Friday, October 31, 2008

A New Day!

I'm getting started at a new job, so I don't have time for a long post today.

As I've written in previous posts, there was stuff going on at my job that I didn't like and couldn't deal with. As I've also written before, you should try to leave on your own terms, whenever you need to resign from your position.

So, unless you are in harms way (a phsyical threat of violence, significant mental trauma, stress-related health issues, etc.), it's always best to leave after you've found another job, started your own small business or made some other plans for how you will earn an income. Even if you've got money saved in the bank, you never know how long it will take to get another job with a comparable salary or a salary that you (and your family) can survive on without it being a real day-to-day struggle.

With that, I wish you all a great weekend.

As for a vote fact for today...I'll just make it a family-oriented reminder.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vote Fact '08: Don't Forget Your I.D.

Some states have changed the requirements to vote to include the need to show identification.

Just to be safe, make sure you have identification with you, when you go to vote. Also, don't forget to take your voter registration card with you.

Resigning Under Duress

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 confidential. 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.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vote Fact '08: You Can Be Accused of "Electioneering"

Don’t wear Obama gear to the polls on Election Day. In some states, voters can be denied entry to the polling area because they would be guilty of "electioneering" inside the polling location.

If you wear an Obama t-shirt, make sure you have a way of covering it up as you near the polling location. For instance, a button down shirt worn over it or you may layer another t-shirt over it.

Don’t let anyone turn you away from the poll! Keep the Obama (or McCain) gear at home or be prepared to cover it up, when you go to vote!

Is Your Supervisor Doing Right By You?

At most companies, employees sit down with their supervisor/manager and they discuss that employee’s goals and objectives for a specific performance period. This is done so that employees know the company’s expectations for them and so that the employee can be proactive in working towards the agreed upon goals and objectives. Everyone understands that it would be unfair to have someone working blind. In other words, it would be the fault of supervisors or company management, if employees do not understand what the exact expectations are for their performance and behavior or if they don’t understand the criteria that will be used to evaluate their performance during the employee review period.

If you have a supervisor or manager that hasn’t explained the goals and objectives that you will be and are being judged against, you should initiate a meeting to discuss performance expectations and how you are meeting those standards. The last thing you should want is to walk into a performance evaluation and be blind-sided by surprise commentary regarding performance-related issues that you did not know existed or to be surprised by criteria/standards that you did not know would be applied to you in your capacity on the job.

While part of the onus for knowing standards and expectations resides with each employee, clearly the bulk of the responsibility is with supervisors/managers. These are the individuals that are monitoring and guiding many of the day-to-day activities of workers. And, these are often the members of management that will conduct or oversee the performance evaluations for their department, unit, etc.

During the course of a performance review period, supervisors/managers should:

-- Keep employees on track with goals and objectives that have been predefined, discussed, and agreed upon by each employee—based on their individual job;

--Provide employees with assignments that help them work towards the defined goals and objectives;

--Provide employees with opportunities to learn new skills and increase their knowledge in their job/field;

--Keep thorough notes on the performance of each person they supervisor or manage;

--Solicit feedback (positive and negative) from those who work closely with each employee and maintain notes on those comments. Supervisors and managers need to ensure they are KNOWLEDGEABLE INFORMANTS about their subordinates. They should not make assumptions or listen to hearsay. It is their job to have an accurate idea of how each employee is performing their duties;

--Discuss performance goals, objectives, and coworker feedback—formally or informally—several times per year with each subordinate;

--Provide negative feedback to employees with enough time for the employee to show improvement during the performance period. If the negative feedback happens near the end of the performance period, it may be too late for the employee to make adjustments. However, if the behavior is atypical, the supervisor or manager should not write about any negative behaviors or incidents as though they were the standard way the employee performed or behaved during the review period;

--Avoid surprising subordinates with negative comments and accusations that were NEVER made during the review period. Something that was an issue during the first 3 months of the review period, but was never raised as an issue, should not be thrown out during a performance review because the employee was not allowed an opportunity to refute any allegations or to know there was some performance or behavioral deficiency that required adjustments in behavior; and

--Avoid making performance judgments based on the employee’s personality, race, education level, etc.

Many supervisors and managers, even those that give employee goals and objectives, do not keep thorough notes on employee performance throughout the year. Instead, they wait until they must draft/write performance evaluations before they get into deep Q&A sessions with those who have managed or worked alongside their subordinates.

Therefore, it’s important to:

--Maintain your own record of your accomplishments and achievements;

--Keep all congratulatory emails and cards from internal and external clients;

--Outline how you have met each goal and objective agreed upon with your supervisor/manager;

--Keep a log of any publications, awards, presentations, etc. that occurred during the performance period;

--Maintain a list of new skills you’ve added to your repertoire at work; and

--Keep a list showing the impact of your contributions at work (e.g., you brought in new clients, saved money by streamlining procedures, etc.)

You can do a lot to make your performance evaluation truly reflect your contributions to the company. Make your supervisor and manager have huge hurdles to jump, should they decide to give into the temptation of discriminating against you by intentionally marginalizing your contributions to the work force or by making false claims about your performance in order to deliberately stifle your career.

Show that you have been keeping track of your performance and can PROVE you have a strong work ethic, produce high quality work, are professional, and that you are and should be valued as an employee.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Vote Fact '08: You Should Confirm Your Voting Location

It’s important to verify your polling location. Even if you’ve been at a certain poll location for years, you should double-check this time. Dirty election tricks include changing poll locations on folks. The point is to frustrate voters, so they will go home without voting. So, check yorur polling spot.

If your right to vote at your polling location is challenged and they refuse you entry to a voting booth, ask for a provisional ballot.

You can check your voting location at (or click the title of this post)


What's "Fair" In the Workplace?

I don’t know what it is about some of us Black folks, but we have this amazing ability to forgive people that have done absolutely horrible things to us. I don’t just mean in recent history. I am also talking about historically. I am often still amazed at how Blacks—today—have been able to find a way to get along with the descendants of their enslavers—many of whom still share abhorrently racist views and attitudes about the capacity and basic humanity of our race. But, many Blacks still often manage to cope and overcome the institution and legacy of slavery and racism in America.

Perhaps at the root of our ability to be a fair and to forgive is that our people have gone through such extreme suffering on the plantations of America. Maybe that extreme suffering has translated into an almost hyper-compassion for anyone that we perceive as also suffering. Perhaps our ability to be fair and to forgive egregious horrors is due to experience with retaliation from the White majority. Post-slavery retaliation against Blacks, for fighting for and demanding basic human/civil rights still occurs today. It just happens more covertly.

Regardless of the reason for the Black ability be fair and to forgive, fairness and can ultimately lead to our continued battles against racism in the workplace. Sometimes, Blacks are too willing to let someone take back a racial slur or repeated racial slurs that happen on the job. Sometimes, Blacks are too willing to walk away from someone making racist comments and promoting stereotyping on the job. Sometimes, Blacks are too willing to ignore the actions of a racist coworker or supervisor—even when those actions are destroying our careers, promotion opportunities, and salary increases.

