Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hard Core Evidence Saved Reader From Attacks!

I received an email from a reader that had a great quote I wanted to share with all of you. The reader was responding to my post on how important it is to document everything. He mentioned that his hard core documentation actually put a manager on the defensive to the point where he couldn’t even dispute the facts presented by the reader. The reader added this:

“Real-time documentation (which doesn't have to be exactly "real time" but usually, at least, the same or next day) is the heart of winning when negotiation and arbitration come around. If your case really is backed up by the facts on the ground, your documentation will usually enable you to win well before the courts even have to get involved.”

Take it to heart. He’s absolutely right. Track everything. If you don’t have information in writing, put together a quick email and send it to whomever you’re having issues with.

I have a good friend, who was verbally told that she had to make sustained eye contact with every coworker and that she had to speak to every coworker that greeted her. She was told that if someone spoke to her, but they did not hear her say “hello” or “good morning” in response, that could be grounds for termination. Prior to this conversation, my friend always made eye contact and greeted staff. But, this manager had an agenda, which was to run her out of her job. So, the manager was screwing with my friend in order to create a hostile work environment that might lead her to resign or that could be used to terminate her. The larger issue is that you can’t find that order (to make eye contact and greet employees) in any personnel manual at any company. Yet, my friend was specifically being targeted and harassed with this order and was going to be watched to see if she was living up to this demand. That order represented disparate treatment. Only my friend, and not all staff, was held to new standards regarding eye contact and salutations. Only my friend received a job threat related to this behavior. This is illegal. But, the manager was smart enough not to put this in writing.

So, my friend emailed her to clarify the conversation they had. And, that’s all you have to do. If someone tells you something, as opposed to putting it down on paper, just send them an email saying something like, “We just met. As a result of our conversation, I want to be very clear about expections. You’ve asked that I [insert whatever was asked] and you said that noncompliance would result in [insert threat]…” The point is to get it down and send it to the individual. They can respond by saying one of three things:

1. “I never said that.”
2. “I misspoke. I meant to say…”
3. “Yes, that’s what I said.” [This is not very likely to happen.]

Or, they will decide not to respond. But, ignoring an email like that certainly suggests that the content is true. If it were not, a clarifying email would have been sent.

Remember that people are smart and racists are savvy. Although it does happen, many workers and managers won’t just drop evidence that can be used against them into your lap. So, always remember that you can create evidence against your attackers by making simple queries. This evidence can enable you to do what the reader suggested, which is to “…win well before the courts even have to get involved …”


There was an interesting editorial in Sunday’s New York Post entitled The ‘Good Black’, which discussed the Presidential hopes of Senator Barack Obama and White people’s perceptions of Black candidates. In an excerpt of the article, written by a White Reporter, Peter Beinhart of The New Republic, Beinhart writes about Colin Powell:

“Whites discriminated in Powell’s favor because he challenged their negative stereotypes of blacks. First, he had succeeded in a respected white institution: the military. Second, he was the child of immigrants, a man whose family history highlighted America’s opportunities, not its racism. Third, he wasn’t ideologically radical. And, fourth, he didn’t look or sound stereotypically Black.”

There’s even a quote from Colin Powell from 1995 in which he says that his appeal is partly due to the fact that he speaks “reasonably well” and that, visually, “I ain’t Black”

The editorial then goes on to discuss Senator Obama’s similar appeal to the White masses—at least for the time being—and talks about the difficulties of balancing the fine line between being acceptable to Whites AND Blacks at the same time.

The final paragraph in the editorial includes this thought:

“In a presidential campaign, Blacks must still defy white stereotypes to succeed.”

As I read this editorial, I thought about film director, Steven Spielberg, who’s throwing Senator Obama a fundraiser. Each person must pay $2,300 to attend. So, here are the questions:

--What do you think is the reason behind Senator Barack Obama’s appeal to White people?
--How do you think he will do in the Democratic primary? Do you think White masses will actually vote for him?
--Will Black voters abandon him to stand with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton?
Post a comment or send an email to!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Radio Hosts Call Senator Obama a "Halfrican"!

Some White people think they are absolutely clever and devilishly funny, when it comes to making insensitive comments about Blacks. It should not come as a surprise that the very ignorant radio host, Rush Limbaugh, called Senator Barack Obama a “Halfrican.” This happened on January 24th, when Limbaugh said:

“Hey, Barack Obama has picked up another endorsement: Halfrican American actress Halle Berry. "As a Halfrican American, I am honored to have Ms. Berry's support, as well as the support of other Halfrican Americans," Obama said.”

Of course, Senator Obama never made the comment. So, why is the Senator called a “Halfrican”? Well, his father is Kenyan and his mother is White—and from Kansas!

Limbaugh is not the first White radio host to refer to Barack Obama that way. In December, on San Francisco radio station KSFO's Sussman, Morgan & Vic show, Hosts Brian Sussman and Melanie Morgan also used the term. So, this is the best the right-wingers have to offer?

The idiot, Sussman said:

"In my opinion -- 'cause my opinion is your average white guy," Obama "is not allowed to wear the African-American badge because his family are not the descendants of slaves, OK? He can't identify with the discrimination and the slavery and all of that that's gone into these black families for generations. I get offended and I know I have many black friends who get offended when he stands in front of that black audience talking like he's from the hood, born and raised, and ... can identify with all of their issues. He can't!”

It’s extremely easy to prove the fallacies in this idiot’s arguments:

--When you look at Senator Obama, you see a Black man. A regular, everyday looking Black man. You do not see someone who looks, stereotypically, like an African. Therefore, in his day-to-day life, people will respond to Senator Obama the same way they would respond to most Black men. They would not see him as an “immigrant” or the son of an immigrant! How would anyone look at the Senator and say, “Oh, he’s clearly not descended from slaves, so let me show him some respect!" It’s the same thing with Tiger Woods. If you just glance at him in the streets, he’d be just another Black man and not the Black/Asian phenomenon from the sport of golf.

