’t know. But, I’ll continue to listen out for Star’s side of the story. I’m sure she’ll be speaking out at every opportunity. So, the jump off will continue, Ms. WaWa!

"Communication Issues" and Stereotypes

In some workplaces, having communication issues is a common performance deficiency that African American employees hear about from management. But, what’s interesting about communication issues, from an African American standpoint, is that many of us only hear about this problem with respect to how we are supposedly communicating with White coworkers or supervisors.

It seems far rarer to be told, as a Black person, that you are having problems communicating with Black or other minority coworkers. Generally, the only cause for concern seems to be when an African American is alleged to be having a problem communicating with Whites. And, normally, it is the member of what I will call the “White half of the equation” that is reporting the problem to the chain-of-command.

Communication issues, from an African American perspective, is simply code for accusing a Black person—usually exclusively—of having a personal problem with a specific White coworker, supervisor, etc.

Unfortunately, some people seem to believe that Black folks have a monopoly on anger, vengefulness, spitefulness, shallowness, incompetence, laziness, and any other negative emotion or action that exists in the workplace. One of the harsh realities is that some non-Black workers truly believe the stereotypes that African Americans are quick to anger, are hypersensitive, and are childlike in handling their emotions. And, these are just the types of stereotypes that can lead to many communication issues between Blacks and Whites in the workplace.

How? Well, if a White person is prone to believe that a Black coworker is hypersensitive by default, anything that Black person says can be perceived to be based on emotions rather than based on reasoning. If a White person is prone to believe that a Black person is likely to be confrontational, simply because of their race, any of that Black person’s criticisms or strongly differing opinions will likely be attributed to that individual being angry or difficult rather than attributed to the fact that the White person may not have successfully argued their point, is dead wrong, or that the Black person simply didn’t agree with the White person’s point of view.

When it comes to so-called communication issues between Black and White staff, the issue often becomes one of personality/stereotypes rather than about the content of a verbal exchange between these individuals. And, as some of you are aware, when a communication issue has been brought to the attention of management, there’s often a meeting where the sole purpose of the gathering is to dissect the twisted interpretation of what the Black person said and how they allegedly made these remarks. Rarely, is the content of what the Black person said discussed in these forums.

Some of you may have been involved in discussions where you might have heard any of the following:

· "You seem upset.”
· “Try not to be sensitive.”
· “I think you’re being a little defensive.”
· "This is not a personal attack.”
· “I don’t want to get into a fight with you.”
· “You took it the wrong way.”
· “You have a very strong personality.”
· “Are you angry?”

Many times, African Americans are left scratching our heads, wondering how we get involved in discussions about our mindset and our moods. We often don’t know how a White coworker reached their conclusion regarding our so-called attitude. But, all is not lost. There are some quick tips, listed in the post below, for dealing with stereotyping in the workplace.


Allowing someone to slander you in the workplace is a major problem. You could end up constantly trying to erase the negative and false perceptions created about you by those who have labeled you as having a problem communicating with certain staff. Being labeled as having communication issues will affect your performance evaluations, salary increase, and can significantly decrease your chance to advance within the company. Anytime you are accused of having serious communication issues, you have to give serious thought about how to respond.

TIP#1: When it comes to so-called communication issues, try not to let the conversation become about your personality. Let it be known, right up front, that if your personality is to be discussed and dissected, you would expect that the personality of everyone involved (in whatever issue was raised) be discussed and dissected—person by person.

Why? Because, once the conversation goes down the path of discussing a Black person’s personality, it will likely become an all consuming, one-sided affair where the Black person will be expected to accept and acknowledge any list of faults being offered up by White coworkers and managers. If everyone’s personality isn’t being discussed, your personality should not be discussed. Communication is a two-way street. No individual should be held accountable for a conversation taking a perverse turn for the worse.

TIP #2: Check your company’s personnel manual to see what the guidelines are for handling work-based issues and personality-based issues. For instance, I had a former employer that explicitly stated that supervisors should stay away from making personality-based assessments of employees. Find out if there is similar language in your company’s personnel guidelines. Make sure that so-called personality issues, particularly fraudulent personality issues, do not creep into your performance evaluations and are not held against you in some other way.

TIP #3: Be careful approaching a person regarding racial stereotyping. I can guarantee that conversation will likely go quickly downhill. All the person will hear is that you are calling them a racist. Therefore, before having any sort of conversation about such a sensitive issue, address the perceived problem with your supervisor first. But, have as much supporting evidence of your position as possible. If your supervisor is non-responsive, you should contact Human Resources.

TIP #4: Try to determine the source of the stereotyping/labeling. If you can, try to figure out what incident(s) may have led to this person to have a false perception of you. Begin to document how this person may have twisted your words, made up allegations against you, poisoned others against you/slandered you. Document this person, if you know they have similar problems with other minorities. Find out everything you can about these other issues. Try to get statements from people, which will support your allegation. You can then address any issues with your supervisor. Remember, it’s important to show patterns of negative behavior from this individual. You have to prove that this person’s actions are negatively impacting your ability to do your job and/or your career (e.g., diminishing your promotion potential during performance review time, etc.)
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