Here’s a scenario: A White, female worker makes a very racist comment to a Black female coworker about Black culture. This isn’t the first time the White worker has made this kind of negative comment. Well, the Black worker has finally had enough and confronts the White worker. The Black worker says she’s not going to tolerate the remarks anymore and that she’s going to management. So, the White worker begins crying and says that she didn’t realize the Black worker took the comments “like that.” She stresses that she was only joking and, when she wasn’t joking, she was truly just trying to get a better understanding of Black people. She swears that she’ll never make that kind of remark again. And…

Lo and behold…

The Black worker starts to soften. After all, the White worker is crying and she looks sincere enough. She seems truly apologetic. So, the Black worker lets things slide. She says she won’t go to management about the issue. She decides that she’s going to be fair. As a matter of fact, she’s going to be a true Christian. She’s going to give the White worker another chance. That would be fair. And…

Lo and behold…

The same white worker makes a similar comment to the Black woman—2 months later. It took some time. But, she went right back to old habits and her true nature.

Many Blacks like to pat ourselves on the backs and praise ourselves for being fair and for overlooking the negative behavior of the racists we work with. We’ll say, “Girl, I just ignore her. I don’t pay her any mind. That’s how she is.”

Some Black workers can be racially attacked on the job and then sit there and worry about complaining about the White worker because they don’t want to see anyone lose their job/be fired. Because far too many Black workers are often too busy thinking about being fair and extending an olive branch to someone to worry about their own career. I’ve heard people say, “I’d feel guilty, if she got fired!” Are you kidding me? If someone’s behavior warrants termination, let them have at it! Let them get the result they worked so hard for. Who are you to deny them their just reward? Who are you to condemn other Blacks to continue to work with an abomination?

But, no. Many Blacks will say we’re going to be the bigger person or a “Christian.” But, the reality is that the same White person that you extend forgiveness to after they “jokingly” calling you a monkey is the same White person that will make the comment again in the future. It’s the same White person that will feel they can escalate their offensive language.

The same White person that you extend forgiveness to and try to be fair with after they lie about your work ethic and job performance to your supervisor—strictly based on their racist instincts and not fact—is the same White person that will engage in this behavior in the future. If they don’t target YOU again…they will target another Black person or other minority.

The same White person that you extend forgiveness to and try to be fair with after they deny you a promotion—without basis and based on your race and not your job performance—is the same White person that will refuse to promote you next year. This same White person will also refuse to promote other Blacks or minorities.

Yet, far too many Blacks will continue to use the word “fair” to describe why we ignore racist behavior and actions in the workplace—even those that truly impact our careers in a negative manner.

When you extend forgiveness, you would and should expect that you are dealing with a person that is grateful to have received the opportunity to be forgiven. However, in the workplace, gratitude isn’t often the end result of letting someone remain unaccountable for their racist words and/or actions. Most people don’t learn a life lesson on the first try. Many people have to repeat their mistakes before they finally get it and make a behavioral change.

So, here are some questions about being fair with others in the workplace:

--How is it fair to continually overlook behavior that is hurting you, while it empowers your attacker?

--How is it fair to allow someone to engage in behavior that demoralizes you and makes you hate being in their company or going to work?

--What exactly are Blacks in the workplace seeking, when they are claiming they are only trying to be “fair” or “a bigger person” or a “Christian,” when they ignore or accept the fake apologies of on-the-job racists?

--Is the label “fair” simply a way to shirk the responsibility of following through with putting a stop to racist behavior at work?

--Is the label “fair” designed to avoid retaliation from the White worker in question or Whites at the company—as a whole?

--Is it fair to have false critiques placed in your employee review, simply because of your race? Is it fair to be denied a promotion simply because of your race? Etc.

Last, but not least…

When is it less important to be fair and more important to hang someone with the same rope they laid out for you?! The racist often takes advantage of a Black worker attempting to seek the higher ground. The racist often counts on not being confronted or challenged about their behavior. The racist is calculating. A racist will think about their chances of getting away with their behavior. That’s why they will often use covert language or tactics. I had a post, last year, where a White manager used a code word around a Black worker to refer to her a ni**er. So, yes, a lot of thought often goes into getting away with racism at work.

At some point, Black workers need to stop trying to be so damn fair and forgiving and need to start going on the offensive. Only by having a zero tolerance attitude for racist comments and behavior that creates a hostile or offensive work environment or negatively impacts our careers (e.g., promotions, etc.) will Blacks be able to confront racism and to truly provoke continued change in the our workplaces around the country.

By the way, you can be a Christian, while reporting a racist supervisor to Human Resources. Don’t let anyone ever tell you differently! You can forgive and fight for your human/workplace rights at the same time.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Vote Fact '08: It's Not Too Late To Volunteer!

It’s not too late to volunteer for the Obama campaign. They are still looking for folks who can give up a day (or more) to visit a battleground state to help turn out the vote for Senator Obama. Depending on where you live, you may want to go to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada or a few other states.

If you’d like to volunteer for the campaign, call the Chicago Office, which is coordinating volunteers from around the country. The phone number for the Chicago office is 312-819-2174.


Keeping Copies of Timesheets Could Prove Elements of Your Case Against An Employer

If you are filing a grievance against your employer (and just as a general rule of thumb) you should always maintain copies of your timesheets. Even if you record your hours on an electronic timesheet, you should print your timesheets and place them in a file folder for safe keeping. If you have filed a grievance, you definitely want to keep a copy of your timesheets for the period of time covered in your complaint.

I’ve worked for an employer that falsified and manufactured timesheets to try to disprove a case against them that was being investigated by a state government agency. The reason this employer was unsuccessful in getting away with their submission of falsified documents was because the employee maintained a copy of all of her timesheets for that period and could show that new timesheets had suddenly “appeared” in her file (with completely different hours recorded). It would have been beyond her capacity to doctor an exact copy of the corporate timesheets, but much easier for her employers to do so. Keep this example in mind, when it comes to your own timesheets.

Keeping your timesheets will prove the amount of leave you used, if any, as a result of stress-related ailments due to harassment, discrimination or other illegal activities committed by your employer. You can use these timesheets to request a restoration of your sick leave used while you were being harassed and tormented at work. Timesheets will also show your general sick and vacation leave used, in case there is some later dispute about your attendance at work.

Keep in mind, when employers are being investigated or questioned, they want to show negative past behavior on your part. Leave is one area for employer’s to attack and is often one of the first targets they will hit. If you are being targeted at work, the torment is designed to cause you to lose your focus, make errors, force you to resign, and to cause any other side effects that will play into your employer's hands. Your employer wants to drive you to drinking and to the verge of a nervous breakdown, but will question your sick leave during these attacks. Your employer will also attack legitimate reasons for being out of the office.