--Barack Obama, the man, can’t identify with discrimination? Are you kidding me? Why the hell not? Is someone, in America, going to look at him and say, “Boy, if you weren’t an African/White combo, I’d deny you entry into my neighborhood!” That’s insane. Blacks are not the only ones discriminated against in this country. You have Asians, Africans, Hispanic/Latinos, Muslims, homosexuals, etc. being discriminated against all the time. Regardless of his racial background, Senator Obama can definitely identify with discrimination.

--Someone please tell me when Senator Obama has spoken as though he were from “the hood.” I have yet to hear him say anything remotely reminiscent of, “When I was talkin’ to the Prime Minister, old dude had me tight! Son, he was trippin’.” I’ve also never heard the Senator claim to be “tight” because he couldn’t get some Pretty Ricky concert tickets for his nieces!

If I were Mr. Limbaugh, up on a high-horse and attacking everyone, yet found to be abusing pain medicine (for which I did not have a prescription), I wouldn’t be throwing stones at anyone. As for the other idiots, I guess it shows that Senator Obama is doing something right. If these people had any real criticism of him, I think we’d have heard something much better by now! So, let’s go through the Senators flaw—one more time—on behalf of the White, right-wing population:

--He’s only been a Senator for 2 years!
--His father is a Muslim!
--His middle name is Hussein!
--He went to school in Indonesia!
--His mother is White! (They should just come out and say it, instead of focusing on his father.)
--He’s not African-American-ish enough!

I knew the Senator would have people tripping, but they are losing their minds—and arguments—faster than I anticipated. Anyway…

If you feel like emailing Mr. Limbaugh, you can reach him at:
If you feel like emailing Brian Sussman, you can reach him at:


Monday, January 29, 2007

Can You Be Discriminated Against By Someone of Your Own Race?

I received a question, recently, that asked me if Federal law applies to cases of discrimination where the person doing the discriminating is of the same race as the person being discriminated against. It’s a very good question. I wanted to briefly share the answer, which is a resounding…


Federal law recognizes same sex harassment. Similarly, there is no distinction made, when it comes to race/color based discrimination or harassment. If a person’s rights are being infringed upon, it doesn’t matter what gender or race the perpetrator represents.

And, yes, in case you’re wondering, there are Black people who will target each other simply because of race and/or color. We all come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives. Black people are no more homogenous than any other race. A light-skinned manager might commit color discrimination by targeting the only dark-skinned Black worker in her department because she has an inherent dislike for dark-skinned Blacks—a feeling she has vocalized by saying that dark-skinned Blacks are stupid, lazy, ghetto, embarrassing, etc. and making similar comments to her Black subordinate. Or, the opposite may be true with a dark-skinned manager harassing a light-skinned subordinate for being prissy, arrogant, a White wanna-be, etc.

In both examples, if the managers are impacting their subordinate’s ability to do his/her job (stripping them of assignments, transferring them to hard-to-reach locations, constant bullying, making threats against their jobs, bumping into them in the hallways, staring them down, refusing to answer phone messages or emails, etc.) these managers would likely be guilty of harassment because they’ve created a hostile work environment for the workers and have made it difficult or impossible for them to perform their duties. It doesn’t matter that the individuals involved are of the same race. What matters is whether the complainant has received a significant and negative change in the conditions of his/her employment, which make it hard to carry out the requirements of the job.

So, don’t feel that you have to tolerate mistreatment from a Black manager, coworker, etc. anymore than you would have to tolerate mistreatment from a White manager, coworker, etc. Treat infringements upon your rights in the same way!

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Tarleton State University Students Throw Racist MLK Day Party!

Just when you think White people have learned their lesson, when it comes to throwing racist parties depicting Black stereotypes and letting photographic evidence of the party slip out, there comes another story that highlights the bravado of White racists.

Some White students at Tarleton State University decided to throw an “MLK Party” to celebrate the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At this party, the racists acted and dressed like they believe Black people act, dress, etc.

The party featured buckets of fried chicken, malt liquor, kerchiefs, fake gold teeth, fake gang paraphernalia, afro wigs, hand guns, and even a White chick dressed like Aunt Jemima (while holding a malt liquor!).

Tartleton State University only has about a 10% Black student body population. Photos of the January 15th event were discovered on a page by a Tarleton State University sophomore who heads the school's NAACP chapter, Donald Ray Elder.

Who’s the kid that posted the pictures? Future rocket-scientist Jeremy Pelz. According to The Smoking Gun’s web site account, Pelz had the pictures in an online folder labeled “MLK.” When emailed by Elder about the pictures, this is the dumb response that was sent by the racist student:

“…the party was started a few years earlier "because one of best friends is black or African American, whichever you deem politically correct, to be his day not to dishonor him." He added, "So I do apologize if you felt any disrespect because none was intended."

So, on top of clearly being undereducated, this fool said that no disrespect was intended! Well, stupid is as stupid does.

On the one hand, you can say it was just students going too far with a bad joke. But, what I think about is that, one day, these students will be living on their own in different and, possibly, diverse communities. And, I also think about the fact that they will be working with Black people some day! If they have this much gall, at such an early age, what do we expect to happen as they take their stereotyping and racist views with them into true adulthood and into the workforce? Imagine the explosive possibilities that can happen on a job, when it comes to mixing people who are this ignorant with diverse staff. Imagine people like these idiots as a Black person’s manager. Will they be fair or will they be antagonist and degrading? I would guess the latter to be the more likely scenario.

To see the pictures, check out this link at The Smoking Gun:, which is also the source for this post.

LEGAL BRIEFS: No Retroactive Fix for Employers!

