Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Fighting Back Against False Allegations That You Have Communication Issues

Many people we work with are unable to separate their race-based perceptions from reality. As a result, when some people work with Blacks, they may be preconditioned to miscontrue things said or done by a Black worker based on their own racial prejudices and stereotyping. For instance, a person with racial biases may be interacting with a Black worker, who asks several questions about the procedures being used on a project.

The Black worker may be labeled as being difficult to work with, very negative, hostile or may be accused of not being a team player simply because this person has a preconceived notion that Blacks are argumentative and confrontational. Instead of taking the questions as legitimate business and task-related questions, the Black worker may be looked at as being insubordinate, rude or "talking back." This is how race-based prejudices and biases can feed into problems in the workplace.

In the workplace, many Blacks hear about these race-based prejudices and stereotypes with the accusation that they have "communication issues."

Allowing someone to falsely characterize you as being angry, defensive, hostile, pissed off, distant/aloof, unable to take constructive criticism, etc. is a major problem. You could end up constantly trying to erase the negative and false perceptions created about you by those who have labeled you as having a problem communicating with staff. Being labeled as having communication issues will affect your performance evaluations, salary increase, and can significantly decrease your chance to advance within the company. Anytime you are falsely accused of having communication issues, you have to give serious thought about how to respond.

Here are some things you can do:

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

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

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

TIP #3: Be careful approaching a person regarding racial stereotyping and labeling. I can guarantee that conversation will likely go quickly downhill--no matter how delicately you address the issue. All the person will hear is that you are calling them a racist. Even if they are, you have to be careful with a conversation like this. But, that doesn't mean you shouldn't have the conversation. However, before having any sort of conversation about such a sensitive issue, address the problem with your supervisor first to give them a heads up that this is an issue you have to deal with. Trust me, the person you speak to is probably going to run straight to your supervisor anyway. If it's a White woman, she may go to your supervisor crying and blubbering. All of that emotion will take the focus off of what has been happening and you will be in a defensive position about something other than what you intended to discuss. Before you speak to someone about race-based stereotyping, have as many examples as you can about how they are falsely labeling you based on racial perceptions and how they are making race-influenced assessments about your behavior, your speech, the motivation behind your actions, etc. If your supervisor says that you shouldn't discuss the issue with the person, you should contact Human Resources to try to get the matter resolved.

TIP #4: Document how this person has twisted your words and/or intentionally or untentionally misread the motivation of your actions. Document this person, if you know they have similar problems with other minorities. Find out everything you can about these other issues. Try to get statements from people, which will support your allegations that this person may have a problem working with Blacks and other so-called minorities. You can then address any issues with your supervisor. Remember, it’s important to show patterns of negative behavior from this individual. You have to prove that this person’s actions are negatively impacting your ability to do your job and/or your career (e.g., diminishing your promotion potential during performance review time, etc.)

Tip #5: Consider asking coworkers to shoot you an email regarding the quality of your work and your overall job performance/behavior. This should include comments about their working relationship with you. It's always a great weapon to have written statements that contradict someone's false claims about you.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Learn Japanese Review said...

well this is really sad.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Fighter said...

Tip #5 is really a hard one. People are not normally that supportive of other workers. After all, we are competing against each other in the workplace.

6:37 AM  

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