In my case, on the first day of an attack by my supervisor, my supervisor falsely stated that everyone questioned my hours in and out of the office and everyone wondered where I was. She told me, “We want you to come to work.” And, she said it as if I had been out of the office on a routine basis. The only absences I had from the office were pre-approved and involved work-related travel (out of state) and client meetings that took place off site. Yet, my supervisor was declaring that no one knew where I was, what I was working on, and wondered when I got anything done—because I was supposedly chronically out the office.

I have a copy of all my timesheets to prove that this statement was an obvious and intentional lie. But, it didn’t change the fact that my employer gave it the good old fashioned college try in order to justify their unjustified attacks against me. That’s why I am passing this warning on to you. Don’t let your employer have the only copy of your timesheets. It could come back to haunt you.

Finally, you may want to maintain a copy of your previous year’s timesheets as added insurance against manipulation by your employer. If your employer feels the need to create long-term problems with your employment, they may go well into the past to show so-called performance/attendance issues on your part.

Remember, even your legitimate use of sick leave and vacation leave may come under attack from your employer. When requesting advance leave, make sure your time off is approved, forms are signed by the proper authority, coworkers are notified of your schedule, your assignments are covered during your time out of the office, and that you have a copy of your signed and approved leave form in your personal file.

Final thought: If you’re under attack at work, always get a note from your doctor, if you’re out sick.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

HOAX! White Woman Admits to Lying about Black Man Carving "B" into her Face (for Barack)

A White woman has admitted to lying to police about being mugged by a "dark-skinned Black man, 6' 4" tall, and about 250 pounds."

Her picture showed a Black eye and a backwards "B" on her cheek (because I guess the Black mugger didn't get no "edumacation").

The woman said the man approached her at an ATM and saw the McCain sticker on her car. She said he hit her, sexually assaulted her and carved a "B" in her face saying, "You're going to support Barack Obama."

Right! Muggers are REALLY REALLY into politics.

The second I heard this story, I told my mom this woman was a liar and it reminded me of Susan Smith, who drowned her two sons and blamed a Black man.

But, this shows the power of race. In order to help her candidate, McCain, she tried to create a story of a Black man committing a violent sexual assault against a White woman. This was supposed to enrage and mobilize Whites to switch to McCain, who were supporting Obama. There's no other reason for that lie. It's Willie Horton for 2008.

The liar's facebook or myspace page said she was looking for an ATM in a bad neighborhood and she logged off saying something about going to "make her mark."


Police say she'll be charged with making a false report.

Vote Fact '08

There's a new post after this voting tip:

Vote early, if your state allows it!

The GOP will be using all sorts of tactics to challenge people at the polls. If you go to the polls early, and there is an issue, you have time to get the situation corrected. If you wait until Election Day, you may be a&% out and disenfranchised!

Also, the lines will be longer than ever this Election Day. So, voting early is a really good idea to save time and maybe some drama at the polls.

New post below!


Fighting Back Against False Statements

I’ve seen my fair share of false and malicious workplace statements. This includes false statements that were written by coworkers and false statements that were prepared by an employer and signed by a coworker.

Much of what is written about Black employees, when it comes to false documentation, falls into stereotyping the employee, character assassination and personality attacks, and an overreliance on blanket statements that have no supporting documentation or other evidence to back up the claims. For instance:

-- A Black employee may be labeled as a behavior problem that falls into stereotypes of African Americans (e.g., being angry, defensive or unprofessional);

-- A Black employee may be labeled as having communication issues (e.g. being rude,
negative, argumentative, hypersensitive, etc.);

-- A Black employee may be labeled as insubordinate;

-- A Black employee may be labeled as being disliked by a number of people or many
people in their office, department, team, at the company, etc.; and/or

-- A Black employee may be accused of problems they didn’t directly cause or of performance deficiencies that do not exist.

When it comes to race and racism in the workplace, many Black employees may find themselves falsely documented for any variety of reasons. Regardless of the reason for being documented by a supervisor, manager, coworker or the company—as a whole—I’d like to provide you with these tips:

1. Always be as anal as you possibly can, when reading a false statement. Analyze every word that is written. If you have been provided with a false statement, you should remember that great care has gone into preparing the document. Each word was chosen for a reason—on a conscious or subconscious level.

2. Analyze the wording in the documentation and attack, wherever you see an opening. For example, if someone writes that you “appeared” to be angry or you were “perceived” to be argumentative, demand clarification. How exactly did you appear to be angry? The perception of anger is subjective, could be seen differently on a cultural level, etc. Similarly, you should find out what made the person label you as argumentative. How did the individual define that? The person writing the documentation should specifically outline how you supposedly manifested your anger or what specific behavior demonstrated that you were being argumentative or difficult.

3. Always use direct quotes from the false statement in your response and follow the direct quotes with a hard-hitting response that shows the quote to be false. You want to attack the credibility of the person writing the statement. One of the best ways to do that is to attack their basic believability by showing their words can’t be trusted, that they are careless with their words and judgments, and that they will commit things to writing that can’t be substantiated in fact.

4. Do not allow blank statements to go without response! Ask for specifics about questionable or vague accusations—in writing. Make the individual commit to details. Always keep in mind that asking questions often forces people (even very educated people) to commit to telling even more lies. The more lies they tell, the harder it is to continue to keep the story straight. Therefore, it could become easier to refute their claims about you because they’ve strayed from their initial talking points and lies.

5. Provide written evidence that contradicts the false claims in the statement. For instance, if you’re accused of being disliked by coworkers, produce emails from coworkers thanking you for being pleasant to work with and a great team player. If you are being falsely blamed for problems on a project, even though you followed the instructions you were given, provide a copy of the instructions and show how you adhered to those procedures.

6. Point out anyone referenced in the statement, who has an axe to grind or is in some other way falsely accusing you of performance issues. Provide specifics that refute what this person is saying about you.

7. Prepare a response that refutes the false statement against you line-by-line. It is much more powerful to attack your attacker following their warped logic and lies. This also allows a third party to essentially hold the two pieces of documentation (the false statement and your response) side-by-by and to make a judgment on the credibility of the arguments.

8. If you haven’t already done so, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING from the moment you realize you’ve become a target. If someone is willing to put lies to paper and to place an employer at risk, by engaging in illegal behavior, they will likely not let up until they succeed at their goal (forcing you to resign, getting you fired or demoted, etc.) Once it’s been established that you are a target, start thinking of covering your butt and saving all the evidence you need to seek an internal or external remedy to your problems.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Vote Fact '08 and an Interesting Email

There’s a new post below, but first is the vote fact for today along with an email I received called, “What If?”

First the Vote Fact: (share this with friends, family, etc.)

YOU CAN’T BE PREVENTED FROM VOTING BECAUSE YOU OWE OUTSTANDING PARKING TICKETS! So, if you see a flier on your car or posted on a light pole or taped to your door stating that you have to pay parking tickets before you are eligible to vote or that you will be asked to pay your parking tickets at the voting place, DON’T BELIEVE IT!! This tactic was successfully used in places like Florida in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Let’s not fall for it this time. OUTSTANDING PARKING TICKETS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE. GO TO THE POLLS!!