“Even if higher management proves that evidence it discovered after-the-fact would have justified a supervisor’s action, such evidence can only limit remedies, not eliminate liability.”

McKennon v. Nashville Banner Publishing Co., 513, U.S. 352, 360-62 (1995).

So, an employer cannot go back and try to retroactively uncover incriminating evidence against an employee as a means of denying all liable for some violation that took place on the job.

Personally, I would question after-the-fact evidence simply because far too many employers are damn good at falsifying information and misrepresenting facts. If the case against an employee was concrete enough to be believed to justify an employment action, what is anyone finding at the 11th hour that can increase the appropriateness of the decision? An employer can rewrite history or legitimately find new information, but it will not eliminate possible liabilities in the case.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

White Workers Openly Complained About Black New Hires!

I recently worked at a company where 3 African American women were hired over about a 1 month period. They were hired to work at our location (one out of 7 job sites), which had only 10 Black workers out of approximately 150 staff. That means that less than 10% of the staff at our location were Black. On top of that, 3 of those 10 Black people only worked at our location a few times each month because they were forced to switch to a job site in a nearby city. So, at my job site, you had pretty good odds of only seeing one or two Black people—per day! That’s because staff were spread out over 3 floors in our office building.

There were 3 Black people on the 3rd floor. There were 3 Black people on the 4th floor. And, there was one Black person on the 5th floor. If I count those with coonish behavior, there were really only about 3 real Black people working there—not 7!

While there was a gang of 7 at my job site, my company had other job locations that had no Black staff or one Black staff person, out of a smaller group of 10-20 people. Unless you worked in the Washington, D.C. location of our company, you would never feel—no matter how racist you were—that you were being overwhelmed by the presence of Negroes.


3 Black women were hired over a 1 month period. And, all hell started to break loose. Yes, the company had the audacity to hire 3 African American women in one month and, to make matters worse, they weren’t low-level peons. They actually came into the company at the glass ceiling level for African Americans, a level 4 (out of 7 overall levels). So, what was the topic of discussion around the water coolers? What was discussed in hushed tones in the offices?

You guessed it. The White folks got their panties and briefs into a bunch because “Too many Black people are being hired.” Yes, 3 Black people constituted the potential for way too many new colored folks to turn up at the coffee machine or, God forbid, at meetings.

The issue wasn’t only that the company hired 3 African Americans. The major issue being voiced was that these Blacks came into the company as level 4 employees, which gave them some small measure of credibility. These weren’t 3 junior level staff. These were Blacks who could come in and run small to mid-size projects. These projects were usually run by Whites who were looking to climb the next rung of the ladder to mid-level management. On top of that, these African Americans were competition for level 5 promotions. Even though there was an obvious glass ceiling, there were no level 5 Blacks at the company, this still represented a troubling prospect for many White employees.

These new hires created a total of 13 African American employees out of a new grand total of about 153 employees. Yet, whites openly wondered what was going on at the company because the new hires were just “so noticeable.” There was speculation that qualified Whites were being denied jobs because the company wanted to “increase diversity.” The conversations got so out of hand, a level 4 African American employee had to complain to management about the comments. This employee told management the company should potentially brace for a “backlash” against African American workers based on the tone of what was being said openly in the hallways.

Do you realize how many assumptions have to be made in order to believe that these 3 African Americans have taken something away from someone White?

Do you realize the level of racism someone must possess to feel the addition of 3 African Americans created an intolerable onslaught of blackness?

Are whites the only ones qualified for every job?

How much audacity and stupidity is necessary to believe that African Americans aren’t qualified for decent jobs?

Do you think these 3 African American employees came into those work conditions, before ever even saying “hello” to anyone, and got a fair opportunity to show what they could do?

None of the answers to those questions mattered. The White staff, including mid-level managers, were openly concerned that Blacks got jobs they believed Whites were entitled to. That sense of entitlement is part of the status quo at many companies.

In the end, and predictably, these Black women were being called “stupid” and other names within weeks. It didn’t matter that all 3 women had advanced degrees and came from reputable companies. They were perceived to have stolen something from unknown White potential job candidates and they were seen as threats to current White staff.

And, this is the reality of the Black Factor. Everyone has to deal with a certain level of bullshit in life. But, the Black Factor adds a whole new level of dung to the pile for African American workers. And, that’s a fact!

Senator Obama Not Taught at Radical Muslim School

Senator Barack Obama is starting to get the Harold Ford treatment. If you remember, former Tennessee Representative, Harold Ford Jr., ran for the Senate against Bob Corker (White). Bob Corker and the Republican National Committee decided to run racist ads, which depicted a White, naked-looking women winking at Rep. Ford and another ad, which had jungle music playing in the background whenever Rep. Ford’s name was mentioned.

Well, in similarly distasteful fashion, Fox News Channel and The New York Post recently claimed that Senator Barack Obama was educated at a radical Muslim school in Indonesia. Yes, he went to school in Indonesia, but it was not an extremist center of education. Yet, Sen. Obama is falsely being accusing of receiving the same education that is believed to create terrorists. This story was fabricated. But, it’s all some people will want to remember.

When questioned, one of the media outlets claims the story on Senator Obama originally came from Senator Hillary Clinton’s campaign office. This is, of course, being denied by the Clinton campaign. Regardless of where it came from, the facts should have been checked before putting it to print or speaking such lies over the airwaves.

Fact checking by CNN in Jakarta, Indonesia and Washington, D.C., shows the allegations that Senator Obama attended a madrassa are false. CNN dispatched Senior International Correspondent John Vause to Jakarta to investigate. He visited the Basuki school, which Obama attended from 1969 to 1971. To read the full article, visit

To visit Senator Barack Obama’s website visit

White Mayor Seeking to Ban the "N-Word"

This story is not work-related, but is definitely an issue that should be discussed within the Black community, as well as with the entire population. Ken Corley, the White mayor of Brazoria (in Texas), is proposing an ordinance that would officially ban the “n-word” from being used in that city. Mayor Corley had a recent meeting with the Brazoria Ministerial Alliance to get additional perspectives on this potential ban. The ban would identify the “n-word” as disorderly conduct by language. The use of the word would, therefore, fall under the current disorderly conduct ordinance in Brazoria. Anyone convicted of using the word would face a $500 fine.

