Tuesday, April 29, 2008

An Anonymous Reader Criticizes and Questions Me Regarding this Job

A reader posted an anonymous comment to my post about the conference call. I am publishing the reader’s comment and my sometimes heated response, below (my analysis of the conference call is below that):


As much as I appreciate your blog and advice this is my comment. Why do YOU work here? What were the signs that told you that this may become another discrimination law suit? It appears there have been problems with your "new" job since you were in training. So do you stick it out, focus on doing your job and fighting racism? Do you help your other coworkers deal with this. Do you monitor, record, make notes to build your case and advise your coworker to do the same. From what you are saying this is a "toxic, disrespectful environment" that nurtures, allows and accepts this type of behavior. As much as I respect what you are doing here, my question to you is with all your experience are you unable to see all of this before you accept working at a place like this. Apparently racism, sexism, and ageism is having its hey day in America. Should your coworker have demanded being treated with more respect? And for goodness sakes what do you do about blatantly racist remarks? Once we call it out as what it is disrespectful and racist, do we continue to participate or do we have respect for ourselves (because apparently this group doesn't) and remove ourselves from the conversation. This place sounds ill.


Anonymous, you remind me of someone in your writing. I hope you aren't who I think you are.


I had to relocate to New York from Maryland because I stuck my neck on the line for a coworker/friend, who was targeted because of race. Out of all the Blacks that worked with us, NO ONE admitted what they saw and heard. I was her sole corroborating witness. And, what did I get?

Run out of my damn job as soon as the determination of guilt was rendered against our employer. I was denied a promotion, denied a transfer that I'd trained and worked for and was the target of the executive/director of my department, my supervisor, and a mid-level coworker. I was documented at every end, set up for failure, and given 2 malicious performance evaluations.

I was about to be placed on high blood pressure medicine. Lost my hair. Slept 0-2 hours each night. Was prescribed Xanax for my nerves, etc.

So, my question to you and anyone else, who wonders about what I do and what I would do...

What the heck have YOU done for yourself or anyone else regarding race at work? I respect your right to speak on the issue, but I take some umbrage to this because I left a huge apartment I loved behind, I left friends behind, I left a life behind in another state because I volunteered to make myself a target of White workplace retribution!

No one can ever ask, what I've done. Not in any capacity, considering what I've already given up. I left without a job lined up and struggled finding suitable and equivalent work. Who supported me? Who gave me money? Who put a roof over my head? My family. I have taken care of myself since I was a teenager!! So, think about the price I paid to fight racism at work.

I am far from a hyprocrite and I will toot my own horn and say that I am braver, in the workplace, then many people who only know how to talk a good game about what they would say or do at work.

I have stuck my neck on the line for many a Black coworker, writing emails, doing research, defending them against attacks, going to see lawyer's, standing up to their attackers--on their behalf, committing things to writing--on their behalf, etc. So, I don't appreciate the premise of anything written by anonymous regarding the questions being asked about how I ended up on this job and why I still work there.

I've actually been working on assignments for about 3 weeks. So, why was "new" in quotes, anonymous? This is a new job.

My next response is to say that when I was told about this phone call, I said, "We need to contact EEOC!" I volunteered to do that. No one else, no other minority, was willing to do that at this point. I was told to hold off FOR NOW.

To your question about with all my experience, did I not see all this coming before accepting work? Let's get real for a minute. How would I see that there would be raced-based criteria for switching assignments before accepting a job? I don't have ESP, do you?

We may all get a vibe from time to time from someone interviewing us for a position, but that person usually isn't the person we report to and may not reflect our experiences, once we are hired. So, what in fact can anyone know about a workplace, before they actually immerse themselves in the experience of working there? The answer is "nothing." Until you work somewhere, you don't know what your personal experience will be.

I obviously did not expect this, especially in a 3 week time frame. Why would I? Just because I write a blog like this doesn't mean I expect to find racism around everyone corner. I try to bring positivity to every experience I have. I don't go around looking for the worst in anyone or any situation, even though I also keep myself ready for the possibility that I will be sorely disappointed in what I find at a job.

It's easy to ask, "Why do YOU work here?" I work because I need money to live, just like you and everyone else. Do you want to subscribe to this blog, so I can generate some extra income?

I put my money where my mouth is. I don't just write this blog to give lip service. I'm not trying to be defensive, however, I value my reputation on this blog as someone who is honest about the realities of racism at work and who is willing to stand up to any challenges presented by workplace racism.

I volunteered to document this incident for my coworker and to sign the document, along with her showing I supported everything written, including that this man was violating Federal law. This is despite the fact that I was not on the phone call and have heard none of this for myself. I am still willing to take her word and the word of the other 2 people I spoke to. I did not try to minimalize or marginalize what they had to say or to try to sweep this under the rug.

I was asked not to get involved, by my coworker. It is not my place to force myself into a situation that she has asked me to leave to her. She is fearful of retaliation, but, again, she wanted to handle this alone because she was the one to take on this supervisor and our coworkers.