Now the email:

The questions in this email show the power of racism and how just changing the color of someone’s skin can impact how you interpret a situation or can change how you perceive a person (positively vs. negatively). Here it is:

Obama/Biden vs McCain/Palin:

What if things were switched around?

Think about it.

Would the country's collective point of view be different? Could racism be the culprit?

Ponder the following:

What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including a three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?

What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?

What if McCain had only married once and Obama was divorced?

What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe disfiguring car accident, when she no longer measured up to his standards?

What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?

What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

What if Cindy McCain had graduated from Harvard?

What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five? (The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)

What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?

What if Obama couldn't read from a teleprompter?

What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included discipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?

What if Obama was the one who was known to display publicly, on many occasions, a serious anger management problem?

What if Michelle Obama's family had made their money from beer distribution?

What if the Obamas had adopted a white child?

You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?

This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.

Educational Background:

Barack Obama:

Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in International Relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Joseph Biden:
University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)


John McCain:
United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899

Sarah Palin:
Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism

New post below!


Does It Make Sense?

If you have found yourself in a situation where you have filed an internal or external grievance against your employer for a racially-based problem at work, here's something to consider...

Are various aspects of your employer's defense reasonable? Are various aspects of your employer's allegations against you plausible? It sounds simplisitic, but this is a big deal.

Really read through complaints made about you by your employer and ask yourself if a third party (read: a lawyer or investigator) will find inherent plausibility in your employer's arguments. Is what your employers are saying about you sound on its face?

Here's what I mean. In an effort to retaliate against me, for an issue I won't go into here, my employer accused me of being disliked by all of my coworkers. Yes, I mean every last one of them! However, just 9 months earlier, my employer gave me a written evaluation that stated I was a joy to work with, was pleasant, was well-liked, etc. So, instead of it being my word against my employer's word, my final year-end review showed there was no inherent plausbility to my employer's argument that every action taken against me had to do with the fact that I was intensely disliked and, therefore, was disruptive on my projects.

You need to read every sentence of important emails and documents and highlight what arguments/defenses are cleary implausible. This will help prove your case, may show that your employer is engaged in a coverup to hide the true motives behind their actions, and can be the key to establishing your credibility with any third party that becomes involved in your case.

Show how your case is plausible and truthful, while showing how your employer's defense and arguments are completely without basis and unreasonable.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Vote Fact '08!

There's a new post below, but first I want to introduce a new item that will show up from time to time coming up to the election.

Since early voting has already started in some states and the rest of us will be voting on November 4th, I will occassionally post a voting fact or nugget of information for readers that I hope you'll share with everyone in your email list or post it on your own blog. I think we all remember the 2000 and 2004 elections and how Black voters were often disenfranchised, especially in places like Florida. Law abiding Black voters were listed as felons, had to deal with road blocks and were subjected to other problems. Now, we've got Republicans trying to use foreclosure lists in places with high numbers of Democratic voters. The GOP is often looking at urban areas for their voter suppression activities. Knowledge is power. So, today's fact is:

If you are using a touch screen voting machine...


Some voters in places like West Virginia, are reporting that they saw their selection of Barack Obama automatically switch to John McCain. This was done by the computer, they allege, and not by them. Poll workers told them they were careless, but they insist the machine switched the vote.

So, voters are being warned to ensure that their selection is accurately highlighted before pressing the button stating they are ready to submit their vote. If you see the selection switching, CALL OVER A POLL WORKER and get the situation addressed before submitting your vote.

Also, if you get a printed receipt from an electronic voting machine, check it WHILE YOU ARE STANDING AT THE MACHINE. If you vote Obama and see McCain's name on the receipt CALL OVER A POLL WORKER IMMEDIATELY. Don't move from your voting area. Call the worker over and get the situation addressed.

If you don't trust something about the voting machine, ASK FOR A PROVISIONAL (paper) BALLOT.


Tangible Employment Actions and Your Salary/Benefits

Workplace harassment is defined by law as behavior that, while offensive, is extremely serious because it changes the conditions of your employment or creates a hostile work environment. In regard to the law, for something to change the conditions of your employment, the “something” must be a tangible employment action. A tangible employment action is any significant change in your employment status. It’s an action that has a negative impact on your work environment, job function or career.

A tangible employment action isn't lip service. A tangible employment would be:

--a demotion;
--a suspension;
--being stripped of your staff;
--being denied a promotion with no basis;
--receiving a pay cut under false pretenses;
--being transferred to a menial job;
--being transferred to a remote location or being transferred to a hard to reach location (making it difficult to get to and from work) or being isolated from other staff; or
--being subjected to a hostile work environment that is so offensive and persistent that you can’t perform your job.

Some employers try to get all Slick Willie with these actions. So, sometimes they won’t take away an employee’s salary or benefits. Then, they’ll argue that there isn’t a really significant change in job status/no significant penalty. But, that argument doesn’t fly because tangible employment actions aren’t considered based on whether or not an employee retains the same salary or benefits. So, if there is a significant and negative change to your job—even with the retention of pay and benefits—you can argue that you were hit with a tangible employment action.

In my case, I was denied a promotion without basis—except racism and retaliation. I kept my salary and benefits. I filed a complaint with the Office of Human Rights (OHR). My employer responded to OHR that they didn’t change my salary, title, etc. and used that to try to prove that everything was legitimate that happened to me. They didn’t know that I knew they were full of sh*t and that I could argue such based on the fact that I knew that tangible employment actions are not linked to retaining salary, benefits, etc.!

Anyway, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, tangible employment actions:

--occur when a supervisor uses the official powers of the company to take action(s) against an employee;
--are official acts of the company;
--are often documented in company records;
--often have the official approval of the company and its internal processes;
--often cause financial harm; and
--generally, can only be caused by a supervisor or other agent of your company, since a coworker just doesn’t have the power to bring about a significant, negative change in another employee’s employment status or job responsibilities.

So, if you feel you are the wrongful victim of a tangible employment action, PREPARE TO FIGHT BACK!

Tip #1: Maintain a record of any memos or emails you receive that are meant to justify the tangible employment action (e.g., corrective action notice, written warnings, etc.);

Tip #2: Be able to produce your salary history, by maintaining a record of your income with your employer. Show any decrease in pay. Maintain a record of any memos or emails that are meant to justify a salary decrease.

Tip #3: Check the personnel manual! Before such extremes actions were taken against you, check to see if your employer is following its own policies and procedures. If not, point out any violations that may exist.

Tip #4: Find out about past history! Have other employees engaged in the same behavior that you were accused of engaging in or of having the same performance deficiencies that you were accused of having? If so, what happened to those people? Does it differ from actions taken against you? If so, and the consequences for other employees was nonexistent or very minor, you may be able to claim disparate and unequal treatment by your employer.

Tip #5: Keep pushing your side of the story! Don’t let HR or your employer ignore your version of the facts. Document everything, including every relevant conversation you’ve had with HR staff and authorities at your job. List any contradictions in what they say about policies and justifications for the actions. Provide witness statements to support you (e.g., character references or eye witness accounts of events, etc.) and request that HR check with these individuals to confirm your story.