Why is the mayor after the “n-word”?

“This is not an issue right now in Brazoria,” said Corley. “But it is a growing national issue. As far as I’m concerned, there is no place for it in society. I don’t think today’s children should have to bear the burden of hearing this word used.”

What do you think? Should it be left up to individuals—of all races—to decide when and if they will use the “n-word”? Or, should other mayors follow suit and consider banning the word in their cities?

Let us know what you think. Post a comment or send an email to


White, Freshman Representative Sought Entry Into Congressional Black Caucus

Tennessee Freshman Representative Stephen I. Cohen (Democrat) says he sought entry into the Congressional Black Caucus because he won his seat in a district that is 60% percent African American.

Rep. Cohen has since backed off his request to join the Black Caucus. He now says, “"When I saw the reticence [to let me join], I didn't want anyone to misunderstand my motives. Politically, it was the right thing to do," he said. "There are other ways to gain fellowship with people I respect."

So, what do you think? Was he trying to work with the Black Caucus to better represent his constituents or was this some sort of political stunt to bring attention to himself?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Under Attack and Resigning? A tip for resignation letters!

If your issues at work are bad enough that you feel compelled to resign your position, don’t fear burning bridges as you compose your resignation letter. After all, this is clearly a company where you would never want to work again. And, while it is a small world that we live in, you shouldn’t be afraid of stating the truth for fear that your words will follow you to your next job. Anything you submit to your Human Resources department is supposed to be treated as sacred. Your resignation letter is not for outside consumption. It should not be given to nor discussed with any potential employers—under any circumstances.

If your company does attempt to give you intentional and negative employment references, as a way to continue to retaliate against you, this amounts to “blacklisting.” And, this practice will expose your employer to potential legal jeopardy. Having worked in Human Resources, I know that many employers do not like to provide any information to other employers, other than salary, title, and date of hire and termination. This is because employers have been successfully sued in the past (or had to spend a lot of money hiring attorneys to fight lawsuits) for maligning previous employees to potential employers.

So, when you are composing your resignation letter, think of how you can briefly state your real reasons for leaving the company. Briefly address that you were being harassed, that you were the victim of an offensive work environment, etc. in your resignation letter. Otherwise, your employers may use a copy of a your resignation letter against you (in court or with an investigator) and they may claim that you did not raise any issues with them during your employment. If you made internal complaints, then make sure that you document this in your resignation letter. Just briefly state the facts, along with the fact that nothing was done or that the solution offered by the company was ineffective or retaliatory.

When you are leaving your company under terrible circumstances, you may believe that you are going to leave the horrors behind you…that you will just walk away and forget the whole thing. But, you may change your mind about pursuing alternative methods for resolving illegal activity by your employer. Think about that, as you prepare your resignation letter. As you write it, try to be unemotional, professional, and to the point! You are simply documenting facts.

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Maintain a Publications Log

You should keep track of any of your writing projects that have been published during the performance evaluation review year. Never throw out these lists. If you’ve authored or co-authored a report or paper that is published in a book, magazine or online (yes, online publishing counts), you should document this achievement and make sure everyone knows about it during your performance evaluation. Get credit for your achievements! Even though your supervisor is supposed to maintain notes regarding your accomplishments and performance, don’t assume they’ve done a thorough job of recording your successes. Be proactive and provide your own information for consideration. After all, it is your review. Remember, your performance review is tied to your salary increases, as well as your job responsibilities and promotion opportunities.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sen. Barack Obama Announces Presidential Exploratory Committee!

Sometimes it seems as though the only way this country will ever have a Black President is by living the experience through a TV Show like 24, where Dennis Haysbert played the first Black President of the United States for several seasons. He was assassinated after leaving office, but that’s another story!

Anyway, today, fiction has taken one step closer to reality. Senator Barack Obama has announced that he is forming an exploratory committee in his hopes to run for President. He will make a formal announcement of whether or not he will run for the office on February 10th.

It’s been interesting to see how the White media have already gone to great pains to pit the Black man, Sen. Obama, against the other minority, Sen. Hillary Clinton. White women don’t often like to be referred to as a minority, except when it comes to applying for things such as small business loans, but, yes, she is also a minority candidate.

Senators Obama and Clinton are expected to have a major fight over the Black vote. However, if Sen. Obama shows that he is a strong candidate—and many even if he is not—he will surely take a large chunk of the Black vote away from the wife of Black people’s favorite ex-President, Bill Clinton.

I can’t wait to see how the White media goes after Sen. Obama as they wait for him to self-destruct—as Howard Dean did when he yelled like a fool during a speech. I would speculate that if Sen. Obama doesn’t self-destruct, he will get a little “outside help” to destroy his chances of being a front-runner in the Democratic primary. This will be interesting to watch, especially since much has been made of Sen. Obama’s admission of prior cocaine use. We know the current President abused alcohol and we’ve heard speculation that he also dabbled in drugs. But, let’s see how that standard of past drug or alcohol use plays out for Sen. Obama.

For more information on Sen. Obama, from the source, visit his website at

What do you think about Sen. Obama? Is the country ready for a Black President? Post a comment or email

The Workplace and the Education Game

Let me be blunt. Now that more African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos are receiving college degrees than ever before, a Bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma and a Master’s Degree is the new Bachelor’s Degree. On top of that, a Bachelor’s Degree—and not a high school diploma or “some college”—has also become the new baseline for hiring at most companies. Sorry, but this is what happens when minorities start to make inroads that can level the playing field. With each passing year, more and more Black and Hispanic/Latino job candidates possess a degree, making them competitive with the White field of prospective employees.