She only wanted advice from me. FOR NOW! She knows my offer to speak up and write up remains on the table. So, that's what I did. What would YOU have offered to do?

Am I quitting? No! Not at this point. I have left one job without another lined up and I am not in a position to do that again right now. I have always spoken honestly about everyone making individual considerations about the actions they need to take.

Should my coworker demand respect? Of course, and she has responded demanding respect AND ANSWERS!

We will see how he responds to my coworker, who shared her email with me. It is very specific and doesn't sugar coat what happened. She chooses to respond on her own, despite the fact that she is scared of repercussions, such as retaliation by this manager. I volunteered to sign her email, but she refused. Still, she knows I have her back! Whose back do you have?

So, that is my long-winded response to your post. No, I'm not quitting my job! Would YOU? And, HAVE YOU? I have already done that, Anonymous!! I've spilled some serious blood for the cause and made many sacrifices not shared because they are too personal. Only someone else who's ALREADY made such sacrifices has a right to question me. By the way, no one has EVER put themselves out there for me like I've done for other people.

And, you heard it here!!

Find me another job and we can talk about when I'm quitting!! Until then, I'm documenting everything, like I always recommend.

Analysis of the Race-Based Conference Call

Yesterday’s post included a near verbatim transcript of the race-based portion of a work-related conference call. The conversation took place between 8 of my team members/coworkers and our supervisor. If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, you should probably check it out because I am about to make a list of some of the issues I have with what was said on the phone call. Starting with:

1. It’s clear Black workers are being denied assignments based solely or primarily on race and/or color;

2. Using race-based assumptions to justify discrimination. It was directly stated that “White yuppies” wanted to see people who are just like them. Therefore, it was recommended that no minorities be sent out to this neighborhood;

3. Using perceived reality to justify discrimination. Even if it is so-called reality that those “White yuppies” wanted to only see people like them, it doesn’t mean an employer—let alone a Federal contractor—should pander to those desires;

4. It is illegal to assign workers to projects simply because of client, customer or coworker preference. We might not find Blacks or other minorities working on most projects at any company if clients, customers, and/or coworkers could dictate staffing based on their biases and so-called comfort level;

5. Race/Color based prejudices were openly shared on that conference call. A White worker openly recommended excluding Black workers from assignments and said that a White person wouldn’t be successful in a Black neighborhood AND that someone “dark and strange” should be sent out for interviews. What does color have to do with anything? Even if it were a legitimate argument to exclude people based on race—and it is not—would that mean that you could also exclude people based on color? So a Black person had to be what shade of “dark” to get that assignment? And what did this White woman mean when she said the interviewer should be both dark and STRANGE?;

6. Using racially offensive language. See #1 and #4;

7. Defending workplace segregation and telling a complaining Black employee to lighten up about the issue (and then making a color-based joke about the Black woman’s complexion and “lightening up,” when she is believed to be off the conference call);

8. The supervisor never corrected either White subordinate. In fact, he defended their comments and made the Black worker out to be hypersensitive or not understanding of how “we work around here.”His actions and inaction on the race- based conversation only serves to encourage the White workers to continue to share these biases and to influence the distribution of work on a race-based basis;

9. The supervisor bad-mouthed the complaining Black worker with her White coworker. He thought he did this behind the Black worker’s back, but she was listening to the conference call with a phone on mute. The supervisor is clearly showing where he stands on this issue and that he is unprofessional and racist;

10. The supervisor even went as far as to “joke” with his White subordinate that he’d hoped she would have called the Black worker the “n-word.” Nothing else needs to be said about his racial biases, lack of professionalism, and every indication that he clearly has no qualms with violating Federal statutes that prohibit discrimination in the workplace;

11. The White workers are ensuring that they never have to interact with the Black community. In fact, one White worker was overheard saying she was “scared of these people [Blacks].” This is clearly a contributing factor to their desire to establish “White work” and “Black work.” There is also a safety issue. For instance, sending Black men and women to dangerous neighborhoods, but not requiring White workers to interview in neighborhoods with higher crime rates. Contrary to popular belief, just because someone is Black doesn’t mean they are accustomed to or are unafraid of violence!

12. To reiterate on #4, it is illegal to discriminate in the workplace. This includes segregation of work assignments, which is at the heart of this issue, as well as race/color discrimination.

Those are the first 12 points, off the top of my head. What do you think? POST A COMMENT!

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Monday, April 28, 2008

A Supervisor is Overheard “Joking” About the N-Word with a White Subordinate

This post is based on actual events relayed to me, S. Mary Wills, this morning.

I just started a new job and received a phone call from a Black coworker, who was very upset. She’d just been on a morning group conference call with our supervisor and 8 other team members. FYI, I participate in the nightly conference call. So, I can only tell you what has been relayed to me by 3 people on that morning conference call.