Tip #6: File a grievance or request an internal investigation! Don’t let tangible employment actions slide. If you believe a manager is acting on racist whims by stripping you of your staff or cutting your pay, ask for HR to investigate the matter! It’s your career, fight for it! If the company doesn’t find in your favor, appeal the decision!

Tip #7: Seek legal counsel! Don’t be afraid to consult an attorney in response to a fraudulent tangible employment action.

Tip #8: Remember that your company will usually do everything in its powers to make it appear that the tangible employment action was warranted. This will be their justification for why no violations of Federal law occurred. It is your job to show that the arguments presented by your employer are nothing but pretexts used to hide their true motivations, which might be harassment, discrimination or retaliation. By keeping a log of events that transpired, keeping hard copies of memos, emails, and other documentation that supports your case, and by tracking comments made and actions taken by your supervisor, Human Resources, and corporate management, you can begin to demonstrate that their defense is dishonest and solely meant to cover up the violation of your employee rights. Focus on why their defense is untruthful! That is the burden placed on complainants!

Monday, October 20, 2008

My Friend's Donation Page

There's a new post below. But, first I wanted to let you know that my friend has set up a donation page on the Obama web site. If you’d like to donate STRAIGHT TO THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN, here's the link. No donation is too small.

(or click the title of this post to go to the donation page)

The reference in the link to "SuperBad" is a tribute to James Brown, who sang, "I Got Soul...And I'm Super Bad." It's an ode to Obama's swagger!


Should Black Workers Be Company Men?

As I was watching the Sunday news programs, yesterday, I listened to the aftermath of Colin Powell endorsing Barack Obama for President. Some White news analysts said that Powell was showing “ingratitude” for everything done for him [by Whites/Republicans] and there were suggestions that he was some sort of traitor because he didn’t stick with his party and support McCain. Another attack launched against Powell was to suggest that his support of Obama was based on race.

Regarding the last point, did Powell and Obama both become Black men yesterday? If not, and if that was the basis for the decision, Powell could have endorsed Obama at the start of the campaign.

Regarding the other attacks (showing “ingratitude” and being a “traitor”), I’ve been in a position where I had to decide whether to stand up against my “own party.” In my case, I had to make a decision to either stand with my employer—against a Black manager being targeted with lies and attacks—or to stand for the truth.

I decided to speak honestly to an external investigator and explicitly stated that my employer was at fault for the race-based issues taking place at work. I never told a single lie. Not for a paycheck and not to support someone just because we were both Black. I told the truth as I knew it.

Did I labor over my decision because it would make me seem ungrateful or traitorous to my employer? Maybe briefly. Who wants to lose their job or put a bulls-eye on their forehead? Not me! But, I always strive to do what’s right—even when it’s hard, unpopular, and could lose me some favor.

My employer wanted me to be a company man, but it felt like I was expected to be on a plantation doing whatever “massa” wanted.

It really came down to—for me—being a part of the problem or being a part of the solution. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true. And, it was hard for me to justify allowing someone to be targeted based on race because that made it easier for me to be targeted ONE DAY based on race! Or, for another Black person to be targeted ONE DAY based on race! How does the cycle of workplace racism end or diminish, if we’re all complicit in allowing it to thrive? So, I had to ask if I was willing to tolerate and, therefore, encourage, the racist behavior and revenge that I was witnessing against an innocent person.

This wasn’t the first time I’d spoken up against abuses in the workplaces. Both times, my employer said I was very “loyal.” Meaning, I was siding with the person out of racial loyalty alone. It was implied that I was willing to lie to defend a friend. I expected those lines of attack and my employer didn’t fail to go with the blueprint.

I knew the shoe would probably drop at some point. And, it did. After they were found guilty of retaliating against the Black manager, my employer immediately set a plan into motion to retaliate against me. I mean, within weeks of being found guilty, they were executing an agenda against me. But, I’d do it all again. But, should I have done so?

What do you think?

Should Blacks be “company men?”

The reality is that no matter what goes on in the workplace or how badly we’ve been treated by an employer (or how marginalized or ignored we’ve been), Blacks are expected to tow the company line just like anyone else.

Now, I understand that every employer has a right to expect a certain amount of loyalty from staff. But, what does the company “buy,” when they sign an employee’s pay check?

Are we, as Black workers, supposed to sit by and not challenge those who are violating our federally protected rights? Are we supposed to just sit there and witness another employee having their rights violated?

Are we being paid to lie to internal and external investigators? Are we being paid to deny our own interests, such as helping an employer identify a manager or other staff member who engages in race-based decision-making and/or who believes it is okay to engage in race-based harassment and/or retaliation?

What exactly do we owe our employer, when it comes to fighting race-based discrimination, harassment and retaliation? Do we owe them anything?

What do we owe ourselves—as a race?

Do you think that Black workers should get involved in race-based disputes where they have information that could assist a Black worker being targeted by a supervisor or the company, as a whole? Or, do you think they should mind their business?

If the shoe were on the other foot, would you expect other Black workers—with knowledge that could help you—to speak up about what they know?

Or, would you expect and accept any Black worker to look out for their own interests—even if that means that you end up demoted, suspended, terminated, etc.?

I’d like to hear from you. Should Blacks be company men? Post a comment and we’ll share some of the feedback on a future date!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Obama Bucks

I’ve been on follow-up interviews and at medical appointments, so I apologize for not blogging yesterday. As I try to beat what ails me, I just have a short post today about a fake food stamp I saw on TV yesterday. Here’s the story…

A White women’s group in Southern California has printed “Obama Bucks” in its newsletter. The group’s leader, Diana Fideli, joked that if Obama becomes President, his face would be on food stamps because he doesn’t look like any of the past U.S. Presidents on regular money. So, the group printed fake food stamps with Obama’s face on them…along with a bucket of chicken, BBQ ribs, watermelon, and the Kool-Aid man.

The leader says it never struck her as racist and apologizes if anyone took offense.

I hope everyone is registered to vote AND actually votes on November 4th.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oral Warnings May Be Inappropriate To Correct Race-Based Misconduct

According to the EEOC, an oral warning or reprimand is appropriate only if misconduct (e.g., harassment) was isolated and minor. If an employer relies on oral warnings or reprimands to correct harassment, it will have difficulty proving that it exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct such misconduct. (Source:

In other words, don’t let promises from your employer, regarding someone being written up or “spoken to” about misconduct guide your decisions as to whether or not your employer is providing ample protections for you under the law. If you have been the victim of substantial and pervasive misconduct, the punishment of the offending individual should be more significant. For instance, it may be more appropriate that the individual be demoted, transferred, etc. Only you know the severity of your situation, but you should demand whatever punishment fits the crimes committed against you.

Additionally, your employer’s response to misconduct should be immediate. If your employer does not immediately correct pervasive misconduct, they are opening themselves up to legal jeopardy.