Some White employers enjoyed having the lack of education “tool” as a fall-back resource on the job because it served as a so-called legitimate barometer of who got paid what, who got which assignment, who got great opportunities at work, who was promoted, etc.

Years ago, the argument was that hands-on experience was more valuable than or equally as valuable as a formal education because many companies often had too many employees with degrees, who couldn’t do the actual work. So, they would have staff, without a college education or with a lesser college degree, actually training the so-called intellectuals on the job. I’m sure some of you have been there at some point in your career, underpaid and undervalued, but training senior staff or higher paid staff to do some part of their job.

Non-degreed staff didn’t get the biggest salary or the fancy title, but at the right company, they could still have a very competitive salary and great work opportunities along with their degreed counterparts.

Today, things are flipped and the dividing line between the haves and have-nots, in the workplace, is coming down on the side of education versus real world experience. It’s odd because many employers, today, are complaining about the often poor pool of college graduates. I’ve read reports about many of today’s college grads being unable to type and having poor written language skills. But, those same graduates will often still get the job over a prospective employee with 5 or more years of real and relevant job experience. That’s because the recent grad is often going to be paid a whole lot less than even a non-degreed staff person that was doing the job for many years.

As result of more minorities receiving a higher education, the sliding scale of educational requirements is not doing as much to create disparities as it once did. So, when education isn’t the divider it used to be, it’s harder to justify disparities in the workplace and a racist supervisor or company is going to have to resort to other options to engage in preferential treatment of staff based on race.

If you’ve got a Bachelor’s Degree, you may want to consider getting that Master’s Degree because that’s where the game is right now. It really isn’t about the pursuit of education. It’s about keeping the haves as the haves and the have-nots as the have-nots.

I strongly recommend that you track your continuing education, including any training classes or certificate programs you’ve participated in. Keep a log highlighting any education and training that is particularly relevant to your field and is specifically related to your job responsibilities.

If your job offers tuition reimbursement, figure out what skills you’d like to add to keep yourself competitive in your profession.

When performance evaluation time comes around, provide your reviewer/supervisor with a list of all of your new educational achievements. Make sure you get credit for improving your knowledge base and ask for additional responsibilities to reward you for increasing your competence in your field.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

False Complaints: Made Against You!

Scenario: One day you are minding your business at your desk, when your manager suddenly approaches you and tells you that he/she received a complaint from a coworker that alleges you are guilty of a performance deficiency. For instance, that you’ve caused the team to miss a major deadline, that you are continually “rude” to staff, that you are passing along work that contains errors, that you are not responding to voice or email messages in a timely fashion, that you are revealing confidential/sensitive information to staff, etc.

You’re totally blind-sided by the false allegation. So, what do you do?

I know the temptation may be to raise an eyebrow, flare your nostrils, and go into attack mode. But, the reality is that any response that remotely takes the form of aggression will quickly help to turn the conversation away from any false allegations being against you, by making your response—and not the false accusation—the prime area for discussion.

So, the first step to dealing with false allegations is to REMAIN CALM! You would not believe the sorts of deviant behavior I’ve been falsely accused of in the past. I know how hard it is not to react in a big way because you are shocked, frustrated, angry, etc. and those are all legitimate reactions to being falsely accused of things that could lead to your firing, demotion, loss of promotion opportunities, etc.

Nevertheless, it’s important to remain calm. As African Americans, there are so many stereotypes and labels that surface during the course of a normal day. But, when there’s a stressful situation and a Black person is at the heart of it, the labeling and stereotyping—even by the most intelligent people—can really get out of hand.

Instead of reacting in an emotion way, stay calm and put the onus for the discussion back on your manager, as discussed in the example. Don’t rush to explain why you didn’t cause a deadline to be missed or why you aren’t guilty of some other infringement. Instead, force your employer and the person making the accusations to do all of the explaining and talking. Let them dig themselves a hole, as opposed to digging yourself a hole.

Tip #1: As calmly as you can, simply state: “This is the first time I’m hearing this. I’m really not sure what you’re referring to.” And, just wait. I don’t care if you do have an idea of what the issue is because you’ve been working with someone who is difficult or who is unaccountable for their actions (when there is a problem) or who is a racist, etc. Play dumb for a moment and let your manager tell you about the complaint. Ask for specific details about what you believe to be a false complaint and start thinking of your counterpoints.

NOTE: Don’t forget to ask for the alleged date/time of the incident and for the context in which it took place. For instance, the problem happened around 4:30 pm on January 4th, during a mass mailing for a client to send materials to conference participants. If you’re accused of personality-based problems, ask for dates/times and examples of when you exhibited this behavior. If someone is calling you rude, they should have no problem remembering what was being discussed and what “rude” response you gave.

Tip #2: If this is truly the first time you’ve heard the complaint, which I’m assuming is true, ask why the individual didn’t personally bring the problem to your attention. Bring up the protocol of employees attempting to resolve any issues on their own before seeking input from management. Remember, if the problem was really egregious, it would have made more sense for your coworker to speak to you about it—even before speaking to your manager. Most protocol suggests that employees work on problem solving together. Ask why your coworker went to your manager without giving you the courtesy of explaining what may or may not have happened, why it may or may not have happened, and without allowing you the opportunity to fix the perceived problem. Turn the discussion to the other person’s behavior, which really is an issue, if they didn’t speak to you first.

Tip #3: Calmly state the reasons why you disagree with the complaint. Pick apart the complaint. Think of any evidence (supporting documentation) that proves your point of view. For instance, the coworker may have emailed you instructions, which you saved. These instructions may show that you carried out an assignment per the specs provided. Or, you may have sent the individual an email warning them of the consequences of certain actions, such as skipping steps in a procedure, but you were ignored. For the moment, just focus on yourself and why you are not to blame. Forward all emails/voicemail to your manager, which supports your point of view. Or, print hard copies of any documents for your manager to read.