The work we do is field work in support of a government contract. We are out in the community, each assigned to different areas. Near the middle of our quarterly field assignments, we will sometimes (I am told) switch assignment areas to see if someone else might have more success in that location. So, that’s the background. You should also know that I have changed the real names of the people involved, but the content is dead on.

Keep in mind, this is not everything said on the call, but those comments related to race. These are the people involved:

JOE (a White, male and supervisor of everyone on the call)
BECKY (a White, female field worker)
SUZY (a White, female field worker)
DEBRA (a Black, female field worker)
CHRISTIAN (a Puerto Rican, male field worker)

Becky, Suzy, Debra, and Christian are all on the same level in the same position. Debra and Christian are new employees.

Here’s what was said: (I am paraphrasing except where you see quotes)

Joe: So, Becky, are you ready to transition your work to someone else on the team?

Becky: Yeah, but “just make sure you send someone White" to my area.

Debra: “Excuse me, but are you saying that Black people or minorities can't work in your area? That’s not right. That sounds racist to me."

Becky: Where I’ve been working is "just young White yuppies and that's what they want to see." That's all I'm saying.

Joe jumps into the conversation and asks Suzy about who should cover her area. Suzy replies:

Suzy: My area isn’t really White like it says on the listing sheet. It’s mostly Black. "You should send a Black person to my area, but make sure that they're dark and strange."

Debra. “Hold on. I'm taking offense to this. Black and strange? What does Black and strange mean?"

Joe (to Debra): "Well, we have to match the people with the community."

Becky (to Debra): "You are taking this all out of context and all out of proportion. You just need to lighten up a bit.” This is how we do things around here.

Debra and Becky go back and forth on the issue.

Christian: “Look, I'm not Black. But, what she said was wrong. It was wrong. To use the word "strange" that wasn't professional and it wasn't right."

Joe: "Let's move right along. Any other questions?"

Debra: "You can't just sweep this under the rug, Joe. You can't let people take offense and keep moving along."

Joe: I’ll speak to everyone on your individual calls. Does anyone in the group have any questions or issues?

So, the call goes on and Debra hangs up. But, Christian doesn’t. Once Debra hung up, and Joe and Becky thought Christian did, Joe and Becky beginning talking about the race conversation.

Christian puts his phone on mute and hears Joe and Becky talking about Debra and race. Christian puts his house phone on mute and calls Debra on his cell phone. He places his cell phone on the speaker setting so that Debra and another person can also eavesdrop on the conversation.

Becky: "You need to tell them about that [assigning people to locations based on their race]. They need to know. I am scared of these people.”

Joe: "In NY it's not just a race thing, but a lot of ethnic racism, like Haitians against Jamaicans and Puerto Ricans against Dominicans.”

Becky: I didn’t know that.

Joe (laughing): “I was really hoping that you would call her the n-word (laughing)…And, you were telling her to lighten up. She probably took offense that. She’s Black and you kept saying lighten up. (laughing)"

Becky: “I don't know what her complexion is. I’ve never even met her!"

Joe: "She's a dark skinned woman and you kept saying she needed to lighten up!"

Joe and Becky both break into hysterical laughter.

There was exchange between Joe and Becky where they said that another field worker shouldn’t be sent to a certain neighborhood because she was Black (that was okay), but she had a British accent and Haitians in the neighborhood wouldn't like her and she wouldn't do well. But, the Jamaicans would like her.

I will post my analysis on all the things that went horribly wrong on this call and regarding the portion of the call that was overhead—and confirmed to my by 3 people!

In the meantime, what do you think about this conference call? Post your comments.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Sojourner's Place: Thanks for the Red Rose Award!

Sojourner’s Place (http://sojournersplace.blogspot.com) is a blog written with the professional African-American woman in mind. The scope of Sojourner’s Place evolves every day…to inspire, inform, motivate, and energize!

Sojourner’s Place got the red rose award from Ms. MarvalusOne at Opinionated Black Woman (http://www.opinionatedblackwoman.com).

Here’s the blurb from the Sojourner’s Place web blog:

This one goes out to one of my very special Sister Bloggers, Ms. MarvalusOne who blogs over at Opinionated Black Woman. You see, I started off my day trying to check out other Wordless Wednesdays and as always my first stop was OBW. Much to my humbled surprise, Ms. MarvalusOne had passed a Red Rose Award to me and others. I have found some amazing people out here in blogsphere - but Ms. MarvalusOne is one sister who certainly made me feel comfortable and I am so very happy to call her FRIEND! So in keeping with the "rules", I am passing a Red Rose Award to those sister bloggers listed below because they epitomize the true essence of blogging sisterhood. Make sure you check out OBW's list...cause they are part of my blogging circle, too.

SjP passes The Rose Award to:

1. Edogowa: Black Tennis Pros
2. Coffee Stained News
3. Tinneka
4. Mary: The Black Factor
5. Vanessa: Vanessa: Unplugged

A single Red Rose is a wonderful gift
It shows the heart
and gives the spirit a lift

Thanks, SJP!!