McCain-Free White House has a cute video out which encourages teens and young adults to talk to their parents about not voting for McCain on November 4th. It features some of the actors from CW shows and is a spoof of a PSA. or click the link to this post.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Go Back to Kenya!

Okay, so I'm visiting some web sites to see what's being said about the general election and I come across this link to a Sarah Palin rally in Johnstown, PA from October 11, 2008: (Racism and Vitriol at Palin Rally...) -- you can also click on the title of this post to check out the video.

One White man was holding a Curious George stuffed animal (wearing an Obama sticker) and he said, "This is baby Hussein." That was a reference to Obama's middle name. The man's maniacal laughter reminded me of what you might have heard at a lynching. It was sick!

Other people were saying stuff like:

--He's [Obama] a baby killer!

--He's a terrorist!

--The only difference between Obama and Osama is the b-s!

--He was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia! (Obama was born in Hawaii, McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone)

--Where's Obama? He's in Africa!

--Go back to Kenya!

You get the picture. These folks spoke directly into the camera and were quite proud of themselves. No shame. The same as folks that used to go to lynchings!


Throwing Around the N-Word at Work

Every Black person has to decide whether or not—and how—they will incorporate the n-word into their life. Ignore it as much as possible? Embrace it as a term of endearment? Attack those that would dare utter the word? What to do? That’s a decision we each make in our personal lives.

But, I’ll tell you… I can’t stand to hear Black workers throwing around the n-word in the WORKPLACE. Why? It bothers me because there is no reason to utter that word on your job. Even if you say the n-word in private situations, there isn’t a single excuse for using it at work. Period! Only an absolutely ignorant and self-loathing Black person would toss around such a word in front of their White coworkers and members of management.

Unfortunately, nearly every time I’ve heard a Black person LOUDLY using the n-word in the workplace or referring to someone LOUDLY as their “ni**a,” the person was always under 30 years of age. And, every time the word was uttered it was clearly for show. It’s a very unfortunate way to try to get attention.

Yet, after a Black person says that word, you can just see how they are hoping to recieve a positive reaction from their coworkers. It’s almost as if flinging around the n-word makes them believe they will be seen as so-called keeping it real, being down-to-earth or being so-called “cool.”

When I’ve watched how Blacks respond to another Black person using the n-word, the reaction seems to be split between shock and eye-rolling at the person’s ignorance or maniacal laughing that the person was bold enough to say such a thing at work, especially in the presence of Whites—if that was the case.

When I’ve watched how Whites respond to a Black person using the n-word at work, the reaction has been split between seeing the person become visibly uncomfortable, changing the subject or pretending they didn’t hear the comment at all or maniacally laughing at the Black person making the comment. I state laughing “at” the Black person because a White person cannot laugh “with” a Black person, when the n-word is involved.

For those of us using the n-word at work, how do you think this behavior makes you appear to your White and other non-Black coworkers? Do you think it increases the level of respect they have for you and other members of your race? Do you think they will want to invite you to work on their projects because you uttered the word? Do you think you’ll be next in line for a promotion or pay raise? Do you care what others think about you flagrantly throwing around a word that is loaded with such historical venom as to be one of the most powerfully hurtful words in existence?

If someone is willing to admit to this behavior, please post a comment and let us all know why you choose to use the n-word at your place of employment--and/or in front of Whites.

Anyone with general thoughts on using the n-word at work, please post a comment.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dealing With Character Assassination

Earlier in the week, I had a post about the character assassination being used against Barack Obama and compared that to tactics used in the workplace against Black employees, who complain of abuse.

As promised, here are some tips for dealing with character assassination at work:

-- Clear up any misrepresentations by responding with facts. Don’t get into name-calling or write an emotional response to an email or memo. Just present the facts and list/name any witnesses who can substantiate what occurred. Additionally, you may also want to refer staff to supporting documentation, such as previous emails, instructions disseminated to the project team or other information in your possession that confirms your version of events.

-- Have a zero tolerance policy for anyone attempting to slander your name and/or falsely assassinate your character. Your family name is priceless. It may not mean much to those you work with, but it should mean everything to you. You were born with that name and regardless of what kind of life you’ve lead (whether you come from poverty, abuse, etc.) NO ONE has a right to tarnish your name with false statements about who you are and what you represent. The name you have is the name that you carry to your grave. Wear your name with pride. Don’t let anyone get away with character assassination. I don’t care if you’re a janitor or an executive. Don't worry about being labeled as sensitive. You may be called much worse at your next performance evaluation, if you let people create false perceptions about you!

-- Character assassination must be addressed, in writing, to all those who received negative communication about you or to those who were directly spoken to with negative information. Your silence can be construed as agreement, when you don’t address negative statements about yourself and your job performance. Don’t worry about the mind game, “you’re sensitive” or “you can’t take criticism.” Those comments are a way to put you back on the plantation, as if you have no voice in what goes on around you and what perceptions are created about you. You don't want to get into an email war, but you can't let certain misrepresentations just slide!

-- Don’t be defensive. Instead, address any issues head on, including what may have lead to the individual’s false characterization of you. If you believe that some prior incident may have sparked someone’s false perceptions about you, clear it up. If something you did was taken out of context or misunderstood, explain your intentions and clarify the cause of the confusion.

-- Document everything. If a person is routinely assassinating your character, document every incident you find out about and make a witness list that can corroborate that the person is making major efforts to tarnish and destroy your reputation.

-- Talk to your supervisor and HR. Present any documentation you have about patterns of behavior meant to destroy your reputation, name witnesses, etc. Demand that the person and their accusations be addressed. Request a meeting with HR, your supervisor, and the perpetrator, to clear the air. See if the person is willing to repeat any false claims in front of HR and your supervisor or if they will deny it.

-- Ask for corrective action against the perpetrator, once it is proven they have been slandering you around the office. Do not let this slide. Demand to know what consequences await the individual.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Reader Feedback About Complaining At Work

I received an email from a reader who's dealt with a lot of the crap some of us have been through. The email was in response to my post that warned people about employer delays that are used to prevent complaining employees from meeting deadlines to file external complaints, etc.

The reader made an excellent point about political figures shaking hands with executives. When my friend filed a complaint against our employer, the CEO told her, "Your case isn't going anywhere." Then, she proceeded to tell my friend about all of the powerful people who'd make sure nothing happened with her external complaint. This included Congressional leaders and judges. What we later realized was the the County Executive, who'd spoken at some of our employer-sponsored events, was on the Board that controlled the investigating agency in our county. That was why she was positive the case would be found to be without merit. And, while the case dragged on for a while, she turned out to be wrong and was found guilty.

The reader also mentioned attorneys that won't take your case and waste your time and help the company retaliate against you. This is a very important point. My friend went to a number of Black attorneys. We couldn't find anyone willing to take the case. Supposedly, our county is one of the worst in the country for filing employment discrimination (race) cases. We were told time and time again that it would be thrown out of court and wasn't worth their time. But, we also ran across a Black lawyer that we later realized had ties to our employer. And, we believe he was using stall tactics and giving bad advice to assist our employer. So, we all need to be really careful and we need to try to figure out the connections that some of the lawyers in our area may have to our employers. This is especially true if we work for a large or prominent company.