Tip #4: If you are being accused of false personality-based problems, ask if you need to solicit character references from staff that refute the claim. When my employers tried to falsely accuse me of being “angry and defensive,” I offered to get character references from staff and clients (I already had emails from clients that commented on my work ethic, professionalism, and temperament.) My employer quickly turned down this request. They didn’t want me having hard core evidence in my possession stating that I was a “joy to work with.” Make your employer piss or get off the pot. If they want to accuse you of this behavior, based on one person’s comments, you should have the right to refute the claims.

Tip #4: Talk in general terms about how these types of issues can be avoided in the future. This is how you can professionally get in your complaints about the individual making the allegations. For instance, you might say, “We discussed this potential problem at our January 2nd meeting. Janice (the person making the complaint) specifically said we didn’t need to worry about this and that we should proceed without changing our strategy. In the future, we need to ensure that task leaders are listening to the input of other staff, so that warnings are heeded and foreseeable problems like this can be avoided.”

Tip #5: When you’ve said your peace and handed over your evidence, find out the resolution to the complaint. Ask your manager where things stand, especially if you were accused of egregious behavior. Don’t let them surprise you with criticisms on your performance evaluation that you thought were non-issues. Make sure you are not being blamed for something you didn’t do. And, make sure that nothing is being put into your personnel file.

Tip #6: If you continue to be falsely blamed and decide that the accusation is too big of an issue to ignore, consider contacting HR to investigate. But, remember, there’s always the potential for a problem to escalate, once HR is involved.

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Friday, January 12, 2007


I’ve had coworkers forward me email they received from a supervisor/manager and ask me, “What do you think?”

The first reality to answering that questions is: If you have to wonder, there’s probably something there. Many people at work write pseudo-encrypted email because they don’t have the guts to come right out and say what they have on their mind—even when they are trying to get someone in trouble. So, to get the true meaning of the email (memo, etc.), the reader has to often read between the lines.

Having worked in Human Resources and knowing the language that a company likes to have in any sort of documentation against an employee, I’ll give you a quick list of words or phrases that should make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Please read emails, memos, etc. very carefully. Don’t skim them because they may not be as harmless as you think. If you see some of these words and phrases, in writing, and they are preceded or followed by some negative comment, watch your back and keep your eyes open!

Of course, you most of us can easily identify when we are being criticized. Receiving one criticism may not be a big deal, even though it could represent someone’s effort to document you. It’s the form that the criticism takes that makes a written complaint have the potential to be extremely damaging to your reputation. It’s one thing to be told that you have missed a deadline, but it’s another to be told that you “consistently” miss deadlines.

With that in mind, some red flag words and phrases include:

-- “consistently” (the point is that you have allegedly demonstrated a PATTERN of making the same mistake, showing the same poor attitude, etc.)
-- “often” (same reason)
-- “frequently” (same reason)
-- “repeatedly” (same reason)
-- “I’ve noticed…” (same reason)
-- “Many people” or “Some people” or “A number of people” or “Everyone” (the point is to show that there is corroboration for the accusation—it’s not just one person’s point of view that you have a problem)
-- “I’ve talked to you in the past about…” (the point is not just to criticize you, but to show that you have shown no improvement in some negative behavior that was previously brought to your attention)
-- “I’m concerned” or “I’m puzzled” (the point is to show that there is something extremely off-putting or unprofessional about your behavior and that it likely represents a potentially major problem)
-- “If you would have…” or “If you had only” or “I thought that you…” (the point is the “you” part of the sentence because the writer is stating that you are solely to blame for something going wrong)

These are just examples of some subtle ways to document you at work. REMEMBER: An insolated criticism has no right to appear in your performance evaluation, even if it is a major issue. Normally, any atypical behavior can be included in the notes/comments of your performance review. However, if an incident was isolated, your review should not be tainted to make it appear as if this was a recurring problem. It can be noted, but your review should be reflective of your consistent and normal performance.

Always read your email or memos carefully. Look at the words that precede and follow criticisms! Understand when you are being documented and you can get on the offensive and, hopefully, derail the train that’s headed in your direction. Respond to the email with facts. Don’t attack the sender; simply clarify what you believe to be false about their criticism. But, don’t be defensive. You know how we Black people get! Black people have a fine line to tread between explaining something and being called defensive. Apparently, White people explain and Black people defend! So, briefly make your point, professionally, and move on!

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Create a Workplace Disparities Chart

Disparate treatment occurs when employers have different standards for different groups of people and when they apply rules, policies and procedures inconsistently because of these differences. In simpler terms, one group is somehow being treated better by receiving some form of preferential treatment. For instance, White and African American employees with the same education and experience don’t receive the same pay. The African Americans may receive $5,000 to $10,000 less per year than their White counterparts with no justification for the lesser pay for Blacks.

By tracking disparate treatment on your job, you can show patterns of discrimination that are in effect at your workplace. For instance, if African Americans can only work on African American projects, while Whites work on “mainstream” and minority contracts, that might be one way to show unequal opportunities at work.

Highlighting employee qualifications (e.g., education, years of experience, etc.) versus salaries and titles could potentially show unequal treatment. For instance, a White employee with a Bachelor’s degree and 3 years of experience makes $45,000 per year and is level 4 employee, while an African American with a Bachelor’s degree, a certification in a specific aspect of the field, and 5 years of experience receives $38,500 per year and is a level 3 employee.

Another way to show disparate treatment and discrimination could include identifying the number of African Americans promoted in the previous 5 years compared to the number of Whites promoted in the previous 5 years. If only 4 African Americans received a promotion and more than 50 Whites received a promotion, for example, something is truly amiss at your job. This, of course, depends on the number of Blacks on your job. If there are only 10 Blacks at your company, for instance, the major problem is not in promotions, but in hiring practices!