BREAKING NEWS (not shocking): Sean Bell Murder Officers Acquitted by Judge

Just as I expected (and I’m sure many other African Americans did too), the 3 officers charged with murdering Sean Bell were acquitted of all charges. A link to the Associated Press story is listed at the end of this post.

For this Friday, I’ll leave you with these thoughts:

--It’s not the first and it won’t be the last time that an unarmed Black man will die at the hands of law enforcement (law enforcement used to be part of the lynch mobs that went after unarmed Black men or covered up the crimes surrounding their deaths);

--It’s not the first or last time that a dead Black man will be turned into the assailant—after his own murder (cops even went through Amadou Diallo’s house looking for drugs and weapons after murdering him in his doorway); and

-- This is just another example of why so many Blacks are jaded, not only with the judicial system as it relates to criminal law, but also with the “system” in general. For instance, many of us have a lack of faith that there will be real enforcement of Federal statutes that prohibit workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

It’s truly unfortunately when a large segment of society comes to expect mistreatment, abuse, and even death to be ignored, marginalized and/or justified. This expectation of being unable to receive justice or equity is why so many Blacks feel they don’t have many options for vindicating their rights as far as crime and punishment, workplace abuses, housing discrimination, etc.

I’ll say this. Although it’s a struggle of epic proportions, it is a struggle worth carrying on. We won’t always get justice, but we don’t have to go silently into the night either.







Sean Bell, rest in peace! My prayers go out to all of his family and friends.

Here’s a link to the Associated Press story on the verdict:



Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's a Privilege...

You only have to talk to Black workers to realize how many of us feel that our careers are often intentionally stifled by those we work with. Sometimes I wonder exactly how many African Americans have been held back, railroaded, and marginalized simply because of our race. I think the answer is far more people than we will ever know. I mean, how do you calculate the number of White managers or supervisors that have not promoted Black staff or given Black staff the same consideration and benefits that White workers routinely receive?

Some Whites would probably say, “That’s sounds like a cop out. Maybe some Blacks just don’t work hard to get what they want.” But, that’s what I expect someone to say when they are the beneficiary of White privilege.

White privilege is the polar opposite of The Black Factor. White privilege is a positive. The Black Factor is often a negative. And, much of what goes on in corporate America has to do with these shallow and inappropriate ways of handling issues, evaluating people, examining situations, and making decisions.

White privilege allows you to believe that anyone who hasn’t achieved a certain level of success didn’t do so because they had no desire to succeed and, therefore, really didn’t try hard enough. White privilege allows you to tell someone, with a straight face, that all they have to do is work harder and longer hours than anyone else and that everything else will fall into place. White privilege allows you to not be truthful to yourself or others about the reality of preferential treatment.

Preferential treatment comes from those in power to those they designate as recipients of that power. Far too often, those recipients typically don’t come with a Black face. People choose to associate with those that are like themselves or those who they believe will “fit in.” In corporate America, when all things are equal, nothing is ever equal. So, when someone’s up for a promotion and a White manager has to choose between a White employee and an African American employee, and all things are equal regarding qualifications, years of experience, technical expertise, etc., many White managers are going to select the White employee for the promotion. They’d have to fight human nature, and any personal biases they may have or stereotypes they believe, in order to do the opposite.

Some White people don’t seem to get or want to accept the reality that there are different sets of rules for different people. But that’s the privilege of White privilege. White privilege allows you to believe that everyone has an equal shot to succeed in this country, despite this country’s horrid racial history and current social and economic issues that impact minorities living in America today.

White privilege allows you to become the judge, jury, and, should you choose it, the executioner, of others. White privilege allows you to provide conflicting reasons for your words and actions and to expect that others will accept the contradictions without question. White privilege is the ultimate privilege, hence bliss, because it is the cornerstone that keeps your world afloat—this belief that you are innately superior to everyone around you.

I’ll give you an example of White privilege in action. I’ve worked in Human Resources on a couple of jobs. More than once, I’ve been told that we were placing employment ads, but only as legality. If I received any applications or resumes, I was told to place them in a file with a copy of the employment ad and to tuck them away in a file cabinet. No one was going to be interviewed because someone had already been picked for the position. And, it was usually a friend or the friend of a friend of someone currently working at the company. Yes, they were always White. These people had the job before walking in the door. The interview was a mere formality. Repeat this in how many workplaces and tell me how many other applicants ever had a crack at an equal employment opportunity?

It must be nice to have a system rally around your effort to find gainful employment. Most of us wouldn’t know anything about that. Nevertheless, many Americans actually question why affirmative action has been needed in America. They can brag about the system hooking them up, in one breath, and then argue that African Americans and other minorities should have to earn their way into the system, in the next breath. This is despite the free pass that many of them have used and despite systematic racism and other social factors.