The other thing they mentioned was employees making false allegations to gain opportunities at work. I've blogged about this in the past. It was the most disheartening aspect of watching what was going on at work. I didn't belive that people we'd worked with for years (Black people) and that we'd go to lunch and dinner with would tell lies in order to advance their own careers and to get raises/bonus checks, and promotions. We saw all of this happen at my job. People that turned on my friend got paid! They were paid so well for lying that they were making the money of someone in the next pay grade or at a more senior level of their job. And, some of them laughed about it. Now, if work friends would do that...what do you think other coworkers would do or say that you aren't close to?

Anyway, I thought I'd share the reader comments:

I was so touched by your blog – "Beware of Employer Delays!" it brought back some painful memories, but also shed light on how to structure my charges to the EEOC. Mary, are employers getting information from an attorney on how to set their own employees up? If not, then how is it that all of these employer's rules for harassing their own employees are so similar?

I give my former employer an OSCAR winning performance for fabricating documents, omitting evidence, denying discrimination and conjuring up pretext for retaliation. This company was brilliant in hiring former EEOC employees. Lo and behold they probably had to hire them (for reasons related to an agreement to straighten out their discriminatory practices), but none the less I am sure they sucked them dry for any information that they could use to bolster a cases against a former or current employee who complained.

Let's face it, everything comes down to the dollar --- settlements are considered expenses to companies and just like they make cuts to clean up on the bottom line they do the same to thwart off possible lawsuits.

I would not suggest the NYS Division of Human Rights as a choice for filing a complaint unless you have no choice. I hope you do not think that this is just too farfetched, but think about this, most employers bring a lot of money into counties jobs etc. Whenever a new company opens up in a community you have a bunch of political figures cutting ribbons with their executives and shaking hands. What are they really shaking hands about? I found out in one county in Florida that "a period of 1 month between the protected activity and the adverse employment action qualifies as "close temporal proximity," however a 3 month lapse does not." Any genius would simply retaliate outside of that window in order to undermine the court system.

The company that I worked for also had a reputation of fighting former employees tooth and nail on their unemployment benefit status. So many employees were labeled under the term "gross misconduct" and a lot of the evidence was trumped up if not false allegations in order to deter the employee. Honestly, I would not put it past Administrative Law Judges in the Unemployment Insurance benefits area to side with companies over employees. Afterall, who would ever suspect that your neighbor was the HR representative at a large company.

The 24 hour hotline was used by the employer to weed out complainers. They would give the information from some out-sourced 24 hour hotline to the respective area and their job was to figure out who the complainer was. Once they knew who they were they slowly began their strategy of derailing their employment. Most companies will keep a file on their targeted employees.

There are some key elements to keep in mind:

· Your company has a reputation of denying unemployment insurance claims.

· Willingness to alter, fabricate documents.

· Willingness to encourage false allegations against you for other employees seeking opportunities.

· Attorneys in your area that will not take your case or who waste your time and ultimately help your company buy time to retaliate against you.

· EEOC related complaints to the 24 hour hotline are never resolved.

· Willingness to sweep everything under the rug.

· Complaints against you are given full attention.

· Complaints that you've made always come back that there is no evidence to corroborate what you said.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

No Post Today!

Between a job search and preparing for my debate watching party tonight, I have no time to write. I'll have a post for you tomorrow.


Monday, October 06, 2008


Following this post, is a new post about character assassination in the workplace. At the start of that post, I mention how John McCain is using a character assassination strategy against Barack Obama that McCain will rely on through election day. Listening to McCain supporters blowing things out of proportion and misrepresenting facts gave me a feeling of déjà vu. I’ve been the victim of character assassination in the workplace. And, like McCain, my employer had their own Keating 5 in their dirty laundry.

Before you read the new post, I wanted you to get a load of how John McCain has his own RELEVANT dirty laundry, yet decided to hype up charges against Obama. This is the Keating 5 Scandal that is directly relevant to the financial crisis we’re facing today. So, please read this post first. If you have a blog, update your readers with this information. Here it goes:


During the savings and loan crisis of the late '80s and early '90s, John McCain's political favors and aggressive support for deregulation put him at the center of the fall of Lincoln Savings and Loan, one of the largest in the country. More than 23,000 investors lost their savings. Overall, the savings and loan crisis required the federal government to bail out the savings of hundreds of thousands of families and ultimately cost American taxpayers $124 billion.

Sound familiar?

In that crisis, John McCain and his political patron, Charles Keating, played central roles that ultimately landed Keating in jail for fraud and McCain in front of the Senate Ethics Committee. The McCain campaign has tried to avoid talking about the scandal, but with so many parallels to the current crisis, McCain's Keating history is relevant and voters deserve to know the facts -- and see for themselves the pattern of poor judgment by John McCain.

At noon Eastern on Monday, October 6th, the Obama campaign is releasing a 13-minute documentary about the scandal called "Keating Economics: John McCain and the Making of a Financial Crisis" -- it will be available at, along with background information that every voter should know. Here’s the link to a video on the Keating 5 scandal:

New post below.

Throwing Stones to Hide Their Hands: Character Assassination In The Workplace

I saw a McCain adviser talking about his campaigns “new” tactic, which is to go after Barack Obama on character and to make people question whether they can trust him. And, it reminded me of how my former employer attempted to do the same to myself and a coworker, who had filed complaints.

The key word in the political world and in the workplace is “discredit.” It’s all about making someone appear to be a person whose words and actions can’t be trusted. In essence, it’s making someone into a liar and a person of low moral or ethical standards.

Just as the McCain campaign is using the tactic on Obama. Many of us have had an employer attempt to discredit us in some way. How? Well, one step in discrediting a person is to engage in character assassination.

Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that it’s amazing to watch an employer engage in character assassination, when you are aware of all of the dirty laundry they have. Sometimes an employer is aware that you know where the skeletons are buried and sometimes it’s an ace that you’re holding in your pocket. In either case, most employers don’t care what you know. What they hope is that you can’t prove it!!

My employer gave me a great performance evaluation in February '03. When they targeted me, they decided to paint me as having bad performance and a bad attitude. They created a mid-year review (we'd NEVER gotten mid-year reviews) and said things about me that were 180 degrees different than what they said about me in Februay of the same year.

They did this despite the fact that I had been receiving emails congratulating me on doing a good job on projects, that I had positive emails from clients, that I was being recommended to work on projects in other departments, etc.

You have to ask yourself, why does an employer take a chance on contradicting themselves like that and being exposed as a liar? Well, what happens if I don't have a copy of that performance review? What happens if I don't have any evidence that contradicts what was being said? How do I prove that the comments being made 7 months later aren't real?