Track disparities and use your chart/log to address issues directly with your employer or with a third party, such as an external investigator or attorney.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

ISSUES IN THE WORKPLACE: Letting Black Coworkers Swing in the Wind!

How many of you have seen White coworkers or managers go into attack mode against a Black employee or manager?

How many of you felt, from personally knowing some, most or all of the facts involved, that the Black employee/manager was being falsely/maliciously targeted for employment actions/punishment?

How many of you spoke up (volunteerily or otherwise) to disclose what you knew that may have supported the Black employee?

Don’t all raise your hands at once!

Black employees, who’ve been working any length of time in the American workplace, have grown accustomed to seeing “certain types” of African Americans targeted for employment actions or accused of such things as being “insubordinate” or of “having a bad attitude” or being labeled as “not fitting in” on a team, in a department or in the company, as a whole.

We’ve also grown accustomed to seeing “certain types” of African Americans routinely passed over for promotions, being ignored by management, or targeted for mistreatment, abuse or mockery by White coworkers.

And, what has that taught many of us?


In other words, we’ve learned—through assimilation techniques at work—that there is a high cost for getting on the wrong side of certain White coworkers or members of management. We’ve learned these lessons through our personal ventures into sensitive territory (read: racially-sensitive issues at work) and we’ve learned these lessons by watching how other Blacks have been systematically taken down:

--for speaking “too aggressively” (read: being outspoken) about unequal and unfair conditions/disparities at work;
--for being too damn good at their job, which threatened other staff;
--for being in management, which was resented by staff;
--for seeking advancement opportunities;
--for demanding respect from unprofessional, racist, ignorant or rude White coworkers; and
--for speaking out against a White coworker, who was at fault for an incident involving a Black coworker.

That, my friends, is why so many Black folks are willing to let another Black person swing in the wind.

Do we owe another person something simply because they’re Black? That’s up for debate. But, what would we expect others to do for us, if circumstances were switched around. Oh, if it were us, we’d want everyone to rush to Human Resources to expose lies and half-truths. We’d expect this because it would be the right thing to do. But, when others have their jobs on the line, many of us feel compelled to let that person hang. Right or wrong, we’re going to leave them to the lynch mob.

We’ll watch them swing. And, we’ll complain to other Black employees and have a great big pity party. “Girl, you know Susie set her up. She wasn’t even in charge of that. I heard Susie tell her…” We’ll share what we know with everyone who isn’t in a position to do a damn thing about it. Truth is, it may be selfish to remain quiet, but the reality is it’s also safer.

The Black coworker/manager may be out of a job, demoted, suspended, transferred or written up, but, at the end of the day, it doesn’t stop many of us from losing a single night of sleep!

This is just one of many issues that Black workers have to deal with. To speak up or not to speak up, that is the question!

What do you think? Have you witnessed an African American coworker or manager targeted at work, but you didn’t speak out to tell what you knew—that could have helped that person? Why did you speak out or why did you remain silent? Post a comment or send an email to

Diversity Recruitment Set to Increase in 2007

According to, diversity recruitment is expected to rise in 2007. The largest minority recruitment efforts will be targeted to the Hispanic population because Hispanics account for half of the U.S. population growth since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Hispanic population increase combined with their increased buying power will make Hispanic job candidates a prime target for many employers, who are also seeking the bilingual language skills of these prospective employees. According to a survey, nine percent of employers say they plan to step up diversity recruiting for African American job candidates. Eight percent will target female job candidates.

Source: Matt Ferguson, CEO,

Monday, January 08, 2007

Everyone Says...

-- Everyone says you’re an extremely negative person.

--Everyone says they’d rather not work with you.

--Everyone says you’re snooty.

--Everyone says…(choose your poison)

Have you been on the receiving end of an “Everyone says…” at work?

Well, I have. At my previous job, everyone supposedly said they couldn’t get along with me and I was told that everyone in the company (yes, inside AND outside my department) believed that I was angry and defensive. But, that’s not where things ended. Eventually, when it was clear that every comment being made about me was personality-based and not work-related, which violated company policy, I was suddenly told that “everyone” thought I had a problem managing my time and projects and that “every” task leader I worked with said they never knew what I was working on and that I didn’t complete my assignments on time.

This was only 9 months after receiving a great performance evaluation that said I was “team oriented,” “a joy to work with,” “pleasant,” “provided updates,” etc. Not only did a recent performance review contradict what was being said about me, but it turned out that my employers were forced to make a stunning admission in an external investigation. Yes, even I was shocked when they admitted that “Only one person could be found that stated…”

Why the change of heart? No, they didn’t investigate and realize they made a mistake when accusing me of performance deficiencies. They just straight got caught up in a lie. That’s because I would and I will not let anyone make blanket assertions about me that are completely untrue or that have been exaggerated to forward someone’s personal agenda/vendetta against me.

And, that’s the moral of the story.

Just because some so-called authority at your company (read: your supervisor/manager, director, etc.) proclaims that “everyone” at your job holds a certain negative opinion of you, it doesn’t make the proclamation true.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of what is alleged to be a tag-team accusation, start doing some serious questioning of whoever is making the assertion. You should:

--Find out who is allegedly saying these things about you. Ask for names.

--Even if names are provided, ask for the context of the comments or charges against you. In what situations are you alleged to have behaved inappropriately?

--Ask for those making accusations against you to put those comments in writing! Then, ask to see the written comments. If your employer says they don’t want to break the confidentiality of those mounting the charges against you (assuming they won’t provide you with the names of your accusers), tell them to remove the names from your copy of the accusations. They can simply strike through any names with a black magic marker, which will allow you to see the specific allegations being made about you without revealing the names. Always remember, just because someone is willing to put something in writing doesn’t make it true, although your employer may argue the opposite. People have agendas. I’ve worked with a Black coworker who bragged about making false accusations against her Black manager.