For African Americans, hard work, experience, intelligence and other factors don’t automatically translate into success. The Black Factor prevents many African Americans from becoming mid-level managers, executives or even entrepreneurs. People pretend there’s no such thing as White privilege and preferential treatment. But, we all know—deep down—that lots of things people receive (from jobs to qualifying for home and business loans) were acquired because they just happened to be the right color or class.

What’s my point?

Give up?

Never! That’s what the racist wants. So, don’t give them that victory.

The point is that it’s not always about you. It’s often about other people’s bullsh*t and baggage. The Black Factor is their issue. It’s an issue people force on you…another standard they hold you to. It’s tempting to wonder what you’re doing wrong. It’s tempting to think that other people are inherently superior to you, that they’re always smarter than you are.

But, it’s important to remember that everything people receive, they didn’t always earn. They didn’t necessarily get “it” because they were smarter than you or more talented than you. They didn’t necessarily get something because they played the game better than you.

Sometimes people are just lucky, sometimes they had that hook-up, and sometimes they were the “right” color. Regardless of whatever lines are fed to you about some shortcoming on your part, keep working hard, find ways to improve, and keep striving to do better—for you! Don’t internalize other people’s bullshit. Don’t beat yourself up. You’re not inferior. Control what is within your power to control. Fight for what you’ve earned—don’t give it away!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008


The past two posts dealt with piling on or the phenomenon of getting jumped at work by all of your employer’s surrogates and agents. In addition to bombarding a targeted employee with attacks from coworkers, supervisors, and other members of authority, some employers will engage in acts of sabotage.

Usually, the sabotage will be connected to any false or exaggerated allegations already being made by a supervisor, manager, etc. For instance, a supervisor, who is falsely accusing a complaining employee of missing deadlines, may overwhelm the employee with assignments and may make a lot of changes to the work instructions in order to make it nearly impossible for the complaining employee to complete work in a timely fashion. Or, a supervisor, who is falsely accusing an employee of not being a team player, may ask the employee to do things which are unethical (knowing they will refuse) or may ask the employee to do the work of someone very junior to the targeted employee as a means of demeaning the targeted employee with menial work. Any refusal may be cast in the light of the targeted employee not supporting the team/coworkers.

Sometimes sabotage isn’t connected to preexisting false allegations, but only serves to create new problems for a complaining employee who has performed at an exemplary level. A supervisor or an employer may decide they need to create the justification to target this complaining employee. Since there is no history of problems for a high performer, problems must be created from scratch. Negative patterns of behavior must be established. Outright lies, committed to writing, are often joined with acts of sabotage. Every effort will often be made to make new allegations of problems appear to be historic in nature.

Dealing with sabotage isn’t easy because acts of sabotage may be part of a wider conspiracy. I worked with a manager, who was sabotaged and isolated by supervisors, managers, and directors working across our job site. The level of collusion against this manager was hard to believe, but was real enough. Agents of an employer will often do whatever is commanded.

So, to fight back against sabotage, you need to:

1) Stay on point with your work. Don’t give anyone ammunition to use against you;

2) DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. I can’t write this enough;

3) Maintain copies of all written instructions, so that if you are set up for failure, you can pull out the guidelines you were given to perform your work;

4) Get verbal instructions in writing. If someone asks you to do x, y, and z, drop that into an email to confirm these are the instructions. If you are not given clarification or changes to your understanding of the instructions (the email), then you have been given a green light to proceed with the work as you understand it;

5) Keep copies of all emails and memos, no matter how routine they seem. You never know when one line in an email or memo may be what you need to support a point you need to make later;

6) Keep logs and/or thorough notes regarding your assignments and meetings, so that you can recall the information at a later time (including who said what and when);

7) Keep logs and thorough notes about the coworkers, managers, etc. whom you believe are acting in concert against you;

8) Make sure you are not blamed for mistakes caused by other staff. It is not uncommon for a targeted employee to be blamed for the mistakes of others, such as typos in a document, items not getting to a client, etc.

9) Respond to false allegations about your work performance, attitude, etc.; and

10) Look out for the traps that may be set for you. If you know certain people are shady or out to get you, dissect every email and every word they say. Be on the lookout for signs you are being documented, such as a supervisor writing in an email the false allegation that you’ve “repeatedly” made some mistake or that numerous people have noticed something negative about your behavior.

Do not assume that the people you work with (even those you’ve grown to like) are above setting you up for failure via acts of sabotage. People are strange creatures. Most people look out for their best interest and not anyone else’s.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Tips for Dealing with "Piling On"

These tips are linked to the last post on piling on a.k.a. being ganged up on at work as a method of punishing you, creating a hostile work environment, and/or running you out of a job.