Think about it. If I lost my copy of my evaluation, what do I do? I request another copy, right? I have to get that copy from my supervisor, who may be the person engaging in my discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation, or I contact HR for a copy. HR may be involved in assisting in a cover-up and in attempts to quiet a complaining employee.

Who's to say that I get a copy of the review that I received? I can tell you from experience that I was given one version of my final year-end review. I had 2 supervisors and HR tagged up against me in my evaluation meeting. I attacked all of the lies that I could get to during the meeting. When the meeting finished, I raced to my computer and quickly printed 10 copies of the electronic version of my final review and saved an electronic copy to disk.

The HR Rep raced upstairs to her computer and changed some of the false allegations made against me, by stripping them out of revising the wording. She printed up the new copy and that is what ended up in my file. She knew they were busted on some of those lies and didn't want the first final version hanging out there.

Lucky for me, my office was 2 doors down from where we met to discuss the review. That's how I beat the clock. Within about 15-20 minutes, that first final version was gone forever. Had I not printed it up and saved the file, I would NEVER have been able to concretely prove the intentionally false allegations being made against me.

Always keep in mind that from the employer standpoint, it may be a pretty good gamble to attempt to discredit an employee. So, they make accusations and it's up to you to prove they're lying.

They lie. And, they hope that you're not a pack rat, they hope that you're clueless about federal statutes and your workplace rights, they hope that they can discredit you, and then they gamble. The fact is that most employers are willing to go for broke.

An employer can know they have massive amounts of dirty laundry (e.g., tolerating and encouraging discrimination based on race/color, race-based harassment of employees, race-based retaliation for complaining employees of color, etc.), yet still decide that it’s an effective tactic to fraudulently accuse a complaining employee of having performance deficiencies.

So, while an employer can know that a manager was engaged in making race-based decisions and denied a promotion to a Black subordinate simply based on race, that employer may decide to trump up a case against that complaining employee by creating or exaggerating performance issues. If they can show a pattern (fake or not) of alleged bad behavior by the employee, employers think they can silence that employee or discredit the employee enough, so that nobody will believe the employer is guilty of violating federal statues.

So, an employer usually will decide to attack an employee on performance AND personality. The personality component is a huge piece in trying to ensure that an investigator, a lawyer, a judge, a jury, etc. will look at the complaining employee’s grievance as baseless/without merit.

When you know you’re guilty of something, you roll with what you got. And, we all know that blame the victim is a game that’s been played in workplaces and courtrooms around the country.

This is why I always recommend that no employee allow anyone to make fraudulent claims without making sure that they respond in order to clear their name. The response needs to be professional and based on facts. But, you can’t allow false allegations to just linger. People like to push perception as reality in the workplace. If you allow someone to write your biography, the perception they make for you can help stifle your career or could end your career.

I’ll have future posts on dealing with character assassination at work.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Don't Forget: The Vice Presidential Debate Is On Tonight at 9 PM E.S.T.

Let's see if the intellectually incompetent, Sarah Palin, can remember her talking points at the debate tonight.

I'm really interested in the spin room, after the debate, to see how much blame (for a poor Palin debate) is placed on Gwen Ifill by the GOP.

Gwen Ifill has spent years building her reputation, only to have some Whites try to tear her down in a heartbeat because they nominated someone who has fallen in the polls.

Hopefully, Ms. Ifill won't fall victim to the intimidation tactics and slander machine and goes out with whatever game plan she already had for the debate.

New post below.

Hiring the 52nd Retarded Cousin!

I remember a comedian doing a joke that I’ve shared on this blog before. He said, “Some White folks would rather hire their 52nd retarded cousin than give the job to a Black person.”

As I continue to listen to Gov. Sarah Palin doing these interviews with Katie Couric, I am constantly reminded of that joke. And, it makes me think that there are millions of Americans that would rather put this idiot into office than see a Harvard educated Black man become President. Knowing that John McCain is 72 years old and a cancer survivor, the racism and double-standards are so strong that people don’t have the good sense to be very afraid of this woman and what she could do to this country.

Like I’ve written before, Sarah Palin reminds me of all those incompetent and unqualified White people I’ve worked with over the years. They thrive on the job, despite being intellectually incompetent. It should be shocking. Instead, it’s commonplace.

By no means am I implying that there aren’t Blacks and other so-called minorities who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about and/or don’t know what they’re doing in the workplace. There are plenty of fools to go around, just not enough honesty about those folks.

The difference is that an incompetent and unqualified Black worker doesn’t usually have a long shelf life at their job. But, if they happen to stay around at a company, they are normally stuck in the same job for years. There is no discussion or consideration of a promotion. What that incompetent and unqualified Black worker is is what they will always be.

There’s usually a discrepancy in what happens to incompetent and unqualified White workers versus incompetent and unqualified Black workers. White workers can thrive and move all the way up into management and beyond. The sky is the limit.

Still, many people around them often wonder (silently and out loud) how this person has gotten where they are. You have to ask yourself…when will employers realize the pitfalls and problems of bringing on incompetent and unqualified workers?

Incompetent and unqualified workers often:

--have to over rely on other workers to teach them the ins and outs of what they should be doing, stealing work time from other employees;

--slow down progress on projects and tasks because they don’t know what they are doing and can’t turn around work in a timely fashion;

--bulls*it everyone around them because they can’t admit they don’t know what they are doing and need a cover story;

--don’t use the best procedures or methods to get things done because they are in over their heads;

--blame other employees for mistakes they caused or contributed to in order to cover up the fact they have caused a problem and don’t want to be held responsible for their mistake; and

--may not take criticism well because they are aware of their shortcomings and don’t like those issues pointed out to them.

Incompetent and unqualified managers often:

--can’t see the big picture because of their very limited understanding of a complex issue, project, etc.

--micromanage their subordinates to hide their own shortcomings and to appear to be doing something managerial;

--only know the broad strokes of what people do and should be doing, but they don’t really understand how that person should get it done and, therefore, are often useless in providing assistance and oversight to their own staff;

--don’t know how to mediate issues among staff; and

--are often more prone to not know the policies and procedures of a company. Additionally, they may be unaware of the specifics of federal statues, which prohibit discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, etc. Therefore, unqualified and incompetent managers may be more prone to violate federal statutes or to allow them to be violated and they may be more likely to mishandle sensitive issues, such as race-related problems.

I could go on. But, I’m sure you have vast experience dealing with these types of folks. And, I’m sure you have experience with these incompetent and unqualified workers and managers being defended to the last breath by others at your job—including management and/or executives. “He/she has my complete faith,” they’ll say. And, you have to scratch your head.

I hate to beat a dead horse, but Sarah Palin is the symbol of much of what is wrong in the American workplace. She puts a real face on the issues that Blacks deal with on the job and even as job applicants. We are up against many nameless and faceless idiots. On top of that, it feels like Blacks are often the only ones seriously having their credentials and qualifications questioned. An idiot can get hired or can beat you out for a promotion. And, you have to scratch you head.

Will the day ever come, when the best man or woman prevails—as a matter of course and not as the exception?


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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