--Go through all of the allegations and refute them, line-by-line. Professionally attack the lies and half-truths. Be thorough. Anything you don’t address might come back to haunt you later. Do not lie! Just present a factual response.

--Always find out what specific policy(ies) you supposedly violated. If you are being reprimanded with some sort of employment action (demotion, transfer, pay cut, etc.), you should ask for a copy of the written policy that supports the decision. If you are not provided with a copy of the policy, from the current version of the personnel manual (not something your employer throws together), ask for a copy to be given to you—immediately. Ask what criteria were used to decide on the penalty you received. Ask that your employer justify the action—in writing!

--If you feel your punishment was extreme, find out why lesser remedies (oral or written warning, etc.) were not seen as a resolution to the problem.

--If you believe you were the victim of outright lies and an orchestrated campaign to get you in trouble, make an official request for an internal investigation. Provide any evidence you have and identify how any of your accusers are linked. For instance, the person who first reported you is the subordinate of someone you have problems with and that person has close ties to someone else who is making false accusations, etc. Try to tear down the house of cards by pointing out any inconsistencies that you can prove.

Hopefully, if you’ve been having any problems with staff, you’ve been documenting what’s been going on. Compile all of your evidence and use it to clear your name. If not, your case may come down to you say vs. they say. This will likely not come out in your favor, since your employer can argue that “they” have corroboration. They may not have evidence, but they are telling the same story.

Try to find anyone who can support your version of events and get a written statement from them. Think about staff who can write a very glowing character reference for you. Troll through your recent performance reviews for any statements that contradict what’s been said about you. Build a case in your favor. No one will do it for you!

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Maintain a Meeting Log

If you are under attack on your job (read: being subjected to racially-based/illegal mistreatment), you should keep track of every meeting you participate in regarding any alleged negative behavior on your part. This includes logging/recording all meetings you attend with the person who is making accusations against you or leading a chorus of coworkers to make false charges against you.

It’s important to remember that once you’ve been identified as a “troublemaker,” by making noise about racially-based mistreatment, your company’s solution may include getting rid of you as opposed to firing the perpetrator who is causing you a hostile work environment and who is potentially breaking the law. This is an especially likely reality if the person who is harassing you is of a higher status than you are at your company. The company may tend to shield a higher-up as opposed to supporting a “peon” who is being mistreated. They’ll privately call it a “business decision.” But, that is reality. A higher-up has a much more vital role for the company and they will likely not be willing to part with this person, even regarding a racial matter that might explode in their faces.

So, if you have to attend a meeting regarding a racially-based or other sensitive issue, you have to look out for your interests and you have to maintain an accurate record of what is happening to you on the job. When you participate in any meetings regarding mistreatment, record everything. Take copious notes. Ask many questions and get answers. If answers can’t be provided to you, ask for follow-up to get the information from the other participants. If you receive no feedback regarding your questions, note your employer’s refusal to provide you with answers in your log.

Be sure to find out if there are any expectations for after the meeting. Are you expected to do something or speak to some other authority at work to get the situation resolved? What’s next? What’s been resolved? What penalty, if any, did your harasser receive? You have a right to know and you have a right to ask. Be sure you know the status of most, if not all issues, by the end of each meeting.

Black Firefighter's Settlement Vetoed by L.A. Mayor

L.A.'s mayor appointed the first black man to lead the city's fire department Monday after the previous chief resigned amid a furor involving a black firefighter who was fed spaghetti mixed with dog food.

Douglas Barry, a 31-year veteran, will serve until Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa selects a permanent replacement for Chief William Bamattre, who announced his retirement Friday. Barry does not want the permanent job, the mayor's office said.

The fire department has been plagued by complaints of discrimination and rampant hazing.

"I know that we can stop hazing and horseplay, I know that we can address the department's history of discrimination and exclusion, I know that we can build a department that looks like Los Angeles," Barry said.

Firefighter Tennie Pierce claimed that he was fed dog food because he is black. But other firefighters said it was an ordinary firehouse prank with no racist intent.

The mayor vetoed a $2.7-million settlement with Pierce after photos surfaced showing that Pierce had himself engaged in firehouse hazing. (Source: AP)

New York Slavery Exhibit: Virtual Exhibit Available

From now through late 2007, the New York Historical Society of Manhattan will be featuring an exhibit on the history of slavery in New York. The exhibit is called New York Divided: Slavery and the Civil War.

Many of us associate the northern states with safe havens for runaway slaves or we see the North as a migration point for slaves after emancipation. But, Brooklyn, New York had a high proportion of households with slaves. According to the curator of the exhibit, Richard Rabinowitz, “Brooklyn was deeply infused with slavery and slave-infused products." He also said that many New York farms had slaves because the work was too hard for Europeans. Mr. Rabinowtiz promised a great deal can be learned about slavery in New York from the exhibit. TO VIEW THE VIRTUAL EXHIBIT, VISIT

Black Would-Be Mayor Found Dead

Just 3 days before he was to be sworn in as the new Mayor of a small Louisiana town, Gerald Washington, an African American, was found dead in the parking lot of a high school from a gunshot wound to the chest. The town’s coroner claims that Mr. Washington committed suicide, but Mr. Washington’s son found something suspicious in the photos that were taken of his father’s body. Specifically, Mr. Washington was right-handed, but the gun was found near his left hand. Mr. Washington’s family is seeking an investigation to find out if the incident was a hate crime, as they suspect. Mr. Washington would have been the first Black mayor in 24 years. The Justice Department will not investigate until the local Sheriff's department finalizes its report of what happened AND it appears there may have been some wrongdoing.
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