Tip #1: Document everything. The point to piling on is to place an extreme amount of pressure on an individual in the hopes of crushing that person. In the workplace, the goals of piling on could include: getting someone to withdraw a complaint, pressuring someone to remain silent, forcing an employee to resign, setting up an employee for personnel actions (e.g., demotion, suspension, etc.), and/or laying the groundwork to terminate an employee by creating numerous employees with so-called legitimate complaints about a target. Only by documenting everything can you keep track of all the players.

Tip #2: You should create a log. The log should capture information including: the names of everyone involved in the piling on, the role each person played in the piling on, if the person was truly involved in the incident or if they forced their way on board in order to target you (e.g. an employee you normally have nothing to do with is suddenly joining complaints made against you based on a sudden interaction in the workplace that may have been manufactured by the employer), the specific language, threats, etc. made by the person(s) piling on—listed for each incident, and your response to any incidents you’ve logged (e.g., a memo to a supervisor, etc.)

Tip #3: Get every accusation in writing. There are some people who are willing to join in the efforts to target a coworker, but they don’t want to leave any evidence that they’ve decided to take part in illegal activities at work. They’re all for trying to gain points with a supervisor or manager by piling on, but they are fearful of taking heat about it. So, it’s up to you to push them all the way. If they want to pile on, make them own it!!! If people are piling on and making false accusations against you, get it in writing. If the person has made verbal complaints about you (and you are sure they are going to relay those complaints, possibly in writing, to someone in authority), get their comments in writing. After you are verbally assaulted with manufactured complaints, send the person an email listing EVERYTHING they said. Emphasize whatever it is they emphasized. And then…

Tip #4: Shoot holes in every false allegation made against you! Anytime you are under attack, you cannot afford to let lies stand. You must respond in a professional manner to any false accusation or you are implying that the false accusation is based in reality. You don’t have to resort to name-calling or accuse someone of collusion. Just state what was said (or written) to you and/or about you and tear the accusations to shreds. Show no mercy as you expose any outright lies or manipulations about your work ethic, the quality of your work, your professionalism, your personality, and/or any other complaints. Mention any evidence you have, such as written instructions and mention any witnesses, such as another coworker working on the same project. This will make the liar nervous and will put them in a position where they must decide if they will 1) stick to the lie despite evidence and witnesses or 2) try to coerce a witness to join the lie (it’s always dangerous to add more people to a web of lies) or 3) back off of false allegations by saying there’s been some “miscommunication” or “misunderstanding.”

Tip #5: Send an email or memo to HR. By doing so, there will be a record that you have notified your employer of potentially illegal abuse (e.g., harassment/hostile work environment or retaliation). Your employer would love to have the argument available that you never complained of mistreatment and, therefore, they could do nothing to stop abuse from happening again. They will blame the victim and say the onus was on you to notify them of potential violations of Federal statutes.

Tip #6: Keep copies of all your documentation at home. You never know when someone will pillage through your office and destroy your evidence. A former employer sent staff to rummage through my office and the office of a coworker, who’d filed a complaint with the Office of Human Rights. Our chairs would be moved, items on our desk were not as we left them, I could tell someone had gone through my drawers, my screensaver would be running, when I’d turned my computer off at night, etc. Always maintain a healthy dose of paranoia. Protect your documentation!

Tip #7: Seek legal counsel or contact an investigatory agency, such as EEOC. Remember that discrimination, harassment, and retaliation are illegal! If you are being subjected to a barrage of attacks at work, you may want to consider external forms of relief.

Tip #8: Look at other employment opportunities. Sometimes these hell jobs represent an opportunity to look for other career avenues and places of employment. Yes, one job could be as bad as the next, but you never know. Maybe you’d even like to take classes. Consider all of your options and place your mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual well-being ahead of a job that could literally kill you.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008


I watched the last Democratic debate between Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton, last night. It aired on ABC. That debate serves as the inspiration for this post because the first two words that popped into my head were, “piling on.” You see, Sen. Obama wasn’t just going up against his rival for the nomination. He was also, apparently, going against Charles Gibson and George Stephanaplous, the moderators. These two seemed to come in prepared to try to swing momentum in Sen. Clinton’s favor by keeping Sen. Obama on the defensive all night with questions about Rev. Wright (and anyone else Sen. Obama knows who has said or done anything questionable), the fact that he doesn’t wear a flag pin, Sen. Clinton’s desperate allegation that he is unelectable, and on Sen. Obama’s much publicized “bitter” comment, which he has apologized for “mangling.”

At no point was Sen. Clinton put on the defensive or pounded repeatedly about the Bosnia sniper fire lie or about her other gaffes or her associations with questionable people (think of all the questionable people the Clintons are close with).

Piling on…

That’s what I call it.

It’s funny watching White people rally around each other at the same time they would declare that they are just being objective or playing the devil’s advocate.

Piling on…

I’ve experienced it in the workplace. And, I’ve watched former coworkers (one in particular) deal with White coworkers, supervisors/managers, etc. piling on. When it comes to complaints of race-based discrimination, harassment or retaliation, piling on seems to be a natural part of a company’s defense against allegations of targeted or systemic racism. It simply comes down to overwhelming the victim to the point where they shut up or rescind their complaint or they can be bullied, manipulated or forced into resigning or they can be set up for employment actions, up to and including termination.

Piling on…

People who often don’t have anything to do with the grievance or complaint will attach themselves to actions that potentially violate Federal statutes. They might get a promotion, bonus or they might do it just because it gives them something to do. Maybe even fulfill a vendetta. Who knows?

Piling on…

Supervisors and managers and directors and executives will allow themselves to become complicit in actions that potentially violate Federal statutes. Abusing power is part of their job, huh? One would think so. I’ve been amazed at how many people of authority have allowed themselves to be corrupted and to expose their employer to greater legal and financial jeopardy. And, it’s all so they can be seen as towing the party line. They’d rather go down with a sinking ship. How about trying to stop the ship from sinking? That’s a novel thought.

Piling on…

One lie against a targeted and/or complaining employee often morphs into all sorts of other lies and manipulations of reality. Documents may be created to prove negative behavior that is non-existent. Incidents are described that never happened. For instance, I worked with a Black manager, who was accused of getting into a fist-fight at work with one of her subordinates. It never happened. There wasn’t even an argument or tense conversation. But, the company went with and it people thought if enough of them said there was a fight, they could prove to investigators that there was a fight. The pure power of suggestion, I guess.

Funny thing is these folks were wrong and the company was found guilty of race-based retaliation against this manager. But, that didn’t stop them from trying to pile on.

Piling on takes a huge toll on a targeted employee. Piling on is all about psychological warfare because it involves intimidation and the suggestion of or outright threats, it makes an employee feel isolated from their coworkers and management, it makes an employee feel like they have a bulls-eye on their chest or forehead, it makes an employee feel overwhelmed, vulnerable, and fearful. Piling on is a powerful tool that many employers use.

Tomorrow, I’ll share some tactics for dealing with piling on in the workplace.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Day Late...

Sorry for being one day late with a new post, but I ended up right back at the doctor with my mom yesterday. And, I was there ALL DAY!!

Anyway, today’s post is below.

The More Things Change...

In the midst of dealing with my mom’s hospitalization, I also had to deal with starting a new job. Lo and behold, in the very first week, I was reminded that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s a cliché for a reason. It’s often true!

I went to training with 2 other new hires (Black and Hispanic). We have a White, male supervisor. It didn’t take three days of employment before he began spewing outright lies, repeatedly contradicted previous instructions and comments, and began to show that he is very manipulative. He did all of these things as he shot off one “joke” after another. In the midst of a corny joke was a lie or manipulation.

Now, I’m not saying he did these things because he’s White or male. Maybe the guy is just an a**hole. Maybe he’s bipolar. There could be a thousand maybe scenarios that could explain why he is behaving this way. All I know is…

He’s already being documented.

I have seen and heard enough from this person that there isn’t much he can say or do that I won’t commit to writing. The hairs have risen on the back of my neck. And, I have begun to maintain tracking sheets.

I am documenting the instructions and then the lies or manipulations about those instructions. I am documenting how he has manipulated reality in order to make a spontaneously false accusation. For instance, saying that the 3 new hires had “a whole week” to do something, when in fact we only had been working on the assignment for 3 days. At the time he made the “whole week” comment, it was the morning of the third day. So, it was not even 3 full days.

This is the type of stuff that makes me and should make you very cautious of this type of individual. When someone is willing to blatantly lie and they can do it with a straight face, you have to be very careful with this person.

Is he a racist? I don’t know enough to know. He might just be a bad supervisor. But, that’s not the point. I’ve learned many lessons with previous employers. The two main lessons:

1) Trust your instincts, when you suspect that someone has the potential to take your work relationship off the rails; and

2) (and I’ve written this a thousand times) DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.

I don’t plan on waiting for things to get much worse before I commit pen to paper to document the type of supervisor I am dealing with. I want to have enough documentation to show a pattern of behavior that started from the very beginning.

I’m working on a project that has strict goals and deadlines. This supervisor has been short staffed. Maybe he’s stressed out and is acting strangely because of that stress. I just met him, so I don’t know if that is or isn’t the case.

All I know is that I’m responsible for myself and my actions. I am not going to allow someone to lie to my face and not document it. I've learned that lesson.

Hopefully, nothing will ever have to be done with my documentation because this behavior will prove to be atypical of how this supervisor normally conducts himself.

But, if it doesn’t improve and if it gets worse, I will be able to state my case, prove the instructions I received, and defend my reputation.

DOCUMENT EVERYTHING from the very beginning. Write things down, while your memory is fresh.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

One More Day Please

My mom gets out of the hospital today after nearly a week. I am literally on my way to get her from the hospital now. I will finally be able to concentrate on the blog again, tomorrow. Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

No post this week

Family emergency no post

Monday, April 07, 2008

Is it Race?

Lots of people deal with problems at work because, at some point, we are all going to encounter people and issues that may cause some sort of problems or stress in the workplace. There’s just no way to get around it.

For Black workers, those common workplace experiences are sometimes elevated by the realities of racism in American society. Racism can escalate a so-called typical workplace experience into a problem that can result in significant legal and financial liability for employers.

Sometimes Black workers are blind-sided by wildly and openly racist words and actions. But, more often than not, Black workers are forced to deal with very subtle forms of racism, including the use of racial code words and the use of race-neutral language that is being twisted for evil purposes. When dealing with subtle racism, there are usually many layers of bullsh*t, I mean pretexts to weed through, such as cover stories and false allegations designed to hide racially-based motivations.

Not only is racism usually pretty covert these days, but the people causing the issues at work often live in some alternate universe where they have convinced themselves that they don’t have a racist bone in their bodies. They will take great umbrage to the mere idea that they may have said or done something, which was racially offensive. Some of them may even cry at the notion that someone believes they have race-based biases, which they’ve acted upon.

Some people just do not have the ability to censor themselves and to keep their personal biases at home. And, some people have truly convinced themselves that they are open-minded and accepting of diversity, even though that may not be the truth. As a result, these people may be sending out signals, using racially coded language and engaging in actions that they perceive to be harmless and unbiased, when they are not. For instance, a person may have convinced themselves that they are denying a Black worker a promotion for legitimate cause, but their words (emails, memos, meetings, etc.) may raise questions about their motivation based on any number of factors, including:

--the language they’ve used to justify what they are doing;

--double-standards they may be applying to a Black worker, which is the supporting reason for the decision they’ve made;

--rules that have been changed to justify a decision, even a slight change in rules; and

--the person may have shown a disregard for written policies, practices, and precedence that should have applied to your situation.

In essence, while this person may have said one thing (and may stand by what they’ve said), their words and actions may have told a story which raises questions about their decision-making process and personal biases.

The reality is the average Black worker has no interest in getting into a racially-charged issue at work. It’s just not worth it on a professional or personal level. However, we are sometimes forced to question whether race is a factor for us at our jobs based on circumstances and based on incidences that are so egregious they simply can’t be ignored. This may happen with the baseless denial of a promotion or through some other action. Regardless of the cause, we are forced to ask ourselves, “Is this happening because I’m Black?”

Well, here are some tips and things to consider, if you find yourself questioning the motivation of employment actions at work:

1. Take a step back from the situation and try to look at the situation from other perspectives. Are any of the issues, which you perceive as race-based, possibly caused by other legitimate reasons? Write down the basis for your position of on-the-job racism. You should list specific examples of inequitable treatment, a racially-hostile environment, etc. You can’t just make a claim of racism. You have to be able to back it up with details (directives, quotes from staff and managers, emails, memos, etc.).

2. Ask yourself if any actions taken against you have a legitimate basis in reality to justify what has transpired. If you can’t find a real reason for a decision, start probing more deeply into the reasons being used to justify any employment actions. This includes requesting meetings with your supervisor/manager and HR, if it is necessary to clarify corporate policies and procedures. Always document anything you’ve been told.

3. Ask around. Find out if you are the only Black worker impacted by a decision or action, when there may be other similarly situated employees (same title, level, etc.) who should have also been impacted by a decision. Were you as a Black worker (or were you and other Black workers) singled out for certain personnel actions?

4. Talk to other minority to find out if they share your perspective. Start taking notes. Try to determine how significant the suspected problem on your job may be. Ask staff what you can do--as a group--to address the problem, if that’s what you collectively, or even individually, decide to do.

5. Keep thorough notes and put your concerns in writing. Force people to respond to you in writing. If you send an email and get a call in return, shoot off an email when you get off the phone to summarize what was discussed. Be sure to include any new allegations of wrongdoing or any new lines of defense being offered by a supervisor/manager, etc.

6. Decide if you are ready to confront the issue, openly and honestly. Think about what you want to say, how you want to say it, and if the person you need to speak to will be receptive to that message. Even if they will not be, you may decide that you need to address the situation anyway. Do so! If you are shut down, consider contacting HR for assistance.

7. Come up with possible solutions for any problems you’ve identified. It’s always better to have a suggestion for making things better, even when coming up with these ideas is not necessarily your responsibility. When it comes to something as important as earning a living and your work environment, think of things that can improve your situation. This includes asking if the company will provide sensitivity/diversity training, send out a reminder regarding the policy on harassment, conduct an investigation into the pattern behavior of a particular coworker or supervisor, etc.

Remember not to be too hasty, if you aren’t sure you’re dealing with a race issue at work. Sometimes it’s best to document anything causing you concern and waiting to watch how events unfold. If you become convinced there is an issue, you will have your documentation and evidence (emails, etc.) to support your position.

Just don’t go making accusations you can’t prove. The minute the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!!!

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